There are many things that RAV4 owners have in common. Sadly, one commonality is that most drivers are tired of hearing the RAV4 wind noise. I’ve been on many long road trips, driving at high speeds on the highway, listening to the same wind noise from my RAV4.
Because of my experience, I can share why this wind noise exists and what to do about it. I will give you some practical tips so that you can enjoy the ride in your RAV4 more.
Understanding Wind Noise
Car manufacturers put a lot of effort into reducing drag from the wind, yet there are spots prone to more wind resistance and noise.
Let’s keep it real – the RAV4 is no Lexus or BMW. Luxury automakers put a lot of money into soundproofing the cabin and creating a quiet ride, but Toyota can’t afford to do this while keeping the price low.
Toyota has a lower budget for research and development of wind noise reduction when compared to luxury brands so they can pass the savings onto the consumer.
Still, the amount of wind noise in the RAV4 is excessive at times. When I drive my RAV4, I rarely notice the wind noise when traveling at lower speeds. I start to hear it only when I start driving faster (around 50 mph). The noise becomes much louder once I’m traveling 70 mph.
Before I talk negatively about the wind noise, there have been upgrades over the years. For example, if you drove a 1999 RAV4 and compared it with a current model, you would notice a big improvement.
Automakers Are Aware of Wind Noise
How important is wind noise in deciding what vehicle to buy? Research indicates that it makes a big difference.
- According to J.D. Power and Associates’ initial quality surveys, wind noise is the top consumer complaint. Automakers understand that buyers equate a quiet cabin with higher quality.
- Engineers spend thousands of hours working in wind tunnels, using computers and microphones to eliminate excessive noise.
- Material, technology, and technique advancement have enabled manufacturers to create a quieter, smoother ride.
Chris Couch, vice president of innovation and product groups at Cooper Standard Automotive Inc., said: “Data from its customers indicate that, after the engine, the largest contributor to cabin noise is wind noise through the window and glass-run system.” (Rubber News)
Automakers focus heavily on creating a comfortable, refined driving experience. Yet, all of this effort leads to drivers noticing faint noises and rattles common to all vehicles, even the luxury ones.
How Manufacturers Reduce Wind Noise
Here are a few ways automakers have worked to reduce noise.
- Adding insulation and foam to the cabin to lessen noise and rattles
- Isolating the suspension to reduce vibration
- Designing an aerodynamic body to diminish resistance
- Optimizing tire tread to lessen road noise
- Redesigning engines to run with less noise
So, what specifically causes the wind noise in a RAV4? It’s believed to be a characteristic of the RAV4, mainly because Toyota focused heavily on fuel efficiency and value, skipping over the luxury end of creating a quiet cabin.
To keep the price down, the RAV4 contains these attributes:
- Thinner auto glass
- Turbulent aerodynamics (in places), making it less efficient
- Light body panels
If you aren’t sure whether you can hear wind noise in this model, I encourage you to take it on the highway for a test drive. From there, you can judge for yourself if it’s too distracting for your tastes.
Here are the most common areas where wind noise can be heard.
- Doors and seals
- Windows (including all auto glass)
- Side mirrors
- Roof rack
- Paint protection film coating
Let’s examine a few reasons why wind can be heard in different parts of the car.
What leads to the wind noise at the doors?
Excessive air coming through the door seals typically has to do with the weather stripping. The door seal is meant to provide a barrier from moisture and keep air out. If it wears or rips, it doesn’t seat correctly, and the seal is broken.
To find these leaks, open your doors and examine them. Look for the weather stripping and covers to ensure everything is adequately affixed.
What causes wind noise at the roof rack?
Roof racks are naturally exposed to a lot of airflow because they sit on top of your vehicle. If the rack has sharp edges or isn’t aerodynamic, it can produce an excessive amount of wind noise. Even aerodynamic roof racks will add some wind noise.
How to Fix
Fixing Door Gap Wind Noise
Fixing the door gap to reduce wind noise doesn’t cost much. While it won’t completely eliminate the sound, it will dampen it dramatically.
We recommend using high-quality weather stripping for the job. Here are some basic instructions to follow.
- Clean the surface of the vehicle where the weather stripping will be installed. Use soapy water and a microfiber cloth.
- Install the strip in one shot, moving from the front of the vehicle over the front door to the rear door.
- You could go further and install more weather stripping down the side where the rear door meets the vehicle.
Fixing Roof Rack Wind Noise
You’ll want to purchase a wind deflector to reduce the noise coming from the roof rack. These deflectors minimize airflow through the roof rack, dramatically reducing noise.
Is The Noise Actually Bad?
I haven’t been personally bothered by the wind noise in my 2021 RAV4, even when taking long trips on the highway, but I know some people have complained about it. To find out how annoying it is, I ran a Reddit poll.
I discovered that I am not much different from other drivers.
From a survey conducted by RAV4 Resource of hundreds of Toyota RAV4 owners:
- 39% of RAV4 owners believe the wind noise is louder than it should be
- 61% of RAV4 owners believe the wind noise is just fine
Here’s what RAV4 owners are saying online about the wind noise.
Before you trade in your RAV4 and take a loss, consider the simple ways we’ve outlined to reduce the noise. Whether you choose to use weather stripping or you want to add a deflector to the roof rack, you can accomplish these tasks on your own.
If all else fails, you can always crank up the stereo and drown out the noise. You just won’t be able to have any meaningful conversations during the drive.