Why are my Tires so Loud on the Highway?

Have you ever noticed loud road noise coming from your tires? Sometimes it can be enough to disrupt music or conversation, which is frustrating when driving for long periods. 

If you’ve ever experienced excessive tire noise, you may have wondered why. After all, aren’t tires supposed to provide a comfortable, safe, and quiet ride? 

There are a few reasons for excessive tire noise, and we will cover them here!

Why are My Tires So Loud?

While there is no specific reason that covers all cases, there are a few things that might be causing the noise.

Some level of tire noise is expected from all tires. The compression of air through the tire tread creates noise you can hear from the driver’s seat. Tires utilize tread to ensure proper traction in a range of conditions. The type and size of the tread pattern vary significantly by the variety of tires and impact the amount of noise the tire will make on the road. 

Even without tread though, tires would still create noise at speed. The more contact patch the tire has with the ground, the louder the tire noise will be. This is why wider tires will almost always be louder than narrow ones, as the narrower tires have less surface area touching the ground. 

Type of Tire

As stated before, two of the major factors in road noise are the tread of the tire and the contact patch of the tire. Different types of tires have different uses and will vary significantly in construction. A high-performance summer tire will have a less aggressive tread and more surface area touching the road, while a snow tire is narrower with aggressive tread (even studs) making it loud on dry roads. 

One of the most obvious examples of this is off-road tires. Not only are they wide for maximum contact with the road or trail, but they also have deep treads. Off-road tires are very loud on regular roads, especially at highway speeds. 

Those aren’t the only factors though. The sidewall of the tire can impact tire noise as well. Run-flat tires are a popular choice and even standard on some BMW models. These tires have thick sidewalls that make the tire stiffer, absorb less vibration, and in turn transmit more noise to the cabin. 

Close-up photo of tire tread

Road Conditions

Road conditions can play a role in the sound of your tires. Rough roads have a more porous and uneven surface which can lead to an increase in noise. You will typically hear more road noise on dirt roads, in construction zones, or on poorly maintained pavement streets and highways.

Tire Size

Regardless of tire type, sidewall, or tread; the biggest contributor to excessive tire noise is the width of the tire.

Wide tires are louder than narrow ones due to the increased surface area and contact patch with the road.

Because of this, cars that often run wider size tires (such as sports cars or trucks) will most likely be louder on the freeway than an economy car with narrower tires. 

Tire Profile

The profile of a tire is the height of the sidewall. Tires with larger profiles will often be more comfortable and softer feeling on the road, as they have more material to flex with. Low-profile tires are great for aesthetics and performance, as they provide a lower center of gravity and the ability for larger wheels. With a lower profile though, there’s less material in the sidewall, and vibrations are both felt and heard in the cabin much more. 

Uneven Wear

While not common, uneven tire wear can cause some of the loudest road noise. Uneven tire wear causes an increase in noise due to gaps in the tread or flat spots in certain areas.

Cars with positive or negative camber, (the angle that the tire makes contact with the ground), will wear down on one side much more quickly. 

Tires with flat spots from hard braking and lock-ups will produce a noise every rotation, which can become what sounds like a low drone from the cabin. 

Underinflation and overinflation can cause the tire to contact the ground unevenly, and cause wear in the center of the tire or sides of the tire depending on the pressure. 

Which Tire Should I Choose?

If lessening road noise is your number one priority in a tire, then a narrower tire with light tread and a high profile is ideal. It gives the tire minimum contact with the ground to cause noise, and the depth and shape of the tread are less aggressive than other options. Some manufacturers, such as Continental and Cooper, even make tires with sound in mind. 

The real answer for what tire you should choose comes down to how you use your vehicle. If you’re focused on performance on the road or trail you’ll need to sacrifice a little noise and comfort.

For those who live in places with more extreme weather, you may focus on the versatility of your tire in different conditions. All-season or winter-focused tires will have a more aggressive tread and might be louder when driving at highway speeds. 

Tire nuts being removed by tire gun

Tire Service at Scott’s U-Save

If you want help choosing what tire would be best for your vehicle and driving style, the experts at Scott’s U-Save in the Chicagoland area can help! We have three different locations, two in Illinois (New Lenox and Steger) and one in Indiana (Schererville).

Call or schedule an appointment with our friendly team, and we’ll ensure that you’re pleased with your tires when you drive off our lot!

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Whether you're shopping for tires, looking to lift your truck, or need auto repair, Scott's U-Save is here to serve you! Schedule an appointment online or call today!

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