New Toyota’s tires are too loud

Dear Car Talk:

I just bought a brand-new Toyota RAV4, and the noise from the tires is driving me crazy! My husband says it doesn’t bother him. He says it’s just road noise. But it bothers me.

It sounds like an erratic, intermittent “whah, whah,” and I originally thought something was wrong with the rear end of the car. However, on smooth, new pavement, the noise goes away.

The Toyota salesman was nice enough to let us drive a different, new RAV4. The noise was less apparent, but it also had a different brand of tires (our tires are Dunlop, and the others were Toyo, I think).

The salesman says tires these days are made with a formula that makes them “harder” in order to get better mileage. Is that true? Will the noise go away as the tires age? Is there another brand of tires that is less noisy? – Jean

RAY: Well, Jean, if your hearing loss gets as bad as your husband’s during the next 25,000 miles, then the tire noise will go away. But as the tires age, the noise is actually more likely to get worse.

The RAV4 is not an especially quiet car. However, tires do have different rubber formulations that produce different characteristics. Some are stickier, for better road holding. Some are less sticky (with “low rolling resistance”) to improve mileage. Some emphasize wet or dry handling or longevity. And some emphasize noise reduction. You obviously didn’t get those! The best tires do all those things reasonably well.

Our advice would be to go to a site like tirerack.com and do a bit of research. We looked at the tire rating charts for 17-inch tires that fit many 2019 RAV4s (we don’t know your tire size, so we guessed). When we checked the ratings for comfort and road noise, both the BF Goodrich Advantage T/A Sport LT and the Michelin Premier LTX were highly rated by buyers.

If the noise is bothering you so much that it’s interfering with your enjoyment of life, then consider changing the tires. Or developing a fondness for heavy metal music.

A good set of new tires is probably going to cost you $600, and it won’t make the RAV4 ride like a Lincoln or Lexus. But better, quieter tires will probably help. And if you’re ambitious, you can put your almost-new tires up for sale on eBay or Craigslist and hope to get something back for them.

If replacing perfectly good tires simply feels too wasteful to you, then lend the car to a teenage nephew for a weekend. Those tires will come back ready to be replaced.

Owner left in the cold after door handles break

Dear Car Talk:

Should door handles that fall apart one by one be considered normal wear and tear, or should GM foot the repair bill as a recall? GM service shops aren’t sure why my 2007 Chevy Suburban LTZ exterior door handles are coming apart one by one.

The problem started during the polar vortex in Cleveland in January 2019 when I hadn’t driven the car in a few days and thought I’d better not leave it sitting too long. The key fob unlocked the doors and I got in and drove it. It was after I returned to the car from my first stop that, although unlocked, the driver’s door handle wouldn’t open the door.

I kept pulling on it in disbelief because it had just opened for me in the driveway, but the right side of the handle broke away and was left hanging, attached only on the left side. I had to climb in through another door to enter. Then later that day, I returned to the car from the library and now none of the four doors would open. I had to enter the car through the tailgate.

When the weather warmed up, all the doors worked again except the front driver’s door with the broken handle. So now I enter through the right passenger door, which is beginning to loosen up as well.

I called GM customer support and they offered a $100 voucher on repairs from a GM dealer of my choice. The estimate, however, greatly exceeds $100, and I don’t think this is normal wear and tear.

I think they didn’t test these handles in sub-zero temps and they’re using inferior quality handles or fasteners. Should this repair be totally on GM? – Mike

RAY: Well, my one piece of advice for you, Mike, is to make sure that your next new vehicle has at least nine doors. You need lots of options.

The door handles GM used on these vehicles are certainly not going to end up in the Museum of Exemplary Automotive Quality. And saving a few cents on parts is not something that’s out of character for lots of car companies. But you have several things working against your case.

First, there was a polar vortex. Cars are designed and tested in cold weather, but in a truly extreme event, with temperatures well below zero for an extended period of time, things often break. Ask your plumber. He probably had a spectacular January in 2019.

Second, when the handle didn’t work, you kept pulling on it “in disbelief.” I’m guessing your disbelief was accompanied by some choice four-letter words and some serious yanking. If you were angry and pulled the handle off the car in frustration when it was minus 10 out, you’re at least partly responsible for the damage.

Finally, the Suburban is more than a dozen years old. That’s well out of the warranty period. Now, I agree with you. A door handle should last the life of the car, but it’s not warrantied for the life of the car. It’s warrantied for three years and 36,000 miles. And that warranty ran out 10 years ago.

So, it’s completely up to GM whether they offer you any help in repairing this, and it sounds like that’s what they did. They probably know that the handles are problematic, so they offered you a $100 discount, as a goodwill gesture.

If I were you, I’d ask a couple of independent body shops for estimates on replacing the handle. They may be able to do it for less than what it costs at the dealer, even with the $100 discount. Or maybe not. And then I’d fix the damn thing. I mean, think of the replacement cost of all the pants you’re tearing up at the knees from crawling across the front seat.

You have my sympathy, Mike. But unfortunately, cars break. More so as they get older. Don’t let it ruin your life. You don’t know how many years you have left on Earth. As annoying as this is, you don’t want to waste them crawling across your front seat.

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