Have you ever been driving along the road, humming your favorite song and it sounds like you have a partner humming along? If there’s no one sitting next to you, it could be your new tires making that humming noise. Not only is it an annoying issue, but it could also potentially be a huge problem.
The humming is a result of something not spinning properly. It could be the tire itself due to imbalance, misalignment, or uneven wear. It could also be due to failing wheel bearings. Troubleshooting is an important first step to understanding the scope of the problem before you start fixing the issue.
Let me tell you all about why your new tire is making that humming noise, 5 of the most common causes, and some solutions to fix your problem.
Why Do Uncommon Noises Occur in Cars?
In the car world, any type of uncommon noise can be a problem. These noises happen when parts are broken, failing, falling apart, or out of alignment.
Typically, noise is a symptom of a bigger issue. In the case of humming tires, there’s a very good chance that something’s wrong.
This is just me saying that this isn’t one of those “ignore it until it goes away” problems.
This Could Be a Huge Problem
In fact, this could be a huge problem. I wrote a piece about tire blowouts a while ago, and the same level of severity exists with this problem.
It makes sense when you think about it — your tires are the only part of your car in contact with the ground. Any amount of motion your car experiences can be thanks to your tires.
When humming occurs, your tires are calling out for help. Going too long without correcting the problem can lead to your tires falling off completely. This is a super expensive fix.
In addition, going too long without fixing a simple problem in your tires can turn into something much larger. For example, it could just be a simple alignment problem that turns into thousands of dollars in damages to your car.
Defining “New Tires”
People have different definitions of “new tires”. It could either mean brand-new tires that have never been driven on before, or tires that are new to you.
If you buy and install used tires and consider them “new”, then there are a few more symptoms and causes to consider. I’ll break these ideas down more in future sections of this article.
In either case, there’s nothing to worry about. You’ll learn what to do and how to fix this humming issue.
You Can Probably Fix It Yourself
A bit of good news is that you can probably fix the problem on your own. A vast majority of causes entail a pretty simple troubleshooting and repair process.
You won’t need any special training to get the job done.
First, it’s a matter of knowing why your new tires are making a humming noise.
New Tires Making Humming Noise: 5 Common Causes
As I mentioned, it all starts with troubleshooting. This section is all about finding out why your tires are humming in the first place.
1. You Need a Tire Rotation
It’s typically not the case for brand-new tires, but a tire rotation is a likely suspect when it comes to humming noises.
By the way, rotating your tires won’t mess up the TPMS sensors within them.
If you didn’t know, a routine tire rotation will help prevent uneven wear in your tires. This is true for any style of drivetrain (AWD, FWD, RWD, or 4WD). However, the way that you rotate your tires will change depending on your drivetrain.
Most of the time, people will lump in a tire rotation with other routine maintenance like changing a cabin air filter or every other oil change.
If you have an electric car, tire rotations are one of the few pieces of maintenance that you’ll need to worry about.
Why might a lack of tire rotation lead to a humming noise? If there’s a low area in one of your tires, it will rotate differently since there isn’t full engagement with the road at all times. What you’re hearing is the tire rhythmically disengaging from the road. It sounds like humming since the tires are spinning so quickly.
2. Tires are Unevenly Worn
In a more general sense, you might just be dealing with unevenly worn tires. The root cause of this wear doesn’t entirely matter. The bottom line is that the tread isn’t operating the way that it was designed to.
There are actually a lot of reasons why your tires might be unevenly worn.
3. Wheel Bearings are Faulty
For brand-new tires, one of the leading culprits is faulty wheel bearings.
The wheel bearings in your car connect the axle and the wheel together. A ball bearing is a metal ring that gets filled with perfectly-circular metal spheres. These spheres allow things to rotate smoothly and they eliminate a lot of friction that you would otherwise see.
Ball bearings are used all over the place, but the ones in your wheels play an important role.
A “faulty” wheel bearing has some internal damage — more specifically, the inside of the spheres might not be perfectly-round, they could be jammed, or the connection point of the bearings could not be ideal.
When you hear a humming noise due to faulty wheel bearings, you’re hearing spheres that aren’t rolling perfectly over one another. If there’s a small defect, it will make a sound on every rotation. Speed that up and it eventually turns into a hum.
