How to reduce road noise in your car: 5 trouble spots to look at
I love my car. It is reliable, does not need much maintenance, and is very fuel efficient. But not long ago I started noticing a lot of road noise. Have you had this happen?
Chances are if you’re reading this article you’ve noticed this. You have trouble hearing the radio unless you turn it way up; your passengers need to raise their voice to talk with you; there is a general humming that never goes away.
Have you noticed this in your car? Yup – you’re having the same issues as me. Road noise in an otherwise great car. So, I started doing research. I wanted to know how to soundproof a car. Is that even possible? Turns out it is.
Below, I will discuss the best strategies for soundproofing a car.
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- How to reduce road noise in your car: 5 trouble spots to look at
Do you need to soundproof your car interior?
You do not need to be an automotive specialist, mechanic, or anyone else with related specialty. With a few specific items and some basic tools, you can cut the noise in your car up to fifty-percent!
So, if you have a noisy car, or are frustrated with general road noise, you will find this article helpful.
What are my soundproofing options?
There are a few specific strategies to look at for car soundproofing. Most of the noise in your car reaches you in a few specific ways and below we will discuss the different areas you can apply car sound insulation to remedy this situation.
- Flooring: Road noise comes up through the car’s floor. The car floor is not as thick as you might think it is and some extra padding goes a long way.
- Car Doors: Many car doors are not well sealed or insulated and also act as an echo chamber for road noise. We can fix that.
- Trunk: Not only does it let in noise; it practically acts as a sound amplifier due to its big empty space. Not a problem.
- Underside of the car: Not only can you insulate the floor inside the car, there are things you can do outside, under the car to dampen sound.
- Tires: This is where the rubber meets the road, and that is a source of serious noise! I’ll provide several options for this important component.
Basic tools that you need
Now, like I said above—you don’t need to be an expert or need any specialized tools. For each of the strategies discussed below, you will need some common tools. I’ll discuss them below and give you recommendations on the best in class.
- Utility Knife: In many of the strategies below you will be cutting through heavy rubber matting. You’ll need a sharp, safe knife.
- Gloves: Dealing with the knife, adhesives, and other rough materials means you should wear work gloves. You need gloves that will allow you to keep your grip and your dexterity.
- Adhesive Tape: While most of the items recommended below often come with adhesive on the backing, you probably want this to add an extra “seal” around the edges. Extra bonus: the tape itself will cut back on sound too.
- Screwdriver: Obviously, you want a screwdriver around for general projects. If you decide to work on your doors, you’ll want a good one.
Where do I start?
In your car soundproofing project, the single, easiest task that will cut road noise the most is adding matting to your car floor. We will start there and discuss more complex tasks.
So, like I said above, the car floor is much thinner than you would think – sturdy but thin. As a result, the vast majority of the road noise in the car comes in from below your feet.
Luckily – your floor is also the easiest to soundproof. There are several products you can place on your car floors (beneath the regular mat) to cut down on sound.
- These products are made of rubber and have an adhesive to get them to stick to your flooring. Of all the recommendations in this article, the floor mats and insulation are the easiest to install.
- Remove your regular floor mats and do a complete vacuum and cleaning of the flooring. Do this for the front and the back seats. More sound comes in from the front seats (partly due to the engine noise) but doing front and back will increase their effectiveness greatly.
- You don’t want any dust, gravel, or dirt in general interfering with the adhesive. Air pockets resulting from gravel or spacing can create little sound chambers – which you obviously do not want.
- Measure your floor spacing carefully. You will want to cut the mats to fit tightly along the edges of the floor to prevent any gaps. Gaps are places where sound will come up through the floor.
- Remove the adhesive backing of the mat and lay it down carefully.
- Seal the edges of the mat with your silver tape.
- Make sure the mats are securely adhered to the car floor to prevent sound leakage. They will cut down on vibrations and therefore make the car quieter.
What types of mats can you use? Below are several recommendations.
There are a few things to consider with your trunk. Your trunk is like an echo chamber for sound. You have the wheel wells creating and churning up sound. You have sound coming up through the floor. Then all of it is echoed in the cavernous space. You will definitely want to address this space.
You would do well to worry about your wheel well. (Say that five times fast!) Sound gets up through here and you potentially have material rattling around in there. Ensure that your spare tire and any other items are securely fastened; vacuum out the space. That goes for your trunk as well. Clean the trunk and wheel well to ensure nothing sits under the materials you lay down.
- You can lay down a layer of sound deadening foil; it is nice and pliable.
- Cut it to fit your wheel well and cut out spaces so that the fastenings for the spare tire are not interfered with.
- Lay down the insulated foil.
Now close the wheel well and repeat the same process for the bottom floor of the trunk.
Lastly, you can put down a nice, heavy, sound deadening blanket. It’s not a bad idea to have a blanket in your trunk to protect it from whatever you toss in there, whether it is dirt or something that might otherwise cut the rug.
