How to fix lifter tick: 2 easy steps

How to fix lifter tick: 2 Easy Steps

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Your car might be running smoothly without any serious issues, except for one thing – What’s that ticking sound? 

It might be something that you hear the entire time you’re driving – annoying you and your passengers – or it might be something you just hear for a little bit after the engine is turned off. 

Either way, it’s there. 

Is it serious? Is it easy to fix? What’s causing this ticking? Dive-in below to learn more about how to fix lifter tick. 

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Do you need to fix lifter tick?

Is your car engine making a ticking or tapping sound? 

Are you someone who feels comfortable working on your car now and then? 

how to fix lifter tick

Then this article is for you. In this article we will talk about lifter tick and how to deal with it. 

Keep in mind there are several reasons you want to pay attention to this issue: the ticking can be a distraction while driving, the ticking could mask other noises in your engine, or it could be the sign of potentially serious issue which is different from typical road noises.

We’ll go through several strategies for fixing this including oil changes, engine flushes, repairs, and replacements. But first let’s back up a step. 

Do you know what lifter tick is? 

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What exactly is a lifter?

Your engine has several components to keep it running smoothly and quietly for a (relatively) long time. 

Among them is the hydraulic lifter, which is a small cylinder that ensures zero valve clearance in your car engine. 

You may have heard the lifter also referred to as a hydraulic tappet, hydraulic valve lifter, or hydraulic rod adjuster. 

They’re all the same thing: a small cylinder to help keep your engine running smoothly. 

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So why does the lifter start “ticking”?

First, don’t panic: this is a common problem. 

It often occurs in older cars, or cards with lots of mile on them. Several things could cause this issue. 

The lifter itself could have gone bad and need repaired or replaced. 

Oil and other gunk may have built up on the lifter. 

This is a common occurrence but is usually dealt with as part of your car’s routing servicing. Or you may have an issue with the push rod. If you’re someone who frequently accelerates hard, then you’re putting extra stress on the push rod. 

We call it lifter “tick”, but keep in mind it sounds different depending on your car and the problem causing it. 

You may hear a ticking, a tapping, or a clicking – anything that sounds like any of those could be this issue. If you hear any of them, check into it.

Is it bad for my car?

To put it succinctly: Yes. It’s like that itch in the back of your throat that tells you that you have a cold, but you ignore, and then get sick for entire week rather than a day. 

If you’re only hearing the sound for a brief time after starting or turning off the car, chances are it needs a cleaning. But if you don’t fix it, or if you’re hearing it while the engine is running, then you potentially have more serious problems. 

If the problem is not fixed, the lifters can start interfering with your engine’s functioning – which can lead to serious problems down the road. 

What might have been a simple lifter issue can lead to problems with more expensive and harder-to-replace parts or even engine breakdown. 

In short: be thankful you noticed it and fix it as soon as you can in order to prevent other issues.

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So how do I fix lifter tick?

Well, remember the issues listed above: oil changes, engine flushes, repairs, and replacements. You’ll want to try each to determine which is causing your lifter tick. 

replace engine oil

Below I will go through them in order of easiest to most complex. The first of these you’ll be able to do without being very handy. 

The later steps you can do yourself, but be sure you’re confident in what you’re doing. 

Otherwise, you could make matters worse. 

Step 1: Change the Oil

This is the first and easiest step. You might just need to replace the oil. 

  • Begin by draining out the old oil in the engine. 
  • Under your car engine, remove the oil cap and place a drainage container to catch the oil. 
  • Let the oil drain and be sure to properly dispose of the oil. 
  • Once the leaking has stopped, clean the valve lifter using an engine flushing product. 
  • Add the new oil, following the manufacturer recommendations. 
  • Be sure you are purchasing the correct oil for your car!

For best performance, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations in your vehicle owner’s manual.

Keep in mind there are a number of good options out there.

Mobil 1 120764 Synthetic Motor Oil 5W-30

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This oil has over 1000 ratings on Amazon, with a 5-star rating!

  • Mobile 1 is designed to help give your car a long engine life by preventing build-ups that might otherwise be destructive 
  • This works for many driving styles (city, highway etc.) and provides lubrication and protection for all 
  • This will help prevent oxidation and thermal damage  
  • Designed to be long lasting: should provide good engine performance even if you only change the oil at the maximum intervals recommended by the manufacturer  
  • Helps your engine start even in cold weather

Castrol 03057 GTX MAGNATEC 5W-30 Full Synthetic Motor Oil

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This product has over 3400 ratings with 5 stars on Amazon.

  • Protects engine from wear and buildup 
  • Thanks to specific design, this oil actually will leave important components of the engine smother 

Valvoline Advanced Full Synthetic SAE 5W-30 Motor Oil

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This Valvoline oil holds a 5 Star Rating on Amazon with over 1600 ratings.

