Why Does My Car Vibrate or Make Noises?

Updated on January 18, 2019
Dan Ferrell profile image

Dan Ferrell writes about do-it-yourself car maintenance and repair. He has certifications in automation and control technology.

Speed can be used as a diagnostic tool to solve car vibration or noise problems.
Speed can be used as a diagnostic tool to solve car vibration or noise problems. | Source

Car vibrations and noises are not only irritating but can be the sign of possible serious engine, suspension, or driveline problems, making it hard to pinpoint the exact source. Still, some common problems in these areas show up time and again, making them easier to diagnose.

To help in your diagnostic, try to get as much information about the symptoms. This can help you locate the source of the vibration or noise faster. For example, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it a vibration or noise?
  • Is it a vibration that can be felt or just heard?
  • Can I tell from what part of the vehicle the noise or vibration is coming from?
  • Does the noise or vibration happens at a certain vehicle or engine speed?
  • Does the noise or vibration happen only during acceleration?

Pay attention to the tachometer, speedometer on the dashboard, and how the accelerator affect the symptoms, if at all. Use these devices as diagnostic tools during the next test.

Following the test, you'll find listed some of the most common noises and vibrations you can hear or feel along with their potential sources. These vibrations and noises are categorized in relation to engine speed, acceleration, or vehicle speed to make the problem easier to diagnose and fix. These categories may relate to the results of your test or the information you've gathered from the symptoms.

1. A Test to Help You Isolate a Vibration or Noise Source
2. I Can Hear a Noise or Feel a Vibration at Certain Engine Speeds
3. I Can Hear a Noise or Feel a Vibration When Accelerating
4. I Can Hear a Noise or Feel a Vibration at Certain Vehicle Speeds
Are There More Vehicle Vibration and Noise Sources?
Use your tachometer and speedometer as a diagnostic tool.
Use your tachometer and speedometer as a diagnostic tool. | Source

1. A Test to Help You Isolate a Vibration or Noise Source

Vibrations are usually hard to isolate to a particular area or system of the vehicle. But here's a common test you can do yourself that might help you locate the potential source.

  1. Let's say that you've noticed a vibration that occurs when your vehicle reaches a speed of 40 mph.
  2. Chose a road with low traffic and bring your vehicle up to a speed of 50 mph.
  3. Shift the transmission to neutral and let the vehicle coast down to 40 mph.
    • If the vibration is still there, more likely the source of the problem is one or more of the wheel-tire assemblies.
    • If the vibration is gone, continue with the test.
  4. Notice the engine rpms when your vehicle reaches a speed of 40 mph.
  5. Go back to your garage and let the engine idle.
  6. With the transmission in Neutral or Park, bring up the engine to the same speed it reached while driving at 40 mph.
    • If the vibration is not felt, then the problem is in a driveline component (drive shaft, rear differential, rear or front axles, CV joints, wheel bearings).
    • If you still can feel the vibration, the source is in the engine itself or one of the engine accessories. Among the possible sources of vibration or noise are engine mounts, accessories, drive belts, and harmonic balancer condition.

Engine mounts, drive belts and alternators can also be the source of vibration or noises.
Engine mounts, drive belts and alternators can also be the source of vibration or noises. | Source

2. I Can Hear a Noise or Feel a Vibration at Certain Engine Speeds

Within the engine compartment, engine accessories, engine mounts, hoses and other devices can become noisy or even be the source of vibrations when loose, worn or broken.

1. Engine accessories

An engine accessory that becomes loose from its mounting bolts or a mounting bracket that breaks can produced a noise at any engine speed, especially when the device is driven by a belt like the alternator, steering pump, or air conditioning compressor.

2. Engine Drive Belt

Engine drive belts can also become noisy when worn or loose. Unlike engine accessories, a drive or serpentine belt can become loud at engine speeds ranging between 20 and 40 mph. However, a noisy belt can become quiet at engine speeds above 40 mph.

3. Engine Mounts

A grinding noise or vibration while the vehicle is moving at a steady speed (usually at engine speeds up to 30 mph) may come from a loose or broken engine mount, depending on its exact location and how close it is to engine accessories.

Often, problems with an engine mount can produce a jerky movement of the engine upon starting. You may even see the engine moving. Other times, you may actually feel the movement or vibration from behind the wheel.

4. Vacuum Hoses

A problem that may cause an engine to vibrate or make noises hard to hear is a loose, disconnected or torn vacuum hose. Vacuum leaks can easily disrupt the proper air fuel ratio the engine needs and lead to noticeable engine vibrations.

