Has a tiger taken up residence in my tires
January 5, 2012 2:52 AM   Subscribe

Has a tiger taken up residence in my tires?

Please excuse my ignorance: About 4 months ago I made the mistake of purchasing a set of new tires from a store other than my usual tire shop. I don't know and can't remember or find the purchase slip. I can't remember if the tires were balanced and aligned. I get my car a 2007 Legacy faithfully serviced from the dealer who sold it to me new. It has 65,000 miles on it. Recently the tires as I approach highway speed seem to "roar". The noise is noticeable. The car was serviced at 64,000 files. Is this possibly because of my failing to get the tires aligned and balanced? I thank any and all responses in advance.
posted by malhaley to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Loud tires are usually just worn tires. Check the tread depth.

How many miles on the tires?
posted by eriko at 3:20 AM on January 5, 2012

It could definitely be from being out of balance, especially if there was a recent encounter with a curb or pothole. It could also be from a broken steel belt inside the tire - this happens sometimes as tires wear out. If that's the case the tire needs replaced.
posted by jhs at 3:35 AM on January 5, 2012

I can tell you my tires were noisy and my husband took my car and got my tires trued and balanced. Trued is when they shave the tires perfectly for minimum road noise. Don't rotate them after this unless it is recommended by tire guys. http://www.ehow.com/facts_7581495_balancing-truing-automobile-tires.html
posted by sandyp at 3:52 AM on January 5, 2012

A tire that is out of balance would be more of a "thump" noise/feeling, because they will oscillate once per wheel revolution. (Sort of like a washing machine whose load is out of balance.) A roar would be the tires wearing unevenly. This can happen when a car's alignment isn't right, and some tread patterns can tolerate more or less of that. What happens is that instead of just rolling along the pavement, there is a small amount of scrubbing action. And because the tire has tread and is rubbery, as it rotates the little knobs of the tread will roll forward and hit the pavement, get pushed down onto the pavement by the weight of the vehicle, get twisted slightly, and then as they roll back up they will sort of spring back and as they are doing that scrub against the road surface. This can be exacerbated by any loose or worn suspension parts that allow the wheel to wiggle back and forth, or by bad shocks/struts that don't dampen vibrations correctly.

(It can also be a bad belt or a tread separation, which is where the tread comes partially "unglued" from the tire and bulges out.)

To test for this, run your hand around the tire on the tread, on the outside, middle and inside edges of the tire. You'll probably feel the tire getting "lumpy" toward the inside of the tread.

The solution is to get the tires trued and balanced, if you can find a shop that trues tires anymore. Then get the suspension's alignment checked and inspected for any bad parts.
posted by gjc at 5:54 AM on January 5, 2012

I recently had the same problem and it turned out to be a bad wheel hub. I am not a car expert but my understanding is that this part is integral to making the wheels not fall off. Please get it checked out soon to be safe!
posted by Nedroid at 7:02 AM on January 5, 2012

Assuming nothing mechanical is at play, worn tires, cupped and old tires are noisy and they get noisier as they age.

Another possibility, although unlikely--unless you recently had work done that involved removing the wheels (brakes, etc)--is the chance a/the/some tires are rotating the in the wrong direction.

Usually tires have an arrow indicating their intended direction-of-rotation and tires that have been accidentally mismounted or switched from side-to-side will be rotating the wrong way and will generate a lot of road noise, howling, even.

Look for the arrow and check all four as I have seen just one tire mounted backwards and I have seen just two on one side of the car mounted backwards.
posted by bz at 8:35 AM on January 5, 2012

And if you replace them and road noise is a concern (and it should be), go to tirerack.com or similar and read the reviews to find a good and quiet tire. Sometimes dropping one speed rating, say from a V to an H can produce a much quieter ride.
posted by bz at 8:38 AM on January 5, 2012

A noise coming from fairly new tires that wasn't there when you first put them on could suggest tread separation. This is due to a defect in manufacturing of the tire. This can be dangerous and the tire should be replaced.

If you don't have the receipt, take a copy of the check or credit card statement to the tire dealer and they should be able to look up your work order. They may also be able to do this even without any paperwork at all. They should have no issue with replacing a defective tire since the manufacturer should pay for it under warranty.
posted by JackFlash at 10:56 AM on January 5, 2012

It could also be a broken wheel bearing--that's what happened to mine, also with new tires. It sounded like a low-level hum at slow speeds, and then like a jet engine taking off at high speeds.

Please get it looked at, ASAP, by your mechanic, not your tire guy. Wheel bearings are what hold the wheel to the axle and it can be very dangerous to continue to drive your car with a broken one. They probably won't even charge you to figure out what it is (mine took five minutes on the lift) and it was only about $100 to fix.

I used to be notoriously bad at aligning and balancing and never had any problems like the ones you're describing, and certainly not at four months out with new tires.
posted by stellaluna at 11:45 AM on January 5, 2012

Of course, low tire pressure can make tires roar at freeway speeds. Check the tire pressures and inflate them to the pressures specified by Subaru. The pressures should be posted on a placard on the door post or in the owners manual. Do not inflate them to the "Max PSI" that is imprinted on the tire.

If your Legacy is the GT trim level, it has a tire pressure monitoring system which makes this advice superfluous.
posted by bz at 8:47 PM on January 5, 2012

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