When a strange sound starts coming from your wheel wells, it is alarming, to say the least. Your tires are the only thing maintaining contact with the road. As such, you need to know that they are in good working order, so you and your family stay safe.
So what about those noises? When should you be concerned, and when is it normal?
There are many different reasons for tire noise, so we’ve gathered a list of some of the more common reasons to help you figure out what step to take next.
Sometimes the only reason your tires are making a lot of noise is because of the road surface. Obviously potholes cause a lot of noise if you hit them, but older roads or rough asphalt can also significantly increase tire noise. The amount of noise the road makes has to do with how well it absorbs the noise from the tires. Concrete can’t absorb much, so it’s pretty loud, whereas new asphalt is quite supple and can soak up a lot of tire noise.
Type of Tire
One of the major factors in tire noise is what kind of tire you use. Tire noise comes from a variety of factors including:
- How much rubber is touching the road: Simply put, the more rubber in contact with the road, the noisier your ride will be, so if you want to cut down on noise, look for a narrower tire.
- Tread pattern: There is actually a whole science behind tire tread pattern and how much noise it makes. Each pattern generates a specific pitch on the road, and quieter tires utilize multiple tread patterns so that the pitches blend and cancel each other out. They also use smaller blocks of tread and might even have little hash marks between the treads to further break apart the air compression.
- How deep the tread is: The noise you hear from your tires comes from air being compressed between the road and the rubber in spaces between the tread. When tread is really deep and blocky, it makes more noise than, say, a performance tire with shallower tread. That’s not to say that you should let your tires go bald in order to have a quiet ride. We still recommend that you get new tires when you get between 4/32” and 2/32” if you want to stay safe on the road.
- What kind of rubber the tire is made of: Softer rubber will make less noise, but it also tends to wear out faster. Harder rubber will be quieter, but it can make for a bumpier ride.
- Type of side walls: Run-flat tires have very thick sidewalls so that they can support the vehicle in case of a flat, but that extra thickness can make for a loud ride. On the other side of the spectrum, a low profile tire can be noisy because it has such a thin sidewall.
- Type of Tire: Heavy-duty tires or tires that are meant for hauling will be louder than an all-season tires, whereas snow tires or studded tires will be noisier than almost any other tire.
Condition of Tire
The condition of your tire also has a lot to do with how much noise it makes. If you have uneven tread, for example, you could hear a lot of road noise. Especially first thing in the morning after a freezing Utah night, you might find that your tires are quite noisy. That’s just because the tires have been sitting in one spot all night and might develop a small flat spot, but things should quiet down the warmer the tires get.
Of course, if you hear a “slap slap slap” sound while you’re driving, it probably means that you have a flat, and you should pull over right away.
Humming or Grinding
The wheel bearings in your vehicle connect your car’s wheels to the axle and reduce friction so that you can drive smoothly. If you hear a humming or grinding noise – especially when you turn or change lanes – it could mean that your wheel bearings are damaged. The humming noise happens when the wheel bearings continuously move over divots in the wheel race, but it’s a difficult problem to diagnose because the sound can travel to other parts of your car. If your technician suspects that that is the problem, he’ll probably suggest that you replace both wheel bearings to be safe.
The best thing you can do for your tires is to keep on top of your preventative maintenance. Be sure to keep them inflated at the manufacturer’s recommended levels and get them rotated and aligned following a schedule. You should also accelerate and decelerate carefully and slowly to reduce uneven wear that could make things noisier than they need to be.
When concerns arise, you can always bring it to one of our tire shops. (We have 12 tire stores stretching from Highland to Farmington along the Wasatch Front. A 13th store in Layton is coming soon). We will make sure that everything is secure and working properly. Our skilled technicians know what to look for so that you can have peace of mind as you drive around on Utah’s roads.