It’s a common rule that cars should run smoothly on a flat road, at any speed. However, if you’ve owned a car long enough, chances are great that your vehicle has developed some vibration issues. It’s one of those annoying car problems that tend to start out quietly and gradually, and are subtle enough for you to miss noticing them, or ignore them.
Don’t underestimate the issue, however. As with any wear-and-tear car problem, it’s highly likely that the shaking and wobbling will progress over time. Before you even know it, you just 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.
Do not wait for this to happen, because you will have to cash out for costly repairs if you don’t address the issue.
Diagnosing and discovering the cause of car trouble is already half the job done. 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, and learn how to troubleshoot the problem before it’s too late.
Tires are one of the most common causes of car vibrations. One of the possible issues you might be dealing with in this context are out-of-balance tires. Your problems won’t 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. The tires will also wear in a distinctive way, so check whether any flat spots have developed around the tire. If the damage is too big, you might have to replace the tire. If not, having the tire rebalanced should do the trick.
If your car has larger tires, similar symptoms can actually signal that they are underinflated. Fix the problem by restoring the tire to the air pressure specified by the manufacturer.
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.
One way to avoid future tire related issues is to learn how to read the tread pattern – check your tires regularly and you will be able 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 they should generally last for the whole lifetime of your vehicle, as with any other mechanical part, they can go out at any time, for a number of reasons.
Another thing to look for are the tie rod ends or ball joints. 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. If, however, your steering wheel shakes while you’re driving straight but stops when you’re making a curve, this may be a sign that a ball joint should be replaced.
Wheel runout might be yet another cause of car vibrations. The term refers to any deviation from a truly circular spin and it’s 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 the 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 get ahold of this problem, you should check the spark plugs and install a new set if the old ones are worn out. Don’t forget to inspect the state of the fuel and air filters as well: if they are clogged or dirty, the engine will be deprived of the necessary fuel or oxygen. To prevent this from happening, be sure to change them regularly.
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 be worn out or damaged, and need to be replaced.
If you have noticed vibrations when you apply the brakes, it’s highly likely you’re 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.
A worn out or rusted brake caliper pin is another reason, but it usually affects only older cars. You will probably feel your steering wheel start to vibrate around 50 miles per hour if this is the reason behind the vibrations. As you increase your speed, this will intensify 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 in this context is that of 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 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 driveshaft. In this case, either the U-joints or the entire driveshaft 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.
The fact is that 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, if in doubt, always consult a car repair technician for professional advice.