Car tire noise is by no means unusual. They contact road surfaces almost every second, after all, and the rubber friction may generate thumping tire sounds from time to time.
But strange-sound tire noise at low speed only is a different story, probably indicating more serious issues with the car’s system.
No worries; our article will address common reasons behind low speed tire noise. Let’s dive in!
What Are The Common Causes of Tire Noise At Low Speed? Ways to Fix Them
Poor lubrication, substandard materials, and worn-out car components are the most common factors.
Still, the specific reasons differ depending on the types of noise from tire when driving (squeaking, grinding, humming, or popping?).
Each brake setup in cars has a shoe brake or backing plate, which requires constant lubrication to work properly.
If the lubricated layers run low, the rear brakes will squeal whenever there is pressure on the brake pedals – even at extremely low-speed rates!
Why does that happen? The lack of lubrication means there are no longer filters between the shoes and the plate setups, making them scrape against each other constantly.
Not to mention, rust build-ups also occur, leading to violent metal squeaking!
What to Do?
Fortunately, the problem is quite easy to address: all you need is a high-quality lubricating compound.
And no, don’t use all-purpose WD40 or old oil; stronger solutions are required, such as anti-seize products or moly paste design for high temperatures.
Experts suggest applying them to the pad’s back at every shoe contact point. Do not put these liquids on the pads themselves – since the brakes might not react well to them and function even more badly.
Poor Brake Pad Materials
What else is the potential culprit other than poor lubrication? It might be the pads themselves, which undergo serious technical issues due to the material type that manufacturers chose for them.
Specifically, since the pads are expected to absorb most of the friction and heat, whatever materials they are made of must have full capabilities to withstand friction/heat perfectly.
Rusted metal is certainly not one of them, but it’s extremely common in lower-grade, aftermarket pads.
Once they deteriorate, metals will scrape loudly on your brakes’ rotors, creating horrible squeaking sounds. And worse, that’s not even the end of the story!
Sometimes, certain brake pad designs are expected to generate noises, which means the sounds coming from them are considered a norm in those cases.
Hence, when hearing squealing sounds, inexperienced riders often assume there’s nothing unusual with the brakes and keep driving without inspecting the issue further.
Only when the car breaks down completely do they realize what just happened!
What to Do?
Of course, nobody wants to be put in such situations; but if they arrive, the only choice you have is to replace the brake pads.
There’s no other method to choose from – since in theory, the current ones you have do not undergo any deterioration. Their materials must have been bad right from the start.
When browsing through brake pad replacements at tire shops, learn from your past mistakes and pay close attention to their materials this time.
Learning what substances they contain will ensure proper operation and no loud noise from tires while driving.
Some of our all-time favorite material types are organic ones, such as Kevlar, rubber, fiber, resin, or a mixture of all these options.
Defective Wheel Bearing
In most cases, a wheel bearing is expected to perform two important tasks:
- Allowing comfortable tire rotation for the assembly
- Keep the axis correctly straight
Hence, it’s easy to tell when it starts to deteriorate, causing humming and grinding noises from the axis/tire system. Other key symptoms to identify a damaged steel ball joint or wheel bearing include:
- Clicking or knocking noise coming from tire at corners
- Groaning noises when you drive straight
- Vibrations from the steering wheels
Your faulty bearings have given these compartments increased strains. Whenever you navigate winding roads, the radial force upon bad bearings only increases, resulting in louder and noisier sounds.
What to Do?
Do not forget to ask yourself: Have your car encountered high impacts (ex: potholes)? Or are the rear wheels poorly inflated?
If that’s the case (which is very, very likely), the best solution to counterattack these problems is to have them aligned/balanced or replaced completely, depending on the mechanics’ diagnosis.
Low-quality Tire Material
Improper alignment and underinflation are the most common causes behind uneven wear; but sometimes, the problem also stems from the materials themself.
Road tires with inconsistent wear-down rates are likely to be made of less-than-standard substances, especially at the steering knuckle, which renders them all the more vulnerable to damage.
And they will even break down faster on rough terrains (ex: mountains, off-road races, mud, etc.).
As the rubber erodes and generates more friction on the road than necessary, you will hear constant, loud tire noise when driving slowly.
What to Do?
