9 Tips for a Quieter Car Cabin

A Quiet Car Interior

Driving can be such a calming experience—unless, of course, you’re dealing with persistent cabin noise that kills the carefree mood. Whether having a conversation with your co-pilot, listening to your favorite jam, or soaking in the peace of a solitary drive, a rattling or whistling disturbance can be extremely aggravating.

While most car manufacturers focus on creating a stylish, sporty car that performs well, they often ignore the sounds from within the vehicle, which is a super-important element to consider. The vehicles that do have a quiet interior, such as the Lexus LS600h, are often too expensive for us mere mortals. As a result, pinpointing the cause of the noise and finding a solution yourself is likely the best option for making sure you can drive in sweet silence. 

Before taking your next road trip or driving with a buddy, make sure your vehicle’s interior provides a harmonious, noise-free environment. And remember, every car is different, so listen closely to identify where the disturbing sound originates. There’s not just one fix-all solution, but we can narrow it down to three leading causes of car cabin noise: the road, the engine, and the wind.

Common Causes of Road Noise

Before you focus on soundproofing your car, it’s crucial to understand why you hear so much road noise while barreling down a typical street or cruising on the highway. 

The leading cause of road noise stems from the type of car you have. Some vehicles are noisier than others, especially if you have an older model or even certain types of tires. Vehicles built several years ago have a distinguishable noise level in the cabin due to older materials and because they were produced less efficiently.

That said, brand spankin’ new cars aren’t necessarily the quietest rides, either. Sporty vehicles have a reputation for producing more road noise due to a lowered chassisthey’re closer to the road as the wheels go round and round on the pavement.

Other causes of increased cabin noise include a stiff suspension and a large car body. Without a soft suspension you can feeland hearthose inevitable bumps, potholes, and brick roads and gravel you might be driving on. Also, the larger the car, the more space it occupies. These larger builds stir up more wind noise and, surprisingly, echoes from the trunk.

While changing the make and model of your car with the snap of a finger is unfortunately impossible, there are ways to reduce your cabin’s noise.

Road Noise

man checking fixing car tire

Road noise refers to the sound your tires make while driving. And while tires may be the main culprit here, the make of your car can also cause unwanted noise in the cabin. Below are some options to deaden the disturbances.

1. Use Soundproofing Mats on the Floor

Diving on a highway at a high speed will naturally produce noise, especially if you’re cruising atop battered roads (often the case, unfortunately). A simple fix to deaden the tire’s sound on the pavement is to invest in Soundproofing floor mats

Quality floor mats absorb the sounds that reverberate on the floor of your car, and they help lower the interior temperature. While designed specifically for the floor, they can be placed wherever needed, from the trunk to the roof. 

These mats, also called vibration dampeners, are easy to install. To properly place them on the floor, lift up the existing rubber mats and put these thick pads underneath. Many brands promise at least a 50% reduction in noise, allowing the tunes you play in the cabin to sound crystal clear.

2. Use Soundproofing Spray

Of course, there are small, hard-to-reach places on the floor of the car that might not be coverable with a sound-deadening pad

For tight, awkward spaces, try a spray or foam that can help dull extracurricular sounds. This isn’t a solution for the entire car, mind you, but these options are ideal for those tiny spots that a mat can’t cover. Examples of areas of the car in which sprays or foams can help deaden the sound include on the body paneling, the rear quarters of the vehicle, the undercarriage of the vehicle, and inside the trunk.

Spraying creates a barrier between the cause of cabin disturbances and can enhance the musical experience heard inside the car. 

The top-of-the-line sprays on the market will effectively eliminate noise and vibrations from these spots. Just one can will cover 20 square feet of the car, which is more than most car owners need. 

3. Undercoat Your Car

A similar approach to soundproofing cars is to undercoat the underbelly of the vehicle. While sprays and mats are designed for the car’s interior, it’s important to protect the exterior as well, since outside is where the noise originates.

Undercoating cars with a rubber spray gives them an extra layer of protection against unwanted sounds. Not only is this a good technique for reducing road noise in the vehicle, but it protects the underbelly against rusting, abrasions, and damage from salt. 

Rubber undercoating is accomplished via an aerosol spray bottle, just like the aforementioned sprays that can stop unwanted sound in its tracks. Both tactics offer easy application, and the individual bottles are economical, but you may need more than one to cover the whole underbelly effectively.   

There are plenty of undercoating options available online, and many of them are capable of coating up to 15 square feet of the vehicle. Once dry, you can get back on the road and enjoy the sound of increased silence.

4. Change Your Tires

Check those tires if you hear an excessive amount of road noise. After all, they’re the only parts of the car that are always on the road, so make sure you have the correct make and model to reduce noise.

Again, each car model is specialized, so check other possible road noise sources before investing in a brand-new set of tires. If you suspect the tires are causing the unwanted racket, find ones that …

  • Are narrow
  • Are smaller (16-inch wheels are ideal)
  • Have tiny, tight-set grooves
  • Are made of soft rubber (the softer, the better)

Keep in mind what your priorities are when selecting tires. Many wide tires with large grooves offer increased traction on tough terrain. Likewise, larger wheels may drive better depending on the car you own. 

