If you ever hear a ticking sound coming from your engine, chances are there’s something wrong going on in your car’s engine.
When a ticking sound starts coming from your engine when your car is turned on, it could signal a couple of engine issues that can lead to severe engine problems if not resolved sooner.
The leading quick solution for noises caused by the engine valve lifter is using thicker oil. However, using more viscous oil is more of a band-aid solution for the noise. Not for the engine problem itself.
Read on to learn all about the different causes and solutions for ticking noises caused by your engine valve lifter.
Table of contents
- What is a Lifter on a Car?
- What is Causing The Engine Noise?
- How to Stop Noisy Lifters on Cars
- Noisey Lifter-Related Questions
What is a Lifter on a Car?
Before we get into what’s causing the noise and how to stop the ticking sound from your car engine, let us first find out what a lifter is on a car.
The lifter, or the valve lifter, is a piece of metal shaped like a cylinder. It goes under the camshaft and over the valves.
Cars can have either a manual lifter or a hydraulic valve lifter. The main difference between the two is that hydraulic lifters self-adjust while manual lifters need to be adjusted manually.
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Hydraulic lifters also tend to be quieter than manual ones.
The lifter is a crucial part of the engine to maintain. If damaged, the engine valves can be left open, causing leaks and damage to the engine itself due to a lack of oil pressure.
What is Causing The Engine Noise?
There are three leading causes of ticking engine noise. Here are a few things you might want to check to find out what is causing the ticking sound coming from your car engine.
1. Valve Lifters that are Out of Adjustment
The leading cause of lifter noise is a valve that needs adjustment. When the valve lifters are out of adjustment, it can cause a ticking sound to come from your engine.
Valve lifters come in specific sizes specifically made for your car’s engine type. When the valve lifter is unfitted, it can bump into the camshaft when the vehicle is started. It can also vibrate against the camshaft and the valve.
2. The Engine Lacks Lubrication
Another leading cause of lifter noise is the lack of lubrication in the engine. When the upper cylinder head of your engine isn’t well-lubricated, an engine knocking sound is produced.
3. The Push Rod is Bent
If you drive your car like a sports car wherein you push the gas pedal now and then, you can cause the pushrod to get bent.
The pushrod typically bends over time, depending on the car’s usage. And when it does, it eventually causes engine noise.
How to Stop Noisy Lifters on Cars
1. Use Engine Oil System Cleaners
One simple way to tone down lifter noise and improve fuel economy is by replacing your engine oil. You can easily do an oil change by following these three simple steps:
Step 1: Open the hood.
Step 2: Remove the oil fill cap.
Step 3: Pour one bottle of engine oil system cleaner into the oil fill.
Step 4: Replace the oil cap and drive at average speeds for up to 24 hours.
Tip: Regularly replacing your engine oil can help you save on fuel because it leads to better gas mileage and can help you maintain the perfect oil level consistently.
2. Replace Bent Pushrods
If you still hear a ticking sound coming from your engine despite adding great lubricants, you might have to check for bent Pushrods.
The best solution for bent Pushrods is to replace them with new ones. You can get new Pushrods for under $20 each.
To check if your Pushrods are bent, try the following steps:
Step 1: Unscrew the push arm to lift the pushrods
Step 2: Take all of the pushrods out and roll them over a flat surface.
Step 3: Put away the pushrods that wobble when they roll.
Tip: Take it easy on the gas pedal to avoid getting your pushrods bent.
3. Use Heavy Oil for Rod Knock Noise
Rod Knock is one of the worst things you can hear from your engine because it could mean that your car won’t last any longer.
If you’re looking for the perfect quickie solution for rod knock noise, your best bet would be using heavy motor oil.
However, using heavy oil is only a band-aid solution. It can dampen the sound and make the noise virtually soundless.
But do note that rich oil can make your car engine heat up faster because of its thicker oil viscosity, making it harder to pump through the engine than conventional oil.
You can find out which type of oil is the best for your lifter from your car manual.
Tip: If you are using thicker or heavier oil on your car, make sure to warm the engine up first before going for a drive to make sure that the oil will get pumped inside the engine fluidly.
4. Adjust the Lifters
Hydraulic valve lifters don’t usually need to be adjusted since they are self-adjusting. On the other hand, manual hydraulic lifters need to be maintained and changed on a regular basis to achieve proper lifter spacing.
If a ticking lifter is producing sound from your car engine, this could mean that you have a bad lifter that is either the wrong size, worn out, or isn’t fitted correctly.
Adjusting a faulty lifter is hard work. To do it yourself, you’d need to take out plenty of engine parts like the rocker arm, valve cover, valve train, and more in a specific order. This is why it’s best to leave this solution to a professional mechanic.
Tip: You can make sure you or your mechanic gets the right valve lifter size by checking your car manual.
5. Get New Lifters
If you have tried all the solutions listed above and yet still find your car making a ticking noise, the last option for you may be to get new lifters.
You can get a complete set of lifters for approximately $300 or a solid lifter for $20 per piece.
Noisey Lifter-Related Questions
Could oil weight have anything to do with my lifter noise?
Yes, using heavy oils often serve as a temporary solution for dampening lifter noise. However, if your lifter is hydraulic, then rich oils would do you no good. Instead, heavy oils can make hydraulic lifters cause louder noise.
This is why it is common for mechanics to recommend synthetic-based oils for hydraulic lifters.
How to Find the Best Additive for Lifter Noise
The best way to get the best oil additive for lifter noise is to check your car manual. You can also consult a professional mechanic.
Do not ever attempt to use random additives because all car engines require specific additives and oils. Also, note that hydraulic lifter noise requires a different additive than manual lifter noise.
Will synthetic oil quiet noisy lifters?
An oil additive or synthetic oil can be used to quiet down noisy lifters if they’re hydraulic lifters. Heavier oils are the preferred choice if you plan to quiet down a set of manual valve lifters.
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However, it isn’t recommended to use synthetic oil for an older engine when it comes to fixing a noisy engine lifter because of the lack of oil sludge that makes oil flow too slick for older machines.
What is the best oil for noisy lifters?
There are numerous oil additive brands for noisy lifters. However, the most sought-after brand of engine oil additive out there for a faulty hydraulic lifter and manual lifter is Liqui Moly. Follower by Marvel mystery oil and Best Line.
Does seafoam work for noisy lifters?
You can add sea foam motor treatment to diesel and gasoline crankcase oil. It can help you turn any noisy lifter quiet. It can also help you reduce diesel injector stiction and tone-done loud timing chains.
How long can you drive with bad lifters?
If you’ve just started to hear the ticking sound coming from your engine, you should not attempt driving more than 100 miles.
Damaged, worn-out, or collapsed lifters can cause ignition problems for your machine. This is why it’s best to drive your car straight to a repair shop when you hear lifter noise.
Hearing ticking sounds coming from lifter noise can be annoying. Stop lifter noise by keeping your engine well-lubricated, getting your valve lifters adjusted, and preventing your pushrods from getting bent.
It is always important to check your car engine for a lifter tick so you can take action immediately. Prolonging issues related to your engine’s valve lifters can lead to ignition problems and further engine failure.
Robert is an electronic engineer with more than five years of experience with a solid affinity for helping people reduce noise. He writes about these silent home appliances and easy soundproofing measures to help everyone avoid the negative effect of extended exposure to high noise levels.