Tire thumping is often the result of a wheel and tire assembly that is out of balance. Once wheels and tires have been checked for balance, there are other potential causes for tire noise that can be diagnosed.
Begin by making a close physical examination of the wheels and tires. With the vehicle elevated; identify any debris that has collected in the rim, and check for damage on the wheel itself. Then check that each wheel and hub assembly is tight, and that there is no excessive play when rotated or shaken. As wheels are rotates, check for any foreign objects in the tire tread as well.
Uneven tread is created when the vehicle is driven without the proper alignment or when tires are not regularly rotated. Uneven tread wear can be assessed by moving a hand across the tire surface in both directions. If one direction is rougher than the other; rotate the tires or replace them. Variances in tread depth can also be measured to identify uneven wear.
A mechanic is needed to identify other conditions that lead to tire thumping. Damage to the radial chords and improper wheel and tire balance is identified using specialized machines that rotate the wheel and tire assembly apart from the vehicle.