How to Fix Lifter Tick [2024]

A lifter tick is one of the most common problems you might have with your car, and although it doesn’t usually pose a serious issue with your car, it can cause some damage if left unattended. 

Mostly, a noisy lifter tick is an annoying sound that keeps you on edge whenever you’re driving, kind of like a noisy alternator might. It may last only during the first moments of starting your engine, or it could also last your entire drive. 

To know how to fix a lifter tick, you first have to know what is a lifter on a car, what may be causing the noise, and what you need to reduce the lifter noise. 

Keep on reading to discover all of this and more, so you don’t have to deal with a noisy lifter tick ever again. 

fix lifter noise

What is a lifter on a car?

Getting to know exactly what a lifter is will get you a clearer idea of what your problem might be and, of course, how to fix it. 

Hydraulic valve lifter, hydraulic lash adjuster, or hydraulic tappet are what we commonly know as ‘lifter’. This a very important part of the overall functioning of our car’s engine, serving as a crucial part in several important engine processes.

Mainly, the lifter is responsible for reducing the rattling noise of the parts within and surrounding the engine, compensating for the little tolerance that causes the different parts to rattle together and cause noise.

The lifter achieves this by maintaining a zero valve clearance inside the engine. This way, it not only keeps the engine noise down but also improves the good functioning of the engine, lengthening its life and helping you get long, quiet rides on your car.

As you can see, the engine lifters are key in keeping your car quiet and in top condition. But, what can cause a noisy lifter?

Before you invest in how to soundproof a car, figure out if the noises coming from your vehicle need to be fixed first. 

There are several reasons that may be causing your lifter to tick, and they can be reduced to oil problems, poor maintenance, and large mileage.

Among common oil problems, you can find that dirty oil deposits are some of the main causes for your lifter to start ticking. 

This is caused by not changing your oil regularly and allowing it to steep and create sediment that may block and affect your lifter.

You can also clean your lifter with oil additives to try and reduce the noise they’re causing. This is a common consequence of poor maintenance and is just one of the main reasons why you should get your car serviced regularly. 

Worn-down cars with lots of mileage are also common sufferers of ticking lifters, among other failures like catalytic converter rattle, differential whine, etc. 

Read more on how to quiet differential whine in this post.

There’s nothing wrong with an old car, but as time passes, more and more issues are likely to come up if it’s not properly taken care of. One of these issues tends to be odd noises that need a check, and these include noisy lifters. 

Lastly, another possible cause for the ticking of your engine is a bent push rod. 

A bent push rod occurs when you like to drive fast and step on the accelerator. This added pressure can cause the push rods to bend, and when this happens, the only solution is to replace them.

Replacing a bent push rod can be an expensive and lengthy procedure, but it will always be best t take your car to an expert mechanic so they can take a proper look at the problem. 

Fortunately, the proper maintenance and frequent oil checks can be all you need to keep your lifters in good shape, so the odds are you won’t have to replace your push rods for a long time.

discover how to quiet noisy lifters

How to quiet noisy lifters 

Now that you know what may be causing your engine lifters to tick, it’s time to find out how to quiet noisy lifters so you can keep your car and engine valves in good shape.

Replace the oil

Oil changes are crucial to maintaining your car in a good state. All the parts of your engine are under constant friction and high temperatures, and the best way to keep them from making too much noise is to keep them greased and lubricated.

When your lifter starts to tick and make noise, the very first thing you ought to check is your oil levels and make sure that your oil tank is filled to the proper measurement. 

If it isn’t and your oil levels are low, simply refill your oil tank and check that the ticking subsides. 

The quality of the oil you use on your car also plays a big part in how your lifter – and the rest of your parts – remain in good shape.

To make sure you’re using the best oil for your car, here are some of the best options:

  • Brand: Valvoline
  • Type: Synthetic
  • Best for: Motors with high mileage

Valvoline is a well-trusted brand that has provided top-quality engine oil for decades.

This Valvoline High Mileage Synthetic Blend motor oil is specially made for cars with very high mileage, providing the best lubrication for those engines that have been running for a long time.

This is an excellent oil option for car lifters that begin to tick since high mileage is one of the most common causes of this issue.

If you’re looking for engine oil that not only solves the ticking of your lifter but also maintains your entire car in shape, then this is the one for you.

  • Brand: Castrol
  • Type: Conventional
  • Best for: Regular vehicle maintenance

Castrol is another well-reputed brand that provides some of the best engine oils in the market.

Their GTX Conventional motor oil is perfectly made for keeping up the maintenance of your car, thus providing a great barrier of lubrication to keep up the functioning of your vehicle in every condition.

This oil is perfect for the everyday protection of your engine against friction, high-temperatures, and different traffic conditions that may take a toll on your lifter.

This way, an oil like this proves one of the best options in preventing the malfunctioning and ticking of the hydraulic parts of your vehicle.

  • Brand: Mobil 1
  • Type: Synthetic
  • Best for: Protection against damaging factors in engines with high mileage

This Mobil 1 High Mileage Synthetic oil is another great option for engines with lots of miles traveled, which is one of the main causes of noisy lifters.

It provides protection against wear, oxidation, and high temperatures, which are factors that can represent great damage to any engine.

