On the way home, you stop at an intersection, and when you push on the brake pedal, the steering wheel, brake pedal, or both start to shake. Vibrations can be light to moderate, or they can be violent and intense. No matter the severity, it is time to get your Explorer checked by a qualified mechanic.
But why would your Ford Explorer start shaking when you brake?
The culprit is most often due to warped rotors, causing vibrations in the steering wheel or pulsating vibrations in the brake pedal when you brake. However, it could also be defective calipers, which would cause pulling to one side in addition to vibrations or worn brake pads which would also reduce overall braking power.
We’ll take a closer look at each possible explanation so you can narrow down the most likely explanation. Let’s get started!
1. Worn Out Rotors
Brake rotors are circular discs linked to each wheel. Rotors are crucial to the smooth operation of an Explorer’s braking system. When pressing on the brake pedal, the master brake cylinder sends hydraulic pressure to the brake calipers, causing them to squeeze against the rotors, slowing your Explorer.
Wear and tear is the most common reason a rotor may be going bad and eventually become unusable. Brake rotor material gradually wears away over time, and with heavy use, rotors may become warped and dangerous for the driver. Common symptoms of bad rotors may be vibration or pulsating coming from the steering wheel or a high-pitched squeal when braking.
Proper care and maintenance should always be followed whenever brake rotors are involved. If rotors going bad are caught early enough, a qualified Ford mechanic may be able to resurface the disc for continued use; otherwise, it is recommended to replace the rotor.
You can check this quick video which goes over rotor replacement and shows how rotor problems could lead to a shakey Explorer:
As a side note, you can extend the life of your Explorer’s brake rotors by using only one foot to operate the brake. Avoid pressing the brake and gas pedal simultaneously and resting your foot on the brake pedal.
2. Wheel Bearings Wearing Out
Another cause of shaking could be worn wheel bearings. The wheel-bearing hub assembly is closely associated with the brake rotor. A worn wheel bearing assembly can cause vibrations when braking. A mechanic will need to look at the assembly and see which bearings need to be replaced. There are some instances when you may need an entire hub assembly.
3. Failing Brake Calipers
Another crucial component of the Explorer’s disk brake system is the calipers. Brake calipers house the brake pads and pistons, and their job is to slow down the wheels by creating friction with the rotors. Calipers fit like a clamp around the rotor to slow and stop the wheel when pressing the brake pedal. Caliper assemblies exist inside the wheel and are connected to the master cylinder through hoses.
While calipers are designed for longevity, they can still deteriorate due to heavy use and road debris. Nevertheless, rotors and brake pads require more frequent attention and are often the more common cause of shaking while braking
Drivers may feel their brakes are not stopping the vehicle as they once were, and the reason may be the calipers. Seals fail, and brake fluid spills out onto pads and rotors, causing them to be slick and unresponsive.
Additional symptoms of a bad caliper could be the vehicle pulling to one side when the brake pedal is pushed. Look at Your Explorer’s wheels to see if they are covered in brake dust, which may be a symptom of uneven brake pad wear and leaking fluid.
When purchasing new calipers or pads, always replace them in pairs to maintain balanced braking. Always trust a certified Ford mechanic when crucial braking components need replacement.
4. Bad Piston, Brake Hose, Or Other Smaller Component
There are a few reasons why brake calipers stick, such as a piston or brake hose has gone bad. The piston has a small rubber boot to protect it; if the boot becomes worn, dirt and debris get inside the piston and keep it from sliding smoothly. Over time, brake hoses wear down, causing the brake fluid to spill onto the pistons, and the fluid cannot flow back into the master cylinder.
5. Uneven Tires and Wheels
Have you noticed uneven tread wear on your tires?
If so, this could be an indication of a bigger problem. If your tires are completely smooth or smooth to one side, your Explorer is out of alignment, or the tires are over or underinflated. These problems can cause the brakes or steering wheel to shake; as the problem worsens, the tremors and vibration can become more pronounced.
When the wheels are misaligned, the tires are turning at uneven angles, and vibrations start when slowing the Explorer down. Other issues crop up with misaligned tires, such as rapid deterioration of suspension components and tires.
6. Damaged Suspension and Steering Components
Without proper maintenance, minor problems morph into more serious issues. Damaged steering and suspension components, such as loose control arms or a damaged knuckle, can cause vibrations in the brakes and steering column. The axle shaft may have bent if your Explorer has been driven over rough terrain or involved in an accident. Any damaged steering or suspension parts may make Your Explorer undrivable. These vital parts should be replaced immediately, and to make sure everything is working correctly, Your Explorer may need a wheel alignment.
Does The Year Of My Ford Explorer Make A Difference?
Absolutely. While every vehicle can exhibit signs of wear and tear, specific years of the Ford Explorer have been noted for brake-related issues more than others. For instance, certain models from the early 2000s had complaints regarding premature brake wear, which could lead to shaking.
Moreover, the 2013 Ford Explorer had reports of issues with the braking system, including warped rotors and vibrations when braking. It’s essential to be aware of the common problems related to your Explorer’s specific year, as this can offer insight into the likely culprits of any shaking or vibration issues.
No vehicle is immune to wear and tear, and periodic issues are a natural part of owning a car.
When your Ford Explorer starts shaking upon braking, it’s essential to understand the potential causes and act promptly.
While this guide provides insight into common issues and symptoms, always consult with a qualified professional for diagnosis and repair. Safety should always be the top priority, so never ignore signs of trouble, and ensure that your vehicle is regularly checked and maintained. Your Explorer is designed for durability, but with proper care and attention, you can extend its lifespan and ensure many more years of reliable service.