Road noise can ruin your mood like nothing else. It makes a drive that could be pleasurable into a real hassle. It’s the sound produced by the tires and their interaction with the road that we’ll focus on in this article.
While some road noise is unavoidable, a lot of it can be reduced with a few simple fixes. Here are the most simple ways to reduce road noise from tires:
1. Replace the door seal
The seal between the door and its frame is vital if you want to reduce any sort of noise coming into your car cabin. The standard seal found in most cars is made of thick rubber, and it surrounds the door frame.
This rubber gasket can get worn down. Then it no longer creates a seal when the door is closed. There might be a small gap left through which sound can easily fall through if there’s a crack in it.
Sometimes the gasket is not thick or large enough to begin with. Not every car is the same in this regard. Door seals found in luxury cars can be twice as thick as those found in regular cars. Either way, you may want to replace your door gasket with a new and/or thicker one that can block road, wind and traffic noise better.
Before you invest in a new door gasket, first inspect all the doors. See if any part of any of the door gaskets has become loose or cracked and no longer seals the door. Usually the seal will be compromised on the point where the two ends of the gasket connect to create a ring around the door.
If you don’t find any obvious problem, you can check the efficiency of the gasket by using a compressed-air outlet or a water hose spraying a fine spray around the door. See if the hissing noise can fall through easily.
This is the type of noise and frequency you get from tires, so it’s a relevant test. It goes without saying that you’ll need one person to use the noise producer and the other person to be inside the car to properly observe the noise levels.
If you find that your door gasket is not blocking noise too well, here’s what you can do:
- If the door seal has simply become loosed or cracked a little, you can fix it by using a weatherstripping adhesive and double-sided sticky tape. 3M Super Weatherstrip Adhesive is specifically used for car repairs, and it’s arguably the best option.
- You can also install a second rubber seal. Some luxury cars already have one. It’s a great way to further reduce all types of noise entering the car cabin and it’s easy to install.
- Final option is to replace the current door seal with a new, thicker one.
HOW TO REPLACE THE DOOR SEAL:
2. Add mass to the wheel wells
As the famous soundproofing saying goes: “Build a wall around your enemies.” Actually, it doesn’t, but it would make perfect sense. In this case, the enemy are the tires, and the walls are the wheel wells.
They’re usually made of plastic, and one that doesn’t block tire noise too well. If you can thicken the wheel wells with soundproofing material, it will significantly reduce noise travelling upwards into the cabin.
This project is more demanding than fixing or replacing a door seal. You may have to remove the tires first in order to install the soundproofing material on the wheel wells. This depends on whether you have enough space to insulate the wells with the tires on. You’ll also want to clean the wheel well from any dirt and grime so that the material you place there sticks well.
But the process is very straightforward once there’s enough space to work with and the area is clean. Simply cover the wheel well with the soundproofing material of your choice. Use one or even two layers if you want. But make sure that the second layer will not interfere with the movement of the tires.
Alternatively, you can also remove the wheel well and cover it from the other side with soundproofing material. This is not necessary, but it will improve the results even more. This guy made it happen:
I recommend using FatMat for this project. It’s self-adhesive, durable and it’s great for blocking high and low frequency noise. It can be cut to the required size by using a knife or scissors.
There are many other products you can use for this project. The most popular one is Dynamat. But it costs more and doesn’t really offer any additional features or benefits. I’ve had great experience with FatMat when I was insulating a car cabin and car doors in the past, plus my friend used it to insulate his pick-up truck. So I’m more confident with recommending it.
3. Soundproof the car cabin floor
This is the main way to protect the car cabin from tire and road noise. The floor is the largest space in the car and a lot of the noise resonates on it and goes through it.
By adding mass to the floor you can drastically reduce the amount of noise coming in. I would again suggest using FatMat or a similar product. First remove the carpeting and then cover the floor with the soundproofing mat.
The more you cover, the more noise reduction you’ll experience. You can add more than one layer of material for better results. Once you’ve done that, cover the floor with the carpeting that you previously removed. That’s all there is to it.
4. Insulate the doors
Insulating the doors with FatMat or a similar product can also reduce noise. To do that, first remove the door panel. Then install the material inside, and return the door panel.
This is a bit trickier than insulating the floor because you have to remove the door panel first. So I suggest you read my car door soundproofing guide if you’re interested in doing this.
5. Replace your tires with quieter ones
Replacing the tires on your car could be final piece of the puzzle.
There are many factors that could make the tires produce more noise than is necessary:
- WORN DOWN TIRES – Old tires will lack tread depth after a certain point. This will inevitably cause more impact noise when interacting with the road. When should you change your tires? Here’s a simple way to find out if you need to; insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see his entire head, the groove is less than 2/32 inches and it’s time to replace the tire. Otherwise it will not only produce more noise but can also pose a danger when driving through rain.
- ALIGNMENT OR SUSPENSION PROBLEMS – These problems can cause abnormal tire wear, such as feathering or cupping of the tread surface. When this surface is no longer smooth, it doesn’t adhere to the road quietly. If this is the case, it’s important to fix the underlying problem through realignment and/or fixing the suspension. However, replacing the tire will also be necessary if the damage is already done.
- DAMAGED TIRES – Tires can be damaged due to various factors: bad driving conditions, over-inflation and defects in construction are the most common problems. Hitting potholes and the curb can lead to tread tears. Tires with these issues need to be replaced. Another common problem are flat spots. They occur if the car is left sitting for too long. Usually a few months will cause flat spots on the tires, and then additional tire noise. However, flat spots usually don’t last too long. They tend to disappear as the tire warms from driving.
- WIDE VS. NARROW TIRES – Wider tires produce more noise, as do winter tires in comparison to all season tires. However, larger vehicles generally require wider tires to support their weight and overall construction. You should examine different categories of tires before replacing yours to know which ones suit your driving situation the best. Then you can hop on to Amazon and check out their wide selection of tires.
How to tell if you need new tires on your car:
How to replace a tire:
How to measure the decibel level of road noise?
There are two ways you can determine the noise level in your car cabin. First one is to simply sit in the car while you’re driving and determine how loud it is. This is of course, completely subjective. The second way is to use a decibel meter, also known as a sound meter.
A decibel meter is a device that soundproofing professionals and amateurs use all the time to determine how big of an impact their work has on reducing sound levels. If you want to have definite proof of how big of a difference your efforts have made, definitely use one. Measure the noise levels before and after you’ve made any changes.
A good decibel meter can last you for years, and it can be a fun (although nerdy) addiction determining the noise levels in various parts of your home and other places. There are free decibel meter apps available for smartphones. I personally haven’t used any, but this one is the most popular and most of the users are happy with it.
Alternatively, you can get a real decibel meter. I’ve been using a digital sound meter for two years now, and it works great. It’s somewhere in the middle in terms of the price. There are cheaper and more expensive options than this one, but it’s got all the features required and it’s pretty durable. I’ve dropped it on the floor at least 6 times and there’s no damage on this thing. What more can a noise reduction junkie ask for?
Anyway, I hope this helps! Also, if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below.