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Weird noise after rotated tires

Hi Car Talk readers!

I took my 2007 (manual!) Honda Civic LX to a local car shop last Friday because it wanted its oil change, oil filter change, tire rotation, and spark plugs etc. checked. When I got the car back, I drove it around for a little while and noticed a noise that is periodic and speed-dependent – as in, the frequency goes up when I am going faster and slows down when I am going slower. I’ve since checked the air pressure and while one tire was a little low, the tires are all at the right pressure now, and the noise hasn’t gone away. I also feel like there is more vibration in the steering wheel now than there used to be. I think the sound is coming from the front driver’s side, but I’m not sure about that.

Obviously I should take it to the car shop and give the guys the what for, right? But what should I be asking them about? What could have happened?

It also happens to be the case that on the 4th of July, someone backed into the front of my car with a moving truck and a couple of parts on the front of the car needed to be replaced. But I hadn’t noticed any weird noises, and I was told that unless things felt or sounded funny, the suspension was fine. I don’t think this is related, but I’m including it here for completion.

I’m about to make a 500 mile drive at the end of the week, so I just want to make sure everything is in good condition! Thanks for your help :slight_smile:

Tires tend to wear in a pattern, especially tires with a bunch of small blocks in the tread. When you rotate them, especially if they “X” rotated them, you can notice some noise as the slight uneven wear makes itself known…Usually, the noise slowly fades away as the wear pattern equalizes…

If you return to the shop, I would ask how they rotated them, front to rear or did they cross them too…Also, did they use a torque wrench to do the final wheel lug tightening by hand (as they should have)…Over-tightening the wheel studs can cause all sorts of problems…

If your tires which are now on the front spent considerable time on the rear of the car, they may have cupped slightly. This occurs from oscillation (bounce) going down the highway and will create a high/low pattern on the tires. The noise becomes apparent when the affected tires are moved to the front, where the extra weight and closer proximity to the driver makes it very obvious. On many small, lightweight cars like the Civic, you have to be quite vigilant with the tire rotations to keep this from happening, as in, do them more frequently or physically watch and feel for cupping and be sure to rotate the tires before it becomes bad enough to make noise and irritate you. New struts and an alignment may also help prevent this from happening again, but I won’t guarantee it. It’s not dangerous, just annoying, and they should eventually wear flat as long as they are not severely cupped.

It is not uncommon for tires to develop irreluar wear if left in the same position for long periods of time - especially if there is an alignment problem. Rotating the tires sometimes reveals this irregular wear as a noise or a vibration (same thing, just different frequencies)

Rotating tires every 5K to 8K miles will keep the tires from getting so bad the irregular wear is noticeable (assuming the alignment is OK). So you might want to get an alignment and make sure you keep up thwe tire rotation schedule.

Whatever you do, don’t “take it to the car shop and give the guys the what for…” You might take it there and tell them what is happening. They will tell you what you’ve been told here - that this comes from tire wear patterns. Its as simple as that.

Any of this will be worse if - for example - your car was recently hit by a moving truck. Did anyone check the car’s alignment after this happened?

The body shop told me that they didn’t think it was necessary. It was hit by a rented moving truck that was going in reverse, so not one of the giant big rigs.

So, I should ask the car place to check the alignment? And if they notice something is off, I report it to the insurance company or . . . ?

I didn’t drive the car much after the accident, so I can’t imagine that it caused irregular wear . . . there hasn’t been enough time for that, has there?

Checking the alignment is something that you just have done once in a while as basic maintenance - as much a routine thing as changing your oil, though not as often.

After the car was hit, the alignment absolutely should have been checked. If you do find it is out of alignment then you can report it to whomever you like, but a car out of alignment is not an unusual thing & doesn’t need to be from an accident. However, its also possible to learn that the car can’t be aligned because something was damaged. Then you might be talking to the insurance company.

But as for the tire wear - you can get uneven tire wear just by not rotating the tires regularly even with the alignment in order. You never even said how old the tires are, how many miles are on them, or what the rotation history has been.

The bottom line is that you are not a victim of anything here. What happened in terms of tire rotation/tire noise is not an indication that anyone has done anything wrong. However, it is also possible that your car needed more attention than it got after the accident.

Hi Cigroller, thanks for the input. I actually don’t remember, off the top of my head, how old the tires are. But I do know that they didn’t get their last scheduled rotation because I was in a rush (I know, I know), so it’s been about 14K miles since the last rotation. The tires, I think, are maybe 2 years old. Typically they have been rotated when the automated maintenance system has asked for it.

I’m mostly asking a lot of basic questions because I just want to know exactly what to say when I take my car back to the shop. If I understand everyone’s comments correctly, I should explain what I am hearing and ask them to check the alignment. I should also mention that a moving truck bumped the car about 3 weeks ago. Is there anything else I should ask them to check?

If they tell me the alignment is fine, then I should just assume that the tires have uneven wear and that it will sort itself out in time? I guess they will also make recommendations that they deem necessary. I just like to be prepared with what they might possibly say.

Thanks again!

I just called to ask them if I could bring it in the morning for them to check the alignment and they said, “We don’t do alignment,” and then he hung up. I’m not sure if we got disconnected or what . . . Is it common for car shops not to do alignment checks?

A small shop may not have the financial resources, the space, or the business volume to make it possible to install expensive alignment equipment. In my experience, many small shops do not do alignment.