What Causes a Car to Sound Like it Has a Flat Tire, But it Doesn’t

What causes a car to sound like it has a flat tire, but it does not? This question sounds like a riddle to most of us. The sound of a flat tire is one that I don’t like to hear when I am on the road. The reason could be obvious.

Among the common causes for a car to sound like it has a flat tire, but it does not are tire issues, wheel alignment issues, wheel bearing issues, and rim issues.

But should you be concerned if you hear a sound like that of a flat tire if none of your tires is flat? Yes, you should not ignore the sound because it is a symptom of another problem that you need to fix.

Why Can a Car Sound Like it Has a Flat Tire When Tires are Completely Fine?

How does a flat tire sound like anyway? You’ve probably heard it before, but if you are still curious, it typically starts with a hissing sound followed by a thumping or flapping sound, then you begin to feel some vibrations.

Read on to find out how other issues with your car could make a sound like it has a flat tire.

Tire Defects

Tire defects such as uneven tread wear, bulge on the sidewall, and other types of defects may cause a fake flat tire sound. 

Unbalanced tread depth due to lack of tire rotation can produce a sound while driving. The sound it makes perfectly resembles the thumping or the flapping sound of a flat tire. Tire rotation is essential to ensure that the tires wear out evenly. 

The guy in this video clearly explains how a thumping sound could be coming from uneven tire wear.

A sidewall bubble on your tire could also possibly cause a flat tire-like sound. When you see a bulge on the sidewall of your tire, you need to know that the tire is no longer safe for driving. If you go to a mechanic, there is no doubt that he will tell you to replace the tire immediately for safety reasons.

But how can this possibly happen? Sidewall bubbles are usually due to impact damage. Hitting potholes, speed humps, curbs, and railroad crossings are among the many reasons that your tires would potentially experience sidewall bubbles.

The bulge on a tire is usually due to a broken belt. If a belt fails, it destroys the overall integrity of the tire. If this is the issue, you need to get a new tire. A tire with a broken belt is not repairable and is very dangerous because it can blow up at any given time.

This video will help you check if your tire has a broken belt that could be causing the flapping sound.

Low Air Pressure

Low air pressure is also another reason your car sometimes feels like it has a flat tire, but it does not. This incident generally happens if you drive a vehicle that does not have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) to show you if your tire pressures are okay.

Sometimes you can hardly tell with your naked eyes that one of your tires does not have enough pressure, but as you roll, you feel something is wrong. 

If your car does have a TPMS, look at your dashboard for a possible tire pressure warning. If it doesn’t have one, maybe go to a mechanic to help you check things out.

Wheel Alignment Issues

Improper wheel alignment causes a sound or would make you feel like you’ve got a flat tire. Yes, you’ve read it right. Driving a vehicle with misaligned wheels produces a low humming or drumming sound.

In addition to the sound you hear, you would also experience a bumpy ride. The bumpier your ride becomes, the more chances that the air chamber would make louder noise.

If you ignore this wheel alignment issue, your tires will eventually not wear out evenly, adding to the probability of you feeling that your car has a flat tire even if it does not.

If you want to learn more about wheel alignment, you can check out this article. The article mainly talks about tire rotation, but it also provides valuable information about wheel alignment.

Wheel Bearing Going Bad

If you have looked for answers online before sticking to this article, you probably have discovered forums talking about a bad wheel bearing causing a tire noise that resembles that of flat tire noise.

It is not technically the same as the thumping sound of the flat tire, but it will still produce a soft humming or grinding noise, especially during a lane switch. In my case, when I hear some noise from my tires, the first thing that comes into my mind is a flat tire.

A Bent Rim

A bent rim could also produce a thumping sound. This damage could happen after hitting a curb or pothole. Sometimes it is hard to see this if you do not lift your car or remove the wheels, as the issue could be on the inner part of the rim or the side that you cannot see.

This video shows a man discovering that the reason for the flapping sound on his car tire is the bent rim.

Flat Tire Noise When Accelerating

If you have a flat tire and you accelerate, you will hear a loud flapping sound. The faster you accelerate, the louder the sound becomes, and the flapping sound goes more rapid and resembles the sound of an engine.

Aside from the loud flapping sound, you will also feel the flat tire’s vibration due to wheel imbalance.

Flat Tire Noise When Braking

The thumping or flapping sound technically does not change when you are breaking. The only difference is that the sound also slows down life what you will hear here.

Is it Dangerous to Drive a Vehicle that Sounds Like It Has a Flat Tire?

As I have mentioned earlier, if you hear that your car is making a flat tire-like sound, it indicates another problem. Thus, it is not safe to continue driving a vehicle that makes a sound like that of a flat tire. 

What are the possible underlying issues? You’ve already learned it in the previous section. It could either be a tire failure, wheel alignment, or wheel bearing problems, which are all serious.

A failing tire is something you should pay attention to immediately. If you see sidewall bubbles, go to the nearest tire dealer. In most cases, this issue with the tire requires replacement. 

If you notice the tread is not wearing out properly, see if the tires are still good for rotation. Otherwise, replace them if necessary.

What about wheel alignment issues? How is it dangerous? The adverse effects of misaligned wheels include steering and braking difficulties and premature wear and tear. These situations compromise your safety on the road.

It is dangerous to continue driving your car with a bad wheel bearing. This particular part of the car helps ensure that the wheels hold onto the vehicle. A bad wheel bearing will give you uncomfortable handling, leading to you losing control of the car. 

Additionally, if you continue to drive a car with a bad wheel bearing, the tires will not wear out evenly, making them unsafe.

What to Do If Your Car Sounds or Feels Like It has a Flat Tire

If you hear that your vehicle is making some crazy sounds, you can do an ocular inspection with the vehicle’s tires. Checking the tires involves examining the inner part to ensure they are free from issues. You might need to jack up your car if necessary.

This video shows a method on how to check your tires when they make some thumping, howling, or any sound.

If you find no issues with the tires, your next destination should be an auto repair shop where a mechanic can carefully diagnose the problem. 

Checking the other parts that possibly produce the sound, like the wheel alignment and the wheel bearing, could be challenging if you do it yourself.

It is important to note that a tire issue is often mistaken as a wheel bearing issue. Many car owners regret spending on a wheel bearing when their car makes a howling or humming noise. It is because the actual problem was the tire. 

Some budget tires may have some quality integrity issues. You won’t suspect them because their tread still looks good, but they go out of shape prematurely.

Check out this video of a guy showing how to carefully inspect your tires before concluding that the wheel bearing issue.

Conclusion

If your car sounds like it has a flat tire, but it does not, it could be a tire defect (sidewall bubble or uneven tread wear), low tire air pressure, wheel alignment, or wheel bearing issues. 

If you hear a flat tire-like sound, you should examine your vehicle’s tires and see if there are any apparent issues. If you do not notice any irregularities, it is best to take your car to a repair shop for a mechanic to diagnose the problem.

Driving a vehicle that makes a sound similar to that of a flat tire is not safe. It is not safe because the sound you hear indicates that your car has issues requiring immediate action.