8 Reasons Your Car Vibrates When Stopped or Idling (and How to Fix)

Diagnosing a car that shakes when stopped or idling but not while driving is much easier than trying to figure out why it’s vibrating while accelerating. This is simply due to the fact that the only part moving while you’re stopped is the engine.

The good news is that you can be confident the rough idle issue is engine-related and you can focus all your troubleshooting in that area. The bad news is that an engine is as complicated as it gets when we’re talking about parts of a car.

See Also: Why Is My Check Engine Light Flashing and Car Shaking?

Common Causes of Your Car Shaking When Stopped

#1 – Dirty or Clogged Fuel Injectors

fuel injector replacement cost

Over time, parts of your fuel system, namely fuel injectors, begin to get clogged up by carbon deposits, varnish, or other sediments. This causes uneven amounts of fuel being delivered with each engine cycle.

When this happens, you car will shake, shutter, or vibrate while idling at a red light or in your driveway since the constant flow of fuel to the combustion chamber is being interrupted.

Clogged fuel injectors must be cleaned or in really bad cases, replaced. Often, using a good fuel system or fuel injector cleaner will clear things up. Cleaning the throttle body, which controls the amount of air mixing in with the fuel, is also recommended and throttle body cleaners exist for that very purpose.

#2 – Worn or Dirty Spark Plugs

Bad spark plugs are another common cause of your car vibrating when stopped. Dirt and carbon deposit build up will not allow your spark plugs to fire properly to ignite the fuel. This leads to the engine mis-firing which will feel like the vehicle is shaking at idle.

Unless you’ve done so recently, replacing your spark plugs can often make things right. There are many types of spark plugs so you want to make sure you’re getting the correct ones. You should always refer to your owner’s manual for the exact specs. The best spark plugs for your car may be totally different than the plugs your neighbor raves about.

#3 – Disconnected Vacuum Hose

loose vacuum hoses

Often overlooked but happens more than you may think, a vacuum hose in your engine may pop off while driving or be accidentally disconnected when working on your car. When a hose comes loose, it can cause the engine to shake and vibrate and possibly even stall out.

A crack or tear in a hose may cause the same shaking, although to a lesser extent. Check all hose connections to make sure they are securely attached. If a hose feels loose, you will need to replace it or it will just come off again.

Small air leaks are the hardest to find. In those cases, you can spray some soapy water along a hose while the engine is running. If there’s a crack somewhere, the soapy water will temporarily seal the leak and you’ll notice a change in idle speed.

#4 – Torn or Cracked Timing Belt

bad timing belt

A timing belt (or other serpentine belt) which is stretched, cracked, or partially torn can also cause your car to shake when idling. In case of a timing belt, it’s a warning sign of a soon-to-be timing belt failure which you should appreciate. If your timing belt completely breaks, it can result in major damage to your engine.

It’s critical to follow manufacturer’s guidelines when it comes to timing belt replacement intervals. While it’s not cheap to replace a timing belt since you’ll also be replacing the water pump in most cases, but failure to do so may cause thousands of dollars in damage.

#5 – Dirty Air Filter

dirty air filter

Along with an interrupted fuel supply (see dirty/clogged injector above), if your engine’s air intake is interrupted, it can also lead to your engine vibrating and not running as smooth as it should be. When your air filter is dirty or clogged, not enough air reaches the combustion chamber meaning not enough fuel is injected.

This combination will cause your RPM to drop below the normal idle range (usually about 700 RPM), and your car will experience some shaking when you are stopped. In some cases, the RPM will drop low enough where the car stalls and needs to be restarted. 

Fortunately, replacing an air filter is a simple do-it-yourself job and a new filter should only cost about $10-$20. Alternatively, you can purchase a re-usable air filter (such as K&N) which you can clean instead of replacing. It will cost you more up front but less money in the long run.

#6 – Clogged Fuel Filter

clogged fuel filter

If your fuel filter is clogged, not enough fuel will be getting from the fuel pump to the injectors. This will cause the same type of shaking as clogged fuel injectors since not enough fuel is getting into the engine.

