Why Does My Car Jerk When I Step on My Brake?

(Last Updated On: April 15, 2023)

Have you ever experienced the unsettling feeling of your car jerking or lurching forward when you apply the brakes?

This can be a frightening and potentially dangerous problem, and you may be wondering what could be causing it.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the most common reasons for this problem and offer possible solutions.

Whether you are a mechanic or a car owner who wants to learn more about your car, this information can help you find and fix any problems causing your car to jerk when you brake.

Possible Causes of Your Car Jerking

Cars do not start jerking at random. Instead, it has a starting point, which you might not notice.

However, before you start noticing jerking, you should know that the brake pads, ABS, tires, brake rotors, or calipers are most likely bad or worn out.

But how do you know which one is the cause of the problem? Let’s find out!

  • Bad Tires

When a tire is lean, it loses grip on the road, as it should. As a result, stopping your car will be more difficult, and you may feel a jerking sensation as the tire struggles to find traction. 

Furthermore, if your tire is out of balance, it can cause your vehicle to jerk when you apply the brakes, although this is rare. Usually, a tire out of balance will cause the car to shake when traveling at speeds. Look out for signs of a worn-out tire. For instance, uneven wear on the tread or bulges on the sidewall could indicate that the tire needs to be replaced.

If the tire’s weight isn’t spread out evenly, it can cause a vibration that moves through the whole car and makes it jerk. This can cause the car to shake or lurch when braking, especially at high speeds.

You should look at your tires to see if they are worn out, or take the car to your local tire shop to check the wheel balance.

In the meantime, it’s important to drive carefully and avoid hard or sudden stops until the problem is fixed.

  • Bad Brake Pads

Bad brake pads are an important part of a vehicle’s braking system because they create the friction needed to stop the car. If your car’s brake pads are worn out, they won’t be able to create enough friction, which will make your car jerk and be dangerous. 

However, there are telltale signs that your brake pads are worn out or damaged. A squealing or grinding noise is one such sign. Another sign is a vibration or pulsation in the steering wheel or brake pedal. When you notice these symptoms, take your car to a mechanic to have the brake pads adequately inspected.

If you need to replace your brake pads, use a high-quality set that is appropriate for the make and model of your vehicle. Cheap, low-quality brake pads may perform poorly and cause additional problems in the long run. You can get guidance on choosing the appropriate brake pads for your vehicle from trusted mechanics and auto parts retailers.

  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)

The anti-lock braking system (ABS) in your car keeps the wheels from locking up when you brake quickly. As a result, an anti-lock braking system (ABS) can cause your car to jerk when you apply the brakes, which can cause the car to skid or lose control. 

When you hit the brakes, the anti-lock braking system quickly pumps the brakes to keep the wheels from locking up. This fast-pumping action could make the car shake or vibrate, giving it a jerky motion. This is extremely common and usually indicates that the ABS is functioning correctly.

  • Sticking Caliper

The calipers are an important part of your brake system. They hold the brake pads in place and put pressure on the rotors. If the calipers are bad, they won’t put enough pressure on the brake rotors. This will cause the car to jerk or lurch.

If a caliper gets stuck or doesn’t move smoothly on its mounting bracket, it may not be in the right place. Usually, this may originate from many issues, such as corrosion, debris, or worn-out components. In certain cases, cleaning and lubricating the caliper and its mounting points may fix the problem. However, if the caliper is severely worn out, it may need a replacement.

Yet another way a caliper can cause problems is if the brake pads are worn down too much or are not correctly aligned with the rotor. Weak brake pads can’t put enough pressure on the brake rotors, making the car feel like it’s jerking. Similarly, if the brake pads are not correctly aligned with the rotor, they may not even make contact with it. As a result, this can also cause a jerking sensation. You can solve this issue by replacing the brake pads.

Overall, a sticking caliper is just one of the causes of car jerking. Accordingly, take your car to a mechanic to find and fix the problem. But ignoring the problem could lead to more significant issues in the long run, like broken rotors or even a crash.

brake rotor cause car jerking
  • Brake Rotors 

Applying the brakes will cause the brake pads to press against the rotors and stop the car. Brake rotors cause shaking when the rotor is warped, usually through overheating. Therefore, if the rotors are bad, they will not function properly and may need replacement.

  • Worn Suspension Bushes

Suspension bushes keep everything nice and tight and pointing in the right direction. When the bushes are worn, the steering becomes loose. This can also present itself as the car jerking when pressing the brake pedal.


Altogether, there are several reasons why your car might jerk when you step on the brakes. It could result from the above possibilities, such as bad tires, sticking calipers, warped brake rotors, or a damaged brake pad. Whatever the cause, the car will jerk when you apply the brakes. Also, it could be because the rotors are dirty, warped, or rusty and are not distributing the pressure evenly.

Still, having a professional mechanic check your brakes every so often is always a good idea. This way, you can ensure they are working well and catch any problems before they get worse. If you experience a jerking sensation when you step on the brakes, address the issue as soon as possible to avoid any potential safety risks.

My name is Tom although my friends call me Tommy. Messing around with cars and bikes has always been a hobby of mine even from a young age. So I made it my day job 17 years ago. I am a fully qualified mechanic as you would expect. I've worked in all different areas of the motor trade, valeting, panel beating, engine repairs, I'm sure you get the idea. I enjoy sharing my wealth of knowledge and experience with others, which is the reason I spend a lot of time here writing for this website.

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