Explained: How Does Tyre Noise Work?

The noises you like to hear while driving may differ depending on just how much you love cars. Proper petrolhead? You’ll love hearing the scream of the engine as you accelerate down the motorway. Music lover? You want the radio to dominate your eardrums. Sunday driver? Perhaps the natural sounds of the great outdoors suit you best, as you cruise along a quiet country lane.

Whatever your preference, you’ll most likely agree that listening to your tyres roll along the tarmac is distracting at best and downright annoying at worst. You may have only ever noticed on hot summer days when your windows are rolled down, as it only relates to the level of noise heard outside the vehicle, but your tyres produce their own sound, and that’s where tyre noise ratings come into play.

Read on and learn all about tyre noise with Scrap Car Comparison.

Car wheels on the road surface

What is a Tyre Noise Rating?

Take a look at the large, colourful label on any new tyre and you’ll find a few alphabetic scales. These measurements are used to grade the tyre on various elements of its performance. The two vertical columns relate to ‘rolling resistance’ (left) which assesses how the tyre affects your fuel efficiency, and ‘wet grip’ (right) which kind of does what it says on the tin; displays how effective the tyre is on wet surfaces.

Below these ratings, you’ll see an image of a tyre with a speaker icon overlaid across it. This is the tyre noise ratings chart. It’ll look very similar to the volume icon you’ll see on the computer or phone you’re reading this on right now. This scale only runs through classes A, B and C, but within the speaker icon you’ll see a decibel rating (XX dB). Note that the mountaintop icon next to this is unrelated, and in fact refers to the tyre’s performance in different wintry conditions.

As mentioned above, the noise rating is calculated based solely on the decibel level from outside the car, so if you’re cruising along and can’t hear a thing, you’re probably the only one. Anyone else nearby, like pedestrians or cyclists, are going to be hearing it at full volume. And with C being the current legal limit, B meeting incoming future regulations and A being 3 dB below that, it’s important to know which bracket your new tyres fall into.

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What Are the Quietest Tyres?

If you’re looking to play your part for your local community and keep pollution of any kind to a minimum, then you’re going to want the quietest tyres on the market. Low noise tyres can be identified via the label, as they fall into category A.

Pay attention to the exact decibel rating, too, as this can make a far bigger difference than you might realise. For a tyre to fit into category A, it must produce 70 dB or less, however there is only 3 dB between each noise bracket. This is because the human ear can detect a difference of just three decibels when it comes to noise levels.

High-profile tyres will give you a quieter ride, as there’s more sidewall to soften the connection between the tyre tread and the road surface. It’s also generally beneficial to keep your tyres in good condition if you want to minimise noise pollution – and maximise safety to keep your car out of the scrapyard.

Many tyre manufacturers are also developing technology to dampen the sound produced by their products when they’re being used. Of course, you don’t need to shell out huge sums of money just to keep your car’s travelling volume at a legal level, but some of the sectors leading brands are working to make driving quieter, using the following tech:

  • Pirelli Noise Cancelling System
  • Continental ContiSilent
  • Goodyear SoundComfort Technology
  • Michelin Acoustic Technology
  • Dunlop Noise Shield Technology

These tyres may be some of the best on the market in terms of sound reduction, but the technology involved is essentially fairly similar. They use a sponge-like foam to act as a sound dampener or barrier, absorbing the noise and quietening down your journey.

What Are the Loudest Tyres?

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the tyres that are given a C grade. These rubber wheel huggers are much louder than A or B grade tyres, generating up to a whole three dB more than the middle band. Yes, three!

Alright, we know it doesn’t sound like much, but if you switch out your grade A tyres for grade C tyres, your car is going to be producing up to 6 dB more from the road surface, which actually means it’s four times louder!

Similar to band A tyres, the size of the sidewall makes a difference. With high-profile tyres being quieter, naturally, low-profile tyres will create more noise as there’s less resistance between the car and the road. The tread of the tyre will also vary the noise produced by it. This is known in the industry as ‘pattern noise’, created when air trapped between the grooves on the tread is released as the tyre rolls. Typically, block or lug patterned tyres will be louder than those with a rib tread pattern. A single pitch pattern (meaning, one with equally-sized tread segments all around the tyre) will also create more noise than a tread pattern made up of a variety of different sized segments.

What Could Cause a Car’s Tyres to Get Louder?

As we’ve already alluded to, if you don’t take care of your tyres, they won’t take care of your ears. Any damage, particularly to the tread of a tyre, could cause a noticeable difference to the level of decibels produced during driving. Plus, general wear and tear will reduce the effectiveness of any noise reduction technology. If your tyres are worn, particularly if the tread has worn down in an uneven way, the noises produced by your car tyres will change and therefore, may get louder.

It may not always be the tyre’s fault, though, as certain driving styles can increase the number of decibels that your tyres give out. Consistently driving at high speeds will increase the air pressure between your tyre tread grooves as the air tries to escape. Carrying excessive loads inside or on top of the car may also make your tyres louder, and would indeed exacerbate any underlying noise issues your tyres may already be experiencing. The heavier your vehicle, the harder it’s being pressed down into the road, and in term, putting extra pressure on the vehicle’s tyres. This is also a good way to suffer a blowout. When purchasing a tyre, you should always check the maximum load weight that it can safely carry.

If your car would give an F1 car a run for its money on the decibel scale, perhaps it’s time to find something new. Sell your car through Scrap Car Comparison and we guarantee to find you the best price in just 30 seconds, plus our network of expert scrap and salvage dealers will collect it nationwide at no extra cost. Check out our scrap value calculator and see how much you could get for your car today.

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