In this article, I’ll look at the main causes of road noise from tires along with the best solutions for solving the problem. Being able to identify the particular cause in your case will help you to develop more tailored solutions.
But before that, check out my article where I explain why soundproofing is worth the money.
What Causes Road Noise From Car Tires?
All cars offer some level of noise reduction. But much of this depends on the car’s age, the build quality, and a number of other factors.
However, sometimes road noise can become too much. If so, it’s time to do something about it. Here’s a list of the main causes of road noise that might be making the problem worse.
1. Unbalanced tires
Over time, tires can become unbalanced. Usually this is a problem corrected during a car’s service or when you have tires changed at a garage.
Unbalanced tires means the car is sitting on the road unevenly, and can lead to greater amounts of vibrations. These pass through the car’s chassis into the interior, which is where you hear them.
2. Wide tires
Some cars need wider tires than others, particularly for sports or SUV models. Wider tires are necessary on some car models because they offer more traction than thinner tires.
However, a wider surface area means more of the tire is in contact with the road. Simply put, this means there’s more tire to make noise on the road.
3. Underinflated tires
Similarly, if tires aren’t properly inflated then they squish out and have more of their surface area in contact with the road.
Underinflated tires also wear quicker and reduce fuel efficiency, so there are plenty of reasons why you should keep your tires properly inflated.
4. Uneven wear
Issues such as unbalanced or underinflated tires can lead to uneven wear. This can also be caused by problems with the suspension. In turn, unevenly worn tires can create further problems than just extra noise.
You might notice that one tire is louder than the others when driving. It becomes a vicious cycle that uneven wear can lead to further issues with the tires and can cause a range of problems with your vehicle.
5. Thick tire tread
All tires need some kind of tread for traction, but some have thicker tread than others. You might have noticed how the tires on a pickup or lorry sound much louder than those on a normal car.
This is caused by the thick tread trapping air, which is then crushed out under the vehicle’s weight. So along with the normal tire sounds, it can add popping and crackling into the mix too.
6. Debris in the tire tread
A commonly overlooked source of noise from car tires is caused by debris stuck in the tread. This will usually be small pebbles or sticks.
The extra noise is caused by the debris hitting the road rapidly as the tires rotate. Along with being an annoyance, this can cause damage to the tires and can cause punctures.
7. Specialist tires
Normal road tires are made from rubber, but specialist tires often have extra properties. This can include snow tires or high-performance tires, but this also usually makes them much louder on the road.
Identifying Any Possible Issues
Before you start trying to reduce the noise coming from your tires, it’s worth making sure there aren’t any problems. New or extra noise could often be a sign of a mechanical issue.
Inspect the tires yourself for signs of wear or under inflation. All cars will state the recommended PSI for the tires, so be sure they’re pumped properly before you go any further.
If you notice anything you think is a concern, take the car to a garage. It might be as simple as changing and balancing the tires, or it might be something more complicated.
Either way, it’s worth getting your car checked over before you start any soundproofing solutions to ensure you’re not just blocking out a bigger problem.
How To Reduce Road Noise From Car Tires?
So providing everything is working properly, it’s time to look at some ways to reduce road noise inside the vehicle.
None of these are particularly complicated or expensive, so it might be worth trying a few to get the best results.
1. Line the wheel wells
The wheel wells are the arches that surround the wheel on the outside of the car. While you obviously need some clearance around the wheel, it’s possible to use some of this extra space to your advantage.
You can either use a material with mass that’ll absorb the sound before it reaches the cabin, or sound dampening material that’ll reduce the vibrations before they turn into sound.
MLV is great for adding mass to an area, which reduces vibration, while insulation foam helps to dampen vibrations.
It should be fairly easy to just stick some of the product inside the wheel arches, but you might need to remove the wheels first.
However, be sure to leave enough gap between the well and the wheel. Not doing so will not just create more noise, but will also be a safety hazard.
2. Repair or replace door seals
The rubber seals around the edge of car doors are mainly for thermal insulation, but they’re also very effective at reducing the amount of noise you hear in the cabin.
As they’re rubber, the seals become worn over time. This is particularly true in extreme weather conditions, but they’ll all need replacing sometime.
If you only notice a few minor cracks then fix these with a bit of tape or glue. However, this might not effectively solve the problem of sound infiltration.
The best thing you can do is either replace the seal or add a second seal strip. If you go for the second option, just be sure the door still closes properly.
