What Causes a Car to Shake?

You’re driving down the interstate, and as you come up to cruising speed, the steering wheel starts to vibrate in your hands. You grip a little tighter and press the accelerator a little more. The vibration gets worse, and it feels like your molars are going to vibrate right out of your mouth. But traffic is still passing you at breakneck speed, so you speed up a little more. The vibration seems to dissipate and you relax into your commute.

What causes your car to shake? Sometimes it’s just a little annoyance that goes away on its own, and other times it progresses so quickly you feel like you’re sitting on a washing machine in the agitate cycle. Many things can cause your vehicle to vibrate or shake. Here are a handful of causes to watch out for.

Tire balancing

The simplest and most common reason for your vehicle to shake is tire balancing. Balancing a tire is a process of adding small amounts of weights to each wheel or rim with a tire installed on it. They are placed strategically with the assistance of a machine that spins the assembly when it is removed from your car with the purpose of making the wheel’s weight perfectly balanced all the way around.

A simple half ounce of weight can cause a noticeable vibration when driving. It can also cause premature or abnormal tire wear. Wheel balancing problems can be felt at highway speeds predominantly, especially 55-65 miles per hour. Sometimes the vibration is unnoticeable at speeds higher than 65 mph.

Tires are balanced when they are installed, or at least they should be. Sometimes a weight can fall off. Tire balancing should be corrected to prevent unnecessary costs associated with premature tire wear.

Bent rim

Have you ever gone up on a curb when parallel parking? Have you ever hit a pothole really hard that you couldn’t avoid in time? A sudden impact on your wheel can cause a bent rim.

A bent rim exhibits a similar symptom as tire balance issues. In most cases, the only difference is when the vibration is noticeable. When a rim is bent bad enough for a vibration to occur, it’s felt at 40 miles per hour and faster. This kind of vibration doesn’t go away when driving at higher speeds.

A bent rim needs to be addressed for safety reasons. The tire’s seal on the rim can be compromised and a blowout or sudden loss of tire pressure is possible. The tire can also wear unevenly like a tire balance issue. Often, a rim can be straightened or repaired instead of replaced, depending on the severity.

Tire separation

Tire separation doesn’t mean the tire came off. It means that the layers of rubber in the tire that have been laminated together are coming apart. You may notice a bulge in the sidewall of the tire, or a goose egg on the tread on close examination, but it may not be visible to the naked eye either.

The most common cause of tire separation is contact with a curb or pothole. The layers of the tire get pinched, and air inside the tire gets between them. Essentially, the tire isn’t totally round anymore and causes a vibration. The separation can be a safety concern as the tire is significantly weaker at that spot. A lumpy driving feeling at low speeds progresses to a fast vibration at higher speeds when a tire separation occurs.

Unfortunately, the only correction for tire separation is to replace the affected tire. This may mean replacing two or four tires to ensure the tread wear is the same on all your tires.

Steering components loose

If you’re vehicle has a few years on it, or is higher mileage, you may notice the steering isn’t quite as responsive as it used to be when you first purchased your car. That’s quite common; steering components wear. There may be a little more play in the steering wheel before your car reacts to your input. That’s caused by steering component wear.

Tie rod ends are the links from your steering gear, or rack and pinion, to the wheels. They are a small ball and socket that allows for travel vertically and horizontally. When these tie rod ends become loose, the wheel isn’t kept solidly pointing the direction you are steering it. There is side to side movement allowed, and a tie rod that is excessively loose can cause a bad vibration at any speed, and it will likely happen on and off randomly. The same can be said for the inner tie rods, or any other steering component that has wear.

When a vibration occurs from a steering component, only a trained professional will be able to determine and repair it. Have a vibration checked expediently.

Loose wheel bearing

A loose wheel bearing will cause much the same symptom and in similar circumstances to a loose steering component, and that is because they are closely related. The wheel bearing allows the wheel to rotate freely while maintaining a solid mount to the vehicle. If the wheel bearing wears out or gets loose, the wheel has play to move around when driving at any speed. The shake that occurs can come and go, and doesn’t follow any sort of regular pattern.

