We all know how comforting it is when you shut the door on your car and it makes that solid sound.
You know the sound. The one that if your car door doesn’t make it, you reopen the door and shut it a little harder, just to be sure?
When you get that sound you feel all locked in, safe from the outside world.
Yeah… uh, sorry to break it to you, but did you know that sound is fake?
Or as writer Quinn Myers of Mel magazine put it in his article on the subject, “that sound is total and utter bullsh*t.”
The only reason your car door makes that solid sound when you shut it is to make you feel good. It’s all about perception, you see?
There is a technical term for that sort of and it’s “psychoacoustics.”
When it comes to cars, the automotive industry has found that there is a significant amount of cognitive association between sound and quality. And while you might think that the most important psychological association made between the sound a car makes and its quality is the purr of an engine, in reality, it’s the door.
“Engineering the sound of a car door closing can be traced back to changes in the car manufacturing industry 10 years ago,” explains James Ford, co-founder of the online car parts shop AutoBead. “Increased safety measures meant that car manufacturers had to add extra bars to the side doors to meet safety regulations, which subsequently impacted the sound that doors made while closing.”
“One of the first things a prospective car buyer encounters is the sound of the driver’s door closing — often inside the showroom. This sound gives a subconscious sense of value,” adds Jonathan Berger, a music professor at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics.
Tell me he’s wrong. You can’t.
Tobias Beitz, manager of sound quality and design at Mercedes, explained the process in a 2014 interview with Bloomberg, “A good sound is not a matter of weight. The door sound is mainly ensured by the optimal acoustic design of the door structure, latches and seals.”
This is precisely why the sound of a 2010 model of car door shutting is almost exactly the same as the sound of the 2020 version of that model’s door being shut. It was designed that way.
Even the sound the door makes when you click the lock is engineered.
“Each brand has their own sound engineers who use specific combinations of soft materials such as mats or foam and apply them to the metal surfaces of the door to absorb or block unwanted noise and create a unique sound — this ensures that dampeners that have been added into the door cavity to create the right low-frequency ‘thwump’ sound,” according to James Ford, co-founder of the online car parts shop AutoBead. “Then they’ll alter the locking mechanism to make just the right sort of click. Without the dampener in place, the car door closing would sound more like two pieces of metal colliding.”
So there you have it. Just one more thing we thought we could believe in that turns out to not be true at all.