What Causes Tire Noise?

Motorcycle drifting and making tire noise

Modern tire construction and design is centered around improving the durability and performance of the entire vehicle. As far as rider experience goes, there is nothing quite like a loud set of tires. Tire noise can be distracting and make it difficult to identify actual vehicle issues.

Most vehicles produce a fair amount of noise on their own, a fact that is even worse for motorcycles. The more time you spend in your vehicle, the more accustomed you will be to its handling and sounds. When you hear excessive or unusual noises, they may be a sign of a bigger vehicle issue that needs to be addressed.

Standard Tire Noise

Tire Noise, motorcycle tire spinning

A certain level of tire noise should be expected given that it is in constant contact with the pavement. The sounds you hear will very much depend on the type of tire that you use. This is because each tire grips the road in a unique way.

You also must consider changing terrain. Tires make a distinct noise on gravel which varies greatly from the sound they make on pavement. Rumble strips on the side of the interstate are expected sources of abnormal noise, but since we expect it, they do not raise concern.

During the design phase, engineers need to consider many factors, including:

  • Durability and strength
  • Balanced construction with uniform design
  • Longevity
  • Speed performance
  • Shock absorption
  • Handling and cornering capability
  • Road grip and footprint

With these performance criteria in mind, engineers work hard to create a tire that highlights the most important features for its intended use. These factors will determine things such as:

  • Materials used
  • Shape and profile
  • Rigidity or flexibility
  • Tire thickness
  • Tread pattern

All these components affect how the tire noise on the road. The final goal of the design process is to create a tire that performs well in its desired function without interrupting the overall ride experience.

Tires that have higher side profiles tend to be quieter. The thicker the sidewall is, the more material there is to absorb sounds and vibrations. This means that if you have low-profile tires, you will generally deal with more noise.

Along the same lines, tires with larger footprints also make more noise. They connect with a wider surface area on the pavement, increasing the chance for varied sounds caused by road debris and texture. With this design, you have a greater grip on the road (which is good for heavy load hauling), and louder travel is the consequence.

Having a good sense of how your vehicle’s tires perform, their intended uses, and overall sound quality, helps you notice signs of tire issues.

Uncommon Tire Noise

Motorcycle tire

The most common cause of excessive tire noise is road hazards. When you experience a flat tire or a blowout, you will immediately notice a change in the tire noise. During a blowout, you will hear a loud popping noise which you will feel in the changed handling.

Damaged tires are the result of many road hazards like:

  • Potholes
  • Curbs
  • Underinflated/Overinflated tires
  • Nails, screws, glass, etc.

Your tires may become noisy when your vehicle has been sitting for too long or when there are big temperature swings outside. Whenever your tires’ pressure level is too high or low, you should be able to tell by either abnormal sound or handling (typically it is a combination of both).

Another major source of tire noise is general wear and tear, especially unevenly worn tires. Here are several types of uneven wear:

  • Cupping: Diagonal wearing usually caused by suspension issues
  • Feathering: Smooth tread on one side of the tire and in-tact tread on the other side, usually caused by insufficient alignment
  • Heel/Toe: Uneven wear on the tread block sides, usually caused by improper tire rotation
  • Camber: Inside or outside shoulder rib wear, caused by an excessive camber angle in either direction

The easiest way to avoid these issues is to have regular maintenance checks. You want to periodically have your mechanic look for misalignment or suspension issues, and you should also routinely check your tire’s air pressures and do a visual inspection of your tires.

As soon as you notice a change in how your tires sound or feel, you should have them checked out. Driving on improperly worn, aligned, or rotated tires can cause serious issues while driving. Make sure when you purchase new or used tires that they are the right size and type for your vehicle. There will be situations where you cannot prevent noises from happening, but you can be proactive so that the likelihood of these incidents reduces dramatically.

If you need new motorcycle tires, contact Dunlop Motorcycle Tires today to get started on your order.