How to Reduce Road Noise From Tires
Over the years, tires have improved quite a lot, in terms of performance or refinement, depending on which category you’re looking at. As much as I want to talk about performance, today’s topic will cover refinement.
Well-refined tires are a common option for most people because, for the most part, the cars on the road aren’t track weapons. Your average sedans or hatchbacks are aimed at people looking for a transportation “device” that will get them from point A to point B as comfortable and as quiet as possible.
Manufacturers work on making the tires quieter, improving the tread pattern or compounds to make them as well refined as possible. With that said, you may have a set of tires that aren’t as quiet as you’d like, so you’re probably wondering what you can do to reduce the road noise coming from them.
I have some good news for you – there are a few ways to get a quieter ride with your tires. Keep in mind that you should set your expectations right and don’t expect to get the quietest tire on the market magically. To be fair, for some of these, you’ll be able to see some noticeable differences.
Get quieter tires
I know that this is the most obvious solution, but I have to mention it. If you’ve read more than one tire review, you may have noticed that not all of them produce the same noise levels. Some are quieter, while others can be obnoxiously loud, which is why noise levels are one of the several metrics we take into consideration when we review tires.
I recently made a list of some of the quietest tires on the market, so you can check that one out. With that said, if you recently purchased a new set of tires, you probably won’t be heading out and getting a new set, so this may not be the best solution for you.
Run your tires optimally
Often when we talk about optimal tire usage, we refer to performance and longevity and rarely mention that it can also have an impact on the noise a tire produces.
Manufacturers test and make claims about how much noise a tire makes, which is something that we take into consideration when buying them. The most important thing to know about those tests is that they are conducted with a tire inflated at the optimal pressure. Going above or below the psi the car manufacturer recommends means that the tire won’t work optimally. This also means that the tire may produce higher noise levels, apart from the fact that it may not perform as intended.
This also includes tire rotation because if they aren’t rotated regularly, they will start to wear down, leading to higher noise levels.
Replace tires before they wear down too much
While I’m on the subject of tire wear, I have to mention that it can also be a cause of increased noise levels. This isn’t something that every tire model will suffer from, but I’ve seen it happen on plenty of models.
When the tire is new, the noise levels are “normal,” as we usually see them during testing. As you drive, the tire wears down, and reducing the tread pattern can cause a tire to be noisy on the road.
We all want to get the most out of our tires and drive them as long as possible and as much as the law allows us. With that said, a tire that’s worn down will not only have poor performance compared with a new one but may also produce more noise.
Improve your car’s sound insulation
This section will be divided into several sub-sections and will revolve around minor modifications to your car. As noisy or as quiet tires can be, one thing that can prevent road noise from entering the cabin is the insulation. The high-end luxury models rarely suffer from this, so this section will be towards “regular” cars.
Sound insulation around the wheel wells
The closes thing to the tires is the wheel wells – the large holes on the side of your car where the tires and suspension components reside. Around them are usually plastic trims that keep dirt from getting stuck on the inside or in the engine compartment. In most cases, you are looking at a thin plastic and nothing else, so that’s one area where the noise can get in.
Even though this part isn’t close to being in the cabin, since it’s only plastic, the noise can go through it and eventually get to the cabin. The solution is fitting noise-dampening materials to the plastic, which should help reduce the noise levels.
On paper, the procedure is simple, but it may be time-consuming. The idea is to remove the plastic panels from the wheel wells and install the material on the inside. That way, the plastic will continue to keep debris from the inside, while the foam will do its job at reducing the noise levels.
You have tons of options for this, ranging from DIY solutions to some off the shelves products that you can find at a hardware store.
Sound insulating the cabin
The entire goal of this guide is to reduce the noise levels that enter the cabin, so improving the sound insulation there is crucial. This is a slightly larger task, but it’s another good option to reduce the road noise that enters the cabin. In this regard, there are several areas that you can make modifications to that can help you in this regard.
I’ll start off with the floor, which is the part of the cabin that’s closest to the road, and the tires as well. Even the smallest and cheapest cars have some kind of sound insulation, but manufacturers don’t put too much of it to reduce costs and weight. In most cases, you have the carpet liner with some foam, or with some models, there may not be any foam at all.
You can improve this by removing the carpet liner and fitting additional sound-absorbing material directly to the chassis. Unlike the previous recommendation, this is a much more complicated process that involves basically stripping the entire cabin to fit the material. Like in the previous situation, you are looking at similar options: you can go for something you can make a home or purchase the foam from the store.
Insulating the doors
In this sub-section, there are two areas that you should be looking at – the sound insulation in the doors or the rubber seals.
The doors consist of metal parts on the outside and panels on the inside, with some models having special material that prevents noise from entering the cabin. Depending on the model, you may not have that material, so fitting one should help reduce the noise you hear from the road.
Even in this application, there is some work involved, but it’s generally a simpler process, as you only need to remove the panels and fit the material. If you decide to take this route, one thing to keep in mind is the electronics in the doors and clearance. Putting a thicker foam may cause problems, especially if you have power windows, so make sure to verify before starting the process
The second part is the seals around the doors and on the car. These are primarily designed to keep water from entering the cabin but also do a decent job at insulating it from the noises.
Bad rubber seals usually mean that you’ll start to notice some water in the cabin, especially in heavy rain or when you wash your car. If you’re the type of person that likes a hands-on approach, you can check them and replace the bad ones. Alternatively, you can take your car to a mechanic and do the job for you.
Adjust your speed
You may think this is a piece of bad advice, but hear me out before you decide to crucify me.
Generally speaking, road noise from the tires increases as you increase the speeds. Most people don’t notice too much noise from the tires around town at slower speeds and usually complain when driving on the highway, and I fall in that category. The PremiumContact 6 I daily at the moment are far from the quietest tires, which are quite noticeable when I’m driving on the highway.
Roads have speed limits, and we usually adjust the speed accordingly. With that said, there are some people that want to put their foot down a bit and drive a bit over that. Most of them aren’t aware that even a small increase in speed can have an impact on the noise the tires produce.
I tested this with my car a while back and found that a 5 mph difference in speed can slightly affect the noise levels the tires make.
To be fair, I’m not saying you should drive 30 on the highway, but if the limit is 70, it won’t hurt if you drive 60 or 65. My idea is to avoid driving too slow but also avoid the high noise levels tires produce at higher speeds.
Throughout this guide, I outlined several aspects that you can pay attention to, which may result in a quieter ride. As much as I’d love to tell you a way that can magically make your tires quieter, I can’t because that’s impossible.
Almost all of the recommendations in this article are ways in which the actual noise of the tire can be muted down enough so that you’ll get a quieter ride. At the end of the day, the tire’s noise levels will remain unchanged, and you’re only working on ways in which the noise from the existing tires won’t be as intrusive in the cabin.