Fernando the electronics guy is an electronics engineer. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from UC Riverside.
Why Is My Car Shaking?
We all expect a smooth drive when heading to the grocery store or work. Vibrations, like heat, are enemies to vehicles over the long term.
Find the problem by first observing; there's no need to assume worst- or best-case scenarios. Diagnostic tools may only get you so far without facts.
Here are the most important questions to ask:
- Does the vibration get worse with speed?
- Does the vibration happen when the steering wheel turns?
- Is the vibration accompanied by noise?
- Does the vibration happen when the car is idling?
The questions above narrow the range of possible fixes for your vehicle. Note how speed plays a big role in this. Whether the vibration happens when the vehicle is moving, stationary, or starting to move may lead you to different solutions.
Tire and Wheel as a Cause of Shaking
Most cases of vibration are caused by out-of-balance or defective tires. The vehicle tends to travel in a straight line forward. The circular while lines up with the ground to translate angular velocity to linear velocity.
When the tire is not properly inflated, though, you’re introducing bounce. Bounce destroys forward momentum and disperses part of it in a vertical direction.
Another problem arises when either your wheel or your tire is not perfectly circular. If the wheel-tire unit is an oval, not a circle, that introduces bounce.
Expect to change tires every 50,000 miles or so, or every four years. The best way to tell if your tires need changing is to measure the tire tread with a tire gauge, to make sure your tire still has life. Get your tires balanced when you change them.
Ensure tires are inflated according to the vehicle's specifications. This is temperature-dependent, so the specifications may depend on the season.
Also, ensure lug nuts are tightened to specs. Extra credit for ensuring your lug nuts work properly.
Suspension as a Cause of Shaking
Faulty wheel bearings, ball joints, or tie rods may cause shaking.
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The wheel bearing, just like the wheel and tire, needs to spin freely. A wheel bearing cannot spin freely if the ball bearings are grinding against each other, the walls of the bearing, or specs of dirt and debris trapped within. The resulting forces will be in all directions, causing shaking.
Ball joints are relatively simple: they are three-degrees-of-freedom joints that also maintain stability. If this joint is not working, you can’t expect your tire to be properly functioning.
Failed tie rods are common when there are wheel alignment problems as well. They may also cause handling issues. Ensure your tie rods are up to date.
Also, check vehicle alignment issues in general.
Brakes as a Cause of Shaking
If braking causes vibrations, then you need your brake pads and rotors checked.
Rotors need to be nice and smooth for optimal operating conditions. The problem arises when one side of the rotor is thicker or thinner than the other side of the same rotor. Meaning, when there is an inconsistency all around the rotor. This causes your brakes to jump all over.
The same goes for the brake pads. The brake pads need to be smooth and continuous from beginning to end. Not being constant in thickness means possible wobble.
The two problems described above may cause the caliper to pump and dump the brake fluid so fast that it may cause pressures to rise and fall, affecting all brake calipers and thus leading to shaking and wobbling of the vehicle.
The rotor and pads wear out over time. Damage to the brake calipers also cause brake and steering wobble. Ensure you get your brake system checked out if you suspect i is the problem.
Engine and Transmission as Causes of Shaking
Rarely is the engine the culprit in car shakes and wobbles; but occasionally, it is. Ensure your spark plugs and air filter are in great condition.
Check your transmission fluid as often as you need to. Also, don’t forget to check the transmission mount to be safe.
If you notice the vehicle shake while idling, you may have bad motor mounts. Also check your motor mounts if you notice a sudden jerk when going from stationary to moving.
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.
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