How to Quiet Noisy Lifters Before They Cause Damage

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Picture this:

It’s the weekend.

You’re about to go on a long drive with your family.

You start your car as usual, but…

The engine starts making a weird lifter-ticking noise and lasts for some time even while driving.

Noisy lifters are annoying and might also cause severe damage to the engine.

My husband Daniel, who is an auto-enthusiast, stepped up his DIY skills to quiet a noisy lifter issue we had a couple of weeks ago.

You’re about to discover what we learned and how you can fix it for yourself.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Things You Will Need: At A Glance

Oil Additive

Helps lubricate and dislodge any debris or carbon deposits accumulated within the engine

Feeler Guage

Help accurately measure gap widths to adjust the lifters

Hydraulic Valve Lifter Tool

Helps extract the lifter without removing the entire engine

How To Fix a Noisy Lifter Tick Sound?

1. Change the Oil

The motor parts are subjected to tremendous friction, creating an annoyingly loud noise.

This might sound like a vehicle maintenance 101 question, but do you oil and grease your vehicle on a timely basis?

If not, the sludge and carbon deposits can start getting deposited on the surface, creating a lifter tick sound.

To help prevent this issue, you should do your due diligence before settling for engine oil.

Ideally, it should be thick and rich in lubricating agents.

The guys over at Popular Mechanics have a great guide that should help you choose the perfect engine oil for your vehicle.

2. Clean the Lifters With Oil Additives

Oil additives are thick enough to form a coating around different parts of the engine, which helps minimize friction, and thus, subsequently—noise.

They are usually compatible with all types of motor oil which means that adding them to existing oil does not hamper the consistency of the oil.

Besides lubrication, they also help to dislodge the debris and carbon deposits that get accumulated within the engine parts.

I recommend using Liqui Moly 2037 Pro-Line Engine Flush. It’s inexpensive and highly efficient. If you’re looking to explore more options, you can have a look at my research on the best oil additives to quiet noisy lifters.

3. Adjust the Lifters

While the above methods are pretty efficient at reducing lifter tick, you might still suffer from residual noise.

Seems familiar?

Well, easy fix—you can try adjusting the lifters themselves.

I can’t stress this enough though:

While adjusting the lifters, read through the manual properly to avoid any mistakes.

First, you will need a feeler gauge. It will help you accurately measure gap widths.

This gauge is needed for the valve stem and rocker arm. The clearance also needs to be rectified using the valve adjustment screw.

Prefer video instructions?

Here you go:

Steps to Adjust Lifters

4. Replace Bent Pushrods

Pushrods help open and close the valves in an engine. But if you accelerate and decelerate suddenly, its normal functioning might be hampered.

Bent pushrods can create a tapping noise.

Bent pushrods cannot be repaired, though. The only solution is to replace them completely.

If you find yourself in a similar issue, I’d recommend you leave it to a professional.

The good news?

It’s inexpensive. In most cases, it might cost you around $15 to $30.

5. Buy New Lifters

While you should be able to fix the lifter tick noise in most cases, it still might be an issue occasionally.

Unfortunately, if you have a noisy lifter—you will need to replace the entire set of lifters. It might cost you approximately $150 to $400.

You can either DIY it, or you can take it to a professional mechanic to help you install it.

If you’re going the DIY route, I recommend you getting this hydraulic valve lifter tool to extract the lifter without removing the entire engine.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are Car Lifters?

Lifters are small cylinders inside the engine that have tiny holes to facilitate proper lubrication. They contain pushrod and rocker arms.

The pushrods help in opening and closing the valves with the help of the rocker arms.

Lifters in the engine are expected to operate noiselessly and keep the entire engine quiet.

They are three types – solid and mechanical roller lifters and hydraulic valve lifters.

Solid roller lifter needs mechanical adjustment of the rocker arm whereas mechanical roller can do without mechanically adjusting it but are comparatively costlier.

Hydraulic valve lifters, on the other hand, are self-adjusting in nature.

2. Can Noisy Lifters Cause Damage?

It depends on a couple of factors:

  • Type of engine lifter noise: If the engine produces simple tapping noises for the first few seconds after turning the engine on, it shouldn’t be a problem in most cases. It likely indicates the deposition of debris and carbon deposits. However, I’d still recommend you take it seriously as it can cause you further inconveniences down the road.
  • Duration of lifter noise: If the engine produces annoying noises the entire time the engine works, it might be a symptom of a bigger issue and should be taken extremely seriously.

3. What Can Cause Noisy Lifters?

Tappit noise is created when there is damage in the parts due to wearing and tearing or there is a lack of oil pressure pumping the lifter.

Lifters need proper maintenance and lubrication in order to function perfectly. If you do not use oil of perfect viscosity, it might cause improper function of the engine part—thus creating noise.

Also if the pushrod bends due to sudden changes in acceleration, it might create a tapping sound.

Finally, this is not an uncommon issue especially if your car is older and has run considerable miles.

4. Will Synthetic Oil Quiet Noisy Lifters?

Synthetic oils can behave both as a thin and thick oil. When starting the vehicle, the engine is at low temperatures. At that point to ensure that the oil flows smoothly, the oil is thin.

When the engine gets hotter, the oil becomes thick and protects the different parts from any damage due to the increased temperatures.

It will also prevent the formation of debris and deposits and protect the lifter from getting sticky.

Hence, synthetic oil can reduce ticking noise to a great extent.

5. What Are the Symptoms of Bad Lifters?

When the lifter remains in the collapsed state due to problems in maintaining the optimum oil pressure, it might be an indication of the lifter not working properly.

Friction increases which add to the noise. The cylinder in the lifter is also unable to process the fuel efficiently which creates spark plug fouling by coating the insulator nose of the plug.

6. What is the Average Cost Of Engine Lifter Repair?

In order to replace the entire set of lifters, you may need to spend about $150 to $400 approximately. For a single lifter, you may have to spend about $25.

If you get the repair done by a mechanic, you will obviously have to spend extra.

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