If you’re an off-roader and need heavy-duty tires, soundproofing them probably won’t matter. Nevertheless, be sure to change your tires regularly so that the everyday wear and tear doesn’t cause excess noise in the cabin. 

Engine Noise

driver pressing engine start stop button

The soft purr of an engine is a lovely sound that likely doesn’t bother most folks. However, given the numerous working parts in a typical car, there’s no doubt that excessive noise can be a factor, sometimes causing frustration and even distracted driving.

If you detect abnormal sounds coming from your car’s engine, take the vehicle to a mechanic to have it looked at before focusing on soundproofing. A malfunction in the extensive engine could easily cause a persistent noise. You want to rule out something like that first, before exploring the following ideas.

5. Muffle the Exhaust

The exhaust pipe releases gases that are burned in the combustion process, which often makes loud, obnoxious noises heard two blocks away. 

Mufflers exist for a reason: Countless people have complained about the unwanted sound and smell of released gases from cars. So now, thankfully, we have mufflers. If the noise in your car is due to exhaust, invest in a quality muffler right away. 

6. Soundproof the Hood of Your Car

Once you’ve checked with a mechanic to make sure those noises emanating from under the hood aren’t a cause for concern, you can focus on reducing the car’s normal sounds on your own. 

When it comes to older cars, increased pesky noises are, in part, to be expected. To lessen these sounds, place a sound-deadening mat on the inside of the hood. We already talked about using these sound-absorbing pads on your car’s floor, but they also work well under the hood. Because the material absorbs vibrations, the mat will stop the sound from escaping the hood and reaching the cabin.

Wind Noise

close up open car window

When you’re driving on the highway with your windows rolled up, are you surrounded by a cushioned silence, or can you hear the wind whistling around your car? If the wind is your constant companion, even in a sealed car, you probably have an issue with the insulation or seal. 

7. Insulate Your Windows

Windows are the main culprits when it comes to letting in all-encompassing wind noise. There are several ways to ensure the windows are sealing correctly, so let’s look at the top three.

The first step is to check the rubber sealing around the windows. If the rubber is wearing down, the closed window will not create an effective seal. It will soundand feellike your window is still open, even though you’ve tried closing it completely a hundred times. 

These rubber seals don’t last forever, so it’s smart to check them regularly. Before buying new rubber seals, try the simple option of cleaning the existing seals. You never knowthere may be dirt or tiny stones stuck in the seals that are preventing the window from closing fully. 

After thoroughly cleaning the rubber seals on all the windows, take the car for a test drive and see if the noise persists. If it does, you may need to replace the seals.

Another option is to reinforce the windows, which is a complicated and expensive process, but also a decent option for a high-quality window seal. This method includes changing the window slot and electrical wiring to accommodate a thicker window.

For an extra barrier between yourself and your passengers and the wind noise howling from outside, consider laminating your windows or buying a pre-laminated model. This option offers an additional layer on the window that increases overall insulation and reduces road noise. 

8. Insulate Your Roof

Rain, hail, and wind all hit your roof and cause definite interior noise, some of it ear-splitting at times. While there is probably a bit of padding or insulation already on your roof’s interior, it never hurts to add an extra layer.

Take the mats we previously mentioned, or sticky insulation, and put them on the roof of the car. Be sure to remove the preexisting pad so you can place the material directly on the ceiling of the vehicle. 

9. Protect Your Car Door Seals

Your car doors probably don’t have thick, insulated material. As such, much of the wind and road noise could be coming through them in an overly loud way. 

First, consider the rubber sealing around the door. Just like replacing the window seals helps soundproof a car, the rubber around the rest of the door is equally essential to providing a quiet ride. 

Clean the rubber first to get rid of the dirt and grime. If that doesn’t work, or if you see areas where the rubber is damaged, replace the rubber seal. 

Another method to car soundproofing is insulating the door material itself. You can add layers of sticky insulation to the door’s interior to absorb any vibrations and noises. 

Before applying the insulation, make sure to remove the panels and screws to see the bones of the door. There is most likely an empty hole, so line the area with insulation to reduce the sound in the vehicle.

Start Soundproofing Your Car Today

man installing soundproof mat on car interior

Reducing road noises in a car takes some effort, though now you have a much better idea of what it takes to drive in peace. Listen closely to the noises you hear in your car and figure out where they’re coming from. Resist the urge to spend money on quick fixes that may not solve the noise issues, and, very importantly, don’t attempt to cover up any noises that could indicate a mechanical problem with your vehicle. 

Get to know your car well so you can see and hear what’s causing the unwanted sounds. If you don’t feel comfortable removing panels and installing mats or insulation, consult with a professional who can assist.

A soundproof car that offers a perfect space to listen to your favorite music is not a pipe dream! Use the above tips to start enjoying a calmer, safer, more relaxing ride.