No one enjoys having noisy tyres, but it is not always the tyres fault, there are other causes too!
Given that all tyres are essentially a compromise between the competing demands of ride and road holding requirements, road surface, temperature and weather, reducing tyre noise is a big technological challenge for tyre manufacturers.
But improvements in construction techniques, materials and most importantly tread patterns have resulted in big noise reductions with some experts saying todays tyres can be up to 90% quieter than tyres sold 30 years ago. And commercial tyre manufacturers claim modern truck tyres are up to 90% quieter.
There are two types of tyre noise, “exterior noise” heard by people outside of the vehicle and “interior noise” heard by the driver and passengers.
So who cares about “exterior tyre noise”? Well, regulatory agencies and bureaucratic organisations are focused on it and you would care too if you lived beside a motorway!
Of course “interior noise” is a huge issue for vehicle and tyre manufacturers. Excessive noise is at variance with modern expectations of quiet and comfortable motoring. A noisy new vehicle will not sell well. Vehicle cabin noise is caused by engines, tyres, powertrains and road surfaces. At speeds lower than 50 kph, engine and drivetrain noise are the major noise factors. Above 50 kph, tyre noise is the dominant factor.
Tread patterns are the biggest cause of tyre noise and occurs when air gets trapped in the tread pattern and is suddenly released as the tyre progresses along the road surface. Uneven tread wear due to mechanical defects, accidents , driving habits, or wear characteristics, especially with directional tyres, also contributes to tread pattern tyre noise. And then there is noise generated by the slippage of rubber on the road which is often a characteristic of over enthusiastic driving. Some road surfaces, like New Zealand course chip seal, also make a major contribution to road noise.
Tyre engineers face the challenge of designing tyres around contradictory requirements. They must grip the road well in wet and dry weather, they must cross the road with minimal friction so as to save fuel, must be soft and supple for grip and comfort but must return a good mileage and must be quiet and safe tyres too.
Research indicate that well inflated tyres are quieter than under inflated tyres; beyond this the tyre industry’s technical people face an on-going quest for the sweet spot, a tyre that meets all requirements without compromise. It’s probably an unobtainable goal but the advances of recent years are amazing. Asymmetric and Silica compound technologies as employed by tyre companies like Hankook, Green Max and Kingstar have transformed the tyre industry and made advanced tyres available at all price points.