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What Is That Painful Thumping Noise When I Open My Window and How Do I Get Rid of It?

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Scenario: you are driving on the highway. You have some friends with you, one beside you and two in the back seat. Unfortunately, one of your friends in the back is starting to feel a little hot. So, your friend decides to take their comfort into their own hands, and without preamble opens their window. You and everyone else in the car are immediately assaulted by an eardrum-punching, skull-splitting thudding noise.

Covering ears

Thank you, buddy. Thank you so much.
Photo: sharyn morrow

So, as you hurriedly raise the window while yelling at your friend to just ask when they are feeling too hot next time, you wonder, “What the heck was that noise?”

That noise is known as Helmholtz resonance, or more colloquially, “wind throb.” Putting it simply, the noise is generated in the same way you make noise by blowing across the mouth of a soda bottle.

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According to Jason Nunamaker, a Toyota Motor Corp vehicle frame expert, this problem has gotten worse in modern cars than it used to be. “Most vehicles today, regardless of manufacturer,” he told The Wall Street Journal, “are sealed so well to improve [noise, vibration, and harshness] levels, they can’t vent the volume of air needed to reduce or eliminate the phenomenon.”

In addition, according to other experts like Stephen Remondi, president of Exa Corp, this problem has gotten worse as automakers have sought to create car bodies with fewer gaps. “It’s getting worse because cars are getting tighter,” he said.

So, how do you stop that ear-tearing noise? There are a number of solutions—the first, and simplest, is just to open another window in the front, or a sunroof. That way, air is not simply thrumming past, but also passing through your car. Other than that (or one man’s fix of putting down the rear seats, thus opening an air passage to the trunk), the main fix is to stick something in the window that disrupts the wind, such as one patent from Ford that creates a “false division bar” across the window to break up the flow.

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News Source: The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)