Most of us would agree that when it comes to the unpleasant side of driving a vehicle, road noise tops the list. Whether the source of the noise is the tire or suspension, or any other component for that matter, it can ruin your mood in no time. Along with the other obvious sources, tires are++ a major contributor to road noise. Understandably so, since tires are the most dependable and focal components of the vehicle and the only thing in contact with the road.
The harmonics that originate from the tire come in a huge variety, depending on the underlying pathology. Nonetheless, we are now able to control tire road noise considerably, thanks to the advancements and innovations in the industry.
Types of road noise due to tires:
Although there are great variations in the noise produced by different tires, there are some characteristic sounds that indicate the same underlying cause. Here are some frequently encountered types of road noise caused by tires:
1. The constant hum:
After a certain degree of wearing, tires begin to produce a hum. It is a low to moderate murmur that is permanent and consistent, and you might get accustomed to it after some time. However, if a similar kind of hum is heard from brand new tires, it might be indicative of poor quality.
2. The squeaky sound:
If you live in an area which faces extremely hot summers, you might be familiar with a typical squeak of the tires when driving. This type of sound is generated regardless of the brand or specifications of the tire, and is mainly caused by the dry rot. The squeak might also be accompanied by a screeching sound.
3. The sudden noise accompanied by vibration:
Tires can vibrate due to a number of reasons, ranging from misalignment to exceeded load capacity, as well as high speeds and uneven wear. Whenever tires begin to vibrate during the course of the ride, certain sounds are produced suddenly. These occur due to alteration in the area of contact between the rubber and the road. The distinctive point of these sounds is that they are heard suddenly, and persist only as long as the stimulus is there.
4. The sudden thump:
This is frequently encountered when the sidewall of your tire is soft and noncompliant. When a tire with this kind of sidewall hits bumps or potholes, a sudden jerk with a strong thump is felt.
Other causes of road noise:
In addition to these common everyday noises, there are many other sounds produced by tires under normal as well as abnormal circumstances. Off-road tires that have aggressive tread pattern and huge tread blocks produce a whining sound, due to the passage of air between the voids. This sound is also typically heard from tires that are wide. Similarly, over- or under-inflated tires can result in squealing, which is more pronounced when taking sharp turns. Another common occurrence is a hissing sound, which is produced when a tire is accelerated or decelerated while maintaining grip. Moreover, tire road noise can also be due to external conditions, such as when driving in arid, rocky areas. Stones and debris might get stuck in the tread and produce a strong thump when it hits the road.
How to fix tire road noise?
If you are overwhelmed with the road noise produced by your tires and desperately want it gone, there are some things that you can do. The first and most obvious one is to treat the underlying cause. Get your wheels rotated and balanced frequently, as most of the time this is where the problem arises. Wheel alignment is also necessary, and can reduce unwanted noise significantly. However, if your tread is worn out enough and these steps don’t fix the noise, the only way out is to replace your tire.
If you hear a squeal after every few miles of driving, this might mean that your tire needs to stay completely inflated for a quiet ride. Keeping the tire pressure constant by frequently filling it can help keep the noise in check. However, if nothing is wrong and your tire is noisy in general, sound-proofing can be a life-saver. The floors can be fitted with sound-proof mats that absorb the unwanted sounds and prevent them from reaching you. Similarly, doors can be made to block sounds too. Another highly efficient method to eliminate excessive noise is to install mass around wheel wells. The specialized material works by absorbing vibrations and thus, any sound from the tire as soon as it is produced. As a result, the sound that ultimately reaches the driver is negligible.
The key to fixing tire road noise, nonetheless, is to identify the root cause of it.
How to choose tires with minimal road noise?
With advancements in science and technology, we have luckily reached a time where a number of tires are available that have features to prevent road noise. Picking a quiet tire is fairly easy, if a few points are kept in view while making the purchase.
1. Tire width:
Narrower tires that have less area in contact with the road produce far less noise than wider tires.
2. Tread blocks and voids:
Tread blocks that are symmetrical and huge play a massive role in generating noise. This is also true for widely spaced voids that allow air flow. Hence, it is advisable to choose tires with variable-sized tread blocks and fewer voids.
3. Circumferential grooves:
A number of tires these days feature grooves that cover the entire circumference of the tire. These grooves not only enhance the wet traction of the tire, but also contribute to reduced harmonics by streamlining the air flow. Thus, it is recommended to look for these.
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