A wheel bearing sometimes be repacked and adjusted on a few certain styles of vehicle, however by far the most common style of wheel bearing is one mounted in the wheel hub. If this wheel hub has play, it is replaced as an assembly, and can’t be serviced otherwise.

Brake pulsation

Your brakes can also cause your vehicle to shake, and is the most common cause of your vibration if it only shows up when you are decelerating. Brake pulsation is caused the the brake rotors or drums on your vehicle are no longer perfectly flat. When the brake pads press against the rotor, it isn’t able to apply constant continuous pressure. It causes a sudden and high frequency vibration in the vehicle that diminishes as you come to a stop. Brake pulsation needs to be addressed as soon as possible due to its effect on safety. Brake pulsation increases your stopping distance and can cause loss of control in slippery conditions.

Next Step

Schedule Brakes, Steering and Suspension Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Brakes, Steering and Suspension Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE


The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Brakes, Steering and Suspension Inspection reviews

Excellent Rating


Rating Summary


13 years of experience
678 reviews
13 years of experience
Chevrolet Malibu L4-1.5L Turbo - Brakes, Steering and Suspension Inspection - Atlanta, Georgia
Collins is the best! He was very nice, and professional. He saved me money and told me exactly what I dont need and what I need. I'm going to call him for everything! I just moved to Atlanta and it's sooo nice to know there is a mechanic I can trust.
Buick Lucerne - Brakes, Steering and Suspension Inspection - Atlanta, Georgia
Collins always shows me the issues with my car and tells me how to remedy the problems. He is friendly and knowledgeable.


35 years of experience
731 reviews
35 years of experience
Jaguar XJ8 V8-4.2L - Brakes, Steering and Suspension Inspection - Sun City West, Arizona
As always, William was courteous and straight forward. Very helpful. He left his flashlight here, by the way.
Jaguar XJ8 - Brakes, Steering and Suspension Inspection - Sun City West, Arizona
Mr. Wolf has a broad view of many car brands and experience in diagnosing problems in a wide variety of makes and models. He is courteous and friendly. He provided options for repairs to our car with no "hard sell". I look forward to working with him.


30 years of experience
329 reviews
30 years of experience
Dodge Durango V8-4.7L - Brakes, Steering and Suspension Inspection - Riverside, California
Marco was on time, seems like a great guy! He got to work right away and checked everything out very quickly, and he sent me the estimates right away. Very thorough inspection!
Toyota Camry - Brakes, Steering and Suspension Inspection - Moreno Valley, California
Marco is a awesome mechanic, very professional and attention to every detail and very friendly. I highly recommend him!


13 years of experience
70 reviews
13 years of experience
Mazda CX-9 V6-3.7L - Brakes, Steering and Suspension Inspection - Fayetteville, Georgia
Jermarcus was professional, showed up on time and completely did a great job servicing our vehicle. Very Knowledgeable and considerate. Did the job right the first time.

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


Related articles

How to Replace a Power Brake Booster
Replacing a power brake booster can be challenging, as it requires several steps and the proper tools to do so.
3 Ways to Increase Your Car Tire Lifespan
Car tires last longer if you drive carefully and keep tires aligned and inflated. Regularly rotate car tires and check for signs of damage.
How to Replace a Vacuum Brake Booster
The vacuum brake booster generates extra force for car brakes. If your car is hard to stop or wants to shut off, replace your brake booster.

Related questions

How do I set the foot-operated parking brake?
The foot-operated parking brake sits to the left of the driver’s leg space, and resembles your standard brake pedal. When you park your vehicle, press down on the foot-operated parking brake firmly with your foot; this will set the parking...
Brake, ABS, DSC, Check Engine Light - 2001 BMW 325
If you visited a smaller local repair shop or a garage chain, you may want to take the car to the dealer where they have the proper equipment to extract the fault coes from the system. These mechanics are specialized...
I have really bad shaking in my tires when I drive between 20 and 70 mph
Several things could be causing the shake you're experiencing: tires out of balance, defective/worn tires, worn struts, worn control arm bushings, worn tie rods, wheel bearings (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/wheel-bearings-replacement) starting to fail, the list goes on. Start by having a local service...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com