Car Shakes In Reverse: Causes & What to Do

Jos Fallon
Car Shakes In Reverse

Ever put your car in reverse and felt it shake? It’s a bit like your car is shivering, right? It’s an odd sensation and one that can be quite alarming. But don’t worry, you’re not alone.

As a car owner, it is paramount to understand the causes of such disturbances to ensure your vehicle’s longevity and optimal performance.

Many drivers experience this and wonder, “Why does my car shake in reverse?” In this post, we’re going to tackle that question head-on. We’ll explore some common causes and give you practical advice on what you can do about it.

Understanding the Basics

It’s helpful to understand a bit about how your car works. In particular, we need to discuss the transmission system – the wizard behind the curtain controls the power flow from your engine to your wheels. The transmission makes it all happen when you shift your car into reverse.

But if your transmission isn’t working quite right, you might feel your car start to shake when you go back up. The reverse gear, in particular, can be a bit sensitive.

You see, unlike your other gears, which work in a sequence, your reverse gear has its own special spot in the transmission. If something’s not quite right, it can cause your car to shake when you put it in reverse. This is just one of the many possible reasons for the shake, but it’s common.

Stay with us as we dive deeper into the possible causes and solutions for a car that shakes in reverse.

Common Causes of Car Shaking in Reverse

As an experienced mechanic with more than ten years of experience, I know There are several reasons why your car may be shaking in reverse, and they can generally be grouped into four categories: transmission issues, engine problems, drivetrain troubles, and tire issues.

fixing car

Here are what causes your car to shake when in reverse mode;

Transmission Issues

I. Worn Out Clutch

The clutch in your car’s transmission system is essential for disengaging the engine from the drivetrain while shifting.

Over time and with extended use, the clutch plates can become worn or damaged. This wear and tear can cause inconsistencies in the power transfer, leading to a shaking sensation when the car is put in reverse gear.

II. Transmission Fluid Problems

Transmission fluid is a lubricant for the gears in your car’s transmission system. It also helps to cool the transmission and facilitates smooth gear shifting.

However, its efficiency diminishes if the fluid is old or has accumulated dirt. Low transmission fluid can also cause the gears to operate without sufficient lubrication. All of these issues can lead to the car shaking when put in reverse.

Engine Problems

I. Misfiring Cylinders

The engine in your car operates by the firing of cylinders in a specific sequence. This firing creates the power needed to move the vehicle. When a cylinder misfires, the firing sequence is disrupted, leading to uneven power distribution and shaking.

This issue can be more pronounced when the car is in reverse because of the additional power needed to move the vehicle backward.

II. Worn-Out Spark Plugs

Spark plugs are responsible for igniting the air-fuel mixture in your car’s engine. Over time, these plugs can wear out or become covered in buildup, reducing their effectiveness.

This inefficiency can cause the engine to run unevenly or misfire, making your car shake, particularly when in reverse.

Dirty spark plug

Drivetrain Problems

I. Faulty CV Joints

CV joints, or Constant Velocity joints, are part of your car’s drivetrain. They allow the drive shaft to transmit power through a variable angle, at a constant rotational speed, without an appreciable increase in friction.

If they’re damaged or worn out, they can create an uneven rotation of the drive shaft. This uneven rotation can cause your car to shake, especially when going in reverse.

II. Damaged U-Joints

U-joints, or universal joints, are found in the drive shaft and allow for flexibility in the drivetrain. They handle the transfer of power from the transmission to the differential and from the differential to the wheels.

If these joints are damaged or worn, they can cause an imbalance in the power distribution, which can result in your car shaking when in reverse.

Tire Issues

I. Unbalanced Tires

Tires are balanced by adjusting the weight around the tire’s circumference. If your tires are not properly balanced, it can cause an uneven distribution of weight, leading to shaking or vibrations. These vibrations can be more noticeable when the car is in reverse.

II. Damaged Tires

Tires can become damaged over time due to various factors such as road conditions, punctures, or general wear and tear.

A tire with a lump, bulge, or severe wear can cause an uneven rotation and thus, cause your car to shake. This issue might be more noticeable when you’re going in reverse because the weight distribution of the car changes.

vehicle wheels vehiclefreedom

Identifying the Problem

Now that we’ve covered the common causes let’s discuss how you might identify the problem. Remember that diagnosing car issues can be complex, and while some issues can be spotted with a simple visual check, others might require a professional diagnosis.

