Car Exhaust Droning: What It Is & How to Fix It

It’s a confusing, if very real, fact of life when you own a vehicle: Some sounds that come out of your car are highly desirable, others can indicate that you have a problem. Car exhaust droning falls squarely into the latter category.

This quick guide will tell you what you need to know about specific causes of droning and a few things you can try to make this annoyance go away or prevent it altogether.

What is Car Exhaust Droning? 

Car exhaust droning is the effect that occurs when waves of sound are zapping through the air and the resultant vibrations meet your vehicle, rattling their way through the various components of your car’s body and frame. The cumulative sound effect of this can sound relatively like a drone, which is where the name comes from. 

The problem with exhaust droning comes when you can, essentially, no longer hear anything happening within the frame of your car. When your RPM’s hit a certain number, the exhaust coming out of the back of your vehicle can mask anything else you’re able to hear.

This is based on your sound threshold and less a specific, object decibel level, the annoyance of car droning is different for everyone. At best, it’s probably enough to suck the fun out of a drive and ruin whatever mood benefits driving has.

Because of its unpredictable nature, car droning could refer to a long commute after which there’s an incessant ringing in your ears and you have a hard time hearing for hours afterward — or, car droning could just refer to an hour in which you had difficulty in hearing what you were listening to on the radio.

As you can imagine, this could range from being a fairly dangerous situation or simply a relatively minor annoyance.

If you’re an automotive enthusiast, this can be especially frustrating. Many of us spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on our cars, and part of that is getting the sounds that they produce to be exactly the sounds we want to hear. If your car is droning, chances are that this isn’t the sound you were hoping for.

What Causes Car Droning?

There are many potential causes for exhaust droning. Sometimes, it’s just a sound effect produced by the alignment of sound frequency between the exhaust coming out of your vehicle and the engine running within it. If this is the case, there’s no need to worry — your car’s running fine, you just have one that sings to you on occasion. 

In more severe cases, the vibrations coming from the exhaust system are so big that they begin to rattle your entire car, which can cause small pieces to dislodge and break. It’s definitely worth looking into to make sure your car is safe!

However, if you’d rather your driving experience be more of a quiet one, there are steps you can take to modify your car to get rid of car droning.

How to Prevent Car Droning From Happening

Here are a few preventative tips and steps you can take to make sure that you don’t deal with droning:

  • Consider installing an exhaust tip (a resonated one) onto the tail pipe of your vehicle:These types of resonated tips are made with a lining made of material that will naturally work to dampen sound waves. They’ve been proven though numerous studies to quiet the sound the passes through them by a considerable margin of up to ten decibels — definitely enough to make a difference in your driving experience. 
  • Consider replacing the muffler of your car: The way that your muffler is designed and the size of your muffler itself has a direct relationship with the type and amount of sound that your vehicle will produce. If you can, get a muffler which has a lot of different chambers in it; that’ll help reduce the amount of sound waves that can get through it. 
  • Consider adding an extension on to your exhaust pipe: Making your exhaust pipe significantly longer — say, by three or four feet — can reduce the frequency of the sound that is made by your exhaust system. If you make its exit strategy longer, you’ll change the frequency of the sound, which may make it more difficult to hear. 
  • Consider procuring weights which you can then attach to the exhaust pipe: If the density of the material which the sound has to go through is much greater, then the drone coming from the exhaust will be necessarily dampened and made much quieter. If you can find some solid steel or lead with which to do this, this should reduce the problem greatly. 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! However, if you’re already experiencing car droning, then there are steps you can take to make a loud situation at least a little quieter.

How to Fix Car Droning (If it’s Already Occurring)

If you car has already begun to drone, the above tips may not help as much; or, if you’re in the market for a quicker fix, then the above tips may not fit your bill. In this case, read on! Here are a few tips you can take to reduce car droning if it’s already happening in your vehicle.

  • Purchase a liner for your hood which is made of a sound-damping type of material: As you may imagine, this isn’t an uncommon problem — so, of course, people have found a way to make a product that fixes it! This could be a simple one-stop fix for your problem. 
  • Another purchase you could make to easily fix this problem is a special type of mat which is engineered and produced to reduce vibration: Get the mat, then put it against the bare metal interior of your car. This should reduce a lot of rattling and give you some of the peace which you require. These mats are also known as constrained layer damping, or CLD, tiles.
  • You can also install special upholstery in your car which can reduce the amount of sound you’ll be able to hear: If you’re less worried about other people hearing your car and more worried about your experience while driving. You may need to uninstall your car seats and upholstery to be able to complete this fix. 
  • Another option would be a mixture of mass loaded vinyl (sometimes referred to as MLV) and closed cell foam (sometimes called CCF): There is an issue with this option, however, and that is simply that the two materials combined, even thought they are an effective barrier to outside sounds coming into your vehicle, are extremely heave — they could stand the chance of adding the weight of another person to your car. Which, especially if you are in a racing specialty, could be a big factor against this option.
  • If you’re willing to go all in, you can purchase a substance called hydrophobic melamine foam (also referred to in the industry as HMF): It can block sounds of a middling frequency, and sometimes sounds that are higher in frequency; so, its relevance will depend on the nature of the sound that you’re hearing. 

Ultimately, fixing the problem of car droning in your vehicle will likely take a combination of these options.

In Closing…

If your car is droning, don’t let it drive you too crazy- you do have some options! As always, it’s a good idea to run your fix by a certified mechanic just so you don’t do anything harmful to your car, but there are plenty of common-sense checks you can perform yourself and possibly save yourself some money.

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