Most vacuum leaks are felt as a vibration during idle and tend to disappear at higher engine speeds, but can lead to driveability problems you may identify and use them to isolate the source of the problem.

If you can feel the engine vibrating at idle, check that all vacuum hoses are properly connected and in good condition.

5. Valve Tapping

Valve tapping is not as common as other engine sounds but it can happen when a valve or a valve train component is in need of adjustment or replacement. The noise may also occur after doing some engine repairs.

You may hear a clicking sound from behind the wheel that increases or goes away at higher engine speeds. The source of the problem can be a push rod, rocker arm, sticking valve or collapsed valve lifter.

Chassis, axles, and joints are a frequent source of noise and vibration.
Chassis, axles, and joints are a frequent source of noise and vibration. | Source

Whatever the source of the noise or vibration your vehicle may be experiencing, though, remember to take note of the conditions under which the problem occurs.

3. I Can Hear a Noise or Feel a Vibration When Accelerating

Just like engine speed, other noises or vibrations can be heard or felt when depressing the accelerator and stop when vehicle speed becomes steady. You may be dealing with bad universal joints, axles, CV joints or chassis problems.

1. Universal Joints

Universal joints can be a source of noise and vibration when they develop problems or wear out. This problem affects large rear-wheel drive, 4WD and AWD vehicles using a drive shaft assembly.

Depending on the severity of the problem, worn universal joints can become noisy when accelerating at speed ranges above 30 mph; a driver can also feel a vibration during acceleration at any driving speed. When a problem can cause a shift in the proper angle of a universal joint, a vibration may be felt at low speeds.

2. Rear and Front Axles

Front axles transfer rotating power from the differential to the front wheels, while rear axle assemblies transfer rotating power to the rear wheels.

Axle gears and, more commonly, bearings and CV joints are a common source of noises when worn or damaged. Usually, you'll hear a noise or vibration during acceleration at speeds above 20 mph. Sometimes at even high speeds. Watch the next video for an example of a CV Joint going bad and causing vibration at high speeds.

3. Chassis

Chassis components, specially around the rear of the vehicle, can be a source of noise and vibration when worn or loose. Sometimes, they can be heard during acceleration at relatively low speeds, usually above 20 mph.

4. Constant Velocity Joints

Front drive axles connect to the front wheel hubs and wheels through constant velocity (CV) joints (ball joints) to transfer rotating power to the wheels.

Ball joints also allow an axle to move at angles while still transferring rotating power as the vehicle travels over road imperfections and bumps and rounds corners.

This constant movement of the joints can eventually wear them after years of operation. This can lead to audible noises or vibrations.

If a CV joint is worn or damaged, you may hear them as you accelerate.

5. Automatic Transmission Noise

An automatic transmission can produce various types of sounds coming from an equal number of problems. You may hear grinding, whirring, or whining noises from bad gears, torque converter, bearings, and, sometimes, because of low oil level.

However, a worn bushing, located at the end of the extension housing can produce a noise during acceleration or deceleration at speeds above 30 mph.

Wheel and tires are one of the most common sources of vehicle vibration and noise.
Wheel and tires are one of the most common sources of vehicle vibration and noise. | Source

4. I Can Hear a Noise or Feel a Vibration at Certain Vehicle Speeds

Tires, wheel bearings, CV joints and drive shafts can become sensitive to vehicle speeds when certain problems arise.

1. Wheel and Tires

Many tire problems can show up as noises or vibrations. Here are the ones you are more likely to encounter:

  • Lack of proper balance: This is perhaps the most common vibration issue coming from a wheel and tire assembly. An unbalanced wheel translates into more weight on one side than the other. The vibration may be felt at vehicles speeds of 20 mph and above.
  • Uneven wear: When they develop uneven wear, tires can also produce vibration at vehicle speeds above 30 mph.
  • Radial runout: Also, a tire or wheel with radial runout can produced the same effect. Radial runout refers to a tire rotating in an inaccurate circle due to an unequal distance from the center axis of rotation to the edge of the wheel or tire. Radial run out can produce a vibration at about 20 mph and above.
  • Lateral runout: Similar to the previous issue is lateral runout, the side-to-side movement of the tire. However, the vibration is usually felt at 60 mph and above.
  • Bad tire body: Faults in the tire body can also lead to vibration issues. For example, separation of the internal strands, a damaged belt, or road impacts that may damage the tread or sidewall.
  • Bad alignment: Also, wheels out of alignment and worn tires can produce a whining noise.

