NASCAR cars are tremendously loud. They do not contain the same components as production vehicles, meaning they are much louder and they sound different too. New fans may therefore be wondering why NASCAR cars are as loud as they are.
NASCAR cars are so loud because they do not have mufflers, unlike production cars. This means they can reach 100 decibels throughout their 3 to 5 hours’ worth of racing. For this reason, it is advised that everyone who attends a race wears proper ear protection.
Below, we will explain just how loud a NASCAR car can get and just how long human ears can tolerate the sound without protection. We will also explain why NASCAR cars do not have mufflers, and whether they will consider adding mufflers for future events.
How Loud Is A NASCAR Car?
NASCAR cars are capable of reaching 100 decibels during a race. Many have compared the sound of a NASCAR car to that of fighter jets constantly flying overhead. For this reason, you will see most fans wearing ear protection at a NASCAR race, as they can last 3-5 hours.
Ear Tolerance In Decibels
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has estimated normal vocal ranges to be about 60 decibels. If you have ever cut grass without wearing ear protection, your ears are treated to 80 decibels, which is close to the limit for damage to start occurring – 90 decibels over a single minute at a constant rate.
Most research shows that our ears cannot tolerate anything over 85 decibels for any longer than 8 hours. This is why, if you see people working in a loud occupational environment for example, they are always wearing ear protection.
OSHA has also outlined the maximum amount of time our ears should be exposed to specific occupational noise exposure. Since this is occupational, it is not sound that you will hear at a constant level. Think of a crane being operated in a warehouse or other types of machinery like electrical saws.
NASCAR Cars In Decibels
NASCAR cars, just like jet flyovers at 1,000 feet, generate sounds of about 100 decibels. Now, plant yourself close to a NASCAR track for 3 to 5 hours and you may be at risk of hearing loss.
In 2000, the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), studied the noise levels at 3 different tracks: Bristol, Kentucky, and Indianapolis. They also ran a follow-up to the study in 2010. During the study, they outlined 3 distinct areas on each track: The pits, the grandstands, and the infield.
All 3 tracks averaged at least 100 decibels regardless of the location for the first 100 minutes of each race. Kentucky measured at exactly 100 from the grandstands, which at all 3 tracks were the quietest. In most cases, the sound was loudest in the pits, averaging at over 120 decibels at Indianapolis.
Bristol, given its stadium-style layout, was the loudest of the 3, measuring at 110 decibels from the stands, and nearly 120 decibels from both the infield and the pits.
Protect The Ears?
It is wise to bring ear protection to a NASCAR race. However, for many, attending a race is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And for that reason, they want to experience the roar of the NASCAR engines firsthand. This is why you see some fans opt out of wearing ear protection – at least for a short while.
But, if you decide not to bring ear protection, be warned: Failure to do so may cause permanent damage to the ears. It only takes less than a minute in the car itself. This is why you see NASCAR drivers placing earbuds into their ears before they race. If you’re in the pits or the infield, you can experience permanent hearing loss in just 2 minutes. From the stands, it takes between 7-10 minutes.
Why Are NASCAR Cars So Loud?
NASCAR cars are so loud because they don’t have mufflers and they have very large, powerful engines, capable of putting out 670 HP. These engines are designed for pure performance, and so are the exhaust systems and other components of the car, making them very loud – producing sounds of 100 dB.
So why wouldn’t NASCAR add mufflers to their car? Before we dive into answering this question, it is important to know why NASCAR cars, whether in the Truck, Xfinity, or Cup Series, are built without many components we may deem necessary on our road cars.
The top 2 reasons for NASCAR’s methods regarding the addition or lack of car components are performance and safety. The steering wheel, lack of doors, and tight cockpit land in the safety category. You can say the same for the lack of speedometers and dashboard components, as they could be distracting to the driver.
But the lack of components elsewhere has to do with performance aspects. This is why NASCAR cars have no mufflers.
Lack Of Mufflers Explained
If you take the muffler off of a production car, you’re going to hear a much louder vehicle. Now, doing this is not advisable and it is also illegal to do so in many countries. But exceptions are made in organizations like NASCAR, where the presence of a muffler could slow down the car.
This is because mufflers hinder the airflow coming out of the engine since air cannot re-enter the engine until the previous cycle is exhausted. Without the presence of a muffler, the cycle operates smoother, which makes the cars faster.
KEY POINTS• NASCAR cars are extremely loud, producing sounds of about 100 decibels
• If you go to a NASCAR race, you should bring ear protection
• NASCAR cars are so loud mainly due to the absence of mufflers
Are Modern NASCAR Cars Quieter Than In The Past?
Modern NASCAR cars are not any quieter than cars in the past. However, the Next Gen cars have a different sound than what you may be used to as a NASCAR fan. This is because the Next Gen cars, rolled out in 2022, featured a complete redesign from the Gen 6 car, including a different engine.
The Next Gen car was designed to look more like a production car. They included showroom-style bodies, 18-inch aluminum wheels requiring just a single lug nut, more powerful engines, better downforce, and a revamped aerodynamic package. Gone were the old truck arms, instead replaced with an independent rear suspension.
As is traditional, the transmission in the Next Gen car remained manual, but a 5-speed sequential transmission replaced the old 4-speed, H-pattern gearboxes. Finally, the steering wheel was now rack-and-pinion, compared to the old pitman arm style.
Differences In Exhaust
If you have been around a NASCAR track for a while, you may notice the Next Gen cars sound a little different compared to the Gen 6 cars. The reason behind this comes from the positioning of the exhaust. The Gen 6 cars featured 2 exhaust exits, just like the Next Gen car. However, those exhaust exits were both confined to the right side of the vehicle.
The exhaust on the Next Gen car is not like this. Instead, you will find 1 exhaust on the right and another on the left. As with any change, it was met with varying opinions from fans. However, some NASCAR drivers have said it sounds no different when inside the car. The bottom line is they are still very loud!
Will NASCAR Cars Ever Have Mufflers?
Whether NASCAR will have mufflers or anything to make the cars quieter remains inconclusive. As of 2022, there are no plans to add mufflers to the cars, but that can always change in the future. The Next Gen cars have proven NASCAR can and will innovate with new technological aspects.
They got rid of the old truck arms and steering wheel boxes that belong somewhere in a ‘history of the automotive industry’ museum. This suggests NASCAR would not hesitate to introduce mufflers or something similar if it keeps both the performance and safety aspects of the sport intact.
NASCAR cars are so loud because they do not have mufflers. This is because mufflers restrict airflow out of the engine which can hinder performance. NASCAR cars can exceed 100 decibels, which can cause permanent hearing loss without ear protection. As of 2022, NASCAR has no plans to add mufflers.