All About Lifter Tick in Cars: Causes and Fixes

lifter tick in cars: causes and fixes

  • Hydraulic Lifters
  • Main Causes
  • Fixes
  • FAQs

Lifter tick is a tapping noise from a car engine’s valve train, particularly noticeable at low speeds or during idle. This sound is often associated with wear and tear in hydraulic lifters or tappets. However, the smooth functioning of these engine components is crucial for maintaining valve clearance. 

Here, we’ll explore the causes, consequences and effective fixes for a lifter tick in cars. These will help car owners preserve their engine’s health and performance.

What are Hydraulic Lifters?

Hydraulic lifters are integral components in a car’s engine valve train. Their primary function is to adjust the valve lash or clearance between the rocker arm and the valve stem. The hydraulic lifter contains a piston and a chamber filled with oil. As the camshaft lobe pushes on the lifter, the oil in the chamber is compressed, allowing the lifter to take up any slack in the valve train.

Moreover, this design helps minimise engine noise, enhance performance and simplify maintenance. Despite many advantages, hydraulic lifters can sometimes experience issues, such as a lifter tick sound, necessitating attention to ensure proper engine function.

Now that we know what hydraulic lifters are, here are the causes of a lifter tick in cars and how to fix such issues.

Potential Causes of a Lifter Tick in Vehicles

A lifter tick in vehicles is characterised by a distinct tapping or ticking noise in the car’s engine. Let’s go through the common causes of a lifter tick in vehicles, one by one.

Engine Oil Issues

A car’s engine oil works as a medium for hydraulic lifters, ensuring smooth operation by reducing friction and wear between components. When there is an oil deficiency or a low oil pressure, the hydraulic lifters may experience insufficient lubrication. It leads to increased friction, wear and a tapping noise known as lifter tick.

Causes of A Lifter Tick such as engine issues
Low oil pressure or an oil deficiency leads to a ticking noise in a car engine

Hydraulic Lifter Failure

Hydraulic lifter failure can result from internal issues like a malfunctioning check valve or a damaged piston. A faulty check valve may lead to oil leakage, compromising hydraulic function. Meanwhile, wear on the lifter’s piston can disrupt consistent valve lash, causing unwanted noise. 

Camshaft Wear

Camshaft wear, specifically worn cam lobes, is also one of the causes of a lifter tick. The camshaft plays a pivotal role in the opening and closing of the engine’s valves. When the lobes on the camshaft wear down, the lifter’s ability to accurately track the cam profile diminishes. As a result, the lifter may fail to maintain precise valve timing, disrupting the engine’s combustion process. 

Bent Pushrods

A lifter tick in cars can occur when there’s a bent pushrod in the engine’s valve train. The pushrod’s role is to transmit motion from the camshaft to the rocker’s arms, controlling the opening and closing of the valves. A bent pushrod can disrupt this process, causing irregularities in valve movement.

Valve Train Misalignment

When parts in the valve train, like pushrods or rocker arms, aren’t adequately aligned, it can create trouble for the lifters in a car engine. This misalignment creates uneven stress on the lifters and causes damage to the engine valves, resulting in noise during engine operation. 

Lifter Tick Sound in engine due to valve misalignment
If the valve train components are not aligned properly, it can lead to a lifter tick noise

How To Fix an Engine Lifter Tick

Fixing an engine lifter tick means finding and solving the issues causing the tapping noise in the valve train. Here’s how to fix a lifter tick in cars using different method approaches. 

Check and Change Engine Oil

If you are unsure about how to fix a lifter tick caused by engine oil issues, start by checking and maintaining the recommended oil level. Change the engine oil regularly using the appropriate viscosity and a high-quality filter.

 Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for oil changes and use the recommended engine oil number to prevent and alleviate lifter tick associated with inadequate lubrication. 

Use Engine Additives

Certain engine oil additives help clean and improve the performance of hydraulic lifters. Adding a high-quality lifter tick additive to the engine oil helps dissolve deposits and reduce friction within the lifters, mitigating lifter tick. 

How To Fix an Engine Lifter Tick using additives
A high-quality additive helps reduce the friction and wear between the lifter

Inspecting and Replacing Lifters

In cases where a lifter tick persists despite other measures, inspecting and replacing faulty hydraulic lifters is necessary. Malfunctioning check valves or worn pistons within the lifters can contribute to the noise. That said, replacing damaged lifters ensures proper functioning.

Additionally, if a lifter tick in cars is caused by air bubbles trapped within hydraulic lifters, bleeding the air can be a solution. This involves running the engine with a specific procedure to purge air from the lifters, restoring proper hydraulic function and eliminating the ticking noise.

Addressing Camshaft Wear

This process involves replacing the camshaft and associated components to restore proper valve train function, eliminating camshaft irregularities. Moreover, a faulty camshaft causes a car engine to misfire. Regular inspection of the camshaft during maintenance helps identify the wear early on.

Adjusting Valve Lash

One common fix for lifter tick involves adjusting the valve lash, which is the clearance between the rocker arm and the valve stem. This adjustment ensures hydraulic lifters can operate within the optimal range, minimising noise.

go to a mechanic when you observe symptoms of a lifter tick
To minimise the ticking sound, adjust the valve lash for a smooth operation of hydraulic lifters


How to Quiet Noisy Lifters?

To quiet noisy lifters, use a high-quality engine oil additive. Additionally, ensure regular oil changes, select the right engine oil type and use the recommended oil grade for optimal performance.

Why Is My Car Engine Ticking?

A ticking noise in your car engine could be due to issues such as worn lifters, insufficient lubrication or misaligned components in the valve train. Prompt diagnosis and addressing these concerns through regular maintenance can help resolve the ticking sound.

What are the Symptoms of a Lifter Tick?

Symptoms of a lifter tick in cars include a tapping or ticking noise from the engine’s valve train, especially noticeable during idling or low speeds. It may also show a decreased engine performance or efficiency.

This wraps up the causes and fixes of a lifter tick in cars. Besides, ignoring these issues for an extended period may impact your car’s overall performance and efficiency. That said if your car is causing such problems recurringly, you can consider upgrading your ride. Browse these used cars for sale in the UAE to pick your desired model. 

To learn more about different car problems, their symptoms and solutions, keep reading dubizzle’s autos blog. 


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