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Home Lifestyle Life Tips Why Does Your Car Shake When Braking? Here are Common Reasons

Why Does Your Car Shake When Braking? Here are Common Reasons

Chances are you are reading this article now because you recently noticed your car shaking when braking. Maybe there is a pulsating vibration or a brake shudder particularly when driving at high speed. This could be a sign of an underlying problem in the car’s braking systems and in some cases the wheels, steering wheel, or axle.

Below is a look at some of the most common causes of car shake when braking. But first, an overview of the disc brakes operating mechanism.

How do disc brakes work?

Most modern cars have disc brakes on both the front and rear wheels. Disc brakes are designed with a metal disc, known as a rotor, that is usually attached to the wheel. A clamping device, known as a caliper is attached to the rotor to facilitate the braking.

Normally, the rotor and the wheel rotate freely until you press on the brake pedal. The pressure transmits through the hydraulic fluid in the braking line into the caliper. The caliper is fitted with a brake pad that makes contact with the rotor slowing down or stopping its rotation, and consequently that of the wheel.

Most common reasons for your car shaking when braking

The top causes of the car shaking when braking include:

1. Warped rotors

Warped rotors are the most common cause of your car shaking when braking. Even with normal use, the rotors thin out from the friction and heat produced as the brake pads clamp down on them during normal braking.

Over time, the rotors become thinner and thinner. This reduces their ability to absorb the generated heat and friction adequately. It accelerates the rotor damage resulting in your car shaking during braking.

Certain factors may make the rotor warping worse producing more pronounced vibrations when braking. These include:

  • Driving downhill over a long distance. It requires you to continuously apply brakes, which can cause the front brake rotors to overheat.
  • Calipers’ failure to retract after braking. This commonly happens in high mileage cars whereby the calibers are rusted or corroded preventing them from retracting.
  • If the rotors are turned down too much during installation. Usually, mechanics will remove some materials from the rotor to help them fit better and operate effectively. However, if too much material is removed, the rotor thickness goes below the recommended minimum, which compromises heat transfer.
  • Stacking the rotors during storage. Ideally, new rotors should be stored in an upright position. However, some mechanics stack them on top of each other resulting in some parts bending or flattening out.
  • Over tightening wheel lugs. To ensure the optimal performance of your brake rotors, it is important that you apply equal tension on all the lug nuts. The best tool for ensuring equal tension on the lug nuts is a torque wrench as opposed to using a pneumatic impact wrench.
  • Uneven wear of the brake discs. It results in poor heat and friction transmission and dissipation, which eventually causes rotor warping.
  • Dirt and rust deposit on the brake hub. Over time, dirt and rust can accumulate in the brake hub. If not cleaned out, they create an uneven surface where the brake discs are mounted. The uneven surface causes uneven wear on the brake rotors.
  • Failure to turn new rotors. Although in most cases rotors are manufactured with precision, factors such as mishandling and slight variation in the recommended disc brake thickness necessitate turning before installation.

In most cases, if the vibration is on the steering wheel, it is an indication that the front wheel rotors are faulty. On the other hand, if there is a shudder on the brake pedal, the issue may be on the rear brake rotors.

2. Worn-out brake pads.

If your brake pads are worn out, they do not make adequate contact with the rotor to slow down or stop the car. As you continue to press on the brake pad, additional force is transmitted causing the calipers to grind against the brake disc.

3. Clogged brake pads.

If the brake pads are filled with dust, dirt, or oil, they provide an extreme grip on the rotor during braking, which can cause vibrations.

4. Trapped air in the hydraulic brake line

If some air is trapped in the brake line, it might cause an uneven distribution of the braking pressure on the breakings pads, calipers, and rotor resulting in the car shaking when braking.

5. Wheel misalignment

Wheel misalignment not only makes it difficult to control the direction of the car, but it can also cause shaking when braking at speeds that exceed 80km/h. If you are not sure whether the wheels might be misaligned, see a mechanic ascertain or fix it.

6. The Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS)

In some cars, the ABS kicks in seamlessly, while in others you may notice a vibration upon pushing on the brake pedal. When the ABS is activated, it causes the brakes to pump in multiple successions, which might produce successive pulsations. If the ABS is the cause of the car shaking when braking, there is no need to worry.

7. Faulty front steering linkage

A front steering linkage issue may not be the primary cause of your car shaking when braking, but it can exaggerate the vibrations. In most cases, the loose tie rod ends are the cause of a faulty front steering wheel linkage.

What to do if your car is shaking when braking

Most cases of the car shaking when braking are not so detrimental that you need to immediately stop. However, you need to see a mechanic as soon as possible. A faulty braking system can compromise the car’s braking response and distance, which poses the risk of an accident. Furthermore, if left unattended, it could predispose the various car systems and parts to further damage.


As a driver, it is important to listen to your car. Although there might be other reasons why your car shakes when braking, in most cases, the problem lies within the braking system. It is important to see a mechanic as soon as possible to have the issue diagnosed and fixed correctly.



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