Also, this oil is perfect for avoiding the creation of deposits and sludge that can compromise the health of your engine.

This particular model is a great combination of the regular maintenance needed to keep your car in good shape and the special features required for high mileage engines.

Clean the lifters 

Regularly cleaning your lifters is one of the best ways to prevent them from making noise as times go by, and the best way to clean them is using oil additives.

These products work in tandem with the engine oil to work out any dirt, sediment, and oxidation that might specifically affect your lifters. 

In fact, oil additives don’t tamper with the lubrication provided by engine oils, comprising a great team for taking care of the parts of your car. 

You can find a great variety of oil additives in the market, but these are two of the most effective when it comes to ticking lifters.

  • Brand: Liqui Moly
  • Compatibility: Most engine oils in the market
  • Best for: Gasoline and diesel engines

This Liqui Moly Pro-Line Engine Flush is easily one of the best oil additives you can use on your lifters.

This oil additive is one of the easiest ways of cleaning your engine and lifter from all the deposits and oil residues that might affect its functioning, making them run smooth and leaving them super clean after just the first use.

It also protects your engine by preventing corrosion and oxidation, as well as isolating solid particles and liquid contaminants.

This oil additive works hand in hand with the lubrication properties of engine oil, so make sure to use it in high mileage engines to keep them working perfectly for a long time.

  • Brand: TriboTex
  • Compatibility: All types of motor oil
  • Best for: Engines on all types of cars

This TriboTex Nano oil additive is one of the most technologically advanced options in the market right now.

It’s all about the nanoparticles that reverse the damage caused by years of high mileage, fixing wear spots by creating a thick and protective coat over the parts that need it most.

A great feature of this particular oil additive is that it is universally compatible with all engine oils in the market, while also working perfectly well for the engines of trucks, tractors, and small diesel cars.

This oil additive also considerably reduces lifter noise by taking great care of the parts with the most wear, effectively repairing and maintaining the good functioning of your entire engine.

Replace the lifter

Replacing your lifters is most definitely a very last resort. However, if the ticking does not subside even after applying oil additive treatment and replacing your old engine oil with a fresh one, then it’s time to consider getting a replacement for your lifter.

While a car savvy person could easily do this by themselves, it is always recommendable to visit your mechanic so you can make sure that the lifter has been properly replaced.

Replace bent push rod

As we mentioned before, a bent push rod might also be the source of your noisy lifter. If this is the case, chances are you’ll have to replace that push rod with a new one, and for this, you need your mechanic. 

Although it isn’t a very common occurrence, you can expect it to be a probable cause for the ticking of your lifter if you like to drive fast and step on the accelerator. 

The only way to fix a bent push rod is by taking it to the mechanic, since the process can be long, expensive, and can require special materials and tools. 

Frequently asked questions about engine lifters

What is a car lifter?

A lifter is a cylinder found in the engine of every car that have small holes to make the lubrication process a lot easier.

Their main function is keeping the engine as noiseless as possible by reducing the friction and controlling the pressure if the parts that, otherwise, might make a lot of noise.

This is why a noisy lifter might be a cause of concern for most drivers.

What can cause a lifter to tick?

As we mentioned before, there are several causes for a lifter to start ticking. 

One of them might be that your car needs a change of oil. Lubricating oil is an essential part of the maintenance process of any part, so if your lifter begins to make noise, change your oil and keep your engine lubricated. 

Another reason for a noisy lifter might be that it needs oil additives to perfect its functioning, reduce friction, and dissolve any dirt and sediment that might be messing with your lifter.

Other, more serious causes for a ticking lifter might be too much wear, general malfunction of the part, or a bent push rod. 

What is the best oil to use on ticking lifters?

Synthetic oil is always the best way to go when choosing the right oil to take care of your lifter, especially if it has started to tick. 

This is because, as soon as the temperature in the engine rises, synthetic oil thickens enough to protect the inner parts of your engine from friction, pressure, and intense heat. 

When looking for lubricating oil to keep your entire engine running smooth, try and always choose synthetic – as long as it fits the needs of your car.

Can noisy lifters cause damage? 

This depends on the type of noise you perceive from your lifter.

If you hear a quick ticking or tapping as soon as you turn the engine on, there’s nothing to worry about. This might just be sedimentation and dirt causing the lifter to make not run as smoothly as it should, and can easily be solved with the right engine oil or oil additive.

If this noise annoys you too much, consider using sound-deadening materials to dampen the noises of your car. 

However, if that ticking noise remains for the entire duration of your drive or for as long as your engine is running, you should definitely consult with your mechanic since it might be something as serious as a bent push rod.

Final thoughts 

While a ticking car lifter might not represent a serious issue with your car, it is always advisable to take a look at it as soon as you begin to notice the noise coming from your engine. 

There are some pretty affordable and easy-to-use fixes for this kind of engine problem, such as purchasing the right tools and oils. 

However, if you really want to diminish any kind of noise coming from your car, consider soundproofing the interior of your car or reading on in how to seal a garage door from the inside.

You should also check out this article on how to fix a squeaky belt if you’re having issues with your serpentine belt.

Additionally, if you need to quiet your exhaust system, check out our quiet performance muffler post.

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