Last Updated on January 31, 2023 by Bernard Juchli
That loud ticking noise in engine while idling, accelerating, or starting can be disturbing and worrisome. What may be more frustrating is figuring out the source of these ticks considering so many moving parts combine to provide power for your car operation. Usually, the ticking indicates a problem with the camshaft, cam adjusters, rockers, lifters, or low engine oil levels. Your problem is about to get fixed, or at least, you’re about to have headway about the possible causes of the loud ticking noise as well as how to fix it.
Ticking noise in engine causes and how to fix
As mentioned earlier, there are numerous causes, including engine ticking, insufficient oil pressure, and even a worn timing chain, or a broken timing belt. Below are possible causes and aspects you should inspect to help you narrow down on the cause of a ticking noise in engine.
Low oil pressure or engine oil level
Lack of sufficient engine oil or oil pressure to lubricate important components, such as the timing chain and engine valve train, can result in a loud ticking noise in engine. Low lubrication can also result in a loss of power since it causes metal components to rub together. The ticking noise may become louder when you start, idle, or accelerate the car, so you’ll get a ticking sound from engine when accelerating.
Using the incorrect engine oil or a faulty oil pump may also result in a ticking noise.
How to fix
To fix the problems, check your engine oil level and add the correct amount of engine oil. Ideally, you should check your engine oil levels every few weeks or 1,000 miles, per Castrol Limited. If the oil is contaminated, replace it and top off the levels. Also, you should frequently inspect your oil pump.
A low engine oil level may suggest a leak caused by defective gaskets or seals. The most effective solution is to have a mechanic examine your car.
In addition, oil additives are chemical substances that enhance lubrication and prolong the life of engine oil. You can also use them to clean the engine and its components, such as the lifter, rocker arm, and valve. Refer to the owner’s manual or the nearest auto repair shop to determine the right additives.
Deteriorated valvetrain components
A faulty valvetrain is another common cause of ticking noise in engine while idling or accelerating. There are several components of the unit that work together to ensure that the valves move at a precise distance. These components may be out of shape due to regular wear and tear, generating the ticking noise when the engine is operating.
How to fix
You may only need to replace the shims or tweak the rocker for the repair to be inexpensive.
Multiple valve lifters are used to open and close the engine valves of your car’s engine. However, these valve lifters may deteriorate over time and with continued use. And when they do, the lifter produces a metal-on-metal ticking noise, sometimes referred to as a ‘lifter tick’.
Most contemporary cars employ hydraulic valve lifters. A hydraulic lifter is a small cylinder connected to your car’s hydraulic valve by a rocker arm. These hydraulic lifters use oil pressure to open and close the valves, hence low oil pressure can also result in a lifter tick even while idling.
How to fix
The only way to fix the lifter noise problem is to ensure that the hydraulic lifter is neither too tight nor too loose.
Also, regular engine oil changes and the use of oil additives may lessen lifter noise, but a faulty hydraulic valve lifter is typically in need of replacement. However, realigning lifters on your own will likely be difficult, so it’s best to leave it to an auto expert.
Bad spark plugs
If your car has high mileage, a defective spark plug may be the cause of the bothersome ticking noise in engine.
An improperly installed spark plug may also produce this noise as well. If a spark plug is improperly installed, exhaust gases may enter the engine and cause it to tick. In this case, you could even experience ticking noise in engine when starting.
How to fix
Bad spark plugs will not be able to correctly sit on top of the internal combustion engine, leaving the door open for fumes and dirt to enter the car’s engine. This causes the engine to tick. Get a mechanic to replace the faulty or bad spark plug to eliminate the ticking noise.
Connecting rod knock is a severe issue that necessitates substantial engine maintenance. The rods connect the pistons to the crankshaft, transferring the energy of combustion to the engine, gearbox, and wheels. The connection between the rods and crankshaft utilizes a bearing made of a softer metal that controls and smoothes the piston movements. They leave a very little gap that allows oil to lubricate the point of contact between the crank and the bearing.
Over time, the bearings deteriorate and may fail. When a bearing breaks, a substantial gap develops between the connecting rod and the crankshaft. The excessive movement of the rod is audible from the driver’s seat as the piston and rod travel up and down.
Numerous circumstances can generate noise resembling rod knock. True rod knock is almost often accompanied by low oil pressure, is most heard during deceleration, and is persistent. Continuing to drive with rod knock can result in total internal engine failure.
