If you put a high priority on a quiet ride, your tire selection is important. Tread patterns, wheel size and traction elements can all affect tire noise.
Tire Features That Cut Road Noise
Tire noise reduction is a science. Designers have figured out how to tune tread patterns to change the harmonics and disrupt air flow. There are sizing and rating considerations, too. Here’s what to look for to get quieter tires:
- Continuous, circumferential ribs with straight grooves in between.
- Varied tread block shapes that create a multiple pitch pattern.
- Smaller blocks.
- A reinforced shoulder, which stabilizes tread blocks.
- Small hash marks inside the grooves that break up air flow.
- Narrower tire sizes.
- Softer rubber composition.
What’s That Noise?
There’s more to quiet ride quality than your tires. The engine, suspension, transmission and wind all generate exterior sound. Road texture also matters. A mountain highway paved with asphalt that offers more winter traction will generally sound louder than the smooth blacktop on a freeway.
As for tires, there are several sources of noise. The air chamber inside the tire is one. Like a drum, the space inside a tire is big and empty. As the tire rolls, the vibration in this space causes a low-frequency hum.
Tread pattern and air flow also come into play. Tires with uniformly shaped tread blocks (the segments of the tire between the grooves) can produce a whining sound, known as harmonic noise. Differently shaped tread blocks create noise at different pitches that tend to cancel each other out, making it less noticeable to the human ear.