Causes of Startup Noises in a 5.3L Vortec Valve Lifter

by Sameca Pandova
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Lifter tick is a common occurrence in V-8 engines like the Chevy 5.3-liter Vortec. This ticking sound is caused by the valve lifters, which are filled with oil during engine operation. When your engine sits, the oil can seep out of the lifters. When this happens, the lifter will tick at start-up until it refills with engine oil.

Impact on the Engine

Ticking lifters are not dangerous. The lifter is designed with a drain/fill hole that allows the lifter to float or fall based on oil pressure. An old trick is to run a thicker engine oil, which remains in the lifter longer after the engine is shut off. This is not advised in newer 5.3-liter V-8s, however, which specify 5w-30 oil. Keep in mind that heavier oils are slower to lubricate when the motor is first started, particularly on a cold start, which can lead to additional wear and tear on the engine.

Engine Cleaner

Running engine cleaner through the engine can help remove carbon deposits that can contribute to ticking at start-up. A variety of engine cleaners are available at automotive supply stores that are specifically formulated to help remove engine carbon deposits.

Lifter Replacement

Lifter replacement in the 5.3-liter Vortec is a complex process that includes removal of the engine heads. If the engine ticking occurs continually after only 2 hours at rest, this may be an indication of worn lifters. GM's Technical Service Bulletin #10-06-01-007B describes valve lifter diagnosis and replacement procedures for authorized dealerships.

Factory Oil Filters

AC Delco is GM's parts supplier. The AC Delco oil filter contains a anti-drain back valve that helps stop the oil from draining out of the valve lifters when the motor sits. If you are using an aftermarket oil filter, switching back to a factory AC Delco oil filter might reduce the occurrence of lifter tick.

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