At some point in our lives, we all have experienced unexpected noises or vibrations from our vehicle. Such events are followed by confusion and frustration especially when you have no idea what could have been causing such vibrations. In this article, we will talk about some of the techniques to find the root causes of automotive vibration.
Investigate and listen
The best way to narrow down the problem area is by observing the condition under which the vibration happens. This will help you and your mechanic to find the problem sooner. Some of the things to look for are:
- Does the vibration occur while the car is standing still with the engine running?
- Does the vibration start only at certain speeds? If so, what speeds?
- Does the vibration get worse as the speed increases?
- Does the vibration seem to be concentrated in any specific part of the vehicle?
- Is there any abnormal noise when the car shakes?
Wheel and tire problems
The most common reason for a car’s vibration is the misalignment of the tire or wheel. You may experience vibration through the steering wheel, vehicle floor, seats, or even in the brake pedals. This occurs due to an out-of-balance tire or a defective tire. Uneven tire wear, separated tire tread, and out of round tires are also some more contributing factors. A wheel itself could be a problem for vibration. A bent wheel or improperly torqued lug nuts causes wobbliness.
One way to check the misalignment is by taking your hands off the steering wheel and checking if your vehicle starts to “drift”. If it does then it's time to get the alignment fix.
Most of these issues could be avoided by routine inspection such as checking the tire pressure, visual inspection of tires and wheels, and checking the proper tightness of lug nuts. Regular maintenance should include tire rotation, pressure check, wheel balancing, and alignment.
Suspension parts, engine and transmission problem
Loose steering systems or suspension parts can cause steering vibrations. Worn-out ball joints cause misalignment of wheels and result in steering vibrations. If you experience vibration while you are driving and continue when the vehicle is at a complete stop with the engine running, then the problem area is the engine or transmission. Loose or broken engine parts and suspension could be an issue in this case. An out-of-balance broken radiator fan is also a possibility but this happens very rarely. These radiator fans are automatic and switch On when the coolant temperature reaches a particular level. If you experience vibration when the engine is warmed up, the fan may be the issue.
Damaged brake rotors
If there is vibration in the steering wheel and in the brake pedals at the same time then brake rotors may be a culprit. Brake rotors are a disc-shaped component of the braking system connected to the wheel. During braking, brake pads apply pressure on the rotor and slow down the car. Worn-out brake pads heat up the rotor unevenly and result in deformation.
A thickness variation or excessive worn-out rotors may vibrate the brake calipers when you step on the brake pedals. This vibration travels upwards towards the steering wheel and to the brake pedals. Worn-out brakes could result in abrupt brake failure in case of an emergency brake situation. It is highly recommended to get the entire braking system inspected by your trusted mechanic to avoid any mishappening.