You can buy door seal strips from Amazon and they’re fairly inexpensive. Be sure you buy the right shape and size, but you can check this by inspecting the old seal. For any problems, see a mechanic.
Check out this video on how to fix a car door seal for more visual information. The job really shouldn’t be too hard if you’ve got a bit of time and the right tools.
3. Soundproof the car’s interior
Probably one of the most effective ways of reducing road noise from tires is to soundproof the car’s interior. This might sound like a big job, but it’s really not that difficult.
In fact, it’s such a popular process that there’s a big market in-vehicle sound deadening mats. One of the best brands is Dynamat, but it’s also worth trying Hushmat or Noico.
Check out my articles comparing these sound deadeners:
Sound deadening mats are made from a special type of rubber that’s dense and heavy. Not only do they deaden sounds, but they provide thermal insulation too.
The most difficult part of the process is removing the car’s exterior in order to apply the mats underneath. If you know someone who’s handy with cars then get them involved. If not, visit a local automotive shop; it’s likely they’ll have experience with these products.
Providing the mats are installed properly, you can expect the noise intensity to roughly half. Considering road noises generally aren’t that loud, this should be enough to block out the issue.
4. Soundproof the doors
While you’re at it, make sure you soundproof the car’s doors. There’s really not much mass to a car door; they’re pretty much metal with a plastic interior.
Sound can vibrate fairly well through a car door, so it’s worth adding a bit more mass to them. What’s more, using soundproofing solutions will also improve thermal insulation inside the car’s cabin, which is never a bad thing.
Luckily, Dynamat sells a specific door sound deadening kit (Amazon). The product is exactly the same as their normal kit, but it just comes in sizes more appropriate for soundproofing doors.
Again, you’ll have to remove interior bodywork before you apply the mats, so you might as well do this at the same time as soundproofing the floor.
You’ll also likely have to completely remove the door, which can be a bit more technical. But you can watch this video on how to install a sound deadening kit for more information.
5. Switch to quiet tires
Are you due for a tire replacement? If you can justify the money, now might be a good time to switch over to quiet tires. Many top brands have started producing quiet tires, and they’re actually pretty effective.
Quiet tires vary by brand, but most include a layer of foam insulation inside the tire to dampen excess road noises. Some of the other features include:
- Narrow tires – less contact with the road surface
- Reinforced edges – less chance of squishing
- Extra ribs – help the tire to keep its shape
- Specially designed grooves to reduce air circulation
Of course, noise-reducing tires will be more expensive than their normal counterparts. However, they are an effective way of reducing the problem, and if you’re bothered by road noise it can be worth spending the extra money.
Just be sure to buy tires designed for your type of vehicle, and be aware you might have to order them from a specialist retailer.
6. Be sure to regularly monitor your tires
As mentioned, the quality and age of tires can be significant factors when it comes to road noise.
Therefore, it’s worth keeping a close eye on the quality of your tires if you want to stay on top of how much road noise they cause.
Check your tire pressure every other month or so depending on how often you drive. This can either be done at a tire pump or with an at-home tire inflating kit. Make sure you don’t overinflate them though, as this can lead to its own range of problems.
Also, make sure your tires are properly balanced and rotated. Do this when you get your tires changed, or every 5,000 miles or so, whichever comes first.
Rotating tires basically means putting them on different wheels so they wear evenly. Check when you have your tires replaced, as many places will perform this service for free.
Finally, keep a close eye on tire tread wear. At the same time, look for debris caught in the tires and signs of weathering. These include cracking and dry rot. If you see any signs of damage, get them replaced quickly.
7. Drive more slowly
This might seem like an obvious suggestion, but a way of reducing road noise is to simply drive at slower speeds.
When you drive fast, more air circulates around the tires and gets trapped in the tread. This is one of the major causes of road noise from tires.
Therefore, by driving more slowly, you’ll reduce air circulation around the tires and should notice things are quieter.
Also, this is better for fuel-efficiency. All cars have a peak fuel efficiency that’s mainly decided by speed and engine size. However, it should be around 30-40mph.
If you can’t find the information in your car’s manual, the manufacturer should be able to tell you.
With the big push towards the environment, many companies make a point of letting you know the car’s peak efficiency. Take advantage of this for less noise and longer lasting tires.
Some Final Thoughts
There are plenty of ways to reduce road noise from car tires. Perhaps the most effective is to soundproof the car’s interior, but this can become quite expensive.
Whatever option you choose, be sure to get the car checked over first to make sure you’re not simply blocking out symptoms of a bigger problem.
Read about my favorite sound deadener in this article.