Car Shakes When I Brake: Causes and Solutions

Naomi O'Colman

Updated on:

Car Shakes When I Brake

Car shakes when I brake?  Have you ever experienced that unsettling moment when you step on the brake pedal and your car starts shaking? It’s a common issue that many drivers encounter, and it can be quite alarming.

But don’t worry, in this article, we will delve into the causes of this problem and provide you with solutions to get your car running smoothly again.

What Causes the Car to Shake When Braking?

Uneven Brake Rotors

Brake rotors, also known as brake discs, can become uneven over time due to heat and wear. When the rotors are not uniform in thickness or have developed irregularities, the brake pads cannot make consistent contact, resulting in shaking during braking. Regular maintenance, including rotor resurfacing or replacement, helps prevent this issue.

Worn Brake Pads

Brake pads consist of friction material that wears down over time. If the brake pads are excessively worn, the remaining material may not provide sufficient friction to stop the vehicle smoothly. This uneven friction can lead to shaking or pulsation when braking. It’s crucial to replace worn brake pads promptly to maintain braking performance and avoid further damage to the braking system.

Warped Brake Discs

Brake discs can warp due to intense heat generated during braking. Factors like heavy braking, prolonged braking, or sudden cooling, such as driving through water puddles, can cause the brake discs to warp. When the brake discs have irregularities or are out of shape, they can cause the car to shake when braking. Proper braking techniques and avoiding excessive heat build-up can help prevent disc warping.

Suspension Issues

Problems with the suspension system, such as worn-out or damaged components, can lead to shaking during braking. A weak or worn suspension may fail to effectively absorb the forces generated when braking, causing the car to vibrate. It’s important to have the suspension system inspected by a professional to identify and address any issues.

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Tires and Wheel Problems

Several tire-related issues can contribute to shaking when braking. These include tire imbalance, misalignment, uneven tire wear, or worn-out wheel bearings. Imbalanced or improperly aligned tires can create vibrations that intensify during braking. Regular tire maintenance, including balancing, alignment, and bearing inspections, can help prevent these issues.

Brake Caliper Problems

Malfunctioning brake calipers can cause shaking when braking. Stuck or seized caliper pistons prevent the brake pads from engaging evenly, resulting in uneven braking and vibrations. Regular caliper maintenance, including lubrication and inspection, is essential to ensure proper brake caliper function.

ABS Malfunction

If the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is malfunctioning, it may lead to shaking during braking. The ABS is designed to prevent the wheels from locking up during braking, providing better control. If the ABS is not functioning correctly, it can cause erratic braking behavior and vibrations. Diagnosing and addressing ABS issues should be done by a qualified mechanic.

Engine Problems

Certain engine-related issues can contribute to shaking when braking. Vacuum leaks, problems with idle control, or engine misfires can affect the overall stability of the vehicle, which becomes more noticeable during braking. If engine problems are suspected, it is important to have the engine inspected and repaired by a professional.

There are multiple potential causes for a car shaking when braking. It’s essential to address these issues promptly to ensure safety and maintain the proper functioning of the vehicle’s braking system. Regular maintenance and inspections are key to preventing and identifying these problems.

How to Diagnose the Cause of Shaking

When experiencing shaking while braking, it can be helpful to diagnose the cause before taking any corrective actions. Here are some methods to diagnose the underlying issue:

Visual Inspection

Start by visually inspecting key components related to braking and suspension. Look for signs of visible damage, wear, or irregularities. Check the brake rotors, brake pads, suspension components, tires, and wheels. Look for any obvious issues like uneven brake rotor surfaces, worn brake pads, damaged suspension components, or tire irregularities. Note any visible problems that may require further attention.

Road Test

Perform a diagnostic road test to observe the shaking behavior. Follow these steps:

  • Find a safe and open road where you can drive at different speeds.
  • Gradually increase your speed and then apply the brakes with moderate pressure. Observe any shaking or vibrations.
  • Pay attention to the steering wheel, brake pedal, and overall vehicle stability during braking.
  • Take note of any unusual noises, such as grinding, squeaking, or clicking sounds.
  • Repeat the test at different speeds to see if the shaking behavior changes.

By conducting a road test, you can gather valuable information about how the shaking manifests and potentially narrow down the cause.

