Tire Maintenance & Safety
How much tire noise is normal? Excessive tire noise is often the result of alignment or suspension problems, tire damage, or flat spots. When you drive on rough roads or over bumpy pavement, the rubber inside your tires rubs against each other. This friction creates heat, which makes the air inside the tire expand. As the air expands, it pushes out through small holes in the tread, creating noise.
What Causes Excess Tire Noise?
When tires are new, they make less noise because the rubber inside is soft and flexible. As the tire wears down over time, however, its rubber becomes harder and stiffer, causing it to make more noise when you drive.
When you hear tires making excessive noise, there are two main reasons for this:
- Tread designs: Broader, aggressive tread blocks result in more noise.
- Inflation of tire: Under-inflated or over-inflated tires make extra noise. Under-inflated tires sound like they’re flapping, while over-inflated tires will cause excess noise but they won’t have a distinct sound.
The type of tire you purchase has a direct impact on how much noise you can expect to receive while driving. Tires with aggressive tread patterns, like all-terrain and mud terrain tires, are bound to provide more noise on paved roads while also offering better traction, handling, and durability off-road. All-season, all-weather, touring, all-weather, and winter tires are often quieter thanks to their less aggressive tread patterns and computer optimized designs.
Design of Tread Blocks
Those innovative tread designs on your tires have a story to tell! There are three major tread designs: Symmetrical, Asymmetrical and Directional.
- Symmetrical tread pattern: Delivers a smooth driving experience with high directional stability, and low rolling resistance. Symmetrical tires are typically the quietest and longest lasting.
- Directional tread pattern: Provides high protection against hydroplaning, greater handling of snow and mud, and good control on road at high speeds. Directional tires are ideal for use on performance-oriented and sports cars, summer or winter driving, and some off-road driving. In most cases, directional tires will be the noisiest tread pattern.
- Asymmetrical tread pattern: Offers solid handling experience, high curve stability, and good grip in wet road conditions. Asymmetrical tires offer a great balance between symmetrical and directional tires performance, longevity, and noise wise.
SimpleTire Tip: To maintain optimal safety and performance, avoid mixing tire tread patterns where possible.
The type of rubber compounds within a tire can also impact road noise. Harder, stiffer rubber compounds are more prone to creating extra noise because they’re less likely to absorb road noises and vibrations. Conversely, softer compounds do a great job of absorbing noises and vibrations to increase ride comfort.
The rubber compounding within the sidewall of a tire also has a massive impact on road noise. A thicker sidewall will reduce noises and vibrations thanks to its extra rubber, while a thinner sidewall (commonly found on low profile tires) won’t do much to dampen noises and vibrations. The trade off here is that a thinner sidewall will actually reduce rolling resistance for better fuel efficiency.
The Finish of the Surface They’re Rolling On
Noise level depends mostly on the tire and the surface it is touching. The amount of tire and road noise generated is directly related to the road surface's roughness and the tire's tread pattern, which is simply the result of the rubber contacting the road at high rotational speed and the air compressed between the tread pattern. Roads that are filled with potholes, under construction, feature rumble strips, or have recently received fillings are more likely to promote extra noise.
Why Rough Surfaces Make More Noise
Rough surfaces make more noise from tires because concrete, older asphalt, and uneven lanes struggle to absorb much of the noise that they’re going to put out. A road that is about to be repaved will generate far more noise than one that was recently paved.
Uneven Tire Wear
Uneven tire wear is when part of the tire is more worn than the other, and this can be caused by over-inflation, under-inflation, misalignment, reckless driving, excessive use, poor maintenance, and much more. In addition to being unsafe to drive on, uneven tire wear also provides extra noise because the tire will not provide uniform contact with the road. An unevenly worn tire, typically, does not feature balanced tread depths, and the lack of balance causes air and vibrations to go through the tire differently which produces louder noises.
Poor alignment means that the tire treads do not contact the road surface evenly across the entire width of the tire. This can cause uneven wear on the tire, resulting in premature replacement, increased fuel consumption, and (potentially) voiding the limited tread life warranty. The results of a poor alignment also negatively impact road noise, which means a noisier ride is in store.
Worn Suspension Components
Worn suspension components are those that have been used for an extended period of time and no longer provide optimal performance. This can be caused by many factors, including road conditions, vehicle handling, driving style, tire wear, component age, and maintenance practices. In terms of noise, worn suspension parts will cause excess pressure on your tires which will create more friction with the road and a louder drive.
No driver wants to deal with a noisy drive, and the tires that are used play a big factor in road noise. Tire type, tread pattern, road conditions, and maintenance habits are some of the many factors that need to be considered when determining why your tires are noisy.
Road noise is dependent on variants like tire tread patterns, friction area, and road surface. Wide tires generate more noise than narrow tires because more rubber and contact with the road provides more traction.
Unbalanced tread depths cause tires to emit loud noises while driving. The area of friction between the tire and the road is the main cause of road noise. To understand in simpler terms, a higher contact surface results in more noise and vice versa.
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