Steering wheel shakes when I break is a common complaint from drivers and car owners. The problem can occur in any vehicle brand or model.
In this article, we’ll show you the major causes of this problem and how you can fix it yourself.
- 1 What Are Reason the Steering Wheel Shakes When You Brake?
- 2 How To Stop Your Steering Wheel From Shaking When You Brake
- 3 FAQs
- 4 Conclusion
What Are Reason the Steering Wheel Shakes When You Brake?
The reason your steering wheel shakes when you brake is because one or more components of your car’s brake system are damaged or out of place. The problem could be misaligned tires, worn-out suspension parts, damaged brake pads and rotors, or, in rare cases, dry caliper guide pins.
Misaligned tires can cause your steering wheel to shake when you brake. The angle of your vehicle must be in perfect sync for your vehicle to run straight and smoothly. When wheels/tires are misaligned, occasional vibrations are sent throughout the vehicle.
You would feel these vibrations while driving, though they may intensify when braking or driving over speed bumps and potholes. Misaligned tires, if left unattended, can also cause faster wear and tear of your tires. Suspension issues and bad wheel bearings are usually the cause of this problem.
Suspension Components Are Worn Out
If your vehicle suspension components are worn out, you may experience a shaking steering wheel while driving and braking. The suspension refers to the network of components that work with your wheels to keep your vehicle in smooth motion and absorb shock effects.
Various suspension parts can get worn out or develop faults, greatly affecting your driving experience. For instance, you could notice severe vibrations in your steering when driving at high speeds or braking suddenly. In older vehicles, suspension parts like ball joints and tie rods are usually quick to fail and cause these issues.
However, things like accidents and overloading can also ruin the suspension system in a car. Other signs you’ll notice when your car’s suspension system is bad include clunking or knocking noises and extreme shaking or bouncing when driving over speed bumps.
Brake Pads Are Worn Out
Worn brake pads can cause several braking problems, including vibrations that can be felt in the steering. The pads are the components that press against the disc brakes to create friction and bring your car to a halt. They usually have a flat steel surface with a friction material attached to one side.
The pads wear out over time, so the friction material won’t press down on the rotors properly when you hit the brakes. As a result, you’ll experience shaking or pulsations every time you apply the brakes in your car. Pads contaminated with dirt, oil, debris, and brake fluid can also cause this problem.
Warped or damaged rotors could also be the reason why your car shakes when braking. Brake rotors (also called brake discs) are circular metallic disks connected to each vehicle wheel.
When you engage warped or worn rotors, your braking and steering experience will be wobbly or shaky. Your rotors are likely responsible if you hear squealing noises and get a wobbling feeling every time you engage the brakes.
Problems With Caliper Guide Pins
Problems with caliper guide pins can also cause your steering wheel to shake whenever you engage the brakes. These pins are an important part of the brake calipers. Their sole duty is to guide the brake pad so it can engage the rotors properly.
By nature of their duty, guide pins must always be lubricated. If not, they become dry and ineffective. Dry pins would cause the pads to engage the caliper at a bad angle or to get stuck. In this scenario, you’ll experience steering vibrations any time you use your car brakes.
Apart from vibrations, you’ll also hear a loud screeching noise when your brake pads engage the caliper at the wrong angle. Note that corrosion and contamination by the elements can also cause the pins to get stuck.
Rotors Aren’t Tightened Properly
If your rotors aren’t tightened properly, it may cause certain wobbling or vibratory effects that will be felt throughout your car. For your brakes to be effective, the rotors must be tight so that when pads clamp on them, there’ll be an even distribution of frictional force. If your rotors aren’t tight, there’ll be a lateral runout, creating a pulsating or wobbling effect in your rotors.
The lug nuts are responsible for the tightness of your brake discs or rotors. If these nuts come undone or aren’t tightened properly, your rotors will be loose.
How To Stop Your Steering Wheel From Shaking When You Brake
To stop your steering wheel from shaking when you brake, you must fix, replace, or adjust the brake system component responsible for the issue. This might involve changing the brake pads, re-aligning the tires, adjusting rotors, or replacing the rotors.
Align Tires Properly
Aligning your tires properly can end your car steering wheel vibrations. You’ll first have to check your vehicle owner’s manual to know the proper alignment settings. If you don’t have a manual, you can look up ideal specs online or ask a mechanic.
Once that’s settled, check your tire pressure and inflate any tires that aren’t up to the ideal pressure. All your tires should be properly and evenly inflated so you get accurate readings later. Next, you can now start measurements.
The first measurement to check is your vehicle’s toe. Toe refers to the angle your car’s wheels are pointed in relation to its centerline. Depending on your vehicle manufacturer, it could be toe-in (pointing inward) or toe-out (pointing outward). You can easily correct this by screwing the ball-joint ends of your vehicle’s tie rod up or down to alter their length.
Another thing you should check is your camber. The camber is the angle at which the wheels lean into each other when observed from the front of the vehicle. Again, you can find your car’s ideal camber in the manual. If you notice the camber isn’t properly aligned, it means one or two parts of your vehicle are bent.
Usually, camber misalignment is tied to a suspension problem, which makes it difficult to fix at home. For instance, you may have to adjust the control arms and camber bolts or even replace certain suspension components altogether. Except you have the right tools and experience as an auto mechanic, you should see a professional for this.
