How to Quiet Noisy Lifters? Fix the Lifter Tick & Prevent Damage

Cars are complex machines and with that complexity comes the noises they make. Noises from cars usually signify that something is wrong with the car, and finding out what the problem is can be challenging.

Lifters are some of the parts that can cause this noise, and today, we will look at how to quiet them.

What are Lifters?

What-are-Lifters
Photo credit: jdpower 

Valve lifters, commonly called lifters, are tiny cylindrical parts the size of a finger found inside an engine. They are connected to a pushrod, also known as the rocker arm, on one end and have a small hole inside that allows oil to lubricate the cylinder’s insides. The lifter pushes the rod up where it connects with the top of the valve.

Lifters are there to keep your engine quiet, improve its performance and elongate its life. They are designed to operate quietly, so if you hear your lifter making a noise, know that something is amiss.

There are many types of lifters, and some make more noise than others. These are the most common types:

  • Hydraulic valve lifters: these are the most common type of lifters in most engines. They save you the task of manually adjusting pushrods as they are self-adjusting. Their speed is somewhat lesser than engines using other lifters.
  • Solid and mechanical roller lifters: these are less noisy and require manual adjustments. You will need to use a manual rocker arm to adjust the pushrods. They are a great choice if you are looking for speed and strength. Roller lifters are pretty pricey, but they solve the problem of solid lifters.

No matter what lifter you use, make sure you do regular maintenance checks on them like any other engine part. Out of all the lifters, hydraulic valve lifters are the ones that will most likely produce ticking noises, and they are what we will discuss today.

What Causes Lifter Noises?

There are several factors that can cause a lifter to make noise. The noise can often occur in cars with a large mileage, older cars, or cars that have not been serviced in a while. The lifter ticks can vary from one car to another, depending on what is causing the ticks. They may occur only a few moments once in a while or tick the whole time a motor is running.

The ticking and tapping sounds of a damaged lifter are not only annoying but can also cause serious problems in the car. You need to take quick action when you start hearing this sound; otherwise, your engine can get damaged, resulting in even worse lifter symptoms which will require a lot of money to get fixed.

Some of the most common causes for lifter noises are:

  • Dirt in the lifters or the valve train. The dirt accumulation can result from infrequent maintenance or neglect of changing the oil for long periods.
  • Oil, that is either too thin or too thick. Using this kind of oil on your engine and lifters can cause even worse problems.
  • The lifters are old and show signs of wear, a common problem in older cars.

The lifter noises might not show up immediately, especially if the lifter has just started acting up. You might notice other sounds resulting from insufficient oil lubrication. Some of the things that can alert you of a lifter problem other than the noise include noticing some discrepancies when checking the level of oil, or seeing a low-pressure warning on your dashboard when the lifters are damaged.

The engine can also heat up faster. This is because lifters are essential in the oil circulatory system and act as a coolant. Whenever you notice any of these problems, it might be time for a check-up. You can do that by yourself or see a mechanic.

Can a Noisy Lifter be Dangerous?

A noisy lifter can be an indicator of something more damaging. However, before you panic, figure out what is causing the problem and see if you can fix it. If you hear the ticking or tapping noise from a faulty lifter, you are already in tune with your car, so you can easily identify what is wrong.

Start by ensuring that there are no loose sheet metal parts that cause a rattling noise around the engine. Check the other parts in your car as well. Once you identify a loose part, go ahead and find a way to remove the vibrating sounds, either on your own or take it to a mechanic to check it for you.

If you still hear the ticking noise after fixing any loose parts and getting your car as quiet as possible, you can now look at the rods or lifters to find the problem. If you can hear the tapping noises after turning the engine on, the problem is most probably from dirt and mud accumulation in the engine, which tends to interfere with the lifter’s functioning.

If this problem keeps occurring, try cleaning the engine with oil additives, which should solve that problem. If, after cleaning the engine, the noises continue and increase in frequency, it might indicate a severe problem.

You will need to fix this as soon as possible to avoid even more problems. If you leave the noise and it persists, it can harm the other parts of the engine and affect the car’s performance in general. It will also have dire financial consequences on you. Get your vehicle to a mechanic as early as possible to avoid spending more money later.

How to Make a Noisy Lifter Quieter

How-to-Make-a-Noisy-Lifter-Quieter
Photo credit: aquietrefuge 

The first step you need to take with any engine or lifter trouble is to perform regular checks. The lifters can be clicking because you have not driven your car in a while, and the oil is drained out. If that is the case, let the engine run for around 30 minutes to enable the oil to start circulating – this will stop the noise.

If the noise persists even after doing so, here are a few measures you can take to fix it:

1. Adjust the Valves

Check the valve train in your car for any faulty components. Even though hydraulic valve lifters do self-adjust, there are two things that can still affect the valve train. They are not connected to the lifters themselves, but they can also cause noise.

