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Squeaky Wheels: The Top 4 Reasons Why Tires Get Noisy

Tires that loudly whine, hiss, or roar can ruin an otherwise peaceful ride. Tire noise may be so distracting that it drowns out conversations, music, and phone calls. Aside from being a nuisance, there may be a problem. If your tires seem excessively loud, you need to investigate the cause.

A noisy tire is not always dangerous or fixable. In other cases, vital parts of your wheels are breaking down or damaged. It helps to familiarize yourself with the various sounds that tires make, so you’ll be able to spot problems before they become repair-bill nightmares.

Some of the causes of tire noise are listed below. Each car, tire, and road-surface combination is unique, so the following is merely a general guide to common tire-sound sources:

Road Conditions

The biggest factor in tire noise is the condition of the street or highway on which your car travels. It’s not unusual for some road surfaces to make your tires roar or hiss. Fresh blacktop and other road finishes may stick a bit to tires or be porous, causing a slick sound or a hollow, rolling noise. Gravel, cobblestone, and brick roads, with their uneven surfaces, make tires crunch and bump.

On interstates and divided highways, road crews are always repairing sections of road. Meanwhile, other sections are crumbling. Don’t be immediately alarmed if you’re cruising along the interstate at 70mph and your tires suddenly make a loud grating or rubbing sound. Pull over as smoothly as you can with the traffic flow to the slow lane, and then take a safe look at the road surface.

Work crews may have cut ridges into the topmost layer of the roadway in preparation for laying new asphalt or concrete. Highway conditions may deteriorate as you move into a different state or county, making the road seem more bumpy and rough in patches. The sudden changes in road surfaces makes your tires loud, but normal tires in good condition aren’t harmed by occasionally running over bad roads.

Tire Tread

The pattern of tread on your tires makes a difference in how they sound. In fact, tire tread is responsible for most of the noises your tires themselves make. The spaces between tread lines or segments will trap air and then release it in a cyclical pattern. The tread itself also makes noise as tires contact the ground, resulting in a steady, percussive-type noise depending on your tire’s tread pattern.

Tires with a ribbed pattern in varying sizes and shapes generally make less noise than tires with equally sized tread segments. The different segments in the varied patterns still make noise, but they aren’t all making the same noise, so your tires seem quieter. Snow tires and other seasonal tires may be louder than your warm-weather tires.

As tire tread wears down, the tires often make noises that give away their deteriorating condition. You may hear a “sticky” repeating noise coming from one tire. It sounds like a paint roller rolling back and forth over tacky paint. The sound may be more prominent when you have the windows rolled down, or when you’re near a building or wall that reflects the sound back to you. The solution is a fresh tire.

Tire Troubles

If your wheels are misaligned, they may make a thumping or rocking sound. In this case, your car may shake or vibrate at higher speeds. Misalignment that’s not immediately repaired causes excessive wear and noisiness of tires, so it’s important to get this problem fixed as soon as possible.

Tires that aren’t properly rotated also make noises as tread patterns wear differently around the vehicle. Rotating the tires helps “even out” these wear patterns to make your tires quieter and longer lasting. Under-inflated and over-inflated tires can also make weird noises. Check your tire pressure routinely, and follow your vehicle and tire manufacturers’ advice about the correct tire pressure for your situation.

Mud and frozen snow can pack into wheel wells and rims, causing strange rubbing noises from the tires. If you’ve driven in frozen or muddy conditions, check to see if this is the source of any tire noise. Tires that are too large for your vehicle may also rub against wheel wells when you make sharp turns.

Wheel Bearings and Other Noises

Sometimes noises from the tire area are not coming from the tires at all. Annoying roaring or “helicopter” noises coming from the wheels are signs that your wheel bearings need replacing. The noises generally get louder at higher speeds and when the bearings are under strain while going around curves.

When wheel bearings and CV joints are going bad, you may feel more play or wobble in the steering. Bad bearings or CV joints are dangerous, and they also wear out tires rapidly under heavy driving conditions. Have your wheels checked out thoroughly if you believe this is the source of your tire noises.

Failing brakes also make strange noises. They may make grinding, squeaking, or scraping sounds as you hit the brake pedal to warn you of their poor condition. In some vehicles, the antilock brakes make robotic sounds when they kick in or when the ABS system does a routine check on itself. Drum brakes often thump when you brake or make noises if they’re rusted from sitting too long.

Tire manufacturers are designing tires with noise-reduction in mind. Ask the experts at Evans Tire & Service Centers about the new lower-noise tires recommended for your make and model of vehicle.