Engine Ticking Noise Causes & How To Fix It

Experiencing excessive engine ticking noise while driving or at idle can be quite unsettling. There are several potential reasons for the engine ticking noise, whether it occurs during acceleration, at idle, or after an oil change.

Engine Ticking Noise

Your vehicle engine is a complex machinery, and it’s natural for it to produce various noises during operation. The movement of valves, pistons, rotating crankshafts, the combustion process, and other engine components all contribute to the array of noises, such as clunking, clicking, screeching, and humming.

If you encounter a ticking noise, it’s often linked to an issue with one of the reciprocating parts in the engine. These parts include pushrods, rods, valves, or pistons, and a problem with any of them can result in a ticking, clicking, or clunking sound.

Reasons of Engine Ticking Noise

Insufficient engine oil is one of the most common causes of engine ticking noise. Wrong viscosity oil or dirty oil may also contribute to the ticking noise. Another scenario where the engine may tick is when it doesn’t warm up properly. Additionally, a worn engine part, a leaky exhaust manifold gasket, a faulty hydraulic lifter, or low oil pressure could be potential culprits behind the ticking sound.

The most common reasons for an engine ticking noise are explained below:

1) Low Oil Pressure

Low Oil Pressure, causes of Engine Ticking Noise

Inadequate oil pressure or insufficient engine oil is one of the major reasons for an engine to make a ticking noise.

The low oil levels create a pronounced ticking noise due to the lack of proper lubrication for moving parts such as the piston, timing chain, and other parts of the engine valve train. This deficit in lubrication may also lead to a reduction in engine power as it induces friction among the metal parts.

You may notice the ticking sound becoming more prominent when you initiate, maintain idle, or increase the speed of your vehicle.

Read More: Causes of Low Oil Pressure

2) Rod Knocking

Rod Knock, Reasons For A Ticking Engine Noise

Another potential source of ticking noise could be rod knock. This issue occurs when the bearing linked to the rod becomes worn or damaged, causing the rod to knock against the crankshaft and create a metallic noise.

When accelerating, you may hear a regular, excessive ticking noise from the engine. This noise will increase in pace with the vehicle’s speed. The repair for this problem can be costly, as it typically requires rebuilding the engine.

3) Low Quality Or Wrong Viscosity Oil

Wrong Viscosity Oil

Neglecting to replace your filter and engine oil regularly may also lead to different problems. Dirty oil or an obstructed filter may result in low pressure, leading to a ticking sound.

Additionally, the utilization of oil with the appropriate viscosity is essential. If you use the wrong viscosity oil, it will be unable to adequately lubricate the engine’s internal parts. Therefore, check your vehicle manual to find suitable viscosity oil for your vehicle.

Read More: Causes of Engine Oil In Coolant

4) Misadjusted Hydraulic Lifter 

Hydraulic Lifter

Hydraulic lifters, responsible for operating the engine valves, can deteriorate over time and fail to work efficiently. This malfunction can generate a clicking sound, often referred to as a “lifter tick.”

In the case of old vehicle models, they are equipped with solid lifters. In such lifters, incorrect clearance may cause a ticking noise. These components, despite their solid build, can still contribute to the occurrence of this ticking noise if not properly maintained.

5) Damaged Exhaust Manifold Gasket

Exhaust Manifold Gasket

The main function of the exhaust manifold is to direct exhaust gas away from the engine. It has a gasket around it, but over time, this gasket can wear out and cause a leak.

When exhaust gases escape from the manifold due to such leakage, the engine can begin to produce a ticking sound, especially at lower engine speed. If the source of the leak is not the gasket, it could possibly be attributed to a fracture in the manifold.

6) Faulty Spark Plugs

faulty Spark Plug

In the case of a car with high mileage, a defective spark plug might be the source of the engine ticking noise.

A mispositioned spark plug could likewise produce this noise. If the spark plug is not correctly positioned, exhaust gases can get into the engine, leading to a ticking sound.

