Hearing a loud engine ticking noise while driving can be a nerve-wracking experience.
What’s even more stressful is trying to find the source of these ticks among the engine parts.
Well, it doesn’t have to be!
This Article Contains:
- 6 Reasons For The Engine Ticking Noise
- How To Fix An Engine Ticking Noise
- How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Ticking Engine?
- Can Ticking Noises Be Normal?
Let’s start ticking!
6 Reasons Why You Hear An Engine Ticking Noise
Engine ticking sounds can happen for a number of reasons, like low oil pressure, a worn-out timing chain, or a bad timing belt.
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 engine valve train parts, can cause a loud ticking noise. Low lubrication can also lead to a loss of power as it creates friction between metal components. The ticking noise might intensify when you start, idle, or accelerate your car.
On the other hand, using the wrong engine oil or a bad oil pump can also cause a ticking sound. To steer clear of such issues, check your engine oil level and top it off with the right engine oil.
2. Misaligned Valves
The valve train, located in the cylinder head, is responsible for opening and closing the valves.
Ideally, 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).
But lack of maintenance and other issues can cause misalignment, which makes it difficult for the valves to open and shut, resulting in an engine clicking sound. Alternatively, faulty CV joints can also cause engine ticks under the valve cover.
3. Misadjusted Lifter
Your car engine uses multiple valve lifters to open and close the engine valves.
However, these valve lifters may wear out with constant use and time. And when they do, the 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 cylinder attached to your car’s hydraulic valve by a rod called a rocker arm. These hydraulic lifters use oil pressure to open and close the valves — meaning low oil pressure can also lead to a lifter tick.
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.
A misaligned spark plug may also emit this sound. That’s because if a spark plug isn’t seated properly, exhaust gasses may enter the car engine and cause it to tick.
5. Rod Knock
The rod and the crankshaft, connected using a soft metal bearing, allow the rod to transfer combustion energy to the wheels.
Typically, the connection leaves a small gap letting oil lubricate the contact point between the crank and the bearing. But if you’ve 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 engine oil levels.
6. Exhaust Leak
Your car engine is a closed circuit — meaning nothing can go in or out of the engine. That’s why an exhaust leak, especially one closer to the engine, produces a loud ticking noise when the exhaust pulsates.
Exhaust gases leak for many reasons, like a faulty gasket, an exhaust manifold crack, or a failed flange. If high-pressure exhaust gases leak from a crack in the manifold or a gasket flaw, you’ll hear an engine tick 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
Now that we know what causes an engine ticking noise, let’s find out how to fix them.
How To Fix An 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. It’s a good idea to get your oil pump checked out too.
Hot Tip: A low engine oil level can indicate a possible leak due to faulty gaskets or seals. The best way to resolve the issue is to get an expert to check out your vehicle.
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 will suit your vehicle, check your vehicle manual or seek help from the nearest auto repair shop. Using oil additives regularly can boost your car’s performance.
3. Change Damaged Spark Plugs
Bad spark plugs won’t be able to seat properly on top of the internal combustion engine — leaving the door open for fumes and dirt to enter the car engine. This results in an engine tick.
You may need an expert mechanic to replace the bad spark plug to stop the ticking noise.
4. Realign Lifter
There is only one way to eliminate the lifter noise:
Ensure the hydraulic lifter is neither tight nor loose.
However, realigning lifters 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 noise.
You’ll need the help of a 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 locality, diagnosis, and labor charges.
That said, here are some common repair cost estimates to quiet that ticking sound:
- Oil Change: $50-150
- Conventional oil filter: $35 – $75
- Synthetic oil filter: $65 – $125
- Spark plug: $115 – $200
- Timing belt: $400 – $1000
- Pushrods: $600-$1000
- Bearings: $900-$1500 (depending on the car engine type)
But not all ticking sounds are bad. Let’s check out some engine noise you could definitely hear from your car.
Can Ticking Noises Be Normal?
Certain engine components may emit an engine tick while working normally, like the fuel injectors. Here are some parts that have 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 injector: A fuel injector makes a clicking and ticking sound when quickly opening and closing at idle.
- Cold starting engine: You may hear a ticking sound from the valves, piston, or cylinder wall clearance when you cold start your car. Typically, the sound goes away when the engine warms up as you keep driving.
An engine ticking noise can happen for many reasons, like low engine oil levels, bad hydraulic lifters, or expensive 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 RepairSmith.
RepairSmith offers 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 RepairSmith the next time you hear any engine noise, and our expert mechanics will drop by to deliver top-notch car repair services directly in your driveway, 7 days a week.