Smooth Forward, Shaky Backward – Why A Car Shakes When in Reverse

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Have you ever experienced that unsettling judder when you put your car in reverse? It’s like a mysterious morning tremor beneath your feet.

Experiencing a car’s reverse shake can prove irritating, often pointing toward potential suspension or drivetrain complications. Additionally, engine troubles, deteriorated brake pads, irregular tire wear, and other issues can contribute to this phenomenon. This car problems and solution guide discusses the common causes of car shakes when in reverse, but before that, let’s put our diagnostic cap on.

Car Shakes when in Reverse? 8 Tips to Diagnose the Issue

It may indicate an underlying issue if your vehicle experiences vibration while reversing. While the steps below offer insight, we recommend consulting a professional to ensure your car remains in top condition.

  1. Observe the Juddering Severity:

Monitor the intensity of the shaking – whether it’s a gentle vibration or an aggressive tremor. Assessing the severity can yield insights into potential issues, such as malfunctioning motor mount or transmission complications.

  1. Assess Fluid Levels:

Regularly examine your vehicle’s fluid levels, particularly the transmission fluid. Inadequate fluid levels could induce shaking. Adhere to your manufacturer’s instructions regarding the frequency and procedure for fluid checks.

  1. Examine When the Shaking Starts:

Observe the specific circumstances when the shaking occurs. Is it exclusive to the initial reverse shift each day, or does it happen consistently in reverse? If it’s primarily during the first-morning startup, it could be indicative of “morning sickness,” a transmission concern more noticeable in cold conditions.

  1. Consider the Sound:

Pay attention to any uncommon sounds accompanying the vibration. Unusual auditory cues such as grinding, squeaking, or clunking may indicate the presence of mechanical problems that warrant the expertise of a professional.

A grinding sound could be indicative of a transmission problem. If you detect a clunking noise, it might signify issues with the drive shaft or universal joints. Squeaky sounds may be connected to worn or damaged belts. On the other hand, squeaking noise while turning could be due to bad CV joints, worn-out brake pads, failing power steering pump, and other reasons.

  1. Inspect Your Tires:

Thoroughly examine your tires for any unusual wear patterns, as these can lead to vibrations during reverse maneuvers. Additionally, ensure your tires maintain the recommended inflation levels specified by the manufacturer, which you can find in your car’s manual or on the door sticker. A simple tire pressure gauge can confirm this. If you detect any issues, visit a tire shop.

  1. Observe Reverse Performance Changes:

If you notice a decrease in power or hesitation when shifting into reverse, it may indicate a potential fuel pressure problem. Such issues tend to become more evident when the vehicle is under greater strain, such as reversing uphill. Diagnosing fuel pressure concerns requires specialized tools. Only they possess the expertise to assess and address fuel pressure issues effectively.

  1. Keep an Eye on Warning Indicators:

If your car shakes when in reverse and the TPS warning indicator on your dashboard becomes noticeable, it could indicate an issue with the throttle position sensor. This sensor relays throttle position data to your car’s computer, regulating air intake to the engine. If it malfunctions, it may lead to shaky motions. Take note of this warning light and inform your mechanic. They can employ specialized diagnostic equipment to verify if the sensor is at fault and replace it if necessary.

  1. Observe Additional Indications:

Encountering challenges transitioning from reverse to another gear and exhibiting a delayed response when you engage reverse gear point to potential transmission issues.

Reasons why a car shakes when in reverse and possible solutions

1. Worn or Damaged Drivetrain Components

The vehicle’s drivetrain, responsible for channeling engine power to the wheels via parts such as the transmission and driveshaft, may encounter issues leading to reverse vibrations. This crucial setup includes the engine, transmission, driveshafts, differentials, and axles. Problems within these elements can disrupt power transmission, leading to tremors or shaking.

a. Faulty CV Joints:

One common issue often arises with CV joints, which are integral components of your vehicle’s drivetrain. They facilitate power transmission through the drive shaft at a consistent rotational speed, minimizing friction. When these joints become damaged or worn, they can induce irregular drive shaft rotation, resulting in noticeable vehicle shaking, particularly during reverse maneuvers.


If you detect a malfunctioning CV joint, it’s imperative to seek professional assistance for its replacement. This intricate task entails axle removal to access the joint. Installing a new CV joint guarantees a seamless power transfer to your wheels.

b. Damaged U-Joints:

U-joints, also known as universal joints, are commonly located in the drive shaft, providing flexibility in the drivetrain and facilitating power transfer from the transmission to the differential and subsequently to the wheels. When these components suffer damage or wear, they can disrupt power distribution, potentially leading to your vehicle exhibiting vibrations when reversing.