4. Tires Aren’t Balanced
Balance is a very important aspect of your tires. This is a term that refers to how the weight is distributed across the tire.
With uneven weight, the tire will rotate awkwardly. Of course, this is a quick way to ruin the tread on your tires and make your wheels unevenly worn.
Balancing a tire entails putting the tire on a machine that works like a scale. It will indicate which part of the tire needs extra weight. From there, you simply add weights to certain parts of the tire until it’s perfectly balanced.
If you hire a shop to install the tire, they should do this by default.
You want to make sure your tire can be put sideways on a pole and it’s perfectly level — this is what a “balanced” tire looks like.
If a tire isn’t balanced, then it will have a non-circular rotation. There will be some wobbling involved and added motion. These factors all play into that humming noise you’re hearing.
The good news is that balancing a tire isn’t too hard of a task. Even if you just installed four new tires, taking them off and rebalancing them shouldn’t take too much time or money.
5. Alignment Issue
Finally, you’ll have to worry about alignment. This works sort of like balancing your tires, but it has to do with the orientation of the wheels.
Physics tells us that all four tires need to be pointing in exactly the same direction or else problems can occur. In other words, the wheels need to be parallel in order to avoid a humming noise.
With a very minor issue of misalignment, you’ll notice a hum. With more severe misalignment, you can expect your car to shake like crazy.
Automotive shops have high-tech cameras that can look at your car to determine the alignment of your wheels. Trying to do this on your own is going to be pretty tough.
How to Fix the Humming Noise
Once you troubleshoot the problem, the logical next step is to try to fix it. If you are tired of the humming noise in your car, try some of these steps.
1. Check the Health of Your Tires
I’d highly recommend starting with a quick health check of your tires. Looking at the depth and uniformity of your tread will give you a good idea of what’s going on.
If you see any bubbling, uneven wear, or cracks, then you should replace your tires immediately. These are signs that your tire might blow out, so it’s better safe than sorry here.
2. Talk to the Dealership/ Mechanic Who Sold You the Tires
If you just bought the tires and you’re already experiencing a problem, then reach out to the people who sold you the tires. They might have included some sort of warranty, but either way, it’s the right place to start.
If the tires look beat up, you might have been scammed. If they were defective from the manufacturer, then that’s the seller’s problem to fix.
This is only the case if you determined that the tires have something wrong with them. If it has to do with your car’s alignment or wheel bearings, talking to the tire salesperson won’t help at all.
3. Replace Your Bearings
If faulty wheel bearings are to blame, then a quick replacement is mandatory.
The good news is that your wheel bearings will wear down pretty slowly over time. You shouldn’t experience a huge failure randomly where the bearings suddenly fail. It’s one of those issues that can persist for hundreds of miles before you absolutely need to fix it.
Still, it’s a good idea to fix them as soon as possible. The fact that you hear a humming noise means that they’re pretty far gone.
Doing the replacement on your own is possible. It doesn’t require any highly specialized tools, just a time commitment on your end.
4. Replace Your Tires
If there is a defect in your tires, you’ll have to replace them. This is often the problem with older tires, so it’s uncommon for brand-new tires.
You should replace the tires if you notice the bulging, cracking, or uneven wearing that I mentioned earlier. It’s incredibly unsafe to drive with failing tires, so treat this problem accordingly.
I’d also avoid buying tires from the same company that sold you the defective ones you’re now replacing. Personally, I’d reach out to them to fix the situation, accept a full refund, and take that money elsewhere to buy tires.
5. Rotate Your Tires
This is another solution that’s a little less likely for brand-new tires, but it’s still worth considering. As I mentioned earlier, a tire rotation should be done at regular intervals.
Going too long without rotating your tires will result in a lot of problems, the largest of which being uneven wear on your tread.
The uneven wear leads to the humming noise and will actually make the problem even worse over time.
If you notice that your tires are wearing unevenly, it’s time to either replace them or rotate them. Replacement should only be done if the damage is extensive. A lot of times you can get away with just rotating them.
Be sure to remember to rotate your tires in the future to avoid this issue.
At this point, you should know exactly what’s going on to make your wheels hum. If you want more troubleshooting guides, explore the rest of my blog. I also put together a fun list of car products that should make your life a little easier.