Cars should run smoothly on a flat road, at any speed. However, if you’ve owned a car long enough, chances are your vehicle may have developed some vibration issues. It’s one of those annoying car problems that tends to start out quietly and gradually and may be subtle enough that you miss or choose to ignore it.
Don’t underestimate the issue, however. As with any wear-and-tear car problem, it’s likely that the shaking and wobbling will progress over time. Before you know it, you might find yourself driving on a beautiful sunny day, with a nice road ahead of you – realizing suddenly that your car sounds like it’s going to fall apart at any minute.
If your car is starting to shake and show its age, you might want to check out our top five common culprits behind your car’s vibration.
Tires are one of the most common causes of car vibrations. One of the possible issues are out-of-balance tires. Your problems may not be noticeable at slow speeds, but the shaking will intensify as you accelerate to 55-60 miles per hour. The steering wheel, or even the entire car, will start to vibrate.
Out of balance tires will wear in a distinctive way, so check whether any flat spots have developed around the tire. Having your tires rebalanced may solve the issue; but, if there is extensive damage, you might have to replace the tire.
If your car has larger tires, similar symptoms can signal that they are underinflated. So, ensure your tires’ air pressure is to the manufacturers’ specifications.
The vibrations might also be the result of uneven tire wear. Inspect the tread on your tires, and if you notice that it’s wearing down more on one side than the other, you should rotate the tires to ensure even tire wear.
Make sure to learn how to read the tread pattern and check your tires regularly to spot signs of trouble in time.
The Wheels are Out-of-Balance
Vibrations caused by wheels are usually felt through the steering wheel. One of the possible culprits for this might be worn or damaged wheel bearings. Though wheel bearings are generally one of the longest lasting mechanical parts of a vehicle, in rare instances, they may become damaged or stop properly functioning for a variety of reasons.
Tie rod ends or ball joints may be another issue. If the steering wheel feels ordinary while you’re driving straight, but starts to shake around a curve, this may signal worn out tie rod ends.
Wheel runout may be another cause of car vibration. The term refers to any deviation from a truly circular spin and is measured with a dial indicator. This wheel issue might result in either up and down vibrations or a sideways, wobbly motion in a wheel.
If your car’s engine isn’t getting enough oxygen, fuel, or spark that is needed for it to run smoothly, you’ll probably notice that a vibration is coming from the engine compartment. This issue manifests through jerks and shaking when your vehicle increases in speed, or rumbles within a specific speed range.
To help prevent this issue, have your spark plugs and fuel and air filters checked regularly and changed if necessary. If your filters are clogged or dirty, the engine will be deprived of the necessary fuel or oxygen.
If, on the other hand, your car’s vibration issues are not related to any particular speed but occur when you stop at a red light or you park with the engine on, then the engine mounts might damaged and need to be replaced.
If you have noticed vibrations when you apply the brakes, you may be dealing with a worn out or warped brake rotor. If this is the case, you’ll get shaking through your steering wheel while you’re braking, or a pulsing feeling directly through your brake pedal. Be sure to have the rotor checked and skimmed or replaced completely if needed.
A worn out or rusted brake caliper pin may be another culprit for vibrations. You will probably feel your steering wheel start to vibrate around 50 miles per hour, which will intensify as you increase your speed, and you’ll sense a burning smell when you stop.
Keep in mind that, in terms of safety, the car’s braking system is one of the most important systems in a vehicle. It is susceptible to wear and tear, so be sure you’re keeping it in good condition by checking brake pads, rotors and all the other brake system components routinely and timely.
If your vehicle has suffered a collision or some other accident recently, it may be that your axle was bent or damaged. In that case, you will notice that the vibrations occur as you increase your speed – they will intensify the faster you drive.
A closely related problem is the driveshaft, a mechanical component which transmits engine power to the rear or front axles (depending whether you drive a rear-wheel-drive or a front-wheel-drive vehicle).
If your car seems to bounce up and down in the front (in FWD vehicles), and you notice vibration and a crackling noise coming from that part, you may be dealing with a worn out or broken constant velocity joint (CV joint). The solution is usually to repair and fit the CV joints or replace the driveshaft entirely. On the other hand, if your car seems to bounce up and down in the rear end (in RWD vehicles), and you notice the vibration intensifies as you slow down from a high speed, you may be dealing with worn out universal joints (U-joints) on the driveshaft. In this case, either the U-joints or the entire driveshaft may need replacement.
Facts to Keep in Mind:
The five reasons outlined in this article are the most common, but not the only possible culprits behind your car’s vibration issues.
No one knows your car as well as you do. If there are some unusual noises, shaking or jerking – you’ll be the first to notice them. Learn how to listen to your car and don’t ignore the warning signals.
Don’t let the occasional vibrations develop to the point where each ride becomes a nerve-racking experience. Be sure to act promptly, and consult one of our technicians for professional advice.