Do you hear a ticking noise in your engine when idle and accelerating?
But it doesn’t have to be!
We’ll explore six potential culprits behind the engine ticking noises and the steps you can take to resolve the issue.
This Article Contains:
- 6 Reasons Why You Hear an Engine Ticking Noise
- How to Fix the Engine Ticking Noise?
- How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Ticking Engine?
- When Is Engine Ticking Considered Normal?
Let’s start ticking!
6 Reasons Why You Hear an Engine Ticking Noise
Here’s a closer look at those reasons — to help you narrow down an engine ticking sound:
1. Low Oil Pressure or Engine Oil Level
Not having enough engine oil or oil pressure to lubricate essential components, like the timing chain and valve train parts (located in the cylinder head), can cause a loud ticking noise.
Similarly, using the wrong engine oil or a bad oil pump can cause a ticking sound.
To avoid such issues, check your engine oil level and top it off with the right engine oil. You should also replace a faulty oil pump before it severely damages your engine.
2. Misaligned Valves
A ticking noise from the valve cover could be due to valve train issues.
The valve train is an engine component that opens and closes the intake and exhaust valves.
The engine intake valve opens when the exhaust valve closes. That’s how the air gets in (through the intake valve), and the exhaust gasses come out of the combustion chamber (via the exhaust valve).
When these valves are not aligned properly, they struggle to open and close smoothly, resulting in a clicking sound. Regular valve adjustment can help maintain the alignment and ensure a seamless engine operation.
3. Misadjusted Lifter
Your car’s engine uses multiple valve lifters to open and close the intake and exhaust valves.
However, these valve lifters may wear out with constant use and time. And when they do, the faulty lifter creates a metal-on-metal clicking noise, often known as a ‘lifter tick.’
Most modern vehicles use a hydraulic valve lifter. A hydraulic lifter is a small cylindrical device located between the camshaft and pushrods (in pushrod engines) that uses oil pressure to maintain proper valve clearance and reduce wear on valve train components.
Low oil pressure or bent pushrods can cause the engine to operate unevenly resulting in a lifter tick or knocking sounds.
Although a regular engine oil change and use of oil additives may reduce the lifter noise, a bad hydraulic valve lifter usually needs a replacement.
4. Faulty Spark Plugs
If you own a high-mileage vehicle, a faulty spark plug may be the culprit behind the annoying engine noise.
If a spark plug fails to ignite the air-fuel mixture in the cylinder properly, it leads to a misfire, sometimes causing the engine to produce a ticking sound.
5. Rod Knock
A connecting rod is attached to the crankshaft through a soft metal bearing, which transfers combustion energy from the cylinder pistons to the wheels.
Typically, the connection leaves a small gap, letting oil lubricate the contact point between the crankshaft and the bearing. But if you have bad bearings, it’ll leave a space large enough to make the rod move around excessively — creating an unpleasant ticking noise.
You might hear the rod knock intensify when your vehicle decelerates. Sometimes, you may also notice these noises accompanied by low oil levels.
6. Exhaust Leak
An exhaust leak, especially near the engine, can make a loud ticking noise when the exhaust pulsates. This ticking sound is often caused by broken exhaust manifold bolts, which let gasses escape around the manifold instead of flowing through the exhaust system.
Exhaust gasses can also leak for other reasons, such as a faulty gasket, an exhaust manifold crack, a failed flange, or a damaged heat shield. If high-pressure exhaust gasses leak from a manifold or gasket crack, you’ll hear an engine tick or rattling noise at low engine RPM.
The easiest way to spot an exhaust leak is to look for black soot, which usually covers the area around the leak, such as the exhaust pipe.
Now that we know what causes an engine ticking noise, let’s find out how to fix it.
How to Fix the Engine Ticking Noise?
Fixing the engine ticking sound depends on what causes it.
Here are some ways you can resolve the issue:
1. Change or Top Up Your Engine oil
Ideally, you should check your engine oil levels once every few weeks or 1000 miles. If the oil is dirty, change it and top up the levels. Getting your oil pump checked out is also a good idea, as a bad oil pump can result in low oil pressure, reduced power, and frequent stalling.
2. Use Oil Additives to Clean Oil and Engine Parts
Oil additives are chemical compounds that improve lubrication and extend the engine oil’s life. You can also use them to clean the car engine and parts like a lifter, rocker arm, valve, etc.
To find out which additive suits your vehicle, check your vehicle manual or seek help from an auto repair mechanic. Using oil additives regularly can boost your car’s performance.
3. Change Damaged Spark Plugs
Changing bad spark plugs, especially on high-mileage vehicles, can prevent incomplete combustion or misfires, which often cause the engine to tick.
You may need a qualified mechanic to replace the bad spark plug with the right one.
4. Realign Lifter
There is only one way to eliminate the lifter noise:
Ensure the hydraulic lifter is neither tight nor loose.
However, realigning a faulty lifter yourself will probably be challenging, so it’s best to leave it to an auto professional.
5. Replace Engine Pushrods
Bent or worn-out pushrods can affect the working of critical parts like the valve, lifter, and other related engine components. This ends up causing an engine ticking noise.
You’ll need the help of a qualified mechanic to repair the pushrods.
So, how much are these fixes going to cost you?
Let’s find out.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Ticking Engine?
The repair costs of a ticking engine usually depend on the vehicle, locality, diagnosis, and labor charges.
That said, here are some common repair cost estimates to quiet that ticking sound:
- Oil change: $20-100
- Spark plug: $100 – $250
- Heat shield: $150 – $300
- Valve cover gasket: $110 – $340
- Pushrods: $100 – $500
Now, you must know that not all ticking sounds are bad.
Let’s check out when the engine noise is not something to worry about.
When Is Engine Ticking Considered Normal?
Certain engine components, like the fuel injectors, may emit a ticking or clicking sound while working normally.
Here are some parts that produce a normal ticking noise:
- Purge valve: An engine’s purge valve can produce a ticking noise when it releases fuel vapors into the engine’s intake system to burn them.
- Fuel injectors: A fuel injector may make a ticking or a clicking noise when quickly opening and closing at idle.
- Cold starting engine: You may hear a ticking sound from the valves or cylinder wall clearance. Additionally, you might experience a rattling noise, also known as a ‘piston slap,’ when you cold start your car. Typically, the sound goes away when the engine warms up as you drive.
Eliminate Engine Ticking Noise with AutoNation Mobile Service
An engine ticking noise can happen for many reasons, like low engine oil levels, bad hydraulic lifters, or exhaust manifold leaks. And it might be difficult to spot and fix these issues on your own.
That’s why you need the help of an expert auto repair service like AutoNation Mobile Service.
We offer upfront pricing, convenient online booking, and a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty on all repairs.
And the best part?
We come to you!
So contact us the next time you hear engine ticking noises, and our expert mechanics will drop by to deliver top-notch car repair services directly in your driveway!