Refer to the accompanying video for a DIY diagnosis and replacement of U-joints.


Replace the damaged U-joint to prevent additional drivetrain harm. It necessitates expert skills, specialized tools, and execution by a professional technician.

c. A Faulty Drive Shaft or Axle(s):

The drive shaft transports power from the gearbox to the rear differential. A malfunctioning axle or drive shaft can lead to your vehicle exhibiting shakes during reverse maneuvers.

Axles are integral parts that link your car’s front and rear wheels. In case of axle deformation or damage, it won’t adequately support your vehicle’s weight, potentially causing vibrations during reverse or even regular driving.


To inspect for issues concerning the drive shaft or axle, search for signs such as fractures, bends, rust, and excessive play in either component. If you encounter damage of this nature in any part of your vehicle’s axles or drive shafts, prompt replacement is vital to prevent potential breakage.

2. Tire Issues


a. Unbalanced wheels:

If your car’s wheels lack balance, it might result in noticeable vibrations during drive, especially when reversing.


To address this issue, seek balance adjustments for your tires at a tire service center. This procedure entails attaching slight weights to the wheel rims to ensure uniform weight distribution.

b. Damaged Tires:

Worn-out tires may induce vehicular tremors, even during reverse maneuvers, due to rotational imbalances, disrupting smooth operations. Reversing can accentuate tire wear or balance irregularities. Likewise, tire damage, like bulges, gashes, or punctures, can impede a tire’s smooth rolling, resulting in car shakes when in reverse. Here’s how you can check your tire’s tread.


Timely tire replacement prevents potential complications. For optimal performance and even wear, consider replacing tires in pairs, either on the front or both rear.

3. Transmission Issues


a. Worn-out clutch:

During gear changes, your vehicle’s transmission system relies on the clutch to separate the engine from the drivetrain.

As you use it extensively over time, the clutch plates undergo wear and tear, resulting in irregular power transfer, manifesting as vibrations when shifting into reverse.


Addressing a worn-out clutch entails replacement. Given the intricacy of this task and the need for specialized tools, entrust it to a skilled mechanic for precise execution. A fresh clutch installation can notably enhance your car’s performance and eradicate the reverse gear shaking problem.

b. Wornout Transmission Mounts:

Transmission mounts play a crucial role in securing the transmission to the vehicle while mitigating vibrations and road impact. As they age or sustain damage, their ability to dampen vibrations diminishes, resulting in noticeable vehicle shaking, especially during stress-inducing actions like reversing or accelerating.


For rectifying car shaking during reverse caused by worn transmission mounts, seek professional assistance from a mechanic for replacement.

c. Transmission Fluid Problems:

Transmission fluid functions as a gear lubricant, ensuring smooth gear shifts while also regulating transmission temperature. Inadequate, soiled, or aged fluid hinders its tasks, resulting in suboptimal gear shifting, potentially causing shaking and irregular gear shifts, notably in reverse due to variations in gear design.


If there’s a problem with your transmission fluid, it could require replacement. A transmission fluid change includes draining the existing fluid, changing the transmission filter (if needed), and refilling with fresh fluid. This task can be performed in a DIY setting if you’re confident, but having a professional to handle it is often a smoother and cleaner option.

Here’s a video guide for DIY transmission oil change:


d. Transmission Oil Filter Issues:

An issue in the transmission oil filter can, in fact, result in car shakes when in reverse gear. The transmission oil filter maintains transmission fluid purity by eliminating detrimental particles and impurities. If this filter gets obstructed or harmed, it can impede the transmission fluid flow, resulting in insufficient lubrication for transmission components.

The insufficiency in lubrication can cause suboptimal shifting, leading to vibrations and judders, particularly when the vehicle is in reverse. This occurs because the transmission can’t function seamlessly due to heightened friction and heat generated by inadequate lubrication.


Verify and maintain transmission fluid levels, examine and substitute a blocked transmission oil filter, and evaluate the state of transmission mounts. Seek guidance from a specialist if problems persist.

4. Torque Converter Issues:

The torque converter serves as the crucial link between the engine and the auto transmission. A defective torque converter can undoubtedly lead to your vehicle experiencing shaking or vibrations, particularly noticeable during strenuous maneuvers like reversing. Sometimes, the car totally dies when you put it in gear.

a. Contaminated Torque Converter Fluid:

Fluid within the torque converter facilitates torque transfer from the engine to the transmission. Contamination of this fluid or converter damage can result in uneven power transmission and vibrations. This problem is frequently associated with additional indications, such as inadequate acceleration despite engine revving, increased temperature, and unusual transmission sounds.