The valve lash is one of them. It is a tiny space found between the valves and the rocker arms. If your valve lash is not the appropriate size and does not fit well, it can cause a ticking noise. Use a feeler gauge to see if your valve lash is of the correct size. Cross-reference with your car’s engine manual to see what size the valve lash should be.

You can also use a flathead screwdriver to adjust the adjusting screw to decrease the space if the opening is not optimal. If the opening is too tight, use the screwdriver to turn it counterclockwise to increase the lash.

2. Replace Damaged Pushrods

The other factor that could cause the ticking noise might be damaged pushrods. A damaged or bent pushrod can tap parts of the engine when the lifter pushes it, causing the noise. To prevent this, check to see if all the pushrods are straight.

What does a bent rod mean? Well, it indicates that you overuse the gas pedal. You might be straining the pedal, which then affects the rods. If that is the problem, replace the bent rod with a new one. They are affordable and save you a lot of worries.

Unscrew the pushrods and take them out. Look for any bent ones by rolling them on a flat surface. If you find any faulty ones, replace them with new ones. You can either do it yourself or call a mechanic if you want the best results.

3. Drain the Old Oil

Improper engine maintenance causes a lot of problems with cars, one of them being noisy lifters. You need to drain and replace your car’s oil at least once a year and choose the right oil for your vehicle. Old or thick oil can cause debris buildup and jam up the opening to the lifters.

The oil that is too thin is also bad for your car. It will not lubricate the engine properly or have proper padding for the other parts of the engine. If old, thick, or thin oil is the cause of lifter noise, you will need to change it. Here are the steps you should follow:

  • Start draining the old oil. Remove the oil cap and catch the draining oil in a bucket or dish.
  • Once the oil stops leaking and slows to a drip, put an engine flushing agent to remove the rest of the old clogged oil.
  • Replace the now drained oil with new oil, making sure you follow the engine specification.

The best flushing agent to use is the Liqui Moly Engine Flush. It does an excellent job of doing away with clogged oil.

4. Clean with Oil Additives

This specific product is a stabilizer that you can use to clean out the old oil. It breaks down debris in the oil without you having to drain the whole tank. Drive for a few minutes once you pour the stabilizer in. This gives enough time for the stabilizer to mix with the circulating oil, stopping the lifter noises. The lifter will operate at maximum capacity, and the additive will not affect the density of the oil you already have inside the car.

Related: Oil Additives for Noisy Lifters

Follow the instructions written on the additive’s packaging. Oil stabilizers are also quite affordable, and they do a good job of protecting your engine until you change the oil, a worthy investment. Some of the best additives you can get include:

Liquid Moly Lifter Additive


This additive ensures optimal performance; it goes inside lubrication ducts and holes and cleans them. It delivers on your vehicle’s travel comfort and reliability. You can use it with all diesel and gasoline engines.

Marvel MM13R Mystery Oil


This oil is excellent for cleaning your oil tank; it reduces and prevents gum and varnish buildup. It also prevents clatter and valve sticking as well as oil breakdown from extreme temperatures. It is a worthy buy, that helps improve fuel economy.

Rislone 4102 Conditioner and Cleaner


This is a whole chain of engine additives that you can use. They handle different factors, but their primary point is to protect the engine. You can choose from a wide variety of what you need for successful cleaning.

5. Get New Lifters

The final thing you can do after trying all the fixes and failing is to buy new lifters altogether. The prices depend on your car’s engine, and most of them come in packs. They might cause you a pretty penny, but it is worth it compared to leaving the old ones in and causing further, more expensive damage to your car.

If you are going to take the lifters out yourself, you will need tools to extract them without harming the whole engine. Below are some of the tools you can use for this:

Performance Tool W84004, Hydraulic Valve Lifter Remover


This tool is specially designed with several parts that work together to remove hydraulic valve lifters. It has a collet that expands to grasp the lifter for easy removal, a slide hammer that easily frees stuck or tight lifters, and a knurled handle for a secure grip while in use.

OEMTOOLS 25048 Hydraulic Valve Lifter Tool


This is an excellent item to have by your side when removing and installing lifters. It is slender enough to go inside pushrod holes. It then expands inside to pull the lifter out of the bore. It is super easy to use and very efficient.

Final Thoughts

So, here we are. You now know of all the problems that hydraulic valve lifters can have that cause the ticking sound and a few ways to remedy it. Remember to always do regular maintenance checks on your car to ensure everything is running as smoothly as it should be.

You can use any of these fixes to fix the lifter noise at affordable costs. Don’t hesitate to consult a mechanic if you have tried everything and still failed to fix the problem. Also, it is advisable not to try complex procedures on your car by yourself, so you don’t cause further damage.

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