Why Do Parking Garages Shake?

Parking garages are common structures in urban areas that offer a convenient and secure place for vehicle owners to park their cars. However, many people have experienced or heard stories about parking garages shaking, leaving them to wonder why this happens. The shaking of parking garages can be attributed to various factors, such as vibrations from nearby traffic, wind forces, structural design, or even a result of natural phenomena like earthquakes.

Vibrations from Nearby Traffic

One reason why parking garages may shake is due to the vibrations generated by the movement of vehicles on nearby roads. The constant flow of traffic can create seismic waves that impact the surrounding structures, including parking garages. The vibrations travel through the ground and can be transmitted to the garage’s foundation and ultimately cause it to shake. This phenomenon becomes more noticeable when the garage is situated in close proximity to busy roads or intersections.

Wind Forces

Another factor that can cause parking garages to shake is the force exerted by strong winds. Tall buildings and open spaces around the garage can create a wind tunnel effect, amplifying the wind’s impact on the structure. As the wind pushes against the walls or enters the openings of the garage, it generates pressure. This pressure can lead to the garage swaying or vibrating, especially during severe storms or gusty winds.

Structural Design

The design of the parking garage itself can also contribute to its shaking. Insufficient structural support, inadequate reinforcement of building materials, or poor construction techniques can all affect the stability of the garage. If the design does not effectively distribute loads or handle stress, it can result in vibrations or shaking. Additionally, outdated structures may not be built to modern seismic standards, making them more susceptible to shaking during earthquakes or other disturbances.

Some elements of a parking garage’s design that can impact its stability include:

  • Inadequate bracing systems
  • Poor weight-bearing capacity
  • Insufficient horizontal or vertical reinforcement
  • Inadequate foundation design


In regions prone to seismic activity, such as earthquake-prone zones, parking garages may experience shaking during tremors. The ground movements caused by earthquakes can easily transmit vibrations to nearby structures, which includes parking garages. The severity of the shaking depends on factors like the intensity and proximity of the earthquake, as well as the garage’s structural resilience. Buildings constructed with earthquake-resistant designs and materials are better equipped to withstand shaking and minimize potential damage.

Interactions between Multiple Factors

It’s worth noting that the shaking of parking garages can often be the result of a combination of factors. Vibrations from nearby traffic, wind forces, structural design flaws, and even the occurrence of an earthquake can all contribute to the shaking phenomenon. The interactions between these factors can amplify the effects and lead to more significant vibrations or shaking in parking garages.

Note: It’s important to differentiate between minor vibrations or slight shaking caused by external factors and more severe shaking or structural issues in parking garages. If you notice persistent or alarming shaking, it is crucial to report it to the responsible authorities to ensure the safety of the structure and its occupants.

In conclusion, parking garages can shake due to various reasons, including vibrations from nearby traffic, wind forces, structural design flaws, or seismic events like earthquakes. Understanding these factors helps raise awareness about the importance of well-designed and properly constructed parking structures that can withstand these forces and ensure the safety of everyone using them.