With a bad or clogged fuel filter, you’ll need to replace it. Since the fuel filter is often located inside the fuel tank or near it, it’s best to leave the job to a professional for most people. But if you have some experience, replacing a fuel filter isn’t too difficult for most vehicles.

#7 – Bad Motor Mounts

bad motor mount

Since one of the jobs of a motor mount is to dampen engine vibration so individuals in the car won’t feel it, a broken motor mount will make itself known very quickly. While a faulty engine mount will be more noticeable when the engine is working hard (like when accelerating), shaking and rattling at idle is usually noticeable as well.

If you suspect a bad motor mount, you’ll want to take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible to confirm the issue and have the mount replaced. If left unchecked, it may cause other engine mounts to fail and even cause damage to other parts of the engine.

For instance, the blades in the radiator fan can break from hitting the surrounding shroud because the engine is sitting lower than it should be due to a broken motor mount.

#8 – Faulty Mass Air Flow Sensor

bad mass airflow sensor

Probably the least common reason for your car shaking while stopped, a bad mass air flow sensor (MAF) can be the culprit. Since its purpose is to properly calculate the air-fuel ratio for the engine, if it goes bad and sends incorrect readings to the car’s computer, the wrong amount of fuel can get injected into the engine at the wrong times.

As already explained above, when not enough fuel gets into the engine than what’s needed, excess vibrating or shaking can be felt. A bad MAF will almost always cause the check engine light to go on so a scan of any stored diagnostic trouble codes can confirm the issue.

Mark Stevens


  1. My Chrysler 200 shakes/vibrates when idle. Ice in a cup rattles ect. They did a diagnostic test came back normal just the maintenance things needing fixed like mounds plugs ect. Would that fix it? They couldn’t figure it out with the test.

    1. Could be, especially if it’s been a while since the spark plugs have been changed. You could also do a smoke test to see if you have a vacuum leak somewhere. That would likely cause a rough idle.

  2. Got a 2011 Kia Forte! I’ve noticed that the car shakes more than usual while idle! You can visibly see the engine shake and then smooth out. Shake and then smooth out over and over again. I’ve replaced many parts on it. Map sensor, coils, plugs, cleaned the throttle, got new filters especially a new fuel filter. Still not sure what could be the cause. Maybe bad motor mounts? They are the oem ones that have been in the car since I first got the car brand new.

    1. I don’t know. That is probably an issue that someone will have to take a look at in person, to feel how it’s shaking and diagnose the issue.

  3. My 2006 corolla vibrates when idle or on drive and break is applied. I have changed spark plugs, fuel filter, service the nozzle, clean air filter yet problem persists with check engine constantly on. Is really frustrating.

    1. Get the check engine light scanned and see what codes come up. I am guessing there is a vacuum leak somewhere. The brake booster uses engine vacuum to give you that brake assist.

  4. My car shakes every time I put gas in it but when it gets almost on E it stops it does it when you are parked and at the stop light. I had the fuel ejectors cleaned placed gas treatments in had a new timing belt placed its crazy I am fed up.

    1. What is the year, make, and model of the vehicle? Are there any check engine light codes associated with the shaking? Without more information it’s hard to give specific help, but I would check the air fuel ratio to make sure that is correct and maybe check the timing.

  5. My car camry 2004, shakes only when I’m in traffic with brakes applied. I’ve changed the engine mount, cleaned the nozzles and injector, changed the spark plugs, changed the air filter but problem persists. Please what can I do to solve this issue?

    1. Have you checked the brakes? Sounds like you may have excessive runout (i.e. warped brakes), which often causes vibrations under braking.

  6. I have my engine harshly shakes in the morning or when the cold down. If I keep driving the shaking gets less and less, except when in reverse gear it would still shakes/vibrates. When I took it to a mechanic, the fault from the diagnostic scan is oil pressure sensor high&low voltage. I replaced the sensor but the issue is still on. What could cause this vibration/shaking.

    1. I would expect codes for misfires with shaking like that. You will probably have to hook up a scan tool and monitor live data for a little while. Look at fuel trims, ignition timing, and air fuel ratio to see if anything stands out as odd.

