02 elantra has loud tire noise

I bought an 02 Elantra last August with 128,000 miles on it. The front tires make a noise at almost any speed that reminds me of a 4X4 with mud tires going down a highway. I have replaced the axles, front struts, outer tie rod ends and one irregular rim, and I will replace the rear struts this weekend. Varying the tire inflation has no effect on the noise. When I got it aligned, the mechanic told me they had to swap the front tires to get the alignment within spec, and the uneven wear should cancel out. That was 3,000 miles ago and the noise level hasn’t changed. The front tires still have 5/16 of tread on them. Should I keep waiting it out, get new tires, look for some other cause, see if there’s a hole in the firewall I can soundproof, or what?

Unfortunately, once unusual wear patterns are established on a tire, nothing–including rotation–will cancel out the noise from that wear pattern. And, as tires wear, the noise from the tread frequently increases, even w/o unusual wear patterns. Put these two factors together, and this noise is undoubtedly here to stay–until the tires are replaced.

When the OP says, “5/16” tread remaining, I assume that he means, 5/32, as this would be a more conventional tire depth measurement.

Just bear in mind that the tires don’t suddenly become unsafe when the wear bars appear at 2/32, and in reality, tires lose their ability to handle wet roads on a continual basis as the tread wears. So, your 5/32 of tread should be safe on dry roads, but, on wet roads you need to slow down quite a bit in order to prevent hydroplaning.

Yes, you can probably get a bit more wear from your tires, but…not too much more if you want to be safe on wet roads. And, if you want to retain your sanity, it just might be worthwhile to replace those noisy tires sooner, rather than later.

@lee85736, check the date code on those front tires. I’ll bet they are from 2002. I’ll also bet they don’t match the rear tires.

The original owner probably never rotated the tires. Front wheel drive cars don’t wear out the rears tires very fast because they don’t carry much load. The previous owner replaced, say 3 sets of fronts in the 128,000 miles with the first two pairs installed on the front. The rears stayed where they were. Only the last replacement got correctly installed. He put the new ones on the rear and rotated the rears to the front. Now, the tires are loud because they are VERY old, have always had the rear’s wear pattern and are too old and hard to wear-in to the front. They should be replaced. This is very symptomatic of a front-wheel drive car whose tires have been on the rear for over 100,000 miles.

Many years ago, I observed (heard) exactly this on my father’s 10 year old, 90,000 mile FWD Buick with the original rear tires. It made SO much noise, conversation in the car was impossible above 10 mph. When told he should replace them, he asked “why, the tread is still good…” Apparently he didn’t want to listen to my mother talk while they drove somewhere!

I’ve since heard this outrageous tire noise on a number of my non-gearhead friends’ front wheel drive cars… AND they’ve never rotated their tires.

If you don’t believe it, rotate the fronts to the rear and see if the noise follows.