How to Stop a Lifter Tick

by Johnno CaryUpdated August 06, 2023
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Greg Manis/Demand Media

Hydraulic valve lifters in vehicles can be the sound of your engine ticking, otherwise known as lifter noise over an extended period of time. The most common diagnosis in engine lifter tick noise is sludge build up and debris made up of oil additives, on the inside of the valve cover on top of your engine or along your valve train. This usually occurs if your car has particularly high mileage or the oil level/oil pressure is too low. Removing the ticking noise should take no longer than one day to complete. The materials needed for this ticking sound project are available at an automotive parts store, amazon or any other place you could purchase engine parts.


Open the hood to access the car engine. Remove the oil fill cap and examine the oil viscosity. If it seems like you have thicker oil than usual this could be an. issue.


Empty the entire contents of one bottle of engine oil system cleaner into the oil fill spout. Do not worry about over filling the engine. The excess oil will make sure that enough oil is washing the bad lifters. Make sure your pushrods are well aligned, and that your rocker arms and camshafts are properly attached and have sufficient lubrication.


Replace the oil cap and make sure the oil filter is in place. Maintain normal driving and engine running for a 12 to 24 hour period. The engine oil system cleaner is an oil-based super detergent — it will not damage the engine.


Complete a new oil change on your vehicle one day after chemical is added. You can do the oil change yourself or have a shop perform the service. Nothing special is necessary to perform this oil change. The super detergents in the oil system cleaner should remove the ticking caused by excess sludge on the lifters. If the problem does not stop then you unfortunately might have faulty lifters. In this case you’ll have to buy new lifters in order to get rid of your unwanted engine noise. The best way to quiet noisy lifters is going to be paying a visit to the autobody shop, especially if you have and older car. You could have other problems like bent pushrods or dirty oil or worn-out cylinder heads that cause the distinct tapping noise, and it might take some more serious work to remedy.


If the engine exhibits the same ticking after performing this project, a complete overhead injection system cleaner may be necessary. Clogged injectors can give off the same sound symptoms as a knocking lifter. Seek mechanical advise if the ticking persists or gets louder after performing this job, as you may have a bent or broken lifter or pushrod.


Oil and oil system cleaner are both flammable. Keep this job away from open flame, sparks, static electricity and cigarette smoking. Failure to adhere to this warning could cause vehicle fire, property damage or death from asphyxiation.

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