Corvette: Why is My Tire Thumping?

Some might say the most important part of a sports car is the tires. Proper tire maintenance could prevent unnecessary accidents and save you money at the pump. Diagnose thumping tires here.

By Charlie Gaston - February 18, 2015

This article applies to the C5, C6 and C7 Corvette (1997-current).

Let's face it: Cars can make a lot of mechanical noises while out on the road. But in some cases, the wrong kind of noise can be an indication of a real problem, including the thumping of tires against the road. While there are a number of causes for this noise, the best solutions available can be found right here in this helpful DIY guide. Here are some questions to assess when it comes to a thumping tire.

Materials Needed

  • Torque wrench/breaker bar
  • Jack

The professional cost listed takes into account tire rotation service ($20-25) and up to several hundred dollars for up to four replacement tires.

Step 1 – Could it be a flat spot on the tire?

Flat spots on tires develop when a vehicle is not driven regularly or sits for a long while in one position. Aggressive driving or on-track driving could also cause the condition.

  • Flat spots on tires minimize the functionality of the drive and cause rhythmic thumping when the car is in motion.
  • Speeding on a race track and locking the brakes (i.e., "burning rubber") against the pavement could result in a flat spot on one or more of your vehicle's tires.
  • The more your breaking limit exceeds the traction limit of your tires, the more likely you are to see a change in the shape, thereby causing rhythmic thumping while driving.
  • Depending on whether the flat spot has compromised the tire tread, you may need to purchase new tires. This would certainly be the case if the tire tread is worn down significantly.
  • As you inspect each tire, you will invariably discover some damage, as indicated by the existing thumping sound that you are experiencing. However, if you stop locking your breaks, you could buy yourself some time before a new tire is needed.
Figure 1. Damage due to brake lockups and slides.

Pro Tip

Sliding your car sideways in a race could also lead to flat spots.

Step 2 – What about tire rotations?

The Corvette comes with staggered wheel and tire sizes, this means that the rears are wider than the fronts. This is aid traction when you're trying to put all that ferocious LS1 power through those rear tires. What this means is that traditional tire rotations will not work for your vehicle. You can rotate the tires side-to-side, largely without issue, but you should get used to replacing tires in axle pairs, as the rears are going to wear out faster than the fronts in most cases. If you're really trying to maximize tire life, you can use an old trick that racers do, which is tire flipping. There is a bit of leg work involved compared to your average tire rotation, but here's the scoop: you can have your tires dismounted from the wheel and flipped around so that what used to be the outside edge is not the inside edge. so if you're at the track all the time, and the shoulders of your tires are taking a beating, flipping tires effectively gives you a fresh shoulder, and will make your tires last longer. You can expect to pay about $15-25 a wheel for this service at your local tire shop.

Step 3 – Are the lug nuts secure?

  • As a general rule of thumb, you want to inspect the fit of the lug nuts on your vehicle at least once a month, checking for looseness.
  • If one or more lug net is loose, simply tighten using a torque wrench (usually, this task cannot be done effectively by hand). Tighten each lug nut until there is gentle pressure on the wheel. Most aluminum wheels required lug nuts to be torqued to around 80-95 lb./ft; check with the manufacturer to confirm the required torque specification.
  • A loose lug nut could cause a wheel to slide around or, worse, come off completely, especially at top speeds.
Figure 2. Proper care of wheel lug nuts is essential to stopping unnecessary damage to Corvette wheels.

Related Discussions