Shake It Up, Baby! 10 Reasons Your Car Shakes While Accelerating

Maybe you figure that if you ignore it long enough, it’ll just go away. Newer cars have sensors that tell you almost everything from the level of brake fluid to which tires need air. Diagnosing older vehicles is a bit trickier.

You can begin by noticing when it happens. Maybe the car shakes when accelerating. If so, is there a certain speed when it starts and stops? Does it happen only when it’s damp outside or all the time? The answers can provide vital clues to identifying the problem and, most importantly, a solution.

Let’s go over some of the more common reasons to get you back on the road again, worry-free.


Something wrong with your tires is a likely culprit. It could be something as benign as an object stuck in the threads. It could also point to uneven wear, leaving a wobbly surface in contact with the road. Another possible source is unbalanced tires.

When you buy new tires, balancing them is typically a part of the cost. Your mechanic puts wheel weight on them as part of the installation process. You might notice a vibration if one falls out of place. Pay attention to the intensity of the shake. If it gets worse when you go faster, unbalanced tires are the issue. A quick stop at the repair shop will set things right.

Bad Air Filter

Another easy fix is to replace your air filter. One that is clogged will impede the flow of oxygen and cause your car to shake. You’ll notice it most when the demand is higher, i.e., when accelerating.

This one is the simplest—and cheapest—to fix. And anyone can do it. You could get one for under $20, depending on your vehicle’s make, model, and year.

Bent Wheel

You can damage a wheel on your car that could cause it to shudder and go out of round, especially if you have an older one with steel wheels. Newer vehicles with aluminum alloy options can take more punishment.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a fix but instead a replacement. It requires specialized tools that the home mechanic isn’t likely to have.

Damaged Drive Shaft

The good news is that you’d know quickly if something was wrong if it turned out to be a damaged drive shaft. It’s something that may occur after an accident, collision with a deer, or a bad take on a curb. You’ll feel the movement get worse as the car accelerates.

Like the last problem, this one involves a trip to the repair shop. If it’s the source, you might want to research new car prices if it’s not worth the cost to fix it.

Power Steering Issue

This one is another easy one to pinpoint if it occurs just when you’re turning. You’ll even feel the shaking when you’re going slower. The first thing you should do is to check the hoses of the power steering system for any damage, cracks, or leaks.

The next task is to top off the fluid. It’ll take a bit for it to circulate through the system and stop the shaking. You should also check it periodically to make sure you fixed the cause to avoid further issues. However, if you still feel it vibrating, run it down to the shop. You should leave these repairs to the professionals.

Faulty Brake Component

If you feel your car shuddering when you apply the brakes, that is the source of the problem. It could be a misshapen rotor. Like wheels, wear and tear can cause it to become out of round. Another potential cause is a sticky brake caliper. It’ll likely get worse the faster you drive. It’ll also cause a disagreeable burning odor.

It can be an easy fix if the affected part only needs cleaning and lubing. Otherwise, you’ll need to replace it. If you have the right tools, it’s a job that the home mechanic can tackle. However, if it’s rusted in place, you’ll need the big guns to help.

Misfiring Spark Plugs

If spark plugs are the problem, you’ll likely notice it at other times than just when you’re accelerating. You may feel the car jerk sporadically and seem like it’s going to die on the spot. Sometimes, it may happen after heavy rain or if it’s damp outside.

The first you need to do is to pop out one of the plugs and look at it. If the tip is filthy, it’s time to swap them out for a new set. You may find that it’s a quick fix for the DIYer or something more involved, depending on how easy it is to get to your spark plugs.

You can expect to pay anywhere from a couple of bucks a piece to $10 or more based on the make, model, year, and engine if you can do the repair. Wires and a coil can set you back another $100 or more.

Bent Axle

Your car may shake when accelerating if it has a bent axle. Like a damaged driveshaft, a minor fender-bender or large pothole can cause this problem. It will also worsen the faster you go. It’s a repair you don’t want to put off doing. After all, you’ll risk a more expensive repair bill if you don’t.

Either that, or it’s time to start browsing Car Finder for used car values.

Problem With the U-Joint

You need to do some close-up inspection of your vehicle when a car shakes when accelerating. The vibration is a generic symptom, but other clues can determine the cause. You may notice that it knocks both when you speed up or slow down. It may even be present whenever you drive.

One of the quickest ways to identify a U-joint problem is to examine the bottom of the car. Look for brownish dust at the end of the prop shaft. That means the bearings or something inside is starting to rust and break apart.

If you have an older vehicle, you can replace the joint with a kit you can get from an auto parts store. It will likely fall apart when you remove it if it’s really bad. Power tools like an impact wrench are helpful. For new cars, it’s only a replacement because the part is sealed.

Cracked Radiator Fan

This issue won’t affect the performance of your car. It will still run. However, you’ll feel the car shake sideway the faster you drive. And you’ll also hear the noise of the broken fan.

If you’re handy with cars, it’s not a difficult repair because it’s more accessible than some of the previous parts. You’ll need a rachet, rags, and some degreaser. Make sure to take a look at the fuses while you have the fan removed to avoid another radiator issue.

Diagnosing a problem when the car shakes when accelerating is a matter of paying attention to the symptoms. Note if it happens all the time or at certain speeds. Also, determine if it’s coming from the front or rear of the vehicle.

All of these things point to specific problems when you’re dealing with a non-diagnostic symptom like vibration. The time and effort you make can steer you in the right direction and restore your smooth ride in no time.