Steering Wheel Shakes When Braking

A steering wheel that shakes when braking can be an unnerving experience for a driver. Feeling the steering wheel shake or vibrate while the car is in motion or while braking can indicate a larger problem that should be investigated as soon as possible.

In this article, we discuss some of the most common problems that cause the steering wheel to shake when braking. 


steering wheel shaking vibrating when dricing

To figure out what is causing the vibrations, it is important to pay attention to the conditions when the steering wheel shakes. Does it shake all the time? At high speed only or when you slow down or brake? In this article, we will cover common causes of steering wheel vibrations.

  • Steering wheel shaking or vibrating.
  • Steering wheel vibrations at high speeds
  • Steering wheel vibrations shake when braking.
  • Steering wheel vibration at 60, 70 mph
  • Steering wheel vibrating after tire rotation or new tires
  • Steering wheel vibrating,
  • Steering wheel rumbling in different driving scenarios, including accelerating, coasting, and braking.

Common Causes

Warped Rotors

bad wraped front rotor causing steering wheel vibrations

Warped rotors typically result from them getting too hot. This can happen when the vehicle is towing too much weight or if it's exposed to any type of extreme stress. Poor rotor material can also contribute to warped rotors. This is the most common cause of steering wheel shaking when braking or slowing down.

Uneven rotor wear

 If you have recently had your rotors replaced, it's possible that incorrect tightening could be causing your steering wheel to shake. Rotors must be tightened to particular torque specifications and in a certain arrangement. If this is not done correctly, it can damage the rotor and thereby cause your steering wheel to vibrate. Uneven rotor wear can also be caused by stuck or damaged brake calipers.

Ball Joint Wear

ball joint causing steering wheel vibrations

 This problem is less common. A worn out ball joint can cause the steering wheel to vibrate, especially under heavy braking. This is the case when the ball joint has excessive wear.  You can hear noise from the front end during braking. It will be from one of the front wheels. Raise the suspected front wheel and grab it at the top and bottom and shake it. If the ball joint has excessive play, your tire is going to move back and forth. 

Damaged Brake Pads

broken brake pads causing steering wheel noise shaking

If the brake pads break, as shown in the following picture, they can cause the steering wheel to shake. It is not very common for the brake pads to break loose. You will need to remove the brake pads and inspect them in order to know if this is the problem.   


Steering wheel vibration after tire rotation 

  • You may take your car in to get a tire rotation, or maybe you just installed new tires, and now you notice that there is excessive tire vibration. How is that possible?  If you simply had your tires rotated, what could have happened is that you had a slightly bent wheel in the back, and now that has been moved to the front. If the wheel or rim is bent slightly, you may never know it as long as that tire is in the back. Once you move the tire to the front, you will start to notice excessive steering wheel shaking.  Oftentimes car owners may notice steering wheel vibrations after a brake job. Make sure that the rear wheels didn't get moved to the front. Usually, rear wheels that are not balanced get moved to the front during a brake pad replacement and cause steering wheel vibrations. 

Steering wheel vibration after installing new tires

  • If you had new tires installed, the cause in most cases is that one of the rear wheels may have been bent a little bit, and now it has ended up in the front with a new wheel. Because the front wheels are connected to your steering wheel, you start to notice vibrations that you wouldn't notice when the rim was installed in the back. There are also a few cases when a new tire is defective and causes the steering wheel to shake, especially at freeway / high speed. If you had new tires installed, you should take the car back to the shop that installed the tires for reinspection. 

Steering wheel shaking at low or high speeds

  • Generally speaking, when the steering wheel is shaking, and the condition of the rotors has been ruled out, the problem may be with tires that are out of balance, especially if the shaking or vibration occurs at high speeds between 60-70 mph. When tires are placed on your car, mechanics will put small weights on the inside and outside of the rims to help make sure that the tires are rotating smoothly and in a balanced manner. They put the tires on a special machine that spins them at different speeds and indicates where weights need to be placed. As tires wear further, they may need to be balanced again. Also, sometimes in the event of an accident or some other collision with the tire, the weights can fall off, putting the tires out of balance.

There are several reasons why tires can become out of balance, which ultimately causes shaking in the steering wheel. These reasons include:

  • Tires becoming out of round (taking on a shape that is more oval rather than perfectly round. This happens over time as the tread starts to wear down.

  • Wear and tear on front end parts, including wheel bearings, ball joints, axles, etc.

  • Flat spots on the surface of the tire, which can be caused by repeated driving on unbalanced tires, hard braking, or if the vehicle has been sitting for a long time without being driven.

If you have recently driven through a big snowstorm or snowy roads, then snow and slush will likely build up within the wheels. This snow/slush mix can turn to ice if the car is parked overnight, which would result in unbalanced tires. In this case, allowing the ice to melt or knocking the snow chunks out of the wheel parts will solve the problem, and then if the shaking continues, the tires may need to be rebalanced.

Tires that are out of alignment can cause the car to veer to one side while driving straight, and it can also cause uneven tire wear on the inside or outside tread. Uneven tread wear can result in steering wheel vibrations. This is why it is important to get regular tire rotations - it ensures your tire tread will wear down evenly, preventing uneven wear and shaking or vibrating of the steering wheel or vehicle.