Replace all four wheels (not just those with more worn-down tire tread). Do not hesitate to spend a bit more on high-quality ones with premium and durable materials.
Also, remember to balance your tires every 5000 miles.
Though the grindings might sound close to the engine, they are not actual engine sounds.
Instead, your car transmission might be the culprit, especially automatic ones where grindings are a more serious issue.
Pay close attention to the noises’ volumes. Are they constant and low-pitched?
Chances are only the clutch is defective (it’s by no means cheap, but still much better than the entire transmission).
Meanwhile, high-pitched ones probably stem from rubbing gear teeth that result from low transmission fluids.
What to Do?
Either have the entire transmission fixed (for high-pitched noisy tires) or replace the clutch (in the cases of low-pitched sounds).
A car differential receives transmission power and distributes it properly to the right wheels at the right time.
No wonder their feature misalignments and lack of running current cause new tire noise at low speed!
Some may argue that the sounds might simply originate from exhaust rattles, heat shields, or catalytic converters in front-wheel cars.
So try to listen closely; if the noises are loud and sound like a pronounced grunt, your differential is indeed the root cause. Otherwise, you don’t have to worry too much about them.
What to Do?
Clean the differential with high-quality soapy solutions before taking your car to mechanics for further diagnosis and treatment. Do so as soon as possible!
Broken CV Joints or Bad Wheel Bearing
CV joints (short for constant velocity) are the connective devices between the wheels and your transmission.
When they suffer damage, grinding noises from your wheels will be likely, which only gets more prominent as the car takes further turns.
Some people mistake CV joint sounds for those from the differential. Again, the tip is to listen carefully to other sounds.
Are there also sounds from rubbing tires? Chances are your CV joints – instead of the differential – are problematic.
A damaged wheel bearing is a possible cause, too, though it’s much less common. Since these bearings are meant to reduce friction, their structural failure will cause excessive noises.
What to do?
Broken CV joints or bearings are beyond fixing; the only choice left is to replace them as soon as you can.
Like wheel bearings, alternators are parts of the rotating system that creates friction and turn mechanical power into electricity.
Since many rotations are involved, they arrive with sturdy ball bearings to keep grinding noises at bay.
Drivers that suffer grinding noises during low-speed drives might have to double-check their alternators.
Neglecting to do that only makes the noise grow louder (to the point that it’s no longer “grinding”; you will hear downright roars!).
What to Do?
Is the entire alternator defective? Then replace it with new ones. But if only their ball bearings need treatment, ask mechanics to fix them.
Does your car make no noises when driving – but keeps grinding once the vehicle has slowed down or pulled to a full stop?
Your brakes are likely worn out, leaving a huge gap between the rotors and calipers. Metals will rub against each other in places they should not!
What to Do?
Sometimes, the matter is as simple as a stuck brake pad; pump your brake several times to get it out.
But should the noise persist even after that, take your car to automotive mechanics and have them change those bad tires.
The reason for popping noises (which sound like a bubble wrap is drafted over your car) might be the compressed air often trapped between the treads.
It escapes while your wheels roll, generating huge noises under the tread blocks.
What to Do?
Change to other car types with smaller tread patterns/blocks. Remember to rotate the tires while you are at it!
Worn Suspension Components
Experts refer to this symptom as “feathered,” meaning the tire suspension has been worn, causing your car to hop and bounce instead of rolling smoothly.
What to Do?
Have the suspension system fixed by professionals. Since defective suspension also influences tire performance, ask the experts to check whether tire changes are also needed.
How Can Drivers Differentiate Wheel Bearing Noise and Tire Noise?
Their volume differences serve as the main defining feature here. If your car noises get worse over a short time (days or 1-2 weeks), there is a 90% chance that it’s the wheel bearing.
Meanwhile, tire noises mostly remain the same in these periods (though more serious cases may still involve dramatic sound increases over time).
For more tips on telling which is which, click here.
Will These Tire Noises Disappear On Their Own?
No. They either stay the same or get worse. You cannot expect them to vanish overnight!
All common reasons for tire noise at low speed – along with suitable solutions for each – have been listed.
Keep them in mind to free both yourself and your car from those horrendous noises! For more support on car tire making noise when driving, Bryan’s inbox is always open.