      I’m not sure if the oil pressure sensor is related to the issue or not.

  7. Hi, my car 2004 Corolla vibrate when I stopped, gear still engaged while my leg on the pedal, it’s really gets very bad especially at night, please what can be the problem?

    1. Which pedal? I’m assuming it’s a manual transmission? I wonder if it’s coming from the engine mounts or throwout bearing. There’s not really enough information in the question to give a good guess though.

    1. Engine or cabin air filter?

      If you’re missing an engine filter, you’ll get dust and debris into the engine which could drastically reduce engine life. Once this debris enters the combustion chamber, it may score the pistons, rings, and cylinder walls. Your oil filter will soil more quicky as it is now the only component that is removing contamination from the system.

      Missing a cabin air filter is less severe but could lead to a slow or clogged blower motor. In extreme cases, the blower motor could cease to function.

  8. Thanks for this information. My 09;Honda civic manual trans is starting to shake really bad like it wants to stall when I stop , but only for a quick second. Engine code high purge flow emmisions. I tried to change the gas cap because with my old one my car kept telling me to check it. It’s doing it again with the new one.

  9. My car has been shaking when slowing down almost likeits flooded and if I don’t hold gas down it will go dead. I think maybe needs new air filter or fuel filter but not sure

  10. What’s causes my car to start shaking badly and causes me to stop shut it off wait for sec or two than crank it back up and drive on home..

    1. I don’t know. Are there any check engine lights?

      This will require some troubleshooting to narrow the scope of the problem.

    2. i feel a vibration and shaking specially in the paddles in my automatic transmission car when I stop with brake applied and the vehicle is in gear.

  11. My car’s engine shake sometimes while at IDLE, not that much and not that hard, just every now and then.
    I have changed the timing belt, the fuel filter and the spark plugs.
    I have also check the injectors at a mechanical who confirmed that my injectors are doing great. I also checked the cylinder pressure and it was 12 Bar in each one I guess and as per the mechanical my engine is just fine.
    I have even changed the engine mounts.
    And will all these changes I still have that engine shaking. Is there anything else I have to replace or check?

    1. The main thing I can think of is to check for vacuum leaks. You can do this by performing a smoke test. Vacuum leaks will make the car run lean especially at idle, and can make it run rough.

  12. Shaking at idle could also be caused by a cylinder or two being lower on compression than the rest, but they engine could still drive just fine.
    An engine that is unbalanced as far as the component parts go could cause a shake because the connecting rods and pistons should all be the same exact weight.

    1. Yes, it totally could. If one cylinder has lower compression, it won’t be able to produce as much torque as its neighbors. This becomes less noticeable at higher engine speeds.

        1. Usually there’s no simple fix for low compression due to bad piston rings and you’ll have to rebuild the engine, changing out the piston rings and the very bare minimum. There’s a chance the low compression is caused by carbon buildup on the valves (or something else that’s causing them to seal poorly). You’d have to do a leak down test to determine exactly where you’re losing compression.

  13. i feel a vibration and so shaking sounds in my automatic transmission car when I stop in traffic with brake applied and the vehicle is in gear. I feel the engine is forcing forward more as it usually should be and I think because of this it shakes.

    1. I would take it to a nearby shop for a diagnosis so they can feel what you’re feeling. It could be a bad CV axle.

      I suppose it could be the power steering pump if it’s shaking the steering wheel. However that’s likely not the case here since it feels like the engine is trying to move the car forward in a strange way. Let me know what they say, if you don’t mind sharing.

  14. It really helped when you said that a timing belt that is cracked can make your car shake. I noticed that my car was shaking while I was idle picking my son up from soccer. I’ll have to take it into the shop to make sure nothing gets worse.

    1. Assuming it hasn’t been too long since the timing belt was changed, that is actually one of the more rare occurrences. Much more common are vacuum leaks, old spark plugs, and issues with the idle air control valve.

  15. My Chevy 3500 don’t just shake it also tuges more like the feeling of dumping the clutch in a manual transmission

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