What To Do When Your Steering Wheel Shakes When Braking

Hand gripping car's steering wheelThere are some things that you want to shake…like maracas, a Polaroid picture, or your groove thing. But your steering wheel? Not so much. If your steering wheel is quivering when you brake or shaking when you stop, something’s likely going haywire in your brake system. From worn brake pads to dry guide pins and warped rotors, there are a variety of common culprits. Learn why your steering wheel may be trembling when you brake, more about each vehicle part, and what you can do to put a stop to the shivers and shakes!

Psst! If your steering wheel shakes while you’re driving but NOT braking, keep reading, but understand that the culprit may not be one of the following. A shaking steering wheel during normal driving conditions may indicate that your tires need balancing or inflating, or there could be something lodged in one of them. Whatever the source of the shakes, steer towards your local Firestone Complete Auto Care and let our technicians get to the bottom of it.

Worn Brake Pads

What’s happening: When you press down on the brake pedal, you kick start a series of rapid events. As you step on the pedal a caliper applies pressure to the brake pad, which in turn clinches down on the rotors. (Similar to how bicycle brakes work.) This brings your car to a stop. If anything is “off” with said brake pad, you may feel it in your steering wheel. Brake pads that are old, worn, or particularly dirty cannot grip the rotor effectively and can cause your steering wheel to quiver.

What to do: Calipers were built to last for the long haul. Rotors and brake pads, on the other hand, tend to wear out over time. Thankfully rotors can be resurfaced or replaced, and brake pads can easily be replaced too. A quick brake inspection at your local Firestone Complete Auto Care can clue you into how much life may be left in your brake pads.

Dry Guide Pins

What’s happening: If your steering wheel is shaking as you’re trying to stop, dry guide pins could also be the culprit. The guide pins are part of the brake calipers. They’re in charge of guiding the brake pad to the rotor (hence the name). To do their job effectively, these guide pins need to be clean and lubricated. If guide pins become dry or corroded, they could cause the caliper to stick or cause the brake pads to press the rotor at the wrong angle. The result? Vibrations in the steering wheel.

What to do: Inspecting and lubricating caliper guide pins is best left up to professionals, as it involves taking off the caliper, examining the caliper housing, and handling high-temperature grease. Visit your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care for a free brake inspection and if needed, a brake service or repair.

Warped Rotors

What’s happening: If you feel a pulsing in the brake pedal and a wobbling of the steering wheel when slowing at highway speeds, your rotors could be signaling trouble. When you step on the brake and the brake pads press down on the rotors, the rotors become extremely hot. Naturally, this heat can cause the rotors to become worn, warped, and uneven over time. Since your brake pads will be pressing onto a surface that isn’t smooth, your braking and steering won’t feel smooth either.

What to do: To get to the bottom of this issue, a technician can do one of two things. They can spin the rotors by hand and feel for any irregularities, or they can remove the rotors and measure them with a micrometer. If a rotor is worn down to the minimum thickness specification, the rotor cannot be resurfaced and must be replaced. (In fact, this is the law in some states.) When it comes to replacing brake rotors, every car is different. The need for brake rotor replacement or resurfacing is best determined with an inspection and review of the vehicle manufacturer standards, which our technicians can do during a fast and free brake check.

If it feels like you might be experiencing a mild earthquake every time you brake, head to your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care for a quick brake inspection and free answers to tough questions. Before those shakes become more serious, let our expert technicians take a look! Swing by or schedule an appointment online. Silky smooth (and safe) braking could be as easy as a minor brake repair, new brake pads, or resurfaced rotors!

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