Change Brake Pads
Changing brake pads can fix your problem. Luckily, you can do this at home with your regular tools. First, loosen your lug nuts and take out the wheel, then jack the car up. Next, undo the slider bolts and get the brake calipers out of the way (slide them up or unmount them, as the case may be).
Now you should be able to see your brake pads. Ensure you inspect them first to know if they are due for a change. If yes, slide out the old/worn pads and slide in the new ones. Install any retaining clips necessary, then put the caliper back in place.
Finally, reinstall the slider bolts and repeat the same procedure for the opposite wheel. Once you’re done, check the brake fluid level and test drive the car. Your car vibrations should cease. If not, then something else is responsible.
Ideally, you should change your pads every 10,000 – 20,000 miles. New pads usually cost around $100 – $200.
Adjusting your brake discs/rotors can stop your steering wheel vibration problems. To tighten your rotors, you’ll need a torque wrench. Tighten the lug nuts on the rotors using this tool until they’re firm. Every car has a specific torque requirement—check your owner’s manual.
Note that tightening the lug nuts too much can warp your brake discs.
Replacing rotors is the ideal solution for worn or warped rotors. First, lift your vehicle using a car jack to replace brake discs and remove the wheel. Now, undo the bolts and take out the caliper. This should give you access to the brake pad and rotor.
Remove the pad and the rotor (in some vehicles, you’ll have to uninstall the caliper mounting bracket first). While removing the rotor, observe for any signs of rust, debris, or wear and tear. Sometimes, these things invade the rotor area and cause the problems you experience while driving.
Clean the rotor mounting surface with a strong-bristle wire brush, making sure to remove all rust. You can also wipe the surface clean with a lubricant or cleaner if you have one. Now you can install the new rotor and reinstall the brake pad, caliper, bolts, and wheel. Finally, test drive your car.
Check and Fix Suspension Parts
Fixing your vehicle suspension can put an end to steering wheel vibrations. First, check the shocks and struts. These components absorb shock and provide better handling to ensure a smooth ride. They are connected to the steering and could cause vibrations and scraping sounds when worn out. First, raise your vehicle using a jack and remove the wheels to replace these parts.
Now, locate the shocks and struts. They are usually underneath the car, behind the wheel (see your owner’s manual if you’re unsure where to find them). Loosen the bolts that hold them in place, and take out the old ones.
Now, install the new ones and reinstall your vehicle wheels. Finally, test drive. If your shocks and struts are OK and the problem persists, it could be from other components like the spring and ball joints.
Check the Spring
The suspension spring absorbs impact from bumps and allows for more range of movement. The suspension springs are usually mounted between the vehicle swingarm and the stringer. Check this component for signs of corrosion and damage. If the spring is bad, replace it.
To replace the spring, you’ll need to undo the screws/bolts holding it in place, then use spring compressors to pull it out. Repeat the same procedure in reverse to install the new spring. As an important note, ensure all power is disconnected from your vehicle before attempting to replace the suspension spring.
Change Ball Joints
Ball joints are a part of the suspension system that provides a pivot for the vehicle’s front wheels. This component can wear and tear (especially when not lubricated) or get contaminated by dirt and debris. Bad ball joints always cause wiggling or jolting in cars.
To change ball joints, you’ll need to remove it from its housing in the vehicle framework. This will entail removing the wheels and other parts in front of the wheel hub (brake caliper and rotors, sway bars, and steering knuckle).
Once you can see the ball joint, remove/undo the snap rings holding it in place. Now, use a ball joint press to remove the old ball joint. You’ll see signs of damage/defects if your ball joint is bad. Install a new one using the ball joint press, and reinstall every component of the wheel hub.
Note that suspension repair is a very delicate and complicated job. One wrong move, and you could make things worse. You shouldn’t attempt it yourself if you aren’t experienced with fixing automobiles. Rather, get an auto mechanic to help you out.
Fix Caliper Guide Pins
Fixing the caliper guide pins of your car can be the ideal solution for steering wheel shaking. To do this, take out your wheels to expose the brake assembly. Inspect the pins for any signs of dirt and debris, and remove them if you find any.
Take out the pins and scrub them clean. If damaged, replace them. Remember to coat the pins with a thick layer of grease to prevent future dryness. Finally, reinstall the pins in the caliper housing and reassemble the wheel.
Can You Still Drive When You Notice Your Steering Wheel Vibrating?
Yes, you can still drive when you notice your steering wheel vibrating or shaking. However, it would be best if you only did so for a short time. The issues that cause this problem could worsen if left untreated and even result in accidents later on.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace Your Brake Discs?
It costs about $250 – $500 per axle to replace your brake discs or rotors. The prices differ based on the quality of the rotors and the labor costs. New rotors cost around $30 to $75 each, while repair costs may range from $100 to $200.
Shaky car steerings can be uncomfortable. However, you now know what causes this problem and how to fix it.
Let’s go over the major points once more:
- A shaky steering while braking can be caused by warped brake rotors and pads, worn suspension, and bad caliper pins.
- The problem can also arise due to poor wheel alignment, unbalanced tires, and loose rotors.
- To solve this issue, you must check and fix/replace brake pads, rotors, pins, and steering alignment.
- You may also need to work on the vehicle suspension and fix or replace components like the ball joint, spring, strut, and shock.
Running all these checks and fixes yourself can be time-consuming, so visit an auto repair shop if you’re in a hurry or facing any difficulty.
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