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How to Quiet the Lifters on Startup

by Dan Ferrell

Vehicle lifter noise on start-up may be caused by several factors, depending on the type of oil filter, oil, lubrication system, mileage, mechanical condition and even required adjustments of your vehicle. Whatever the cause, there are some adjustments you can perform to quiet the lifters on start-up. Always start your diagnosis with the most common cause. In most cases, you will be able to fix your noisy lifters replacing a minimum of components or performing a few maintenance tasks.

1

Take your car for a 20 minute drive on the highway to bring the engine up to operating temperature. Return to your driveway, open the hood and pull out the engine oil dipstick. Check the oil level and condition. If the oil is a quart lower from the required level or your engine is running on dirty, old oil, this may cause your lifters to tick. Add new enough oil to bring the amount to the correct level or replace the oil as necessary.

2

Make sure you are using an oil filter equipped with an anti-drainback valve (ADBV). This valve prevents the oil moving around the top of the engine from flowing back into the oil pan after shutting off the engine. This ensures that the engine, including your lifters, have oil during start up. A lifter that has provided your engine with miles of service will definitely benefit from a check-valve oil filter.

3

Take your vehicle to an auto shop and have them check engine oil pressure. If oil pressure is starting to drop, a worn out oil pump, clogged oil pickup screen, restricted oil pickup tube or oil galleries may be behind this problem.

4

Ask your mechanic to inspect the condition of the oil passages inside the engine. If you have failed to replace the engine oil at the recommended manufacturer intervals for some time, the inside of the engine might be covered with oil residue and gum, preventing proper oil flow. Take your vehicle to an auto shop and have them check oil pressure and engine mechanical condition.

5

Check the valve clearance in your engine. On some vehicle models, manufacturers advice adjusting valve clearance at recommended maintenance intervals. This will prevent excessive part wear and valve train noise. Consult your car service manual or call your local dealer, if necessary.

Tip

  • If you have noticed lifter noise just during wintertime, you might want to switch over to synthetic oil, which tends to flow better than regular oil under cold temperatures at engine start-up. However, consult with your auto shop or local dealer before using a different type of engine oil.

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About the Author

Since 2003 Dan Ferrell has contributed general and consumer-oriented news to television and the Web. His work has appeared in Texas, New Mexico and Miami and on various websites. Ferrell is a certified automation and control technician from the Advanced Technology Center in El Paso, Texas.

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