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What does this tire noise mean?

I just bought a used car and the tire(s) make a noise I've not heard before. As I'm driving it/they make a constant wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh sound that increases and decreases speed as the car does.

Does that mean they need to be rotated or could they be out of balance?



  • edited January 2012

    That type of noise can be indicative of a slipped belt in one or more of your tires.
    I would suggest having those tires checked by a reputable tire dealer, as this can be a safety hazard.
  • edited January 2012
    Sounds like the outer edges of the tires are "Feathered" (high-low-high-low) between the outer edges of the treads. Placing a straight edge ruler along that edge should be obvious if it's that severe.

    This can be from lack of proper rotation or severe worn bushings in the suspension. (rare)
    But some cars like my 300ZX Twin Turbo and some other high performance cars have
    uni-directional tires which *can't* be Rotated because the manufactured tread pattern.

    An "Out of Balance" problem would usually make the Steering Wheel shudder/vibrate at higher speeds.
    A Engine Belt slipping is more of a "screeeching" noise and usually only is noticeable during starting and acceleration, not consistent speed.
  • Ooh, I hadn't thought about them maybe having a problem internally. Thanks for the info. =)
  • The folks I bought it from have been fanatical about maintenance, I can't imagine they'd ignore the tires but I'll ask them.

    Ah, the Z cars. I've always loved them! I once helped a buddy change a heater core in an old 260 - never again haha!
  • edited January 2012

    "A Engine Belt slipping is more of a "screeeching" noise and usually only is noticeable during starting and acceleration, not consistent speed."

    Of course, you are correct, but I was referring to a belt in the tire, not an engine drive belt.
    I would have thought that the reference to "having the tires checked by a reputable tire dealer" would have been a clue to the type of belt to which I was referring, but...I guess not.

    Shortly, I will correct the wording of my earlier post, so that it is less confusing.
  • The Belts can "slip" inside the Vulcanized layers of a Tire ?
    You learn something new every day.
  • Yes, they certainly can. It's happened to me, and the manufacturer replaced the tire. They would balance it, and I'd be back in a week or so, and they'd balance it again. After 3 balance attempts, and my assurance I hadn't hit anything (along with a thorough inspection of the tire itself), they replaced it, the problem went away, and so did I.
  • edited January 2012
    Bad tires or bad wheel bearing could produce this noise.

    Most likely a bad tire(s). You can run your hand over the tread of all 4 tires, if you feel cupping (like waves in the tread) then that tire is bad. No amount of balancing will fix a cupped tire, it has to be replaced or you learn to live with the noise.
  • First, let me say that a "slipped belt" in a tire is a physical impossibility. The term is used by folks who don't understand tires very well in an effort to explain why certain things that happen. Unfortunately, it leads to mis-diagnoses.

    In this case, it is likely that the noise is the result of irregular tire wear - which is usually caused by a mis-alignment condition. Fixing the alignment only addresses the cause, but doesn't do anything about the symptom.- the irregular wear (and the noise ) is still there. While it is possible that fixing the alignment may cause the tires to wear off the noise generating wear pattern, it is more likely that the noise will not improve very quickly and not enough to be effective.

    So I suggest that the OP get an alignment and consider replacing the tires.
  • For mine, it was a manufacturing fault. That was what they called it, anyway. I had the alignment done at the same time, and it handled very well, drove true, but after less than a week, started "thumping" and the steering wheel started vibrating. Went through the whole balance, drive, thump and vibrate cycle three times, until they replaced the tire (and didn't mess with the alignment).

    So what was it then? It wasn't the alignment, bearings, brakes, etc. This was all on a set of brand new tires, btw.

    Capri, I don't doubt you, but what was it? I'd rather know what it was so I can be correct from here out.
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