Dear Car Talk:
I just bought a brand-new Toyota RAV4, and the noise from the tires is driving me crazy!
My husband says it doesn’t bother him. He says it’s just road noise. But it bothers me.
It sounds like an erratic, intermittent “whah, whah,” and I originally thought something was wrong with the rear end of the car. However, on smooth, new pavement, the noise goes away.
The Toyota salesman was nice enough to let us drive a different, new RAV4. The noise was less apparent, but it also had a different brand of tires (our tires are Dunlop, and the others were Toyo, I think).
The salesman says tires these days are made with a formula that makes them “harder” in order to get better mileage. Is that true? Will the noise go away as the tires age? Is there another brand of tires that is less noisy? -- Jean
Well, Jean, if your hearing loss gets as bad as your husband’s during the next 25,000 miles, then the tire noise will go away. But as the tires age, the noise is actually more likely to get worse.
The RAV4 is not an especially quiet car. However, tires do have different rubber formulations that produce different characteristics. Some are stickier, for better road holding. Some are less sticky (with “low rolling resistance”) to improve mileage. Some emphasize wet or dry handling or longevity. And some emphasize noise reduction. You obviously didn’t get those! The best tires do all those things reasonably well.
Our advice would be to go to a site like tirerack.com and do a bit of research. We looked at the tire rating charts for 17-inch tires that fit many 2019 RAV4s (we don’t know your tire size, so we guessed). When we checked the ratings for comfort and road noise, both the BF Goodrich Advantage T/A Sport LT and the Michelin Premier LTX were highly rated by buyers.
If the noise is bothering you so much that it’s interfering with your enjoyment of life, then consider changing the tires. Or developing a fondness for heavy metal music.
A good set of new tires is probably going to cost you $600, and it won’t make the RAV4 ride like a Lincoln or Lexus. But better, quieter tires will probably help. And if you’re ambitious, you can put your almost-new tires up for sale on eBay or Craigslist and hope to get something back for them.
If replacing perfectly good tires simply feels too wasteful to you, then lend the car to a teenage nephew for a weekend. Those tires will come back ready to be replaced.