Professional Diagnosis

While visual inspection and road testing can provide some insights, it is recommended to seek professional help for an accurate diagnosis. Mechanics have the expertise and diagnostic tools necessary to identify the exact cause of the shaking.

They can perform comprehensive inspections, use specialized tools to measure brake rotor runout, check for brake pad thickness, conduct suspension assessments, and perform other diagnostic procedures. Relying on their expertise ensures a thorough diagnosis and appropriate repairs or replacements.

Diagnosing the cause of shaking when braking can be complex, and it is crucial to address the issue promptly to ensure safety. Seeking professional assistance is highly recommended to accurately identify the underlying problem and implement the necessary repairs or maintenance.

Solutions to Resolve the Shaking Issue

Brake Rotor Resurfacing or Replacement

If uneven brake rotors are the cause of the shaking, there are two options to consider based on the severity of the issue:

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If the brake rotors have minor irregularities or thickness variations, they can often be resurfaced. This process involves removing a thin layer of material from the rotor’s surface to create a smooth, even finish. Resurfacing is typically done using a specialized lathe machine. It’s important to note that there is a minimum thickness specification for rotors, and if they are below that threshold or severely warped, replacement is necessary.


In cases where the brake rotors are severely warped, too thin, or damaged beyond resurfacing, replacement is recommended. New brake rotors should be installed to ensure optimal braking performance. It’s important to choose high-quality rotors that meet the manufacturer’s specifications for your vehicle.

Brake Pad Replacement

If worn brake pads are causing the shaking, replacing them is the solution. Here’s a general guide for replacing brake pads:

  • Gather the necessary tools: You will typically need a lug wrench, jack, jack stands, a C-clamp, and a suitable wrench or socket set.
  • Lift the vehicle: Use the jack to lift the vehicle and secure it with jack stands for safety.
  • Remove the wheel: Use the lug wrench to loosen the lug nuts and remove the wheel.
  • Access the brake pads: Locate the brake caliper, which holds the brake pads. Remove the bolts or pins that secure the caliper and carefully lift it off the rotor. The brake pads will be exposed.
  • Replace the brake pads: Remove the old brake pads from the caliper. Use a C-clamp to compress the caliper piston fully. Install the new brake pads into the caliper.
  • Reassemble and repeat: Reinstall the caliper onto the rotor, ensuring that all bolts or pins are securely tightened. Put the wheel back on, tighten the lug nuts, and repeat the process for other wheels if necessary.

When replacing brake pads, it’s crucial to choose high-quality pads that are compatible with your vehicle. Opt for reputable brands and consider the specific braking needs of your vehicle (e.g., daily driving, towing, high-performance) for the appropriate pad selection.

Remember, these solutions address specific issues related to braking system components. If the shaking is caused by other factors like suspension problems, tire issues, or engine-related problems, additional repairs or maintenance may be necessary. It’s always recommended to consult with a professional mechanic for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate solutions.

Suspension Repair or Replacement

If the shaking is attributed to suspension issues, the following repairs or replacements may be necessary:

  • Worn-out or damaged components: Suspension components such as shocks, struts, control arms, bushings, or ball joints can wear out or become damaged over time. If these components are identified as the cause of the shaking, they may need to be repaired or replaced.
  • Professional inspection: A thorough inspection by a professional mechanic is crucial to identify the specific suspension issues and determine the appropriate repairs or replacements. They will have the expertise and diagnostic tools to assess the suspension system accurately.
  • Replacement: In some cases, particularly if multiple suspension components are worn or damaged, it may be more cost-effective and efficient to replace the entire suspension system rather than performing individual repairs. This ensures that all components are new and work together seamlessly.

Tire Balancing, Alignment, and Replacement

Tire-related issues can contribute to shaking when braking. The following steps can help address these problems:

  • Tire balancing: Tire balancing involves equalizing the weight distribution of the tire and wheel assembly. An imbalance can cause vibrations, especially during braking. A professional will use specialized equipment to add small weights to the wheel to achieve balance.
  • Tire alignment: Proper tire alignment ensures that the tires make consistent contact with the road surface. Misalignment can result in uneven tire wear and vibrations. A professional will adjust the angles of the tires to align them correctly.
  • Tire replacement: If the tires are excessively worn, have uneven wear patterns, or are damaged, replacement may be necessary. Worn-out tires can contribute to shaking, and it’s important to choose tires that are compatible with your vehicle’s specifications and driving needs.
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It’s crucial to have tire balancing, alignment, and potential replacements performed by professionals with the necessary equipment and expertise. They can ensure proper balancing, and alignment, and help you choose the right tires for your vehicle.

