14 Must Know Reasons: Why Does My Car Shake When …

Cars talk, and as a car enthusiast you learn the language of the automobile so that you can listen. Though it's true that every make and model may have subtle inflections in their accents, the basics idea is conveyed in similar ways. You've got the thump, thump, thump, and the slow limp which translates into a low or flat tire.

Then there's the click, click, click that is letting you know that there is something wrong with the starter, or it's supporting mechanisms.

And of course, the ever frightful communications of dead silence, which could mean anything from a dead battery to a busted alternator. But what does it mean when the car has the shakes?

Welcome back car enthusiast, today we are going to talk about some of the reasons that a car shakes and what, if anything, you can do about it.

Why Does My Car Shake When....?

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Why Does My Car Shake

My Car Started Shaking When I Left It Idle or Start It

1. Broken Radiator Fan

All fan blades are designed to stay balanced while turning at high speeds. When a blade is broken or missing, it causes the fan's casing to shake.

Imagine a broken oscillating fan, when the fan is turned on the entire casing shakes, the higher the speed, the more the shaking occurs until it becomes completely unstable. If you are an experienced DIYer, then this fix is as simple as replacing your fan blades.

"How to Install, Replace Radiator Fan Blade"

(This video is for a Chevy Trailblazer, but it should give you a general idea. For more model options look for video's on Youtube.)

2. Loose Engine Mount

Automobiles have multiple engine mounts. the two main purposes of the mounts are to secure the engine to the body and absorb the shocks and vibrations that the multiple components of an engine may cause. It's basically a seat belt or harness for the engine. A loose or broken mount could not only cause the car to shake, it can also cause damage to any number of vehicle components.

Other common symptoms may include:

  • Engine Movement

  • Loud Noises

  • Oil Leaks

The good news here is that engine mounts can be replaced in as little as 9 steps.

3. Problems In The Fuel System

These days modern fuel systems can be as complex as an elusive quantum computer. There is the Fuel Pump, filter, and injectors, among many other parts that could cause shaking in your vehicle. There are 5 main components of a fuel system:

  • Fuel Pump

  • Fuel Tank

  • Fuel Filter

  • Fuel Injectors

  • Carburetors (Older Models)


Problems with the fuel system can range in difficulty from something easy like the fuel filter, to more complex issues that may require a mechanic. Below are a couple of youtube links for the simpler fixes.

"How To Tell If Your Fuel Pump Is Bad"


"How to Replace Your Fuel Filter"

4. Spark Plugs

Spark plugs are the reasons that a combustion engine fires off in the first place. When your car is started the spark plugs creates a spark that ignites an explosive mixture that allows the engine to rev. When one or more spark plugs are damaged, or not working properly it causes misfires that could make the entire car shake. Spark plugs are usually changed every 30,000 miles or so and should be checked with your routine tune-up, but from time to time they can be overlooked.

"Changing Spark Plugs & Replacing Plug Wires"

Related: The Best Jump Starters

5. Disconnected Hoses

Your car's hoses transport vital fluids and helps to maintain proper vacuum pressure that keeps your auto humming like a songbird.

Electrochemical Degradation or ECD occurs

when chemicals such as antifreeze or lubricants, break down the rubber tubing in your car and causes leaks, disconnections, and loss of pressure.

Luckily, checking and changing your hoses are not nearly as strenuous as it sounds and in some cases could be as simple as tightening the fasteners on the end of the hoses.

"Checking and Replacing Coolant Hoses"

6. Problems with the Car's Timing or Timing Belt

Like a comedian, a car's timing is very important. When the timing is off, just a little, or if one of the tiny teeth from the timing belt is worn or missing it sets the entire engine of balance. It's kind of like the cogs in an old wind-up watch, each turn and tick must be precise.

A timing belt only has to be replaced every 100,000 miles, but should be checked with maintenances and tune ups.

However, the belt is not the only thing that needs to be checked, there is also the timing itself.

"Things to Know After a Timing Belt Gets Replaced: Timing Belts and Other Auto Repairs"

My Car Started Shaking When I Drive It

7. Bent Axle

Just like a child's red wagon, a vehicle has a front and rear drive axle that is attached to your tires. When one or both of the axles are bent the wheels become uneven. You may hear a slight whistle coming from the front of the car and feel the rhythmic shake as it drives down the road.

