How To Fix Lifter Tick: Detecting Engine Problems Before Winding Up In Costly Repairs

man doing auto repair and change oil

Last Updated: July 19, 2021

Have you ever encountered a failing lifter causing that annoying ticking sound under the hood of your engine?

Very frustrating, I know!

Most automobiles have hydraulic valve lifters responsible for your vehicle's silent operation. It eventually wears out over time like any of your engine's parts.

When this part starts failing, not only does it make a disturbing hydraulic lifters noise, but you also worry about how it affects your vehicle.

You probably have this nagging question in your head, "can noisy lifters cause damage?" If this is your concern, please keep reading and find out a practical solution to this problem.

What Is A Hydraulic Lifter And How Does It Work

First, let's figure out what a lifter is to determine a more efficient lifter noise fix. Not everyone knows about valve lifters; for one, it's a kind of mechanism in most cars' internal combustion units.

Such tools rely on constant reconditioning for continued efficiency.

Notably, there are different types of lifters, but the hydraulic lifter is the one that utilizes oil pressure to run the plunger and spring. The plunger and spring will then work together in producing clearance within the valve train so you can drive your car free of any engine noise.

The lifter is not only responsible for silencing the engine's noise, but it also keeps your car in the best shape and enhances its performance. Thus, after knowing all these, you perhaps wonder, "is lifter tick bad for my vehicle?"

When your car's engine starts creating noise, it could be that it has a faulty hydraulic lifter.

You can distinguish such noise with either a ticking or tapping sound. However, you can somehow tell how bad the damage is with the kind of sound your car's lifter makes and how long it lasts.

A fading sound shouldn't be a cause of alarm as it may only be because of a dirty engine. But a continuous tapping sound requires you to pay urgent attention before it leads to an engine breakdown. When suspecting more severe issues, find out immediately whatever is causing it.

What Causes Valve Lifters To Be Noisy?

Yellow and black car engine bay

Before we get into more details of how to fix lifter tick or that disturbing noise in your vehicle, let's discover what causes the unwanted sound. Here are some of them:

Damaged Lifter

You or someone you know experiencing this kind of problem might have one nagging question in mind now. "Will a noisy lifter cause damage to the engine?" you might ask.

A defective lifter is one of the possible causes why your engine is making an unwanted sound.

If that is the case, you should replace it right away to prevent further damage to your vehicle. You will notice that with a fully functional lifter, it constantly goes up and down.

Thus, another indicator of a possible defect aside from the noise is a lifter in a collapsed state.

Being in such a condition prevents the system from maintaining oil pressure, and a complete rebuild would be necessary.

So, to decide whether you can still resort to learning how to quiet lifters, you should check and ensure that the lifter isn't damaged yet.

Inadequate Vehicle Maintenance

Low oil levels can cause your lifter to have inadequate lubrication for reaching the upper valve parts. The oil cushion dampens the pounding of the push rod or the tappet, and its absence can cause hydraulic lifters to collapse.

Primarily, failure to change your oils regularly would eventually lead to having dirty oil deposits.

It's something you should also consider when you're coming up with a solution to stopping lifter noise. The same thing also happens when you neglect to change filters regularly.

Bent Pushrods

Check to see if there's any damage to the pushrods. Ensure that they're straight and adequately attached to the rocker arm. Sometimes, the pushrod goes through so much pressure when we push too hard on the pedal when running at high speed.

Repeatedly doing so can bend the pushrods, deteriorate the lifter and camshaft rapidly, and affect the performance of your engine. Even worst than that, it may cause grave damage to the other parts connected to it.

In addition, knocking rods can also be a cause for the engine's ticking sound.

That noise can likewise be a result of the rod having a faulty bearing attachment. While it won't cause modification to the engine's temperature, it can alter its RPM, so you need to check sooner.

Incorrect Use Of Oil

When considering an effective engine lifter noise fix, you should ensure that you're using the right kind of oil for your vehicle. It is well-known to almost every automobile owner that oil viscosity is among the several factors to look at when choosing one for your car.

For those who are not yet so familiar with choosing the right oil, it's best to refer to your car's manual first. The oil's thinness or thickness is what you refer to as viscosity.

Those inexperienced in car maintenance should know what oil to use depending on their engine and hydraulic valve lifters.

Knowing How To Fix Noisy Valve Lifters

Adjusting The Lifters Or The Valve

The valvetrain is another possible culprit for the engine ticking problem. It is something you should be aware of when figuring out how to fix lifter tick. Initially installed hydraulic lifters require necessary adjustments for a fully operational plunger in its mid-range of travel.

