A lifter tick is that ominous ticking sound that you sometimes hear coming from the engine of your car while driving. It’s caused by a lifter in the engine coming out of place and is an issue that needs addressing at the earliest.
In this article, I’ll explore what causes lifter tick and give you a step-by-step explanation of what you need to do to eliminate it. By the end of this piece, you’ll have all you need to restore your peace of mind while driving.
In certain vehicles, the lifter is controlled by hydraulic systems. As a result, any malfunction in your vehicle’s hydraulics may cause the lifter to malfunction and begin ticking. Therefore, it makes sense to start your search for the source of the ticking by examining your car’s hydraulic systems.
While hydraulic lifters do not require as much maintenance as fixed lifters, when something goes wrong with them, they typically pose more of a challenge to repair. As a result, you may want to consult an expert if you find your vehicle has hydraulic lifter valves.
Note that hydraulic systems also often control various crucial aspects of a car. So, unless you have significant experience with auto maintenance, you may not want to mess about with them. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could easily end up damaging your brakes, power steering, or another critical component of your vehicle.
Repairing or replacing damaged engine lifter valves is the only solution to the lifter tick that ensures it won’t come back. However, there is a catch; replacing engine lifter valves typically costs at least $1,000. And it can cost as much as $5,000 depending on the make and model of your vehicle.
More bad news: this job requires specialized tools, as well as an excellent understanding of internal combustion engines. As a result, repairing or replacing engine lifter valves is a task best left to professionals.
However, if a damaged engine lifter valve is indeed the source of your lifter tick, there is one silver lining. In many cars, engine lifter valve repair and replacement are usually covered by your car manufacturer’s warranty. So be sure sure to check your car’s warranty before you go about getting any expensive repair work done.
Broken, bent, or worn-out pushrods can come out of position and cause a lifter to rise. To stop that annoying lifter tick and limit any further damage occurring to your engine, you’ll need to find the damaged rod and carry out repairs to it.
Once again, repairing or replacing a damaged pushrod is expensive at a garage. You should expect to pay between $500-$1000 for the job after you’ve totaled up the cost of labor and materials.
Lifters typically only cause problems when they get dirty. This usually happens through dirty motor oil or other damaged components elsewhere in the vehicle. However, when this happens, it may cause further damage to your engine, and it will definitely create an annoying tick.
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best way to resolve complex issues. That’s why I recommend cleaning the lifters to remove any dirt buildup that may have accumulated here over time. However, note that this solution only works when your lifters are dirty and not if they are damaged.
To clean the lifters in your car, you’ll need to use oil additives. The additives will break down the old oil and remove any accumulated grease from your dirty lifters.
Fixed lifters in an engine are aligned with even spaces between them when everything is going well. However, over time, these lifters can come out of alignment and move apart from each other. If one of the lifters has risen out of its place, this could easily be the source of your lifter tick.
Aligning your lifters is a crucial aspect of maintaining the engine in your vehicle. Ensuring that there are even spaces between the lifters and taking the time to inspect each lifter can ensure you catch engine problems early before they damage your engine further or, worse, lead to an accident when you are driving.
Over time, contaminants make their way into your vehicle’s engine oil. These contaminants interfere with the car’s lifter and cause it to seize up or rise. This is why old motor oil is one of the commonest causes of the irritating ticking sound known as lifter tick.
To solve the problem, you’ll need to remove all of the old or dirty oil from your vehicle before continuing with repairs. Left alone, the dirt contained in the motor oil will cause further harm to other components and not stay limited to lifter tick.
Follow these steps to drain the old or dirty motor oil from your vehicle:
- Put the vehicle into park or first gear if it’s a manual drive vehicle
- Put on gloves and safety glasses (dirty motor oil is nasty stuff!)
- Locate the oil drain plug underneath the vehicle
- Place an oil collection tray underneath the plug to collect the old oil
- Using a wrench, open the oil plug, letting the old oil flow out of the hole
- Wait for all of the oil to drain from the vehicle into the collection tray
- Place a small amount of oil on the drain plug that you removed and reconnect it
Used motor oil is a highly messy substance that you do not want to spill into your home. As a result, this job is best done outdoors or in a workshop. It’s also a good idea to bring old rags or towels that you don’t mind ruining. You may need them to mop up any messy spills.
Make sure that you have enough space in your collection tray to collect all of the old oil.
