Lifter Tick Noisy Sound – Causes & Fixes

Discover the secret behind the persistent tick under your car’s hood. In this insightful exploration, we delve into the world of lifter tick – from its elusive causes to effective fixes. Join us as we unveil strategies to not only quiet the noise but also rejuvenate your vehicle’s performance, ensuring a smoother, more enjoyable drive.

Each valve has a hydraulic valve lifter next to it. The rocker arm, a brief rod, connects this cylinder to the valve. The lifter’s responsibility is to work with the rocker’s arm to help open and close the valve. Ticking noises can happen if there is an issue with the engine or the lifter. The earlier the problem is resolved, the less likely it is that you will require significant repairs.

Depending on the engine type, your engine may potentially have a hydraulic lifter fitted directly between the camshaft and the engine valve.

What is a lifter tick?

Lifter tick, also known as valvetrain noise, is a tapping sound that occurs when the engine is running. The sound is caused by the valves in the engine opening and closing and the lifters, which are small hydraulic cylinders that help control the valves, making contact with other engine components. When the lifters make contact, they produce a ticking sound that is often described as a rapid clicking or tapping noise.

What Causes Lifter Tick?

Lifter tick is most frequently caused by tainted oil or insufficient oil. Furthermore, you might have chosen the incorrect oil quality or be dealing with a subpar lifter. The pushrod may also be bent, in which case it needs to be replaced. The most frequent reasons for the lifter tick are listed in further detail below:


Low Oil Pressure

It is a common cause of lifter tick because lifters require oil to operate smoothly. If the engine is not lubricated properly, the lifters may not receive enough oil to function properly, which can cause them to make noise.

Improperly adjusted valves

Valves that have been improperly set might also cause lifter ticks. The lifters may generate noise if the valves are not adjusted properly because they might not open and close at the proper times.

Engine wear

Engine wear is another cause of lifter tick, especially in older engines with high mileage or engines that have been poorly maintained. Over time, the engine’s components can wear down, causing lifter ticks.

Bad Lifter

The lifter itself may be at fault if the issue isn’t caused by the oil. You will hear a ticking noise that can get worse with time if the lifter is malfunctioning and not moving as it should. A bad lifter can only be replaced; there is no other option. If you don’t fix the issue right away, the valve may stop opening as it should, which could result in a misfire.

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Poor fuel

Poor fuel quality is another possible cause of lifter tick. If you use low-quality fuel, it can cause carbon buildup on the valves, which can cause a lifter tick.

Bent Pushrod

The age of the automobile can significantly impact Pushrod’s performance and how it is driven. The pushrod may bend with the use or after a great deal of force.

This results in the lifter being unable to operate properly, giving you an engine tick. The bent pushrod must be replaced in order to solve this problem.

Lifter tick is not a serious problem on its own, but it can be a sign of more significant issues within the engine. Ignoring the lifter tick for an extended period can lead to more severe engine damage and costly repairs. Therefore, it’s essential to identify and fix the root cause of the lifter tick as soon as possible.

If you think that your engine is experiencing a lifter tick, it’s crucial to diagnose the problem promptly. So now let us understand how to diagnose it.

How can a lifter tick be diagnosed?


Diagnosing lifter tick can be a tricky process, as there are several possible causes. However, a trained mechanic can usually pinpoint the cause of the noise by performing a few tests. These tests may include:

  1. Visual inspection: A mechanic will inspect the engine for any signs of wear or damage, such as worn lifters or damaged valves.
  2. Oil pressure test: The mechanic will test the oil pressure to ensure that it is within the proper range.
  3. Valve adjustment: If the valves are not adjusted properly, the mechanic may adjust them to see if that resolves the issue.
  4. Engine flush: If the engine oil is dirty, the mechanic may perform an engine flush to remove any contaminants that could be causing a lifter tick.
  5. Component replacement: If all else fails, the mechanic may need to replace the lifters, valves, or other engine components to eliminate the noise.

How can the lifter tick be fixed?

Fixing the lifter tick can range from a simple adjustment to a major engine repair, depending on the cause of the noise. Here are some possible solutions:


Change the oil

If the lifter tick is brought on by filthy or contaminated oil, altering the oil and the oil filter can frequently get rid of the noise brought on by the lifter tick.