Several components work together to ensure the precise distance between the pushrod and the valve.

Experts refer to this distance as the valve lash. When this happens, it's typical to hear a ticking sound during excessive work, as these components shift around while your engine runs.

It is during such instances that you need to ensure zero clearance by tightening the valve adjustment screen. You may also refer to the car's manual and seek professional help to make changes in spacing between your engine's components and the lifter.

Oil Change

Car engine oil change

Using oil that's either too thick or too thin for your engine can damage the lifter. The same thing also happens when you missed flushing out the old oil to replace it with a new one. Remember that good oil quality with appropriate viscosity is crucial for vehicles to function optimally.

Accumulation of dirt in the internal combustion engine will cause more damage.

Hence, it's necessary to come up with a lifter noise fix at the soonest possible time by changing oils regularly to prolong your engine's life.

When doing the oil change on your own, you may check out these few simple steps:

  • You can quiet down noisy lifters by observing routine oil changes. To do so, you must first drain out the old oil.
  • Using an engine flushing agent or an oil system cleaner can also help drip out the old oil more effectively.
  • Before replacing the oil with a new one, know that you can't just use any oil, for that matter, since there is a specialized oil specific to your engine. 
  • Be cautious of what's on the oil label; it could be 5W 20 or 10W 30. Those numbers are the oil's thickness or viscosity rating. You don't need to use the same brand for every oil change as long as you choose whatever meets the manufacturer's specifications.
  • Once you ensure acquiring the appropriate oil for your engine, you can now replace the old one.

Addressing Faulty Spark Plugs

Make a thorough visual inspection to check your engine for possible loose or damaged spark plugs. This step is essential if you're learning how to fix a lifter tick, especially when doing it for the first time.

To do this, remove the spark plug and try wriggling it. If it moves, then you would need to tighten it or check if reinstallation is necessary. You can resolve the issue of torquing the plug incorrectly by reinstalling the spark plugs.

Replacing Defective Pushrods

We all become guilty sometimes of being too heavy on the gas pedal. Often than not, it results in a bent rod. Conclusively, part of knowing how to stop lifter noise is to look into the possibility of defective pushrods so you can replace them immediately when necessary.

Use Oil Additives For Cleaning The Lifters

Using top-quality additives in cleaning your lifters is another way of how to quiet a noisy lifter. When we say additives, I don't mean thinning or thickening agents but oil stabilizers. These additives work to improve engine performance and help it last longer.

Aside from protecting your car's engine from seals and gaskets, additives are a significant workhorse for your vehicle. It enhances your existing oil's properties while helping flush out the filth and reducing engine wear.

Faulty Lifter Replacement

Your final solution in learning how to fix lifter noise on your engine is getting yourself new lifters.

Lifter replacement could be your next option if the ones you have are already defective or if the solutions we earlier mentioned no longer work.

To do this, you might need tools that can help you pull out the lifter without removing the whole engine. This solution may come at a cost, but it's better than damaging your car's engine, which could be more expensive.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it going to cost me much to fix a noisy lifter tick?

Part of the fix is getting a replacement when essential, and doing so comes at a cost. How much you'd spend depends on the engine you have. In such cases where it's necessary to replace all filters, you can expect that it could be anywhere between $200 to $400.

However, should you opt to bring it to a professional mechanic, it would approximately cost you about $1000 to $1500. So, with that in mind and you'd like to try doing this on your own for the first time, here's a short video for you:

Will synthetic oil quiet noisy lifters?

Some would say that using synthetic oil is an excellent option for lubricating your engine. Yet, others claim that it's not the kind of oil but more of the use of high-quality additives that can help silence the noise.

Nevertheless, it's best to make the right choice in the additives to use instead of resorting to synthetic oil to be on the safe side. Anyway, most experts discourage utilizing this oil, especially for old vehicles; they say it improves engine performance but does not address the noise.

Final Thoughts

In summary, we hope you will find this article helpful in identifying possible engine problems that cause unwanted sounds. Now that you've learned how to fix noisy valve lifters, you at least have an advantage by knowing ways of further improving your car's performance.

I suggest that you try out our cost-effective options first before deciding to go for a replacement. Although, once you determine that it's necessary to acquire new lifters, you should not think twice about getting them. It will extend the life of your engine and avoid more severe problems.

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