In a previous question, I mentioned an English teacher who changed the following sentence “…the rustling of tires." to “…the rustle of tires.”

It seems; however, that rustle has been assessed and rejected, so how would you describe the noise tires make on the asphalt? If they don't rustle, what do they do?

Would "swoosh" do, or is it too childish?

  • Who does the assessing and rejecting? I'm intrigued. Oct 17, 2015 at 23:16
  • Before anyone else mentions it: "rolling noise".
    – phk
    Oct 17, 2015 at 23:16
  • Chastly from UK: The cognoscenti of this here forum. Why, do you think "rustle" is not quite entirely incorrect, or what? I kind of think that the noise resembles the rustle of leaves, but what do I know.
    – Ricky
    Oct 17, 2015 at 23:21
  • 1
    Is the asphalt dry or wet? Does it have debris like pebbles on it? These factors determine exactly the kind of sound you'll get. But I can't think of a perfect word for any of them. It's between a squish and a crackle. Maybe in this case it's best to paint visual imagery of the interaction between the tires and the asphalt so that the reader can imagine the sound from the description.
    – Mentalist
    Oct 18, 2015 at 0:08
  • 1
    How fast is this car going? Cars at highway speeds make completely different noises than those moving at walking speeds.
    – Jim
    Oct 18, 2015 at 5:26

6 Answers 6


In addition to earlier suggestions:

'Rumble' ('soft rumble' / 'heavy rumble' )
'Crunch' (on gravel)

One might talk of 'drumming' of tyres on dry asphalt roads, particularly where the tyres have large tread patterns (as typical of four-wheel drive off-road vehicles). When heard from normal car tyres this may indicate the tyre has been improperly mounted, as most car tyres are meant to be relatively quiet in normal operation.

On wet roads one might talk about the 'hiss' of tyres. A German term 'zischen' has been applied to this sound. In translation it means 'hiss' or 'fizz'.

Road surfaces can be modified to increase tyre noise, sometimes as a safety measure on the approach to an intersection, or at the edge or centre of a road. Generally these are known as 'rumble strips' and one might extrapolate that they are intended to create 'tyre rumble'. In some cases the road surface is modified so as to create a musical sound when driven over by a vehicle's tyres, see: http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Webcast/story?id=3931873&page=1

'Crunch' is the very specific sound tyres make on gravel, most usually in the context (in cinema at least) of driveways on wealthy country estates.

'Thrum' and 'drone' are vaguely musical terms, describing a sustained note or hum.

Generally there is a dearth of current words to describe tyre noise because tyre manufacturers are working very hard - and fairly successfully - towards eliminating tyre noises altogether. See: http://tires.about.com/od/understanding_tires/a/Tire-Noise.htm


Consider, hum.

: to make a continuous low-pitched droning sound.

The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus

The hum of tires on blacktop. The smells of some stranger's car seats, a kid's juice box, our sweat. “What's happening to us?” whispered Russell.

Mad Dogs


I suggest the 'swish of tires'.

It seems that there is some support for that. There are examples with both US and UK spelling.

swish of tires


swish of tyres

  • Thank you, Chastly from UK. An excellent answer! Now please take a quick look at the initial question (english.stackexchange.com/questions/280761/…). Swish or swishing?
    – Ricky
    Oct 17, 2015 at 23:42
  • It's always best to close the exact expression ("swish of tires") with inverted commas, to narrow down the number of hits.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 18, 2015 at 6:22
  • 1
    It seems swish often goes hand in hand with wet asphalt.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 18, 2015 at 6:25

Although I’ve only seen it used this way in one or two novels, I like “shushing” for the quiet noise tires make, especially when the road is wet, or the car is moving slowly.

The Oxford English dictionary defines shushing as, “to move with or make a soft swishing or rustling sound.”


This reddit post has some interesting suggestions, including 'whir', which I like. I don't like swish to convey this sound as swish - for me, at least - connotes a kind of crisp celerity.

I like coming up with newish word forms, so I thought of a couple:

  1. Gum roll: using gum in its older Germanic sense of 'rubber'. This gets across the two main components of the uninterrupted turning of the wheel and the texture of the tire and therefore the sound it would produce against asphalt.
  2. Gum tumble: uses gum like the suggestion before, but also shows word initial rhyme and a verb more concretely reminiscent of the actual context in which this sound is heard.



Tires "talk" just like we do...they "hum" with rich, choral-like overtones when happy and content. Depending on the situation though, they may make many, many, different sounds as they converse with the road and nature, and all that crosses their path (literally and figuratively).

  • 1
    Olotto Muf Dyvar the "thread" is not dead. Any user can post a new answer, but if you prefer, you can delete your answer. Please do not deface contributions.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 18, 2017 at 8:55
  • Omg don't touch other people's things. That post is MY copyrighted content. You have willfully commited plagiarism. You are now technically, and legally, placed on notice of this, furthermore, any additional molestation of my original creative expression will find you willfully AND knowingly guilty. Jan 18, 2017 at 11:01

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