By Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I recently wrote about quiet cars, where I focused on interior sound. My concerns about noise come from my own hyperacusis and tinnitus because noise hurts my ears and makes my tinnitus worse. Today I heard from a reader who wrote:

Most media coverage about quiet cars refers to exhaust sound or interior sound, sometimes referred to as cabin noise. Design of the quietest interior possible has become highly competitive, and if one is looking for a car with a quiet ride, or a quiet interior, an abundance of reviews exists. But one area that receives little industry attention is the effect that automotive lock, locating, and security technology have on the residential soundscape. Quiet car buyers often learn too late that a car has a feature that disturbs neighbors and is difficult to modify.

In addition to older technologies like audible car alarms, many cars feature horn sounds to confirm locking, to locate cars in parking lots, to guide people through the process of filling tires with air, to warn that a key is in the car, or even if the key is in possession of a passenger. Thousands of online posts describe how difficult it is to remove noisy features, thousands more feature do it yourself fixes, and there is a web page that explains how to lock a car quietly.

Car buyers should be aware of disturbing noises before purchasing a car, including the ease with which such features may be modified, because with some cars certain technologies are not easily configurable. Consumers should consider asking the following questions:

  • Can the car be locked without creating a horn sound, or any sound?
  • Can the car be configured accordingly before I take ownership?
  • Can the car be located using visual rather than audible technology?
  • Is there a beeping sound when the car is driven in reverse?
  • If so, can this be modified?
  • Does the car use an automatic pedestrian warning sound at low speeds?
  • Can I hear what this sounds like from a pedestrian’s point of view?
  • Does the horn sound when the technology perceives a key in the car?
  • Is this configurable and can it be modified before I take ownership?

Some shoppers may hesitate to ask a lot of questions of this nature.  But it’s your car, bought with your money, so don’t hesitate to ask the questions. The time invested doing this research while shopping for a car will pay off later.

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