Another way to tell if you have a bent axle without driving your possibly dangerous car, is to put the engine into gear and listen for a "clunking or sputtering" sound that indicates a broken axle and the need for an auto mechanic

"Noise After Broke Axle"

8. Broken CV Joint

CV joints, or Constant Velocity Joints connect the tires of your car to the transmission and does exactly what the name suggests. The joints transfer torque from the transmission to the tires. In the article "CV Joint, How it Works, Symptoms and Problems" on Samarins.com, the different types of CV joints are explained, along with some common signs of problematic joints.

"Symptoms of a bad CV Joint/Axle"

9. Bald Tires or Unbalanced Tires

Okay, so that picture may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the principal remains the same. When you buy tires, you buy tires for the traction they provide on the road. Traction can be lost because of flat spots or cupping on the tire due to wear and tear.

Related: All Season Tire vs Snow Tires 

When this happens it leaves your car susceptible to every small dip and divot that the street can provide. Then there is tire balance, this goes back to the red wagon explanation. If the tires don't sit evenly on the road, then they are not going to rotate evenly causing the car to shake more and more as your speed increases.

10. Struts and/or Shocks:

Shocks and struts are what helps the car's suspensions and tires adjust to the road, and it's inconsistencies. When these are damaged the entire cars feels it, from the slight vibration of the shaky suspension, to the teeth clattering thuds of the shockless tires as it rolls into a pothole. For more information on shocks and struts and how to know when they need to be replaced check out the following links:

"Top Ten Signs of Worn Shocks and Struts"

Related: Basic of Shocks and Struts

11. Transmission Filter

The transmission filter is your transmission's main defense against contaminants and debris that could cause engine failure. When the filter is clogged, it can obstruct the path of the fluids needed to run the engine, which could cause a vibration in the transmission itself.

Your transmission filter should be changed every 25,000 miles along with the transmission fluid.

"How to Change Your Transmission Filter and Fluid"

My Car Started Shaking When I Stop It

Brakes: If your car shakes, or stutters when you try to stop, it is most likely one or more components of your braking system. When the brakes aren't working properly, then the wheels aren't stopping properly. Below is a list of the brake components with a quick explanation of what they do and how to replace them.

12. Brake Pads

Brake pads are one of two sides that are squeezed together to stop the tires of your car when your brake pedal is pushed. When the pads are worn or broken, then it can't be pushed into the rotor and cause the proper amount of friction needed to stop the car.

Related: Best Brake Fluid​

In the article, "What do Brake Pads Do?" on Autoanything.com, you'll find a detailed explanation of your brake pads. Checking your brake pads is a fairly simple task, but replacing them could be a touched more complicated if you haven't done them before, so you may want to take them into a specialist.

"How to Check Brake Pads Without Removing the Wheel: Professional and DIY Brake Pad Thickness Check"

13. Check Your Brake Rotors

The walls of the brake rotors is what your brake pads clamp down on to in order to cause friction which stops the tires. If the rotor is too thin, then the pad can't make a proper connection. It's the same basic concept as the brake pads, which makes sense since both are needed to slow the tires to a stop.

Rotors should be replaced if they are a quarter inch thick or less. You can check these when you check the brake pads, because it is probably one, or both of these that are causing your brakes to fail and your car to shake.

Related: Changing Brakes and Rotors

"How to Inspect and Replace Car Brake Rotors: What is Rotor Failure?"

14. Brake Calipers

As brake fluid flows from the master cylinder to the brake caliper, it applies pressure to the pistons inside the caliper which pushes the brake pads against the rotor. It's best to replace calipers at the same time you are replacing your pads and/or rotors.

"How to Diagnose and Replace a Bad, Brake Caliper"

Most brake specialist don't offer separate services when replacing your brakes. The simple logic is that all three parts must work together in order to provide a safe stop to a vehicle, if one is worn or not working properly it is most likely that, the other components are damaged, or on their way to being damaged.

If you were to only replace one of the parts and leave the others, chances are the new part will wear down faster because it has to compensate for the other components which are not performing at top quality.

Done! Hope You Found Why Your Car Shakes

Well, there you have it car enthusiasts, some of the more common reasons why your car has the shakes. Of course there are many other reasons, and you should take your car into your mechanic if these tips didn't pinpoint the problem, but this list is a great place to start.

Thanks to all the new readers and a trunk full of appreciation to all of my returnees.

As usual leave me comments, tips and advice on below in the comment section. Also if you have suggestions on good places to buy parts or want to brag about your awesome mechanic, you can leave that below as well.

Remember, your car wants to talk to you and tell you all the things that hurt, all you have to do is learn the language and learn how to listen.

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