Shake, Rattle, and Roll: How to Translate the Messages You Car Is Sending You

Whether living in a city, small town, or rural area, most Americans have a very close relationship with their car. This level of familiarity makes it much easier for them to notice any new noise, vibration, or response that the car may develop.

Since any of these signs can be an early warning indication of a maintenance need or mechanical problem, knowing what the car is trying to tell you can help you avoid or reduce expensive repairs as well as help to prevent being stranded roadside by a car that suddenly ceases to operate. 

When the Car Begins to Shake or Vibrate

Vehicles that shake or vibrate while being driven may be suffering from one of several possible repair issues. Some of the most common include: 

  • worn or damaged brake rotors (if the shaking occurs when applying the brakes)
  • brake calipers that do not release (typically most noticeable at higher speeds and often accompanied by a strange odor)
  • worn, warped, or faulty tires (this can cause vibrations when the car is accelerating and may or may not become less noticeable at highway speeds)

In addition to these issues, vehicles can begin shaking or vibrating when shocks or struts become worn and when vehicles have been involved in accidents that result in a warped or damaged frame. 

When the Car Develops a Rattle 

Annoying rattles when driving your car are often associated with a problem with the exhaust system. These problems can include corroded or damaged mufflers and exhaust pipes, a loose manifold cover, and exhaust clips that are damaged, missing or broken. 

In addition to the exhaust system, rattling noises are also sometimes traced to rocks pebbles that become lodged under the brake calipers or loose items rolling around in the trunk of the car. 

When the Car Rolls When It Shouldn't 

While a small amount of movement can be normal when the car is shifted into park, a sudden development or worsening of this rolling action is a common signal that the automatic transmission is failing. This occurs because gears, cogs, and bands inside the transmission can become worn or misshapen, making them less able to hold the weight of the car in place. 

Drivers who notice any type of shaking, rattling, or rolling as well any other unusual sounds or behaviors will want to make an appointment with a reputable automotive repair service as soon as possible. By being observant and proactive, drivers can help ensure that their car will continue to be reliable through years of daily driving.