Fair warning, this task is just a bit more challenging than the others. While it does not require high-level expertise or complex, expensive tools, it is time consuming and needs to be done carefully with patience. But – it will be very effective. Car doors are hollow and act as echo chambers for the road noise they let in. The trunk does that too, but the trunk is the back of the car – the two front doors are right there next to you.
You can use the same materials that you used on your flooring or trunk. Mats and foil. Your best bet is to buy the self-adhesive ones so that you’re not having to deal with tape on top of everything else as well.
You will also need a screwdriver or drill with screw tips and anything you were using to measure and cut your other mats. I recommend reading over your Owner’s manual in case it has any special recommendations or precautions regarding the process covered below. When in doubt follow your owner’s manual or check with your manufacturer!
- Following the instructions of your Owner’s manual, remove your door handle, door latch, and any screw coverings—or jump right to unscrewing the door panel itself.
- Be sure to collect all the screws and anything else you remove. It’s easy to lose these little items on a cement garage floor or dark driveway.
- Once those are removed you may need to pry away the door panel – it probably won’t fall off on its own. Do this carefully, using a flathead screwdriver or something like it. If it is not working or you are not sure of what you’re doing – again check the manual.
- Set the panel aside and take some good photos of the inside of your car door, including speakers, wires, and any moving parts. You’ll want a good memory of how to reassemble anything you remove.
- If there is a speaker in your car door, carefully, remove it along with wiring.
- Your inner-door may have some protective wrap or foam. Remove it carefully because you’ll want to put it back.
- Clean the inside of your door. Dust and any other build-up could affect the adhesive mats.
- Measure your door and cut your mat to cover the interior wall. You will need to cut around any of the mechanical and moving parts to be sure you will not interfere with them. You will also need to cut around wiring and anything attached to the door such as the speaker fastenings. Apply the matting carefully.
- Now turn to the door panel that you removed. You can repeat the same process. Chances are this side of the door will be much simpler. In doing this you will now have double-walled insulation for the car doors!
- Re-attach anything you removed from the door such as speaker, wirings, or anything else.
- Return the wrapping or foam to the door.
- Re-attach the door frame.
Underside of your Car
So, you did all that work to the flooring of your car. But technically you only did one side – the inside. What about the outside?
There’s yet another area you can add sound deadening materials: the underside of the car and the wheel wells. The easiest thing to use are sound deadening sprays.
These are heavy, insulating sprays, that often protect the underside of the car and have the added benefit of insulating against sound and vibration. You can spray these in wheel wells and selected areas under your car.
When all else goes quiet in your car you will hear it: that whining hum that never goes away.
It’s the sound of your tires on the road. While expensive (compared to the strategies listed above), new tires will indeed have a major impact on road noise.
Not just new tires. New tires specifically rated for their sound levels – or careful tire maintenance!
There are several aspects of tires to consider regarding sound:
- Treads: The wider the tread, the louder the noise. This is due to air getting trapped in the groove and releasing as the tire turns along the road. You need to balance tread size (and noise) with the type of terrain and weather you are likely to experience.
- Size: The smaller the tire, the less road noise it will create. (Obviously do not go smaller than your manufacturer recommends.)
- Tire types: the heavier the tire, the louder it will be. All-terrain tires are the loudest of all tire types. Again, you will need to make a balance between safety (best tire for your road conditions) with the amount of noise.
- If your tires are under-inflated, they will tend to make a higher-pitched noise.
- If they are over-inflated, they will make a lower, thrumming sound.
- Worn tires or mis-alignments will all add addition sound.
- Regardless of your tire type, be sure to rotate your tires according to the manufacturer guidelines.
A good tire pump can help keep your wheels inflated at the best pressure, adding to their quiet.
Two pumps to consider that have very high ratings on Amazon are discussed below. These work for cars, bikes, trucks, and even sports equipment. They’re both very powerful and provide precise read-outs for your tire pressure. They both provide digital LCD read outs and have auto-shutoff features.
This has over 4000 ratings on Amazon, with a four-star rating. While it is small in size, it has a powerful pump that can work at 38l/min, which means you can fully inflate a medium sized tire at 30 psi in only 3 minutes. You don’t even need to monitor it since it has a built in Auto Shut Off feature.
A good tire goes a long way. Below, are several of the top-rated car tires available. As such, each of them definitely fall into the “quiet category.”
Here are some of the tires that I have used before and can certainly say that they are amongst the quietest tires I have used, and the fact that they are fairly reasonably priced is a bonus.
How to reduce road noise in your car: Conclusion
Hopefully one or more of these strategies will help you to reduce road noise in your car. Start by trying one out, and see how it works.
You can keep going back for more until you reach the perfect level of quiet in your car.
All of the products discussed above are available on Amazon.
Hop on over to choose the products right for you!