Part of driving is learning to recognize when your vehicle isn’t working the way it should. You can’t ignore your car’s warning signs and expect it to drive well time after time.
Your vehicle should provide you with a smooth driving experience. It should start without a hitch. It should speed up and slow down without the vehicle vibrating.
Yet over time, you may start to notice a change in the way your car handles. That smooth feeling is replaced by a shaking feeling that becomes more noticeable at certain times throughout the drive.
What’s causing it?
If you notice the vibrations mostly occur as you apply the brakes, chances are it’s a problem with one of the components in your braking system.
Your braking system has several key components: brake pads, brake rotors, and brake calipers.
When you apply pressure to the brake pedal, it creates force to the brakes via hydraulic fluid. Because brakes require more pressure than your foot could give, this hydraulic fluid helps amplify the force into the braking system.
When you push the brake pedal, it depresses a piston, which allows hydraulic fluid to travel to a slave cylinder at each wheel. As these pistons move, it controls the pressure applied to each brake.
The brake pad is attached to the caliper, which presses up against the brake rotor to cause friction, ultimately slowing and stopping your vehicle.
If you notice a vibration, one or more components of this process no longer work the way they should. It’s possible the brake rotors have worn down, and are no longer circular in shape, meaning the brake pad can’t make proper connection. Or the brake calipers are warped, resulting in excessive heat when the brake pedal is pushed down.
If the components don’t connect in the way the system was designed, you’ll notice a difference in the way your car drives.
Everyday wear can do a lot to your vehicle. With every bump you hit, every corner you cut too sharp, even minor imperfections from the factory can all give way to unequal weight distribution throughout your four tires.
You’ll feel it in the way your vehicle performs, with even an ounce of difference being noticeable in the way your car handles. While you may feel it at lower speeds, at around 45 miles per hour, the vibration will intensify.
Periodically, it’s important to bring your car in for a tune-up and to rotate your tires. This allows a technician to check all four wheels, find imbalances, and adjust the weights so all four tires match once again.
This also gives a mechanic a chance to evaluate your wheels thoroughly, ensuring one isn’t bent, damaged, or otherwise unsafe for you to continue to drive on. This alerts you to problems before they become bigger, and put you at risk.
Even if your wheels are in good condition, your tires may have a problem, causing your vehicle to vibrate as it operates. If you bring your vehicle in for a mechanic to check, he will look at:
- Tire pressure, to ensure each tire is properly adjusted
- Connections, to ensure lug nuts are all properly torqued
- Tire wear, to ensure the tread is being evenly worn across the tire
- Tread, to ensure it has ample tread to safely drive
Even if you’ve replaced your tires recently, one or more of these issues can lead to a problem with the way your vehicle performs. Fixing it quickly will prevent further damage to your vehicle.
Your car’s axle is the central shaft used for rotating the gears and wheels of your car. It gives you control over your car to turn the vehicle and go in any direction you choose.
A bent axle can occur from bumping a curb, a minor accident, or hitting a speed bump or pothole. Once bent, it can continue to worsen the more you drive.
In most cases, your vehicle has two axles, one to rotate the front wheels, and one for the back. Larger vehicles that carry more passengers may have more. They can wear down over time from dust, dirt, and other debris accumulating on the joints. And any damage can weaken the system, creating a vibration, especially as you pick up speed.
The steering wheel is used to turn your vehicle and keep it under control. The steering wheel is attached to a track rod, which is used to control the wheels, moving them right or left, depending on which way you turn. Ball bearings are used to connect tie rods to the steering arms, providing you with control. Each of these is connected to the wheels.
Most modern day vehicles use a rack and pinion gearset, which provides greater ease for turning. A notched rod – the rack extends out from the track rod. The steering shaft ends with a round gear called a pinion. As you move the wheel, the pinion moves through the notches on the rack, giving you control to move the vehicle to the left or right. This process is what gives you better control over the movements of your vehicle.
If each of these parts isn’t in proper alignment, they can throw off your drivability. It can change your control, and make it more difficult to follow through with turns and movement.
You may start to notice more “play” in the way your steering wheel responds to certain situations. Does it take move turning movement to move through a turn? That’s one of the first indications you may have an issue with something in your steering system.
These issues happen over time. Unless you are involved in an accident, or hit a very large bump, it takes time for minor symptoms to show up in the way your vehicle performs. Yet once you start noticing a change in performance, the faster you get your vehicle in for an inspection, the greater chance you can catch the problem before it grows in severity.
In most cases, vehicle vibrations will be most noticeable either as you gain speed or slow down.
Occasionally, you might notice your engine running rough, vibrating even as your vehicle is standing still. This is a clear sign of a problem somewhere in the engine. In order for the engine to run smoothly, there needs to be plenty of air, fuel, and spark. If any one of those components is off, your engine will have trouble starting and staying running.
A few things to check include:
- Dirty or corroded spark plugs
- A clogged or dirty air filter
- Dirty fuel injector
- Clogged fuel filter
The engine is attached to your vehicle with mounts attached to the frame of the body. It uses rubber joints to help absorb vibrations that can occur as you drive. Over time, this rubber can begin to fail, allowing the connection to loosen. That vibration you feel while your car stands still might just be an indication your system needs a little TLC to keep it functioning.
If you feel a vibration in your vehicle, stop by today and we’ll inspect it. Let’s get you back on the road safely once again.