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Use high-quality fuel

The utilization of fuel of high quality can assist in the prevention of carbon accumulation on the valves, which can lead to lifter ticks.

Adjust the valves

If you have an older engine with solid lifters, the valve lifter may occasionally merely need to be adjusted to stop ticking. If there are some issues with the clearance between the pushrods, camshafts, and valve lifters, a qualified shop will be able to detect it.

Replace lifters

The worst-case scenario is that a valve lifter needs to be replaced. You are left with no choice except to purchase a new one if it breaks. You might replace them all at the same time because the defective lifter might have increased the wear on the others.

Replace engine components

It is possible that certain components of the engine, such as valves or camshafts, will need to be changed if it is determined that the lifter tick is the result of worn or broken engine components.


Use an Additive

You might also think about using an additive to maintain the oil performance at its optimum. Numerous high-quality oil additives are available to clean the engine parts and maintain the system’s proper lubrication.

Most engine oil additives help the valves, rocker arms, pushrods, and valve lifters. When changing your oil, you should pour the additive in if your formulation calls for it.

How much does a lifter tick repair cost?

You could spend between $35 and $150 if all that is required to stop the lifter tick is an oil change. You may be able to save some money by performing your own at-home oil change. However, the cost will significantly increase if you need to repair engine parts.

You must consider the labor expense because working on the engine takes a lot of time. You might easily spend $250 to $1,000, for instance, to replace the valve lifters. If you drive a huge truck or a premium car, the final cost may be higher than $1,500.

Additionally, if a pushrod or rocker arm needs to be replaced, expect to pay between $500 and $1,500. The total cost will depend on the type of vehicle you drive and the repair facility you use.

DIY Noisy Lifter Replacement

Source: Youtube / Steven Sapyak

Even though it is not advised, you can avoid paying these labor fees by replacing the lifter on your own. To accomplish this, you must adhere to precise lifter replacement protocols, which include:

1. Remove the Engine Top

To reach the valve covers, remove the engine top. Unbolting and unhooking valve cover components – just like electrical wiring.

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2. Remove Valve Covers

Unbolt the valve covers. After this, remove the cover with a flat-headed screwdriver.

3. Disassemble the Intake Manifold

Move the first cylinder to reach the intake manifold. To close the valves, place the top center. Remove the intake manifold. Disassemble carefully to reassemble. Make sure to clean the components off after you’re done.

4. Remove Hydraulic Lifters

Loosen and move the rocker arms to access the hydraulic lifters. Magnets are needed to remove lifters. After doing this, you should swap them out for the new lifters, making sure to reassemble the engine in the other direction and tighten bolts as you go.


Source: Youtube / MGB Easy

How serious is lifter tick?

Lifter tick is not a serious problem on its own. Still, it can be an indication of more severe issues within the engine that, if left unaddressed, can lead to more significant damage and costly repairs. Ignoring the lifter tick for an extended period can cause considerable damage to your engine.

Can lifter tick damage your engine?

Yes, if left unaddressed, a lifter tick can cause more severe damage to your engine. A lifter tick is often a sign of low oil pressure, which can cause engine parts to wear out faster than they should, leading to more severe issues such as engine failure.

Can the lifter tick be fixed?

Yes, the lifter tick can be fixed. A trained mechanic can diagnose and fix the underlying issue causing the lifter tick, which may involve flushing the engine or replacing faulty engine components.

Will thicker oil stop lifter noise?

Thicker oil may reduce lifter noise but it is not a long-term solution. Diagnosing the underlying issue causing the lifter tick and addressing it promptly is essential to prevent further engine damage.

How long can you operate a car with a lifter tick?

Driving your car for an extended period with a lifter tick is not suggested. Continuing to drive your car with a lifter tick can cause more severe engine damage, leading to costly repairs. It is best to have the issue diagnosed and repaired as soon as possible to prevent your engine from further damage.

Final Thoughts

A lifter tick can sound as though the engine is going to fail fully, yet the noise may only need to be fixed by changing the oil. If you correctly maintain your vehicle on a regular basis, you can avoid lifter tick issues altogether, which will probably result in long-term financial savings.

I hope you’ve liked reading it and are equipped with the knowledge necessary to fix your own ticking engine.

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