As previously described in the post Tired of Cabin Noise? Here Is Your Guide to Getting a Quiet Car, the choice of tires is very important. Merely changing tires on a car can potentially improve the driving experience quite dramatically in terms of the level of road noise inside the cabin of the car.
The range of tires available in each market will differ and there are constantly new tires being launched, so it’s tricky to provide specific recommendations. Instead, I have compiled a checklist on different dimensions to consider in your hunt for the quietest available tires that fit your car.
So, here goes your guide to selecting quiet tires that can provide you with a less noisy driving experience.
1. Wheel size
The smaller wheels, the less road noise will be generated. E.g. 16-inch wheels are quieter than 18-inch ones. The reason being that the thicker the tire is in terms of height of rubber rolling on the road, the less noise will be created. 16-inch wheels will leave more room for a thicker tire than the 18-inch ones. You need to look in your car owner’s manual to find out what wheel sizes that fit your vehicle. Visually, it seems to have been established in the automotive press and among car owners that larger wheels look better, so if you are looking to reduce road noise, you will need to forego the looks and instead focus on the driving experience that you’re looking for.
2. Tire width
Again, look in you car owner’s manual to find out how narrow tires that you can mount on your vehicle. The smaller the area of rubber rolling on the road, the less road noise will be generated. Hence, go with the narrowest possible tire dimension that the car manufacturer recommends for your vehicle.
3. Speed & weight specifications
Something that most car owners will miss taking into consideration when picking out tires is that there are different tires for different maximum speeds and for different weight specifications.
The core description of a tire can look like this: 195/65R15. The first number ‘195’ refers to the tire width in millimeters, the second number ’65’ is the aspect ratio. Tire manufacturer Yokohama describes the aspect ratio as follows:
“Often referred to as the profile or series, the aspect ratio of a tire is determined by dividing a tire’s section height by its section width when the tire is inflated to maximum air pressure, mounted on the approved measuring rim, and under no load”.
In layman’s terms, the higher the aspect ratio the thicker the layer of rubber that rolls on the road.
The ‘R’ means radial construction and the last number ’15’ refers to the rim diameter, thus meaning a 15-inch wheel size. BUT don’t stop here. After this main piece of tire description, a tire comes with an additional identity, which could look like this: 82H.
The ’82’ is the load index and the ‘H’ is the maximum speed that the tire is made for. Look for a chart of load index and maximum speed respectively and pick a tire that works for your specific load size and your driving habits. The higher the load a tire is built for, the noisier it is likely to be because it will be harder and sturdier. For similar reasons, the faster speed a tire can be used for, the noisier it is likely to be.
A lot of car owners are driving with tires that are unnecessarily hard and noisy. If you e.g. never exceed 118 mph (or 190 kph), then why use tires with the speed symbol V meaning a maximum speed of 149 mph (or 240 kph). Check what different speed and load index variants that are available for the tire model that you’re wanting to get.
4. Weather conditions
Choose tires that fit the weather conditions you will be using them in. For winter tires, go with studless/non-studded ones since studded tires will be noticeably noisier. Although, if you’ll be driving in very bad winter conditions, you need to consider safety aspects and carefully evaluate the noise dimension as part of the overall equation.
The studless winter tires on offer in Scandinavia (and I assume also elsewhere) are made of a rubber composition softer than that on summer tires, making them quieter. It therefore feels attractive to drive with them year-round, but experts consistently conclude that non-studded winter tires are dangerous to drive on hot surfaces so it is only advisable to use them during winter-time.
I have little experience from all-season tires and how they rate in terms of noise, compared to winter and summer tires. If anyone reading this has insights to share, please comment below.
5. Materials and patterns
There is a wide range of different rubber compositions and tire patterns respectively available in the marketplace. It is advisable to read about the noise ratings from tire manufacturers’ own tests (there are regional noise rating systems in place that tire manufacturers follow; be wary though – I have discovered that these decibel/dB ratings may not necessarily accurately mirror how the tires perform on public roads), read tire reviews in your local market to find out about the ones with the best noise ratings, and speak to local car and tire dealers to gain expert insights. You need to find out which tires that roll quietly in your particular surroundings; the road conditions and asphalt roughness/smoothness differs widely across the world.
Softer rubber compositions will generally be quieter but then you’ll also need to evaluate the ratings in road handling and fuel consumption. And some patterns will be quieter than others, but it’s hard to draw any overall conclusions in terms of patterns without actually comparing tires and concluding the relative quietness/noisiness.
We as car owners will have to gather collective insights from industry experts, the automotive press and amongst ourselves to find out which tire that may be best suitable to go for. You might also need to do some experimenting and trial-and-error yourself. If you have some personal insights that could be of interest to the rest of us, please leave a comment below.
If you wish to do your own noise measurements inside your car, get a decibel meter/sound meter. A sound meter will produce more accurate results than a smartphone app and it can become a very valuable tool in your endeavour to shave noise. For safety reasons, avoid doing the measurements on your own. Bring a friend who can place the sound meter in different sections of your car; e.g. holding it by your left ear when you’re driving, in the front-center section and in the backseat.
Please, leave a comment below if there are additional dimensions you think should be considered and feel free to share any of your own insights from testing different tires.