  • This will help protect against build-up of dirt etc. and helps to keep the engine clean  
  • This product will help protect your engine in extreme temperatures – both high temperature and low temperature  
  • You should see high fuel efficiency with use of this product  
  • This can be added to engines using conventional and synthetic motor oils 

WirthCo 94482 Funnel King

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And, of course, if you’re changing oil, you want to be cautious not to spill anything. 

This pan is specifically designed to catch oil. If your oil drips, which you should fix, you can also leave this in the garage and park over it. 

On Amazon, it is 4.5 stars with over 660 ratings. 

  • Galvanized sheet metal makes it easy to clean
  • This will help protect your driveway or garage from drippings while changing your oil or other fluids  
  • This is made of rust-resistant metal  
  • This will hold up to 6 Quarts – meaning you’ll have time to stop the leak 

Oil Spill Mat

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But if you do spill things, it’s best to be prepared. 

This is Amazon’s #1 Best Seller for this category and has 375 ratings, with 4.5 stars.

  • This mat is designed to absorb spills and drips and contain them so they do not spread out onto your driveway or garage 
  • Absorbs and contains liquids and wicks away moisture.  
  • Specifically designed to help keep the mat in place with a slip-resistant backing
  • Specifically designed to work with motor oil, brake fluid, gasoline, coolant, and transmission fluid
  • Long-lasting material and extremely durable.
  • If you get this dirty: Wash off with soap and hose. Do not use bleach on it. 

Step 2: Flush the engine

Another option is to flush the engine. There are several high-level engine flushes you can choose from. 

Liqui Moly 2037 Pro-Line Engine Flush

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  • Cleans engine quickly and gently
  • Won’t affect seals or other materials in your engine
  • Compatible with catalytic converters
  • Easy to pour and use

Niteo Modor Medic MF3 5-Minute Motor Flush

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  • This will help break up material-build-up that an engine often gets with slow city driving
  • Removes varnishes and other build-up from internal engine parts such as sticky valves and piston rings
  • Helps oil circulate freely throughout motor

Lucas Oil 10001 Oil Stabilizer

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You can also add oil stabilizer to prolong the life of the oil and the engine. 

This is the highest rated oil stabilizer on Amazon. 

  • You should see an oil-life increase of approximately 50 % longer
  • Your engine should use less oil as a result of this product, but still see higher (better) oil pressure
  • Your car should have better receive more miles per gallon with this product 

Step 3 (if necessary): Repairing the lifter

What now? I tried the process above and I still hear the ticking.

Now we’re getting into the area related to repair, namely adjusting the engine’s lifters. To do that you’re going to need a feeler gauge. What’s a feeler gauge you ask? It’s a tool used to measure gap widths.  In this case you’re going to check the gap between the valve and the rocker arm.

Stainless Steel Feeler Gauge

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This product is Amazon’s Choice and has over 1000 ratings with a 4.5-star rating.

OEMTOOLS 25349 Offset Feeler Gauge

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Another Amazon’s Choice at over 1300 ratings with 4.5 stars

Lifters should be self-adjusting. 

But, obviously, if you’re getting the ticking sound, it probably isn’t doing that any you’ll need to do it yourself. 

When you make your examination, you’ll notice a gap between the rocker arm and the valve. Consult your owner’s manual. It should tell you precisely what the gap measurement should be. You can also look online at the manufacturer’s website for this information.

Use the feeler gauge to determine if the gap between the valve stem and rocker arm meet the measurement recommended in the engine manual. 

If, indeed, the gap is not the correct amount, you’ll need to adjust the valve adjustment screw to the correct measurement. 

Be sure you’re correcting it to the proper factory setting – otherwise you could make things worse. 

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Step 4 (if necessary): Replacing a Damaged Push Rod

If you’ve tried the options to no avail, or you realize at the beginning that your push rod is the issue, then you’re in the right place. 

Begin by examining the push rods. Roll them on a flat surface. Open the pushrods by screwing the push arm and pulling the pushrod out. 

If the rod is bent, it’s probably striking the other rods. You will need to replace the faulty push rod. 

Amazon sells push rods. But be sure to check that the push rod you purchase fits the Year, Make, and Model of your car using the selection tool at the top left of the screen. 

Comp Cam High Energy Push Rod

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This is an Amazon’s Choice and has over 50 ratings at 4.5 stars.

How to fix lifter tick: Conclusion

After replacing the rod, you should be all set. 

Another area that you can look into for reducing noise in your vehicle is the car hood

Now that you’ve considered your options, hop over to Amazon and get what you need to fix that ticking lifter. In doing so you will ensure your car’s longevity and safety. 

If you still have issues, it might be time to consult a mechanic. 

Additional Reading:


Bryant Littlewood is the Chief Editor behind SoundproofingHacks. He shares all the lessons he has learned in turning his home and office into quiet sanctuaries across the blog posts here. Bryant is also a part-time audiophile, and some of the posts here will reflect that passion of his too. Connect with him on LinkedIn or read more on the about page.