Remember, a thorough inspection by a professional mechanic is essential to diagnose suspension and tire-related issues accurately. They can recommend the appropriate repairs or replacements based on your vehicle’s specific condition.

Brake Caliper Maintenance or Replacement

If malfunctioning brake calipers are causing the shaking, the following steps can help resolve the issue:

  • Maintenance: Regular maintenance of brake calipers is crucial to ensure their proper functioning. This includes cleaning and lubricating the caliper slides or pins to ensure smooth movement. Proper lubrication helps the caliper pistons engage and retract smoothly.
  • Replacement: If the brake calipers are seized, damaged, or experiencing significant issues, they may need to be replaced. Replacement ensures the optimal functioning of the braking system. It’s important to choose high-quality brake calipers that are compatible with your vehicle.

Proper lubrication of brake calipers is essential during maintenance and replacement. Using the appropriate brake caliper lubricant helps prevent sticking or seizing and ensures smooth brake operation.

ABS System Repair or Replacement

If a malfunctioning Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is causing the shaking, it’s advisable to consult a professional for repairs. The ABS system is complex and requires specialized diagnostic tools to identify and resolve issues. A professional mechanic with expertise in ABS systems can provide accurate diagnostics and recommend appropriate repairs or replacements.

Potential solutions for ABS issues depend on the specific problem identified. They may involve repairing or replacing ABS sensors, ABS control modules, or other components of the system. It’s important to address ABS issues promptly to maintain safe braking performance.

Engine Diagnostics and Repair

If engine-related problems are contributing to the shaking when braking, seeking professional help is highly recommended. Engine issues can include vacuum leaks, idle control problems, or misfiring. Here are some important considerations:

  • Professional assistance: Engine diagnostics and repairs should be performed by qualified mechanics. They have the expertise and diagnostic tools to identify the underlying engine problems accurately.
  • Regular maintenance: Regular engine maintenance, including scheduled inspections, oil changes, and tune-ups, helps prevent and identify potential issues before they escalate. Following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule is crucial for optimal engine performance.

Based on the specific engine issue, repairs can vary. Vacuum leaks may require identifying and replacing damaged hoses or gaskets. Idle control problems may involve cleaning or replacing the idle air control valve. Misfiring may require diagnosing and addressing ignition system issues or fuel system problems.

It’s important to prioritize safety and consult professionals for brake caliper, ABS system, and engine-related issues. They can provide accurate diagnostics and recommend the appropriate maintenance, repairs, or replacements for your vehicle.

My Car Shakes When I Brake from 60 to 80

Experiencing shaking when braking within a specific speed range, such as 60 to 80 mph, can indicate certain underlying issues. While a proper diagnosis would require a professional inspection, here are a few potential causes to consider:

  • Brake rotor warping: Warped brake rotors can cause shaking during braking. High-speed braking generates heat; if the rotors are worn or improperly installed, they can become warped. This leads to uneven contact between the brake pads and rotors, resulting in vibrations. Resurfacing or replacement of the brake rotors may be necessary to resolve the issue.
  • Tire or wheel imbalance: Imbalanced tires or wheels can cause shaking during braking, particularly at higher speeds. Tires can lose balance over time due to uneven tread wear or damage. Similarly, improperly balanced wheels can cause vibrations. Having the tires balanced or the wheels properly aligned by a professional can rectify this problem.
  • Suspension issues: Worn or damaged suspension components, such as shocks, struts, or control arms, can contribute to shaking while braking. The impact is more noticeable at higher speeds. A thorough inspection by a mechanic is necessary to identify and address any suspension-related problems.
  • Wheel bearing wear: Worn-out wheel bearings can lead to vibrations during braking. Bearings allow smooth wheel rotation, and when they deteriorate, it can cause shaking. Replacement of the worn wheel bearings is typically required to resolve this issue.
  • ABS system malfunction: A malfunctioning Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) can cause shaking during braking. The ABS helps maintain control by preventing wheel lock-up. If the ABS system is faulty, it may interfere with the braking process, resulting in vibrations. Professional inspection and diagnosis of the ABS system are necessary to determine the exact cause and required repairs.
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It’s important to note that these are general possibilities, and an accurate diagnosis can only be provided by a qualified mechanic who can inspect the vehicle thoroughly. Seeking professional assistance is highly recommended to identify the specific cause of the shaking and ensure appropriate repairs are performed to address the issue.

