Reasons Your Car Is Vibrating When Idle or Stopped: Causes and Fixes


Your car communicates with you through the dashboard. It alerts you when your fuel is running low, displays your current speed, and even serves as a seatbelt reminder. We rarely pay attention to one gauge on the dashboard, but it has a useful purpose.

The RPM gauge, also called the tachometer, counts the number of engine revolutions per minute.

The engine will turn at a rate of 10 or more revolutions per second when it is idling. The gauge shows the counts as multiples of 1,000 due to its high speed. A car that is in normal operation should measure around 1,000 pounds.

If a vehicle’s RPMs drop below or rise above average, something is wrong, especially if the vehicle vibrates when idling.

Why Does A Car Vibrate When Idling?

When an engine runs properly and idles smoothly, it means that the fuel and the air it receives are combining at their best. A healthy engine can also generate the necessary power to run essential systems like the cooling system, air conditioner, power steering, and electrical system.

Car vibration is frequently caused by rough idling. When your car is experiencing rough idling, often known as abnormal vibrations or a laggy feeling, take it as a cry for help. It is alerting you to a component that has failed or is close to failing and needs to be fixed right away. If you wait too long, you can end up stranded or forced to pay for expensive repairs.

Rough idling problems frequently lead to starting difficulty, poor performance, poor fuel economy, high or low RPMs, and may imply major engine problems in the future.

Causes of Rough Idle

Most modern vehicles have internal computers and sensors that monitor various systems to ensure they function properly. For example, the emissions system monitors exhaust systems and fuel combustion to ensure the vehicle maintains proper emissions. If the system fails and exceeds the predetermined parameters, or if the car experiences rough idle, the computer will generate a code that causes the check engine light to illuminate. The following are some common causes of a rough idle:

1. Worn Ignition Coil, Spark Plugs, and Spark Plug Wiring

A spark must be combined with the air and fuel mixture for the combustion process to succeed. Ignition coils, spark plugs, and wiring generate the voltage required to ignite each cylinder. Expended or old spark plugs get soiled from oil or carbon deposits, reducing the power generated by ignition significantly.

Your spark plugs will always spark enough if you replace them every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. 

Furthermore, you can avoid electrode damage, which could lead to significant ignition system damage. 

Damaged ignition components, in addition to engine problems, can cause rough idling. 

The ignition coil, like spark plugs, can wear out over time, resulting in misfires, rough idling, and a check engine light.

2. Clogged Fuel Injectors

Modern vehicles are advanced machines that are engineered to be as fuel efficient as possible. One method is to use high-pressure fuel injectors, which distribute the ideal amount of fuel into the engine’s cylinder at the right time. Fuel injectors are subjected to high temperatures and pressures, and their small nozzles, known as pintles, may become clogged over time by carbon left over from the combustion process. Fuel injectors that are clogged cannot dispense the necessary amount of fuel for combustion, or the spray pattern fails to produce successful combustion, resulting in rough idling and poor performance.

3. Oxygen Sensor

The oxygen sensor is a component of the emissions system that measures the amount of oxygen in the exhaust. This data is transmitted to the vehicle’s computer, which uses it to calculate the optimal air-fuel ratio for the cleanest and most efficient combustion process. Continual exposure to heat, carbon deposits, or age can affect the sensor and cause it to fail over time. Whenever the oxygen sensor fails, the vehicle’s computer receives incorrect information, causing the engine to run either too rich or too lean, resulting in rough idling.

4. Blocked Air Filters

As you drive, your engine’s air filter catches various contaminants and pollutants that could be harmful to your car’s engine. These filters become blocked up with dust, dirt, and other particles over time, preventing proper airflow from adding to the fuel mixture for combustion. A lack of air causes the vehicle to run lean, resulting in a rough idle and increased fuel consumption.

5. Vacuum Leak

Your car’s hoses help create a vacuum for air and fuel with the help of a throttle that regulates airflow, engine speed, and the vacuum in the intake manifold. These rubber hoses wear out over time and may even leak. When too much air is in the fuel mixture, the engine begins to misfire, causing a rough idle and increased RPMs.

6. Motor Mounts

Your engine is kept connected to the vehicle via motor mounts. When idling, a vibration is produced by weak or damaged mounts that cannot keep the engine securely in the engine compartment. If the shaking stops when the car is in neutral, the vibrations may be coming from the motor mounts.


Rough idling is not a normal vehicle function. If your vehicle is experiencing unusual vibrations, shaking, or poor idling, it is a result of clogged fuel injectors and filters, worn spark plugs and wiring, sensors, and motor mount. Get a technician to evaluate and resolve the issue.