Usually, front tire vibration is felt on the steering wheel, while rear tire vibration can be felt around the center and rear of the vehicle.

2. Wheel Bearings

Worn, dried or damaged wheel bearings can also become noisy. A wheel bearing allows the wheel and tire assembly to turn freely around the wheel hub assembly.

A bad wheel bearing can produce a whining noise at any vehicle speed.

3. Drive Shaft

On models with rear-wheel drive, AWD or 4WD, the drive shaft and universal joints that help transfer rotating power from the transmission can also be a source of noise or vibration due to runout, imbalance or wear issues.

A drive shaft spins faster than the wheels and, at high gears, it equals engine speed. So a drive shaft should be perfectly balance and straight.

Manufacturers may use balancing weights, just like they do in wheels, to balance a drive shaft. If one or more of the balancing weights is lost or road impact distorts the drive shaft, audible and physical vibration can result, usually at vehicle speeds above 40 mph.

However, a grinding noise coming from under the vehicle can point to worn out or damaged universal joints, located at either end of the drive shaft.

An unbalanced drive shaft can cause a vehicle to vibrate.
An unbalanced drive shaft can cause a vehicle to vibrate. | Source

Are There More Vehicle Vibration and Noise Sources?

There are many more vehicle vibrations and noise sources not touched upon here. For example, when problems arise in specific areas like the brake system (rotor runout), transmission issues (torque converter problems, chattering clutch, low fluid level), or the engine (misfires). Those outlined here are some of the most common and hard to diagnose, but now you can get to the source faster and, hopefully, will help you decide to make the repair rather sooner than later, specially on those situations where safety may be an issue. Whatever the source of the noise or vibration your vehicle may be experiencing, though, remember to take note of the conditions under which the problem occurs: vehicle, engine, and acceleration speed. This will help you diagnose the problem faster. And making a repair sooner rather than later will prevent the vibration or noise from turning into an unsafe driving condition and costly repair.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

  • I have a 2014 RWD Auto BMW 328i with 72000 miles (115,872.77 km). On P/N between 1200-1400rpm, the car has a slight vibration which can be felt through the steering wheel. During driving, once I get up to speed to between 35-50mph, the rpm is between 1200-1400 range. When I try to accelerate without downshifting, the entire steering wheel buzz/vibrate badly. What do you think could be wrong?

    This can be a tire balance or out of round issue. If you've swapped tires, check how much different they are from the factory set. Try rotating the tires and see if this changes anything. Other problems include sticky brake calipers, especially on vehicles with about 75,000 miles (120,700.8 km); also, a drive shaft with brinnelled universal joints may also cause this issue.

  • I have an Alfa Romeo 146. There is a vibration in 5th gear only when accelerating. What would cause my Alfa Romeo to vibrate when accelerating?

    One or more tires may be out of balance or a problem in the suspension.

  • I have a 2013 Durango that makes a vibration noise under the hood only after 50 mph?

    Check the tires. This is the most common issue at this vehicle speed, along with suspension components.

  • My '94 Jeep Grand Cherokee vibrates when it's idling and when it accelerates, especially after 20 and 50 mph and when it goes uphill. I did your tests, and it didn't vibrate in neutral, and nothing changed since it's already vibrating it's idling. What could be the issue?

    I'm assuming this is an audible vibration that you can hear when your Jeep is idling and when it goes at 20 and 50mph. Loose or broken engine mounts can cause vibrations, and this can also affect other components. Check the mounts and other accessories when your idling. The source of the vibration may be difficult to determine because any of the front end components can be a source.

  • My 2012 Lincoln MKS with 163,000 miles has developed a scraping/grinding/vibrating noise coming from the left front. Initially most noticeable at low speeds while turning left. It now can be felt and heard while driving straight and accelerating until up to speed, then no noise or vibration. The brakes, left wheel hub, and strut assembly are all new. Any ideas?

    Since you replaced the wheel hub, I'm assuming there's a new wheel bearing as well, if not check that. Check the CV joints for damaged; if the boot is torn, make sure to check the wheel bearing as well.

© 2018 Dan Ferrell


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    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      13 days ago

      Lift each wheel and rotate it and see if you hear anything. It could be a wheel bearing. Also, check the drive shaft. Hope this helps.

    • profile image


      2 weeks ago

      My range rover car started making a low to high noise at low to high speeds but louder on different road surfaces . But when car not moving or move in place , i don't hear anything . Can you help me ?

    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      3 weeks ago

      You may have one or more engine mounts loose or damaged. Check also for a loose or broken engine accessory. Hope this helps.