Wear protective gear and exercise caution if attempting this job at home. The motor oil coming out of your engine will be hot and can cause severe damage to your eyes, as well as harsh burns to your skin.
Once you’ve successfully removed all of the old oil, you will have to replace it with fresh lubricant.
To do this, find the motor oil input next to the dipstick under the hood of your car. Pour in enough motor oil to meet the recommended levels indicated on the dipstick. This will not only fix your current lifter tick, but it could also prevent more ticks from coming back in the future.
A lifter tick can occur when there is a problem with the motor oil used in the vehicle. This could be because of contaminants inside the oil, or it could be because you are using the wrong kind of motor oil for your car.
Individual motor oils are manufactured to suit different types of internal combustion engines. Perhaps the most important differentiating factor among various oils is viscosity.
It’s crucial that you find motor oil with the correct viscosity for the vehicle you are driving. Using oil that is too viscous could clog up essential components in the engine or leave you vulnerable to the buildup of dirt in the oil.
On the other hand, using motor oil that is not viscous enough will not provide insufficient lubrication to specific components of your engine, such as cylinders or lifters. This could severely damage these components and cause your vehicle to malfunction.
Research what type of motor oil best suits the make and model of the vehicle you drive. You can find this information online, from the manufacturer, or in the manual that comes with the vehicle. As a general rule of thumb, synthetic motor oil works best for most cars sold today.
Top-tier gasoline is the most expensive gas available at most gas stations; this is because it contains additives that prevent wear and keep components in good condition. The same is true for motor oil. You can purchase motor oil that contains certain additives which prevent damage and help to stop lifter ticks.
The best additives that you can use for lifter ticks in a car are oil stabilizers. Oil stabilizers cut through buildups of grease and dirt in the engine oil. This not only cleans the lifters, but it can also stop that annoying lifter tick.
See below for some oil stabilizers available online:
- Lucas Oil High Mileage Stabilizer is an oil stabilizer for older vehicles that have at least 75,000 miles (120700 km) on the road. This product was specially designed to reduce noise and improve emissions in older engines. Using this oil stabilizer will also reduce your vehicle’s thirst for engine oil.
- Sta-Bil Full Synthetic Oil with Stabilizers is a long-lasting synthetic motor oil that contains stabilizers that break up dirt and contaminants. This motor oil can last for two cycles or up to 12 months at a time. This makes the product excellent value for money in the long run.
If you can’t find any motor oil to buy that already has suitable quality additives included, you can purchase the additives on their own. Remember to do your own research and adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions when adding new chemicals to your motor oil to prevent lifter tick.
As I mentioned earlier, motor oil can accumulate dirt and grime, which can cause issues with your vehicle, including lifter tick. The manufacturers of your car already know this and have taken some measures to limit the contaminant buildup in the oil. One such measure is the motor oil filter.
The motor oil filter is a filter that all of the oil passes through as it moves about the vehicle. This filter catches pieces of dirt that have managed to get into the oil. However, over time, the filter will become full of little pieces of dirt and bad oil.
When the motor oil filter gets clogged up with dirt, it can fail and allow contaminants to pass through freely. A consequence of these issues occurs in components like lifters. If your motor oil filter has gotten clogged, it will require a replacement.
Here’s how to change an old motor oil filter:
- Locate the oil filter
- Place the oil collection pan beneath the filter
- Put on gloves and safety glasses
- Remove the filter using a wrench
- Place some oil on the gasket of the new filter
- Screw in the new filter by hand onto the stud until stiff
- Once the filter starts to tighten, turn it ¾ of a turn more
- Fill the oil reserve under the hood with fresh oil
Be careful when removing the oil from the old filter, it could be hot and will make a mess if it’s spilled. Also, wear protective eyeglasses and handwear to prevent direct skin contact with the motor oil as it will be corrosive and dirty.
When tightening the new filter, make sure that you don’t twist it too far as it will damage the seal and could cause an oil leak. For the same reason, make sure you tighten it by hand and not with a wrench.
If you’re having issues in your vehicle like a lifter tick, it’s worth investing in a good quality replacement oil filter. Check out your local auto store or your favorite online retailers for the best quality filters that last longer and prevent lifter tick from recurring.
Lifter tick is a simple but annoying problem that may be a precursor of more serious issues with your car’s engine in the future. Addressing it at the earliest is in your best interests. Follow the measures outlined in the above article to resolve lifter tick once and for all.