Car Jerks When Braking (9 Causes & Solutions)

Our automobiles are an essential cornerstone to almost every aspect of our daily activities in today’s super-fast-paced world. We rely heavily on our cars for work, grocery shopping, and holiday trips. Therefore, we may quickly descend into a despairing mood when something appears wrong with our vehicles. Unfortunately, owning a car means that there will occasionally be some sort of technical issue that we need to deal with.

Among the various signs of mechanical difficulties, feeling our car jerk unpredictably is particularly alarming. Such problems can occur while braking, decelerating, or when stopped, often causing serious concern.

Continue reading to understand more about the potential causes of jerky braking, decelerating, or stopping in your car.

Why Does a Vehicle Jerk When Braking?

Drivers frequently experience a “jerking” sensation when braking. Although these problems are by no means uncommon, they warrant enough attention to resolve the underlying issue.

The most common causes of a car jerking when the brake is applied include the following:

1. Bent Rotors

Jerking often results from damaged brake rotors when using a car’s brakes. Over time, brake rotor distortion can occur due to excessive heat, high wear, or rapid cooling.

The deformation becomes noticeable when the car’s brake pads push against the affected brake rotors, causing perceptible pulsation.

2. Activation of the ABS

Most modern vehicles feature an anti-lock braking system (ABS). This electronic control system prevents your brakes from locking up when you lose traction.

For instance, when you’re driving on slippery pavement and continue to depress your brake pedal, the ABS adjusts its hydraulic pressure so that the brakes rapidly release and reapply. Consequently, you can maintain steering control while still slowing the car.

In such cases, you might experience a tremor in your brake pedal. If the ABS is malfunctioning and you experience jerking while braking, it’s important to visit a technician because fixing this issue is typically challenging.

3. Faulty Brake Booster

Modern vehicles generally have some type of booster system to aid in powering brakes. Many passenger cars utilize pressure from vacuum brake boosters connected to their engine to enhance braking pressure.

When functioning correctly, the power-assist technology makes braking easier by amplifying the driver’s pressure on the brake pedal, bringing the car to a safe and smooth stop.

A vehicle jerking during braking can result from these components failing, necessitating their replacement.

4. Seized Brake Caliper

A car may jerk when the brakes are applied if a brake caliper is significantly seized. Such jolts are often caused by binding, which occurs when the brake pads press against the respective rotors.

This issue is often accompanied by a distinct chattering sound.

5. Worn-out Suspension and Steering Bushings

A typical car uses a variety of bushings at the front to reduce vibration, including steering rack bushings, shock absorber bushings, and control arm bushings.

Over time, these bushings tend to deteriorate, which increases vibrations that were previously barely noticeable. During braking, the issue often manifests itself more frequently.

6. Stuck Throttle Body

Whenever an engine’s throttle body starts to stick, some jerking may occur. The throttle body meters all incoming air that is fed into an engine’s intake manifold before combustion.

A type of hesitation often results when a throttle body sticks or fails to operate properly to meet engine demand.

7. Hydraulic System Issues

Most automobiles use a closed hydraulic circuit for their braking system. The master cylinder, which responds to the driver pressing the brake pedal, serves as the system’s heart.

Like how blood flows through our veins to our extremities, hydraulic fluid inside the master cylinder pushes through the brake lines leading to the various calipers (disc brakes) and cylinders (drum brakes).

When you press the brake pedal, the hydraulic fluid is forced towards the braking components since hydraulic fluid doesn’t compress under pressure.

Air can occasionally get into the hydraulic system, making the brake pedal feel spongy. Consequently, the car could jerk upon braking.

Avoid trying to bleed the air out of your brakes by yourself unless you’re familiar with the process, and ensure you have assistance.

8. Transmission Issues

In manual cars, if you stop in gear while pressing the clutch, the clutch might not fully disengage. The car may then jerk and stutter when you stop due to a damaged clutch assembly or clutch cable.

While shifting to neutral should stop the jerking, it won’t solve the underlying issue. As shifting gears becomes increasingly difficult, you may wear out other parts along the way. Your clutch likely needs to be repaired or replaced.

In automatic cars, shaking or jerking while braking could result from low transmission fluid levels or problems with the torque converter.

9. Rusted Brake Rotors

The brake rotor, a circular metal disc, transfers the braking pressure to the tires.

Regular wear and tear or abrupt braking can cause rotors to warp. The pads wobble due to the rotors’ warping or cracking, causing you to jerk and shudder when stopping.

Replacing the brake discs and pads should remedy the problem.

Also Read: How To Open Gas Tank On Nissan Altima (Step-by-Step)

How Can I Fix a Car Jerking When Braking?

Some experienced auto owners can replace their brake pads because it’s a fairly straightforward task. If you’ve neglected your brakes for an extended period, you might also need to replace the rotors. Some repair shops may machine and grind down rotors instead of replacing them to save costs.

In general, if you have enough time and the necessary tools, you could try looking up video tutorials on how to repair your vehicle on platforms like YouTube. If not, consider taking your car to a local mechanic. A technician will inspect the brakes and other components of the car, such as its power braking system, and inform you about what needs to be repaired.


When you brake, does your car jerk? What does that mean?

Jerking during braking could be due to various issues, including worn brake pads and rotors, or faulty ABS wiring. As soon as you detect a problem with the brakes, you should have your vehicle checked by a mechanic.

Why does a car jerk when it slows down?

Your car probably jerks at 25 mph when you slow down because of an issue with one of the vehicle’s electronic sensors or a malfunctioning solenoid, based on the symptoms. Your car uses several electrical sensors to monitor your speed and regulate different systems.

Can a car jerk because of the transmission?

As you accelerate, the transmission control module controls the shifting; thus, there may be delays, and your car may jerk as a result. While this is less common than the other problems on this list, it can still be the reason for your car jerking.

How can I prevent my car from jerking when I stop?

You may experience some tremors when you apply the brakes, causing the car to jerk slightly when you stop the vehicle. The air content in the brake lines could be the only cause of the problem. If so, use the brake bleeder tool to bleed the brakes.

Final Remarks

There are several potential causes for your car to shake when you stop, but worn brake pads and a cracked or damaged brake rotor are the most common culprits.

Replacing brake pads is a task that a competent DIY mechanic can handle, so it shouldn’t be an expensive fix. Even replacing your rotor is relatively simple and can be done with basic tools available in a household toolbox.

However, you should consult a mechanic, as the brake system is critical to your safety and needs to be addressed immediately if there are any doubts.

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