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Let’s take this one word at a time. The valve that’s being adjusted is an engine valve. Engine valves are extremely critical parts of your car. The purpose of the engine valves is simple. Every cylinder in the car’s engine has valves that sit on top of the cylinder. There are intake and exhaust valves. The intake valves let air and fuel (or just air in some cases) into the engine and the exhaust valves let spent gases out. The camshaft, rocker arms, and valve lifters are responsible for opening the valves, and a spring closes them. Pushrods are also added to the mix on some cars. But, as is the case with so many things, good things can come to an end. Over time, the space between the valve and the camshaft can change. And when that happens, the timing of the valve system will get all messed up. The valves won’t open and close at the right time, leading to an air and fuel mixture that isn’t quite right, and suddenly the engine isn’t too happy. So, that brings us to the second half of “valve adjustment”: the adjustment. When the aforementioned issue takes place, it’s time for a valve adjustment. A valve adjustment isn’t actually an adjustment of the valve, but rather of the space between the valve and camshaft, so that the system will function properly. Many cars have self-adjusting valves. So, if your car is one of those lucky ones, you’re set.
Many cars have valve adjustments built into scheduled maintenance, for a fairly simple reason. Adjust the valves before they’re terribly out of line, and you’ll never have to deal with valve issues. So, pay attention to the scheduled maintenance. The manufacturer is trying to help you save some money and hassle.
A tapping or ticking noise under your hood means two things: First, your car may need of a valve adjustment, and second, you probably didn’t pay attention to the scheduled maintenance. When the valves aren’t properly adjusted, there will be a weird tapping-like noise due to the inaccurate spacing.
A valve adjustment that’s either too loose or too tight can lead to engine performance problems such as rough running and lack of power. Either scenario can cause damage to the engine as well.
A car that is in need of a valve adjustment is perfectly safe to drive. You’re fine to get in and go. Over time, however, you’ll cause damage to your engine, and I don’t need to tell you why that’s bad, so it’s best to just stay on top of getting your valves adjusted.
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