Seek a skilled technician for a fluid replacement or flushing, assess for any impairments, and adhere to the manufacturer’s prescribed schedule for fluid maintenance to secure the transmission’s well-being and durability. If issues persist, consult an automotive expert for additional advice.

b. Faulty Torque Converter Clutch:

Another concern may involve a damaged or malfunctioning torque converter clutch, resulting in jerky or unsteady movement when the clutch experiences difficulties in engaging or disengaging smoothly.


If your car shakes in reverse, it may stem from an impaired torque converter clutch (TCC). Potential remedies encompass inspecting transmission fluid, conducting transmission maintenance, substituting the TCC solenoid, or consulting experts for diagnostics and potential torque converter replacement.

5. Engine issues:

Engine problems occasionally result in car shakes when in reverse. These issues may encompass misfiring, irregular idling, or transmission malfunctions. Your engine serves as the car’s powerhouse, and any hiccups can disrupt its seamless operation.

a. Misfiring Cylinders

Your car’s engine functions by precisely firing its cylinders, generating the necessary power for propulsion. When a cylinder misfires, it disrupts the firing sequence, resulting in uneven power distribution and vibrations. This problem may become more noticeable in reverse due to the extra power required for backward movement.


Replacing spark plugs or the ignition coil typically resolves a misfiring cylinder. If these solutions prove ineffective, it may point to a more complex engine problem requiring professional attention. Always consult your car’s service manual for precise guidance and seek a mechanic’s expertise when in doubt.

b. Worn-Out Spark Plugs:

damaged spark plugs

Spark plugs play a part in igniting the air-fuel mixture within your vehicle’s engine. These components can experience wear and accumulate residue as time passes, diminishing their performance. This decline may lead to engine irregularities or misfiring, resulting in vibrations, notably when reversing.


Substituting deteriorated spark plugs frequently resolves engine-related shaking. It is a straightforward, cost-effective remedy that can be accomplished independently using basic tools. Ensure you acquire the appropriate spark plugs designed for your specific car model.

c. Worn Out Engine Mounts:

Engine mounts have a crucial role in stabilizing the engine during its operation. They typically consist of a robust bracket, often made of steel or die-cast materials, coupled with a rubber or hydraulic damper.

When the engine starts, it generates forces that, if left uncontrolled, could harmonize with the mount’s inherent frequency and transmit vibrations to the car’s chassis. It becomes particularly noticeable when the engine idles, operating at its lowest frequency. The steel bracket effectively secures the engine to the car frame, supporting its weight. Simultaneously, the rubber or hydraulic damper absorbs engine vibrations, guaranteeing a smoother ride for the occupants.

However, these dampers come with a limited lifespan, and as they deteriorate, vibrations may resurface, particularly during engine-intensive scenarios like engaging reverse gear.


Examine the engine mount for damage, and if you observe significant engine movement due to this issue, consider replacing the engine mounts with new ones.

d. Malfunctioning Timing Belt:

Another possible factor is an issue related to the engine’s timing. When the timing is not precise, the cylinders may not ignite in sync, resulting in irregular engine operation and vibrations. Such irregularities might be attributed to a faulty timing belt or timing chain.


Seek the expertise of a mechanic to identify and rectify potential problems with the timing belt.

6. Faulty Sensors:

Car sensors are pivotal for overseeing multiple car systems like the engine, transmission, emissions, and safety. These sensors grant the car’s computer vital data for on-the-fly optimizations, ensuring peak performance, efficiency, and safety. If sensors malfunction, they can trigger car shakes when in reverse:

a. Faulty Engine Sensors:

Faulty sensors such as the Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor or Engine Coolant Temperature (ECT) sensor might transmit inaccurate information to the engine control unit (ECU), resulting in an incorrect air-fuel mixture, misfires, or erratic idling, ultimately leading to vibrations during reverse.


Identify the sensor problem with an OBD-II scanner, swap out the problematic sensor(s), and reset any error codes. Confirm the issue is resolved through a test drive, and consult experts if necessary.

b. Transmission Sensors:

Sensors within the transmission, like the Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS) or Transmission Control Module (TCM) sensors, have the potential to influence gear changes and torque converter engagement. When these sensors malfunction, it can cause unpredictable transmission performance, resulting in car vibrations when in reverse.