Read More: Causes of Oil On Spark Plug

7) Worn Engine

There are a lot of parts in an engine that moves. Over time, these components may wear down. As they wear down, your engine might start to make more sound than usual.

If these noises get louder and you ignore them, ultimately, it may lead to expensive repairs. If things get really bad, you might have to rebuild the engine or even replace it.

8) Misaligned Valves

Misaligned Engine Valves cause Ticking Engine Noise

The valve train is a part installed inside the top of the engine called the cylinder head. Its job is to control the opening and closing of the valves.

When things are working right, the intake valve (the one that lets air in) opens up right as the exhaust valve (the one that lets waste gases out) closes.

However, poor maintenance and other problems may lead to valve train misalignment, making it challenging for the valves to open and close as needed. This issue may result in a ticking noise from the engine.

9) Engine Not Warm

Engine Not Warm

In some cases, your engine may produce a ticking sound while it’s heating up. When the temperature of the engine increases, the oil becomes less viscous, facilitating its circulation throughout the engine.

If your vehicle isn’t driven frequently or for extended periods, the oil might not reach an optimal temperature and viscosity.

Despite the fact that the latest vehicles don’t need engine preheating before usage. But it’s still crucial to drive for sufficient durations and at suitable speeds for optimal engine performance.

How to Fix A Ticking Noise in Engine

If your engine is producing ticking noise from the engine, fix it immediately. First of all, you need to find the root cause of the noise and then fix it. By fixing the issue promptly, you can prevent your engine from damage.

Follow the below-given steps to fix the ticking noise:

1) Check the Oil Level

Checking Engine Oil

As discussed above, low engine oil is one of the major causes of the engine to make ticking noise. Therefore, firstly you need to check your engine oil and ensure there is a sufficient amount of oil.

You can do this by checking the oil level using the dipstick, which will indicate whether you need to add more oil or not.

If you find yourself needing to frequently add oil, it may be necessary to investigate a potential leak. Alternatively, there could be an internal oil leak, which often occurs due to a damaged head gasket.

2) Use Oil Additives

Oil additives are chemical substances that enhance lubrication and prolong the lifespan of your motor oil. These additives may also be utilized to cleanse the vehicle engine and components such as valves, rocker arms, and lifters.

You should consult with your car’s service manual to determine which additive is appropriate for your car. Regular use of oil additives may significantly enhance the performance of your vehicle.

3) Change The Oil and Filter

During your oil level check, if the oil appears to be impure or dirty, it indicates you need to replace your oil. Proceed to remove the old oil and refill the oil reservoir with new oil of the appropriate viscosity.

Remember to replace the filter simultaneously. Once you’ve completed these tasks, ensure that the dirty oil is disposed of correctly. Many auto parts stores provide oil recycling services free of charge, making it an eco-friendly option.

4) Change Faulty Spark Plugs

Spark Plug, Ticking Engine Noise Fixing

A poorly installed spark plug may not properly settle on top of the IC engine. This can allow exhaust gases and contaminants to infiltrate the car’s engine, leading to a ticking noise.

To rectify this issue and cease the ticking sound, you might need the help of a professional mechanic to replace the defective spark plugs.

5) Check Oil Pressure

Oil Pressure Gauge

Keeping a vigilant eye on the vehicle’s oil pressure gauge is also a smart strategy. If the oil pressure of your vehicle is going down, it’s crucial to identify the cause.

Bear in mind, though, the oil pressure gauge might not always provide accurate readings. Therefore, if you’re hearing a ticking noise from your engine, you should manually test the oil pressure. There might be a problem with the gauge or the oil pressure sensor that results in an inaccurate reading.

6) Allow The Engine to Warm Up Completely

It’s also essential for your engine to reach its normal working temperature for the oil to circulate effectively. If the ticking noise occurs only when the engine is first started, allow your engine to fully warm up.

However, you can use low-viscosity oil to facilitate better flow. You can refer to the vehicle’s manual to find out the recommended viscosity or consult a mechanic for further assistance.