If you notice your car shaking in reverse, start by doing a simple check. Look at your tires for any obvious damage or wear. Check your transmission fluid to see if it’s low or dirty.

If you don’t spot anything obvious or the problem continues, taking your car to a professional is a good idea. They have the tools and knowledge to diagnose and fix the problem accurately.

While it might be tempting to ignore a car shaking in reverse, it’s often a sign of a more significant issue that should be addressed sooner rather than later.

What To Do: How to Fix Car Shakes When In Reverse

Once you’ve identified the potential cause of your car shaking in reverse, the next step is to take action. Here are some remedial measures for each of the potential causes:

Fixing Transmission Issues

  1. Clutch Replacement: If your clutch is worn out, replacing it is the best solution. This task is complex, requires specialized tools, and should be performed by a professional mechanic to ensure it’s done correctly. A new clutch can significantly improve your car’s performance and eliminate the shaking issue when reversing.
  2. Transmission Fluid Change: If the issue lies with your transmission fluid, you might need to have it replaced. A transmission fluid change involves draining the old fluid, replacing the transmission filter (if applicable), and then refilling with new fluid. This job can be done at home if you’re comfortable doing it, but it’s often easier and cleaner to have it done by a professional.

Addressing Engine Problems

  1. Cylinder Repair: A misfiring cylinder can usually be fixed by replacing the spark plugs or the ignition coil. If these fixes don’t work, it could indicate a more serious engine issue that will need to be addressed by a mechanic. Refer to your vehicle’s service manual for specific instructions, and consult a professional if unsure.
  2. Spark Plug Replacement: Replacing worn out spark plugs can often solve engine-related shaking. It’s a relatively easy and inexpensive fix that can be done at home with a few basic tools. Make sure to purchase the correct spark plugs for your car model.

Solving Drivetrain Problems

  1. CV Joint Repair: If you have a faulty CV joint, it will need to be replaced. This is a job best left to a professional mechanic, as it involves removing the axle to get to the joint. A new CV joint will ensure a smooth power transfer to your wheels.
  2. U-Joint Replacement: A damaged U-joint should be replaced as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the drivetrain. This task requires specialized knowledge and tools and should be performed by a professional.

Correcting Tire Issues

  1. Tire Balancing: If your tires are unbalanced, getting them balanced at a tire shop can fix the shaking problem. This process involves adding small weights to the rims to create an even distribution of weight.
  2. Tire Replacement: If a tire is damaged, it’s important to replace it as soon as possible. Driving on a damaged tire is unsafe and can lead to other issues. When replacing a tire, it’s recommended to replace them in pairs (both fronts or both rears) to ensure even wear and performance.

Remember, car maintenance can be complex, and while some jobs can be done at home with a bit of knowledge and the right tools, others are best left to professionals. If you’re ever unsure, it’s always best to consult with a mechanic.

Keeping up with regular maintenance and addressing issues as soon as they arise will ensure your vehicle stays in top shape and can help prevent your car from shaking in reverse.

Preventing This Issue From Happening Again

Regular check-ups and maintenance can help identify potential issues before they become major problems. Here are some tips to prevent your car from shaking in reverse:

  • Regular Service: Stick to the service schedule recommended in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Regular servicing will ensure all parts are in good working condition and can help spot potential issues early.
  • Transmission Care: Regularly check your transmission fluid levels and get it replaced as recommended by your vehicle manufacturer. You might need to change it more frequently if you drive in severe conditions.
  • Engine Maintenance: Keep your engine in top shape by regularly checking and replacing spark plugs and wires, and ensure the cylinders are working properly. Regular oil changes are also crucial for engine health.
  • Drivetrain Check: Listen for unusual noises or vibrations from your drivetrain. If you notice anything unusual, get your CV and U-joints checked by a professional.
  • Tire Maintenance: Regularly rotate and balance your tires, and maintain proper tire pressure as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Regularly inspect tires for any signs of wear or damage.

Wrapping it up

A car that shakes in reverse might be trying to tell you something. It’s crucial to listen to these signs and act promptly to ensure a smooth and safe driving experience.

While this guide provides a good starting point, remember that diagnosing car problems can be complex, and professional help is invaluable.

By keeping up with regular maintenance, paying attention to changes in your vehicle’s behavior, and addressing issues as they arise, you’ll be well on your way to preventing issues like your car shaking in reverse. Safe driving!

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