Seek professional assistance for a thorough assessment and the replacement of the faulty sensor. Verify wiring and connection integrity, rectify error codes, and perform a road test to ensure seamless functionality.

c. Safety Sensors:

Some new vehicles incorporate sensors to enhance safety, such as anti-lock brake systems (ABS) and traction control. Issues with these sensors can disrupt the car’s capacity to control wheel speed and stability in reverse, potentially resulting in vibrations or instability.


Attempt sensor cleaning and identification. If necessary, substitute or reset the malfunctioning sensor or seek expert assistance from a qualified mechanic for an assessment and restoration to guarantee safety and optimal functionality.

d. Emissions Sensors:

Faulty emissions-related sensors, such as the oxygen sensor (O2 sensor), can potentially hinder engine operation and fuel economy. As a result, one may experience a destabilized idle and vibrations during reverse gear engagement.


Address the problematic sensor through diagnosis, replacement with a compatible counterpart, and resetting error codes. Additionally, sustaining routine upkeep and vigilance in emissions management is pivotal in ensuring peak performance and adherence to environmental standards.

7. Fuel pressure:

Fuel pressure problems can indeed be a factor in a car experiencing trembling or quivering, even when it’s in reverse. A vehicle’s fuel system is engineered to transport fuel from the tank to the engine at a precise pressure, enabling the fuel injectors to release an exact quantity of fuel into the combustion chamber.

If the fuel pressure falls below the required level, it leads to an inadequate fuel supply to the powerplant, resulting in a lean condition with excess air in the air-fuel mixture. This, in turn, triggers misfires, leading to the shaking and vibrations. Conversely, excessively high fuel pressure causes the engine to run rich with excess fuel in the mixture, again leading to misfires and vibrations.


If your car shakes when in reverse due to possible fuel pressure concerns, follow these guidelines:

  1. Verify and assess the fuel pressure to confirm it falls within the acceptable limits.
  2. Examine and resolve issues concerning the fuel filter, pump, regulator, injectors, and cleanliness of the fuel system.
  3. Seek advice from a professional mechanic for precise evaluation and essential fixes to reinstate the correct fuel pressure, guaranteeing seamless reversing and optimal engine operation.

Preventing Car Shakes When in Reverse Issue From Happening Again

Routine inspections and upkeep are essential for early issue detection. Here are guidelines to avert reverse shaking:

  • Standard Maintenance: Adhere to the maintenance timetable provided in your car’s manual. This routine service ensures optimal part functionality and early issue identification.
  • Transmission Care: Regularly examine transmission fluid levels and adhere to your carmaker’s replacement guidelines, with more frequent changes for severe driving conditions.
  • Engine Health: Sustain your engine’s well-being with periodic spark plug and wire checks, ensuring the cylinders operate smoothly. Regular oil changes are vital for engine longevity.
  • Drivetrain Inspection: Be attentive to unusual sounds or vibrations from your drivetrain. Seek professional assessment if anomalies arise in your CV and U-joints.
  • Tire Upkeep: Periodically perform tire rotations and balancing while maintaining tire pressure in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Consistently inspect tires for wear or damage indicators.


Car Shakes When in Reverse – FAQs


 Q: What typically leads to a car’s unsettling movement when put into reverse?

A: The usual culprits behind a car’s disconcerting reverse motion involve engine problems, malfunctioning spark plugs, deteriorated engine mounts, reduced fuel pressure, transmission concerns, ignition misfires, irregular tire wear, and an imbalanced driveshaft.

Q: What steps should I take when my car experiences shaking exclusively in reverse?

A: When your vehicle exhibits reverse-specific shaking, it’s imperative to seek the expertise of a skilled mechanic for a thorough diagnosis and essential repairs. Neglecting this issue may result in escalated damage and increased expenses.

Q: What steps should I take to avoid experiencing car shakes when in reverse?

A: Consistent car upkeep, such as inspection of motor mounts, transmission fluid, tire inflation, and wheel alignment, proves effective in preventing reverse shaking. Should you detect any vibrations, promptly seek a professional mechanic’s guidance for a swift resolution.

Q: Is it possible for my car to shake in reverse due to worn suspension parts?

A: Indeed, worn suspension elements such as bushings, struts, or shock absorbers have the potential to induce reverse shaking. Since they’re responsible for dampening vibrations and ensuring a steady ride, their deterioration can result in heightened vibrations.


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