7) Diagnose Hydraulic Lifters

If the ticking sound from the engine persists regardless of the engine’s temperature, it’s likely your hydraulic lifters are faulty. You should change the bad hydraulic lifter as soon as possible.

While it’s possible to change just one, but it’s generally advised to replace all of them to prevent potential failures of the remaining ones in the near future.

If your vehicle is equipped with solid lifters, there might be an option to adjust them. But this is a complex process and should only be undertaken by a skilled professional.

8) Fix Exhaust Manifold Leaks

Identifying an exhaust leak is a straightforward process. Turn on the engine while it’s cold and try to hear the noise emanating from the manifold. You might also be able to observe soot stains indicating the location of the leaks.

Depending on your car model and the extent of the issue, it might be necessary to remove the exhaust manifold to locate the leaks.

Inspect for small cracks that could be allowing exhaust gases to escape. For this inspection, the use of a flashlight might be necessary.

9) Contact A Professional

If you have applied all the above methods and still you are unable to fix the ticking noise, it is recommended to contact a professional mechanic.

Engine Ticking Vs. Knocking

Both engine knocking and ticking noises can be alarming. But engine knocking indicates to be a more severe issue. Ticking usually suggests a problem with the engine’s top end, whereas knocking signals internal damage or an issue with the engine’s bottom end.

Knocking typically points toward an issue with a bearing or rod. In many cases, such issues may lead to complete failure of the engine.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Ticking Engine?

The repair costs of a ticking engine depend on different factors, such as your vehicle model, labor cost, your living area, and the severity of the issue.

Following are some common repair costs to silence that ticking noise:

Oil Change$50 to $150
Synthetic oil filter replacement$60 to $130
Conventional oil filter replacement$30 to $70
Timing belt replacement$380 to $1100
Spark plug replacement$110 to $220

FAQ Section

Why does my engine tick while idling?

If you notice your engine ticking, one of the first things to do is check the oil level in the oil reservoir. If the oil level is insufficient, you need to add more oil up to the desired level. Additionally, if the oil is dirty or old, you may need to carry out an oil and filter replacement. Be sure to use oil with the correct viscosity to avoid any mechanical issues.

Is it bad if your engine is ticking?

Yes, a ticking noise could be a sign of engine damage. Though, the issue may be as minor as insufficient oil or using oil with incorrect viscosity. It is crucial to identify the cause of the ticking sound, so the problem can be fixed before it leads to significant damage.

Can you drive with a ticking engine?

Yes, you can drive with a ticking engine, but it is not recommended. The ticking sound could be a sign of a worn or damaged timing belt, a crucial component of your engine. If the timing belt breaks, you will be unable to drive your car. Despite the importance of the timing belt, not every driver is aware of its function or its location in the vehicle.

How long can a ticking engine last?

If the ticking noise is due to oil that hasn’t warmed up yet, it should cease as soon as your engine reaches its normal working temperature. But the ticking noise will persist until the root cause is identified and remedied.

Will adding oil stop the engine ticking?

Yes, if your engine is marking a ticking noise due to insufficient oil, adding engine oil will eliminate the ticking noise.

Can low oil cause ticking noise?

Yes, if your engine has a low oil level, it may produce a loud tapping” or “ticking sound. This sound is produced due to poor lubrication of the engine parts. By simply checking the engine oil level, you can confirm if the system is low on oil.

Can a timing belt cause ticking noise?

A timing belt nearing the end of its lifespan, particularly if some of the teeth on the rubber belt have worn down, can result in a ticking sound.

What is the normal engine noise?

The normal engine noise of a vehicle depends on the vehicle’s make and model, but it usually includes a low hum or purring noise while the engine is operating. You may also hear some slight ticking or clicking sounds from different engine parts. Your engine noise should be relatively consistent, without excessive grinding, knocking, or extremely loud noises, which could indicate potential problems with the engine.

Read More

Leave a Comment