Why does my steering wheel shake when I brake?

On the return leg of a road trip out of Lagos, I noticed that my steering wheel would shake or vibrate whenever I stepped on the brake at high speeds. I have a bit of experience driving and can tell you that while there are many possible problems behind a shaking steering wheel or a shaking car, if the steering wheel shake happens only when braking, it is fairly easy to narrow down the causes.

Note that steering wheel shake can happen if your wheels are out of balance or alignment or of your tie-rod ends are loose, but the shaking from these would often happen while driving normally, not only when you brake.

I have had experience with wheels needing balancing and the car would ride smoothly till I hit 60 kilometres per hour, at which point, I would notice the shaking, and then it would disappear when I hit about 100 km per hour. But this was not happening only when I braked.

Here are some of the things that cause general steering wheel vibration. But for vibrations that happen only during braking, read this article on.

Steering Wheel Shake During Braking

So, what causes your steering wheel to shake only when you apply the brake? The fault is somewhere in your car’s braking system, of course. A good place to look would be the front brake discs. Why? Because your front wheels are connected to your steering and any issues with the brake disc will show up when you brake and will often be more pronounced at higher speeds.

Brake Parts Explained

You are most likely familiar with brake pads. Everybody who drives hears about them, but they are not the only parts of your car braking system. Brake discs are another part. When you apply the brake, the pads squeeze on the disc to apply pressure to slow down or stop the car.

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Brake discs are the large circular part that is often visible when you take off your tyre to change it. In North America, it is called the brake rotor. If the brake discs are worn or warped, when you brake, the result is the steering wheel shake.

What To Do?

A vibrating steering wheel during braking can lead to accidents, as you lose some measure of control when it happens, so have it checked and fixed urgently.

Call your auto mechanic and explain the situation to them. They need to have a look at your braking system. Unless you have some skills at fixing cars, it isn’t a job for you. But having an idea of what the problem could be is a good thing. A car has complex systems and there are details that only a proper examination can uncover.

PS: This article does not constitute professional advice. It provides generic information. Always consult your auto mechanic to properly diagnose any issues with your car.

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Mister Mobility

I started blogging about mobile in 2004 as a fun way to share my passion for gadgets and mobile services. My other interests include digital media, speaking and teaching, photography, travelling, and dancing.

One thought on “Why does my steering wheel shake when I brake?

  • May 15, 2018 at 6:25 am
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    What has been described is almost certainly the result of warped front brake discs (the warping doesn’t doesn’t happen overnight).

    The discs may warp due to extreme age, but more likely, due to brake pads not being changed early enough – when worn out, causing metal part of the brake pad to abrade the disc, and gradually warp them – over time..

    With fake parts everywhere, another less likely reason is fake brake pads damaging the disc over time.

    The discs can be machined back to its pristine (non warped) glory. Alternatively the disc could be changed.

    Discs should ordinary not warp unless you drive the car for twenty five years. Customary reason is the abrasion mentioned above, and this also happens if you rivet pads unto the brake metal plates, using local machinists..

    Without re- machining / changing the warped disc, brake pads will simply wear out much faster henceforth.

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