    • profile image


      3 weeks ago

      2012 Ford Fusion sel whole car vibrates at 20-50 kmh

    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      5 months ago

      Is there any heat shield missing, loose component around the exhaust or the underside of the engine? Try listening under the hood while revving the engine manually. Probably you'll be able to replicate it. Look for a component that is not properly secured around the brake assembly (underneath), engine (metal plate) or near the accelerator cable. Hope this helps.

    • profile image


      5 months ago

      I recently had my car in the shop for four new tires - brake booster replacement - new brake & rotors...when I got it back I noticed it was now making a vibration sound - like air clipping a shield or like those plastic party favors you blow in...its there whenever there is wind and so even when I pick up speed...I can feel it in my gas pedal when it is at its loudest...it is not constant but always there...never made a sound prior to service...I thought perhaps the mechanic left something under the hood - like a tool or a screw or bolt or something...then I thought maybe they had to revolve some kind of shield to replace the brake booster and simply did not replace it properly....it sounds like it is coming straight from the front of the car...the mechanic checked it and found nothing loose...it only makes the sound when you are actually driving and again it was never there before...2008 ford edge - 80,000 miles

    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      6 months ago

      Usually, this type of vibration is caused by problems with the universal joint angles. Have the joints and drive shaft checked, if necessary.

    • profile image


      6 months ago

      i have a isuzu mux 2017 MT... i feel vibration when my speed reach up to 80kph and howling sound at 90khp. the vibration will be lessen at the sound disapper at 100kph above..any inputs for this one...thanks

    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      6 months ago

      It may come from the hub bearing. Lift the tire off the ground and grab it top and bottom; shake it. Then grab each side and shake it; if you feel any play, most likely the bearing needs to be replaced.

    • profile image


      6 months ago

      Hey, I have a 2017 Camry with 75k miles. Whenever I start going 80mph it starts making a buzzing/humming noise at the rear right. It gets louder the faster I go from there. Any idea as to what’s what it is?

    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      6 months ago

      The noise may come from the drive axle. If the noise doesn't happen when revving the engine at the speed the noise occurs, this could be the problem; otherwise, take a look at the accessory pulleys. Hope this helps.

    • profile image


      6 months ago

      i have an 06 ford focus. it makes an incredibly loud noise when i go over 35-40 mph. it’s not my wheel bearings and my tire tread is wearing evenly. any ideas?

    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      8 months ago

      If it happens when revving the engine in neutral with the vehicle not moving, look for a loose accessory or broken component. If it only happens when the car is moving, something might be scrapping against the wheel assembly.

    • profile image


      8 months ago

      I have 2004 Honda Accord 2.2 diesel - Manual with 260.000 km, I have a scraping/grinding/vibrating noise when going from 20 to 50 km/h from my left wheel. Brakes were all changed (disks and pads), wheel bearing changed and the problem is still there. It happens when It happens when I accelerate when its on neutral and when I motor brake it doesn't matter it always happen when driving from 20kmh till 50kmh then it stops. Thanks for your advise.

    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      10 months ago

      Check for worn or loose chassis component.

    • profile image

      N. Harrison 

      10 months ago

      I have an 2001 Auto BMW 325i. At a speed of around 40km there is sometimes a booming sound from what I think is the back left wheel area. what could this be

    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      11 months ago

      Probably the outer CV joint is worn or damaged. Try driving in a circle in reverse in an empty parking lot. If you can hear the noise louder, most likely there's where the problem is. Hope this helps.

    • profile image

      dean geoffrey wilson 

      11 months ago

      Noise on front passenger side wheel and steering affected when accelerating corners and especially with Wright added to car more weight then a constant and louder noise any ideas pleasee

    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      13 months ago

      If the noise seems to be related to tire rotation and speed, check the wheel assembly, including the brake caliper and pads. There could be something loose. Also, check the control arm and axle. You may need a steel bar to push things up and down to see if they wobble. Hope this helps.

    • profile image

      Edian marrero 

      13 months ago

      I have a 2007 Chevy impala n it’s making a loud noise on the front passage tired we checked n nothing it’s touching there no rocks inside we took the tired out n check everything but it looks fine any thoughts on what’s the problem?

    • Dan Ferrell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Ferrell 

      14 months ago

      Usually, high speed noised come from excessive runout on a drive shaft; worn CV joints, or worn universal joints. You might want to do the test in section 1 to help you isolate the noise source. Hope this helps.

    • profile image


      14 months ago

      My Honda City 2007 make noise when am on a high speed from the front what is really the problem?


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