WhoCanFixMyCar explains why your car might be shaking at high speeds and what you can do to fix this problem.
You’re on a long, empty stretch of road that seems to go on forever. There are no cars ahead or behind - what a dream! You ease your foot down on the accelerator, gathering speed as the scenery streaks past your windows, until….you feel your car start to shake. What now?
Shaking, jittering or vibrating of any kind within your car is a sure sign of trouble, but when it happens at high speeds it’s especially nerve-wracking. And when something feels dangerous, it probably is. The best thing to do in this situation is to have your car checked over by a mechanic as soon as possible, not only for your peace of mind, but also to make sure that any existing damage isn’t exacerbated by continuing to drive.
In the meantime, you might be wondering what actually causes your car to shake when you put your foot down on the gas. In this guide, we’ll get you up to speed with the most common causes.
Wheel alignment, also known as tracking, is about making sure your wheels are in the optimum position. The angles of your wheels should always match the specification of the manufacturer; if they become misaligned, it has a knock-on effect on your car’s performance and safety.
Tyres that are not aligned properly can increase fuel consumption (something you definitely want to avoid since fuel prices are sky high at the moment!), cause your car to veer to one side of the road, wear your tyres unevenly and generally decrease their life.
In addition to all these things, misaligned wheels can also make your steering wheel vibrate or shake, particularly at higher speeds, which explains the symptoms you’ve been experiencing.
Unbalanced tyres are one of the most common causes of shaking, particularly when it can be felt through the steering wheel. Often, wheel balance and wheel alignment are mistakenly thought to be the same, but they are actually very different.
Before your car’s wheels are put on, weights are added to the rims to make sure that everything is balanced. Over time, wear and tear can lead to an imbalance, and when your car’s weight is no longer distributed evenly, it can cause vibration and shaking.
These symptoms will be most noticeable when driving fast or on an uneven road surface.
A wheel bearing consists of a set of steel balls enclosed by a metal ring. It holds the bolts that attach the tyre to the wheel, so if any of your wheel bearings are loose then your tyres will be able to move freely, causing your car to vibrate.
Sometimes it can be hard to tell that your rim has been bent until the damage gets considerably worse over time. Bent rims can cause your wheels to be unbalanced while rotating, which in turn will cause your car to shake or vibrate.
This type of damage poses a serious safety hazard if left unrepaired, so you should take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible.
A damaged suspension arm is likely to cause your tyres to wear unevenly. This can cause an unusual shaking or vibrating feeling, not only because your tyres are uneven, but also because your car is not being supported in the way it should be when travelling over uneven ground.
If your car’s shaking is at its worst when you turn at high speeds and can be felt strongly through the steering wheel, this is likely due to a fault with your power steering. It’s possible to top up your power steering fluid yourself, but if you suspect there’s a leak, you should take your car to a mechanic to get the problem fixed and prevent long-term damage.
While we’d always recommend getting your car checked by a professional if you’re experiencing an unusual shaking motion, there are a number of things you can check to try to work out what the problem is yourself.
Firstly, take a look at each of your tyres to check them for signs of wear and tear or damage. You can use the 20p method to see if your treads are deep enough - simply slot the coin into the grooves of your tyre, and if you can’t see the outer band, you’re good to go.
If you notice that one of your tyres is worn more than the others, this indicates there may be an issue with the car’s suspension or wheel alignment. If this is the case, you’ll need to make a trip to the garage.
Next, check your car’s power steering reservoir. If you’re not sure where to find it, the information should be in your owner’s manual. Once located, make sure you have enough fluid and see if you can spot any potential leaks. The latter will need to be fixed by a mechanic, but you can top the fluid level up yourself quite easily.
If you don’t fancy taking a look under the bonnet, you can use WhoCanFixMyCar to find local, reliable garages that will do the job for you.