What's Causing Your Shaky Brakes?

Pulsating, shaking, and vibrating brakes can be frustrating and more than a little bit frightening. Any issue with your brakes can indicate a potential safety problem, especially if it seems to be getting worse over time. While vibrations usually aren't a sign of imminent catastrophic failure, they also aren't a problem you should ignore.

If your vehicle is experiencing shaky brakes, it's probably time to schedule an appointment with local auto brake services. This guide will help you diagnose your problem so you can have a good idea of what to expect once you arrive for your service appointment.

When: Is It Really Your Brakes?

Start by trying to determine precisely when you feel the vibrations. Many suspension, steering, and wheel-related problems can cause shaking and vibration, and these sometimes only occur at specific speeds. As a result, it's easy to misinterpret these issues as brake problems since you may notice them as you slow down into the problem speeds.

In general, you'll usually notice brake vibrations when you're actively braking. If the vibrations stop when you take your foot off the pedal, it's probably your brakes causing the problem. On the other hand, ongoing shakiness when cruising or accelerating is a good sign that something else is to blame.

Where: Which Brakes Are Affected?

You can learn a surprising amount by paying attention to how your car shakes. You'll typically feel vibrations through your steering wheel or the chassis. There's a physical linkage between your front wheels and the steering wheel, which means vibrations can transmit through the steering column. In other words, a shaky steering wheel usually means problems with your front brakes.

On the other hand, you'll often notice problems with the rear brakes through the chassis. You might feel your seat vibrating or notice that items in the cupholder or coin tray bounce around when braking. These are usually good signs that your rear brakes are to blame, especially if your steering wheel feels steady.

Why: What's the Underlying Cause?

Many people blame warped rotors for braking vibrations, but anything that causes uneven contact between the brake discs and pads can result in unpleasant shakiness. For example, a stuck caliper can overheat the brakes, resulting in extra material deposited on the rotors or hot spots. Both of these problems can cause your vehicle to vibrate when you brake.

In some cases, a simple brake service will resolve the issue, especially if old or worn-down rotors are to blame. However, you should always request a full inspection to ensure that there are no other underlying causes. Taking this extra time and effort to resolve braking issues fully will help keep your car safe, even under emergency braking conditions.