How to fix
Rod knocks that are bent or worn can impact the operation of engine components such as the valve, lifter, and others. This ultimately results in engine noise. To fix the rod knock, you’ll need an experienced mechanic to diagnose and be certain about the problem before fixing it.
Your car’s engine is a closed circuit, meaning that nothing can enter or exit the engine. When the exhaust pulses, an exhaust leak, especially one close to the engine, generates a loud ticking noise while accelerating.
There are numerous causes of exhaust gas leaks, including a damaged gasket, a cracked exhaust manifold, or a broken flange. If high-pressure exhaust gases leak via a break in the manifold or a defective gasket, the engine will tick at low RPM.
How to fix
The best approach to detect an exhaust leak is to search for black soot, which typically coats the area surrounding the leak. Repairing exhaust leaks can be labor-intensive, particularly on corroded hardware-equipped cars. So, it is important to visit a professional mechanic when you notice the symptoms.
Depending on the make and type of your vehicle, improperly adjusted valves may generate a ticking noise in engine. This is especially relevant for older automobiles or cars with high mileage.
Modern automakers, such as Honda, recommend valve adjustments on engines with significant mileage of about 105,000, per The San Diego Union-Tribune.
How to fix
Correctly adjusting the valves will not only eliminate the ticking, but also increase engine responsiveness, power, and smoothness.
Checking valve clearance includes removing the valve cover (or two valve covers on V-type engines) and using thin feeler gauges to measure the distance between the intake and exhaust valves and their lobes or rocker arms. For each measurement, the camshaft must be in the correct position and each valve must be entirely closed.
Adjustment, if necessary, necessitates the use of special equipment to insert or replace shims, and it is not a simple maintenance procedure like an oil change, especially on engines with three or four valves per cylinder. Expect to pay for at least a couple of hours of labor at the shop as well as an inspection fee.
In addition to eliminating valve noise, properly set valves will likely make the engine smoother and more responsive. Furthermore, proper adjustment can increase the valve train’s longevity. That said, you may need to visit a mechanic since adjusting the valves is a bit technical.
Malfunctioning engine fan
If something is blocking the engine fan, it may emit a ticking noise in engine. The noise produced by the engine fan will be constant and unrelated to engine speed.
How to fix
Examine the heat and dust guards, metal lines or brackets, and any other component that can vibrate and come into touch with another component while the car is operating. Examine the underside of the hood for contact marks.
Faulty front engine accessories
Some components in the front of the engine can generate that ticking noise in the engine. Any of these systems, including the water pumps, air conditioning compressors, pulleys, or belt tensioners, could be a problem.
How to fix
You can use a mechanic’s stethoscope to locate the cause of the problem, but it is preferable to consult a mechanic to identify the problematic component and perform the necessary repairs. To stop the noise, it is important to replace the defective accessories.
Typical ticking noise
Not all ticking noise in engine is negative. When operating, the vast majority of motors will tick methodically. The fuel injectors, purge valve, and PCV valve are all capable of producing a ticking noise, albeit it is typically less audible.
How much does it cost to fix ticking noise in engine?
The cost of repairing a ticking noise in engine often depends on the location, the diagnostic, and the labor fees.
Consequently, the following are some frequent repair cost estimates to silence that ticking sound:
- Change of Oil: ~ $50-$150
- Conventional oil filter: ~ $35–$75
- Synthetic oil filter: between ~ $65 and $125
- Spark plug: ~ $115-$200
- Timing belt: ~ $400–$1000
- Rod knock – $600-$1,000
The estimated cost falls between ~ $900 and $1500, depending on the car engine type, of course.
Is ticking sound in engine normal?
Certain engine components, such as the fuel injectors, may emit a tick while operating regularly. Here are some components with a typical ticking noise:
When a purge valve discharges fuel vapors into the engine’s intake system to be burned, it can make a ticking noise.
A fuel injector emits a clicking and ticking noise while opening and shutting rapidly at idle.
Cold starting engine
When you cold start your car’s engine, you may hear a ticking noise from the valves, piston, or cylinder wall clearance. Typically, the noise disappears as the engine heats up while driving.
Engine ticking noise on startup
Ticking on startup is normal, especially during the frigid winter months. So, you’ll just experience a ticking noise in engine while starting. As the engine ages, its ability to immediately develop oil pressure becomes more difficult, thus lifters and other engine components may require a moment to receive the required oiling and build pressure. However, excessive ticking during startup could be a problem and may require investigation.
It may be challenging to identify and fix these issues on your own if you do not have the skills. Just have a mechanic or a repair shop do the job or fix it yourself if you have the experience.