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Tire Alignment Issues vs. Warped Brake Rotors

Finding and Repairing Vehicle Shaking

“Why is my car shaking?” —This common vehicle issue is often assumed to be the telltale sign of a tire alignment problem. It is true that alignment troubles cause road unsteadiness, shaking, vibrations, and uneven tire wear; however, warped brake rotors and tire imbalance can have similar symptoms. Here is a look at these 3 common sources of car shaking and how they can be repaired. 

Problem 1: Warped Brake Rotors

The process of slowing and stopping your vehicle relies on brake pads pressing against the flat metal of your brake rotors. This braking causes friction, which generates heat and makes the metal of your brake rotors more malleable. Then, the contact of your brake pads can warp the structure of your rotors. 

When your brake pads are pressing against a warped rotor, this will cause shaking or vibrations to run through your vehicle. Beyond just the inconvenience of shaking, this can raise safety concerns and create trouble for your brakes. 

How Can You Tell If You Have Warped Rotors?

Unlike other vehicle problems, warped rotors will only cause your vehicle to shake when you are braking. If you are experiencing shaking during acceleration, you likely have a different vehicle issue, such as an alignment or balancing concern (more on these below).

Can You Fix Warped Brake Rotors?

Depending on how warped your rotors are, a mechanic may be able to straighten them. The process of “fixing” brake rotors is called turning or resurfacing. Brake rotor resurfacing involves scraping down the warped metal to achieve a smooth surface. However, it is becoming increasingly common for rotors to be replaced rather than fixed for three main reasons:

  • Cost efficiency: Competitive manufacturing has led rotors to become much less expensive than they used to be, often making the rotor repair roughly the same price as rotor replacement. With similarly-priced services, the new rotors are often the better choice for drivers. 
  • Rotor thickness: Many manufacturers require that the rotors maintain a certain thickness level, which can restrict mechanics from performing rotor resurfacing services, as they wear away rotor material.
  • Brand considerations: A wide variety of different factors come into account when considering rotor straightening vs. replacement. This includes your vehicle brand, your brake pad material, and your rotors’ metal composition, among others. Your vehicle simply may not allow for rotor turning. 

Thankfully, rotor replacement services are also accessible solutions that will eliminate vehicle shaking and restore your braking safety. 

Problem 2: Wheel Alignment Issues

Your tires are designed to coordinate their direction with the movement of your steering wheel. However, over time, the turbulence of the road can cause one or more of your wheels to rest at a deviated angle. Naturally, this creates issues for your vehicle, your tires, and your control on the road. Alignment issues are closely related to car shaking symptoms. 

What Are The Signs of Tire Alignment Issues?

While a shaking steering wheel is a common sign of alignment troubles, these vehicle issues carry other revealing signs:

  • Consistent Shaking: Alignment issues will cause constant vehicle vibration, no matter whether you are braking, accelerating, or maintaining a consistent speed.
  • Steering Wheel Pulling: You may also notice that your vehicle is “pulling” towards one side of the road or another rather than seamlessly steering straight. 
  • Noisy Tires: Whirling sounds and other tire noises may emerge as a sign of alignment issues 
  • Uneven Tire Wear: You might begin to notice uneven tire tread, as the alignment issues can cause disproportionate road friction. For example, you may find only one of your tires worn down while the rest still look healthy. In other cases, the inner or outer half of a tire may become worn while the other half still has thick tread.

The more frequently you drive, the more likely it is that your tires will fall out of alignment—especially in areas with rough, uneven roads. As such, drivers with long commutes, delivery drivers, Uber drivers, and Lyft drivers find themselves needing regular alignment checks and services.

Can You Fix Tire Alignment Issues?

Wheel alignment is a quick service that will fix these vehicle troubles. If the disproportionate wear of tires becomes severe, you may find yourself needing new tires in addition to a tire alignment. Annual tire alignments can help prevent these issues and help your tires last longer. If you are unsure of whether or not you need an alignment, the experts at Chapel Hill Tire will provide a free consultation. 

Problem 3: Tire Balancing Issues

A third issue that often creates vehicle shaking is unbalanced tires. When tires are out of balance, they will revolve at different rotation rates. The rotational intervals are heightened at certain speeds, which will cause your vehicle to shake.

What are the Signs of Unbalanced Tires?

Similar to alignment issues, unbalanced tires cause shaking along with uneven tire wear—however, this car problem is set apart by its correlation with certain speeds. If you experience severe vibrations at one speed and none at a different speed, these may be signs of tire imbalance.

With unbalanced tires, the shaking is often heightened around one area of your vehicle. For example, if the front left tire is unbalanced, the shaking may be centered around your driver’s seat and steering wheel, while unbalanced back tires will cause shaking to be most concentrated in the rear seats.

Can Unbalanced Tires Be Fixed?

Tire balancing is a common vehicle service that can fix or prevent tire imbalance. Ideally, tires should be balanced every 10,000-12,000 miles for proper vehicle care. Much like tire alignment services, if the issue has spread to create other problems, such as worn tires, you will need to have those addressed as well before you can safely hit the road again. 

Chapel Hill Tire Local Vehicle Service

If your vehicle is shaking, visit the experts at your nearest Chapel Hill Tire location. We proudly serve the greater Triangle area with 10 mechanic locations across Apex, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Cary, Carrboro, and Durham. Our car technicians also serve nearby communities, including Knightdale, Pittsboro, Wake Forest, Hillsborough, and Morrisville.

We can help you identify your vehicle issue and get it fixed in no time. Chapel Hill Tire is distinguished by our customer-centered values, industry-leading experience, and care you can only find at a local tire shop.  We will have you in, out, and on your way in no time. Make your appointment today to get started!

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