Car Shakes When Slowing Down

Experiencing shaking when slowing down can be indicative of certain underlying issues in your car. While a proper diagnosis would require a professional inspection, here are a few potential causes to consider:

Brake issues

Several brake-related problems can cause shaking when slowing down. These may include:

  • Warped brake rotors: Over time, brake rotors can develop irregularities or become warped due to heat and wear. When the brake pads come in contact with the uneven rotor surface, it can lead to vibrations and shaking. Resurfacing or replacement of the brake rotors may be necessary.
  • Worn brake pads: If the brake pads are worn out, they may not provide even contact with the rotors, resulting in shaking during braking. Replacing the worn brake pads is usually the solution.
  • Stuck brake caliper: A stuck or seized brake caliper can cause uneven braking, leading to shaking when slowing down. The caliper may need to be repaired or replaced to restore proper functionality.

Suspension issues

Problems with the suspension system can also contribute to shaking when slowing down. Potential issues may include:

  • Worn suspension components: Worn-out or damaged suspension components such as shocks, struts, control arms, or bushings can affect the stability of the vehicle during braking. Inspecting and replacing any worn suspension parts may be necessary.
  • Unbalanced or misaligned wheels: Imbalanced or misaligned wheels can cause vibrations and shaking during braking. Tire balancing or wheel alignment by a professional can help rectify this problem.

Tire problems

Issues with the tires themselves can also lead to shaking when slowing down. Consider the following possibilities:

  • Uneven tire wear: Uneven wear patterns on the tires, such as cupping or feathering, can result in vibrations during braking. Replacing the worn tires and ensuring proper alignment and rotation can help alleviate the issue.
  • Tire imbalance: Imbalanced tires can cause shaking during braking. Balancing the tires by a professional can help resolve this problem.
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These are general potential causes, and a thorough inspection by a qualified mechanic is necessary to accurately diagnose the specific cause of the shaking. It is recommended to seek professional assistance to identify the underlying issue and perform the appropriate repairs or maintenance to ensure safe and smooth braking.

How Much Does It Cost to Resurface Brake Rotors

The cost of resurfacing brake rotors can vary depending on several factors such as your location, the type of vehicle you have, and the condition of the rotors. On average, you can expect to pay between $100 and $200 per axle for rotor resurfacing.

However, it’s important to note that resurfacing brake rotors is not always recommended or possible. In some cases, the rotors may be too worn or damaged to be effectively resurfaced, and replacement may be necessary. Additionally, some newer vehicles have rotors that are designed to be replaced rather than resurfaced.

It’s always a good idea to consult with a professional mechanic or a reputable automotive service center to get an accurate estimate for the cost of resurfacing or replacing your brake rotors based on your specific vehicle and circumstances. They can evaluate the condition of your rotors and provide you with the most appropriate solution and cost estimate.

In conclusion, the article has provided an overview of various potential causes of car shaking when braking and slowing down. It has discussed factors such as uneven brake rotors, worn brake pads, warped brake discs, suspension issues, tire and wheel problems, brake caliper problems, ABS malfunctions, and engine-related problems.

To diagnose the cause of shaking, the article recommended visual inspections, road tests, and seeking professional help for accurate diagnosis using diagnostic tools and expertise. Promptly addressing shaking issues is crucial for safety and optimal vehicle performance.

Solutions to resolve the shaking issue include brake rotor resurfacing or replacement, brake pad replacement, suspension repair or replacement, tire balancing, alignment, and potential replacement, brake caliper maintenance or replacement, ABS system repair or replacement, and engine diagnostics and repair.

