One of the best ways to keep your engine running perfectly for a long time is to make sure you always address any noises that you hear. Today, we’ll go over one of the most interesting sounds that you’ll encounter in your engine – a lifter tick. You’ll know what it is all about and how to fix noisy valve lifters.
A valve lifter noise is an occasional or continuous tapping, clicking, or ticking sound that originates from the engine lifters. It is also called a tappet noise or lifter tick. The main job of valve lifters is to keep the engine quiet. They do this with the help of pushrods and rocker arms. When they become faulty, they can start to make unnecessary noises. Here’s how to get rid of this noise.
Products and Tools You’ll Need
How to prevent and fix a noisy lifter tick sound
1. Change your oil
Motor oil is essential for your engine as it helps to lubricate moving parts and reduce friction. If you do not grease and change your oil as required, moving parts may scrape against each other and make an annoying noise. This is especially if old oil has been left unchanged for too long.
The oil breaks down and turns into sludge that sticks to engine components and passageways. When dirt, carbon deposits, and metal particles are added into the mix, they create a lifter tick sound. One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is to change your engine oil as scheduled. Remember to do some due diligence before heading to the store to buy new motor oil.
2. Use oil additives to clean valve lifters
Most oil additives are compatible with the many types of engine oils available on the market today. They provide a thick coating on moving parts which in turn minimizes friction and eliminates lifter noise. All you need to do is add the best oil additive for lifter noise to your existing oil.
Additives also help to dislodge carbon deposits and sludge without tampering with the properties or consistency of your oil. You do not have to worry about ruining your oil. Adding an additive every now and then also goes a long way to improve the performance of your engine. It not only gets rid of the engine tapping noise but also saves you money in the long run.
3. Adjusting valve lifters
The first two solutions can help you get rid of the noise you’re getting from your lifters. However, depending on the severity of the problem, you may be left with residual noise. This requires a much more intense approach on how to fix noisy valve lifters. The process involves adjusting the lifters themselves.
You’ll need a feeler gauge for this. This is a tool that helps to accurately measure the gap width between the valve stem and rocker arm. This gap is known as valve lash. Make sure you have a copy of your engine manual to confirm how wide that gap should be. You’ll need to correct it using the valve adjustment screw if the size you’ve measured varies from the one required.
4. Replace bent pushrods
Pushrods help to open and close the valves in your engine. If you come to a stop quickly or accelerate suddenly, they can bend and create a tappet noise. Bent pushrods are not serviceable. The only way to solve the problem is to replace them.
You’ll have to leave this to an expert. The process of replacing bent pushrods can take up to 6 hours if not more. The good news is that parts here are inexpensive. If you’re the type to go very heavy on the brake and accelerator, adjusting your driving style can prevent the ticking and tapping sounds from reoccurring.
5. Change the valve lifters
Most of the time, the type of lifter noise you get from your engine will tell you how severe the problem is. In serious cases, you may have to buy new lifters and replace the old ones. An entire set of engine lifters can cost anywhere between $150 and $400.
If you’re a DIY expert and you’re confident enough to install them yourself, you’ll need a hydraulic valve lifter tool to help remove your lifters without taking the engine apart. The main process of changing an engine lifter involves:
- Taking off the engine top
- Removing the valve cover
- Removing engine intake manifold
- Taking out the faulty lifter
- Replacing it with a new one
- Reinstalling everything back together
It’s best to leave this to a mechanic as they have the experience and expertise to fix noisy valve lifters successfully.
Common symptoms of bad valve lifters
1. Low engine oil pressure
A bad valve lifter can get stuck in its position and fail to move up or down. This inhibits the ability of the system to maintain engine oil pressure. Internal engine components will start to grind against each other, making more noise.
2. Increase in lifter noise at higher RPMs
Bad valve lifters tend to become louder as you reach higher RPMs. This is due to increased movement between damaged parts.
3. Engine misfire
Lifters that are damaged can affect the capacity of cylinders to mix and burn air and fuel efficiently. This then leads to engine misfires that affect acceleration.
4. Check engine light
A check engine light is one of the most common signs that something is wrong with your engine. When diagnosed using an OBD2 scanner, it will provide a list of error codes that point you to bad valve lifters.
5. Dead cylinders
When pushrods bend and fall out of place due to bad valve lifters, it causes a dead cylinder. This then leads to further damage to the rocker arms, valves, and the entire engine.
A lot of times, if you listen to your car, it will tell you when there’s something wrong. This is especially in older models which are more prone to having a ticking, clicking, or tapping noise. We hope the tips provided above on how to fix noisy valve lifters will help you solve the problem. Remember to do your scheduled maintenance on time and not to ignore any problems that your car may have. Stay tuned for more posts on how to take care of your car.
Read more: How to Fix Rattling Noise When Accelerating
Frequently Asked Questions
What can cause noisy lifters?
Engine tappets or noisy lifters are caused by dirty engine oil, high mileage, poor maintenance, bad engine oil, issues with lifter spacing, wear and tear on lifters, or lack of oil pressure. If lifters are left unlubricated and badly maintained for long, they will not function properly and will create noise. It’s best to replace all of them at once since the functional ones are normally not far away from going bad either.
How many types of lifters are there?
There are three main types of engine lifters – hydraulic valve lifters, solid lifters, and mechanical roller lifters. Hydraulic valve lifters are typically self-adjusting. Mechanical roller lifters are made to perform without adjustment while solid roller lifters need to be mechanically adjusted.
Read more: How to Find TDC on Compression Stroke
Can noisy lifters cause damage?
The degree of damage caused by noisy lifters depends on the type and duration of the lifter noise. A simple tappet noise that lasts a few seconds after turning on the engine is a likely indication of debris and carbon buildup. Taking care of this early helps to prevent further problems down the road. However, an annoying sound that is continuous and lasts longer is an indication of a serious problem.
Will thicker oil stop lifter noise?
Using thicker oil will help stop lifter noise. However, it will not solve the underlying problem. This is especially if the noise is caused by wear and tear, bent pushrods, or carbon deposits and debris. You’ll need to check the lifters first to diagnose and fix the problem.
Will synthetic oil quiet noisy lifters?
Synthetic oil can quieten noisy lifters. However, this is only if the valve lifter noise is being caused by old thin oil. Not changing your oil for a very long time can cause a lifter tick that is easy to get rid of. All you need to do is change your oil with good synthetic oil.
How long can you drive with a ticking lifter?
You should not drive your car more than 100 miles if you have engine lifter noise. The ticking, clicking or tapping that you hear from the engine should be checked as soon as possible to prevent bigger problems and expensive damages caused to the engine.
How much does it cost to fix a noisy lifter?
The cost of fixing a noisy lifter ranges between $25 and $1,500. The lower end represents a simple oil change while the upper end is the cost for replacing the lifters and related parts. This also depends on the type of car you drive and the time it will take to fix the problem. The cost to quieten noisy lifters in a four-cylinder or six-cylinder engine can go upwards of $400.