Can Low Coolant Cause a Car to Shake? Causes and Solutions

A smoothly running vehicle can suddenly become a driver’s nightmare when it starts shaking. One lesser-known cause of this problem is low antifreeze levels. Although it may not be an obvious culprit, the coolant system’s role in maintaining engine temperature is crucial. Below, we will explore can low coolant cause car to shake and propose potential solutions to this issue.

can low coolant make your car shake

Can Low Coolant Cause Car to Shake?

Yes, low coolant can lead to a car shaking, though it’s not a direct cause. Insufficient coolant can cause the engine to overheat, leading to uneven expansion and contractions within the engine components, resulting in misfires and vibrations. Moreover, persistent overheating can damage vital engine components over time, including the engine mounts, which can exacerbate the shaking.

Causes of Vibration due to Low Coolant

Vibrations due to insufficient antifreeze can occur due to a sequence of reactions initiated by the insufficient cooling of the engine. Here are the primary causes of these vibrations:

1. Engine Overheating

When the coolant level is low, the engine cannot dissipate heat efficiently. This inefficiency leads to engine overheating, which, in turn, can cause parts of the engine to malfunction, leading to shaking.

2. Cylinder Misfire

A common question is, can low coolant cause misfire? An overheated engine can cause a cylinder misfire. This problem occurs when the engine cylinders do not fire in the correct order or not at all, causing the engine to shake. Low coolant levels might contribute to the overheating that causes misfires.

3. Damaged Engine Mounts

Persistent lower coolant can lead to the gradual degradation of engine components. For instance, over a period, overheating can weaken or damage engine mounts designed to absorb vibrations during engine operation. Damaged mounts may not effectively absorb these vibrations, causing the car to shake.

4. Sensor Malfunctions

The malfunction of sensors due to overheating can also contribute to a shaky vehicle. Incorrect readings from heat-affected sensors can disrupt the engine’s timing and fuel management, resulting in a rough idle or shaking.

Signs of Low Coolant in Car

Identifying short antifreeze levels early can prevent more severe issues, including engine overheating. Here are some signs that might indicate lower coolant levels in your car:

1. Rising Temperature Gauge: One of the most straightforward signs is a constantly high reading on your car’s temperature gauge.

2. Overheating Engine: You might notice steam or smoke coming from under the hood, indicating an overheating engine, often resulting from the shortage of antifreeze.

3. Coolant Light Illumination: Many cars have a warning light that will illuminate the dashboard if the coolant level is low.

4. Heater not working: If the heater isn’t blowing hot air as it should be, it might indicate a lower level of coolant since there isn’t enough hot coolant to heat the air.

5. Coolant Leaks: Puddles of coolant (a fluid that may appear green, red, yellow, or orange) under the car indicate a leak, leading to low antifreeze levels.

6. Visible Coolant below Minimum Mark: Upon inspecting the coolant reservoir, you might find the level is below the minimum mark.

7. Unusual Noises: Low coolant levels can cause the water pump and other components to make unusual noises due to insufficient lubrication and cooling.

8. Sweet Smell: A sweet, syrup-like smell is characteristic of coolant, and smelling this inside or outside the vehicle may indicate a leak.

9. Frequent Need to Top Off: If you need to add coolant to the reservoir frequently, it might signal a leak or another issue, causing the coolant level to drop.

If you notice any of these signs, it is vital to address the issue immediately to prevent potential damage to the engine or other components.

How do I Fix my Car from Shaking?

If your car is shaking due to low coolant levels, here’s a technical guide to help you address the problem:

1. Regular Coolant Checks

Make it a habit to check the coolant levels regularly and refill with a better coolant as necessary to maintain the optimum level. This practice will help prevent overheating and its subsequent issues.

2. Radiator Inspection

Alongside checking the coolant level, inspect the radiator for leaks or blockages, which could contribute to small antifreeze and inefficient cooling.

3. Timely Repairs

If you notice any signs of engine shaking, don’t delay repairs. Addressing issues can prevent more significant problems down the line.

4. Professional Diagnosis

If in doubt, seek a professional diagnosis. A skilled mechanic can pinpoint the exact cause of the shaking and recommend the best course of action.

5. Sensor Calibration

If sensors are found to be malfunctioning, have them calibrated or replaced as necessary to ensure that the engine management system receives accurate data.

Can I Drive with Low Coolant?

Driving with low coolant is highly discouraged because it can lead to severe engine damage. The coolant helps to regulate the engine’s temperature, preventing it from overheating. When the level is low, the engine can overheat quickly, potentially causing issues like vibration, cylinder head warping, head gasket failure, or even complete engine seizure. Such damages can be costly might even require an engine replacement. Moreover, driving with an overheated engine can cause a sudden breakdown, posing a safety risk. Therefore, ensure your vehicle has sufficient coolant before driving to avoid these severe consequences.

Can Low Coolant Cause Slow Acceleration?

Yes, the shortage of antifreeze can cause slow acceleration. When the coolant level is insufficient, it can lead to engine overheating, disrupting optimal performance. Overheated engines may struggle to provide the necessary power efficiently, causing slow or sluggish acceleration. Overheating can also induce pre-ignition, where the air-fuel mixture in the cylinders ignites too early, reducing the engine’s power output and hampering acceleration.


While not an apparent cause, low coolant levels can indeed contribute to a car shaking due to overheating and the subsequent malfunctions it can cause. Regular maintenance, including coolant level checks and radiator inspections, can help prevent this issue. If you encounter persistent problems, seeking professional help will ensure that your vehicle receives the appropriate solutions to get back to smooth operation.


Mr. Shafiqule Islam is a graduated Mechanical Engineer and has more than 15 years experience of repairing and maintenance of different brand vehicles like Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Mercedes, BMW etc. He is also giving training to Mechanics. He has started writing to share his practical knowledge to Vehicle Owners, Drivers and Mechanics to keep their cars at best fit.

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