The article emphasizes the importance of proper maintenance, choosing quality components, and seeking professional assistance when necessary. By addressing shaking issues promptly and accurately, drivers can ensure safe braking, reduce potential damage to the vehicle, and maintain optimal performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

How dangerous is it to drive a car that shakes when braking?

Driving a car that shakes when braking can be potentially dangerous. Shaking indicates an issue with the braking system, suspension, or tires, which can affect the vehicle’s stability and braking performance. It may lead to reduced control, longer braking distances, and increased risk of accidents. It is advisable to address the issue promptly to ensure safe driving conditions.

Can I continue driving if my car shakes only occasionally when braking?

While occasional shaking may not pose an immediate danger, it is still recommended to have the issue inspected and resolved as soon as possible. Even intermittent shaking can be indicative of underlying problems that can worsen over time. It’s best to have a professional diagnose the cause and determine the necessary repairs or maintenance.

How much does it cost to fix shaking issues in a car?

The cost of fixing shaking issues in a car can vary depending on the specific cause, the extent of the problem, and the labor rates in your area. For example, replacing brake pads or resurfacing brake rotors may cost a few hundred dollars, while addressing suspension or tire issues can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. It’s recommended to obtain estimates from reputable mechanics or repair shops to get a more accurate idea of the costs involved.

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Are shaking issues when braking always related to the brakes?

No, shaking issues when braking are not always related to the brakes alone. While brake-related problems such as warped rotors or worn brake pads are common causes, shaking can also be caused by suspension issues, tire and wheel problems, ABS malfunctions, or even engine-related problems. A thorough inspection is necessary to determine the exact cause.

Can tire problems cause shaking even without braking?

Yes, tire problems can cause shaking even without braking. Issues such as tire imbalance, misalignment, or uneven wear can lead to vibrations and shaking while driving, regardless of whether the brakes are applied. It’s important to address tire-related issues as they can affect the overall stability and performance of the vehicle.

How long does it take to resurface brake rotors?

The time it takes to resurface brake rotors can vary depending on the condition of the rotors and the equipment used by the mechanic. Generally, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours to resurface a set of brake rotors. However, it’s worth noting that in some cases, it may be more cost-effective and efficient to replace the rotors instead of resurfacing them, especially if they are severely worn or damaged.

What are the signs of a malfunctioning ABS system?

Common signs of a malfunctioning Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) include:

  • Illuminated ABS warning light on the dashboard
  • Loss of ABS functionality, causing the wheels to lock up during braking
  • Unusual pulsation or vibrations felt through the brake pedal when braking
  • Strange noises, such as grinding or buzzing, during braking
  • Longer braking distances or reduced braking effectiveness

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s recommended to have your ABS system inspected and repaired by a qualified mechanic.

Can I replace brake pads myself, or should I go to a mechanic?

While it is possible for some individuals to replace brake pads themselves, it requires mechanical knowledge, experience, and the appropriate tools. If you are confident in your ability to perform the task correctly and safely, you can choose to replace the brake pads yourself.

However, if you have limited experience or are unsure about the process, it is generally recommended to have a mechanic perform the brake pad replacement. They have the expertise to ensure proper installation and can also inspect other brake components for any potential issues.

How often should I have my suspension inspected?

The frequency of suspension inspections can vary depending on several factors, including the vehicle’s make and model, driving conditions, and the manufacturer’s recommendations. As a general guideline, it’s advisable to have your suspension inspected by a professional mechanic during routine maintenance services, such as oil changes or tire rotations.

Additionally, if you notice any signs of suspension problems, such as excessive bouncing, uneven tire wear, or handling issues, it’s best to have the suspension inspected promptly.

What should I do if my car shakes when braking after driving through a puddle?

If your car starts shaking when braking after driving through a puddle, it’s possible that moisture or water may have affected the braking system components. Here’s what you can do:

  • Proceed with caution and avoid sudden or hard braking.
  • After driving through the puddle, lightly apply the brakes a few times to help dry out the brake pads and rotors.
  • If the shaking persists or worsens, it’s advisable to have your braking system inspected by a professional mechanic as soon as possible to ensure everything is functioning properly and no water-related damage has occurred.

Remember, addressing any concerns promptly and seeking professional assistance when needed is crucial to maintaining the safety and performance of your vehicle.