Why Does My Car Shake When I Brake?

Hit the brakes

You’re approaching an intersection, and your foot hovers over the brake pedal. You press down lightly, and you feel a noticeable vibration under your foot. As you press down harder, the whole car shakes as you grind to a stop. What gives?

There are a few reasons your car might shake when you brake, and none of them are good. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the most common culprits that can cause your car to shake when braking, and what you can do to fix it.

Why Does My Car Shake When I Brake?

here are several possible explanations for a car shaking when you brake — everything from worn-out brake pads to uneven treads on your tires. Here are two likely culprits: 

Balance. Tire or wheel balance corrects uneven distribution of weight. If your balance is off, you may feel vibrations in the steering wheel, seat or under your feet. Imbalance can also cause shaking, bumping and vibration as you drive, which is particularly noticeable as you come to a stop. 

Alignment. Alignment refers to the angle at which your tires connect with the road. Adjusting the alignment ensures your suspension system is working correctly. If the alignment is off, your car may pull to one side, or you may notice uneven wear on your tires.  

To narrow down the problem, consider when your car shakes. If you’re experiencing problems with balance and alignment, your car will most likely shake and vibrate when traveling at high speeds. If you only feel shaking when you press on the brake, it’s probably the brakes themselves that are the problem.

How Brake Issues Cause Shaking

Your car’s brakes are made up of three primary components: brake rotors (discs), brake calipers and brake pads. Issues with any of the components can cause shaking as you deploy the brake pedal. 

Brake rotors (also known as discs) are large metal discs inside each wheel. If they are warped, corroded or damaged in any way, they may not work properly and could cause shaking. You’ll often feel rotor damage via vibration in the brake pedal or the steering wheel. 

Other signs your rotors have gone bad: 

  • Screeching or grinding noise when braking
  • Shuddering or pulsing in the steering wheel
  • Grooves or score marks visible on the rotors
  • Oversensitive brakes

Brake calipers fit over your car’s rotors like a clamp. When you activate the brake, the calipers squeeze together, creating the friction that is necessary to slow down and eventually stop your wheel. If the calipers are not working correctly, they may not apply enough pressure to the rotor, causing vibration and shaking.

Other symptoms of faulty calipers: 

  • Squealing noise when braking
  • Leaking brake fluid
  • Veering to one side
  • Brake pads wear out quickly

Brake pads are responsible for the friction that causes your car to slow down. They naturally wear out over time and are meant to be replaced frequently. If the pads are too thin, cracked or warped, they won’t be able to create enough friction to slow down the car effectively, which can cause shaking. 

Other signs it’s time to replace your brake pads

  • Squealing or clicking noise
  • It takes longer for your car to stop
  • The front of the vehicle is pulling to the side

How Much Does Brake Repair Cost? 

How much brake repair costs may vary depending on the vehicle’s make or mode and the severity of the damage. There are, however, some estimates you can use as a guide. 

Brake pads are one of the most commonly-replaced parts on a vehicle, costing around $30 to $75. Expect them to need repair every 15,000 miles or so. It’s usually a good choice to have your rotors replaced with your brake pads since worn rotors don’t work very well, even with new pads. You can expect to pay between $35 to $150 per rotor, and between $150 and $200 for the labor for each axle, for a total of between $250 and $500 per axle.

The caliper is one of the most expensive parts of the brake system to replace. A single pad can cost around $130. Complete brake repair, including pads, rotors and calipers, can be anywhere from $300 to $800 per axle.

Don’t Wait to Fix Your Brakes

Brake problems are never something to take lightly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, brake-related problems were named as the primary cause in 22% of crashes attributed to the car rather than driver error. 

There are a number of potential symptoms that can indicate brake problems. These can be pretty obvious — like the whole car shaking — or more subtle. To keep yourself and others safe on the road, you should address brake problems with the help of a local auto repair shop as soon as you notice them. 

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