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Ticking Engine Noise – Causes & Fixes

In Engine by Magnus Sellén1 Comment

A well-functioning car should run with little noise. Rattling noises indicate that there could be something lose or worn out under the hood.

The type of noise will guide you to the source of the problem. If you are hearing a ticking sound, the cause is any of the following:

Common Causes for Engine Ticking Noise

There are some common causes that could cause engine ticking. The chance is that your engine ticking is just a minor problem, but it may also be a risk that something very expensive is causing your engine ticking.

1. Low engine oil/Low Oil Pressure

Oil plays a vital role in lubricating the car’s moving parts. It also helps dissipate excess heat from the engine. However, when your engine oil is low, the moving parts will start coming into contact with each other causing a ticking sound.

If you have just had your car serviced but are experiencing low oil engine levels then you could be having a leak somewhere. Oil could be leaking from the seals, gaskets, or oil pan. Identify the source of the leak and fix it to avoid engine damage due to excess heat.

If your Oil pump is starting getting bad or another component that is causing low oil pressure, you should replace it. If you are not sure of the oil pressure you can connect a manual oil pressure gauge to your engine.

2. Damaged reciprocating components

Reciprocating engine components include items like the valves, pushrods, or pistons. These components are under a lot of pressure and with time they wear out. You should replace these whenever you start hearing a ticking noise. If not the noise will become worse and extend to clunking noise.

3. Rod knocking

The pistons move the rods which in turn rotates the crankshaft. However, the bearings attached to the rods wear out and this causes the rods to knock around hence the ticking sound.

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When you have rod problems you may also experience some slowdown in rpm. This means you will find it hard to accelerate. Rod knocking problems are expensive to fix because you will be forced to replace your entire motor or at least open the whole engine up to replace them.

connecting rod

4. Fuel injector Ticking

The fuel injectors supply fuel to the combustion chambers through a series of valves that open and close. When the fuel injectors begin firing you will hear a ticking sound. This should be no cause for alarm.

5. Unadjusted valves

Similar to the above, if your valves are not properly adjusted you will notice a ticking sound.

This is more related to older cars though. Most Newer cars have hydraulic lifters that make it impossible to adjust the valves. But check your manual, and if you have solid lifters, there is a chance that you have to adjust the valves.

Above the combustion chamber is the camshaft. It has a pushrod that controls the rocker arm. The rocker arm has the opening and closing valves.

The distance between the valves has to be precise for the smooth operation of the engine. However, with time there is some spacing that would cause the parts to shift hence causing a ticking sound.

Some Different Fixes for Engine Noise

There are some simple steps you can try to fix your engine ticking. Unfortunately, engine tickets can be caused by components deep inside of the engine which means that they might be expensive to replace.

Refill or replace Engine Oil

The first thing you should check when you have an engine noise is to check your oil level. If the level is low you should either fill it up, but even better is to replace your engine oil.

If the oil looks very black on the dipstick you should consider replacing it. You can also check your service manual in your car to figure out if its time to replace it.

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Internal engine oil leak

An external oil leak is visible through a dark brown or amber-colored liquid under the car hood. However, internal engine leaks are hard to detect. The cause for internal leaks could include worn out O-rings, gaskets, piston rings, or valve guide seals.

Internal oil leaks can cause oil pressure to get low. Connect an oil pressure meter to be sure that the oil pressure is too low before replacing any components.

Normal engine ticking

In some instances, the noise you are hearing is normal and should not cause you alarm. Fuel injectors usually produce some ticking noise whenever the valves are opening and closing.

This allows the right amount of fuel to be let in and mixed with air. In some vehicles like the Subaru, you can actually hear the ticking sound even when the car is at idle. In other instances, the ticking sound could be caused by the exhaust manifold leak.

The exhaust gases are very hot and under enormous pressure and as they leave the engine they can produce clicking or ticking sound.

Adjust your valves

If you have a persistent ticking engine noise then your valves could be out of adjustment. For every spin of the engine, the valves will open and shut twice. The valves move very quickly and with time they can become misaligned. You can replace the shims or adjust the rocker arms and the noise will subsidize.

Remember that the most newer cars don’t have adjustable valves, so make sure that your valves are adjustable before you try to adjust them.

Fixing rod knock

The rod knock is caused by having worn out bearings in the connecting rod. This causes the engine to produce a ticking sound after every revolution. Depending on how worn out the bearings are the sound can increase in intensity and cause further engine problems.

The solution to fixing serious rod knock problems is to rebuild your motor. Rod knocks repairs will set you something above $2,500. In this instance, you will need new camshaft bearings, connecting rods and in worst cases scenarios a new crankshaft.

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The engine knock sounds like someone is banging at your car. It increases with intensity as you rev your car. During cold seasons the noise subsidizes but it is still there. Bearings attached to the connecting rods are under intense pressure and are subject to frequent wear and tear.

If they are not well lubricated they will cause a lot of friction leading to further damage. That is why it is vital to ensure that you have the right engine oil and ensuring that your engine oil does not go below the recommended part. Oil fills the parts between the crankshaft and bearings. If you ignore the rod knock then you are looking at further engine damage.

The noise will evolve from a ticking sound into a clattering one and then finally the whole bearing surface will become eroded. The connecting rods will then jam and probably break away from the crankshaft. In a worst-case scenario, you will find the hole in your engine block.


Your car’s engine needs the right amount of oil to keep the moving parts well lubricated. If this does not happen the moving parts will get into contact with each other causing unnecessary friction.

Detecting any possible oil leaks is the first step to getting your engine running in good condition. In case you are experiencing rod knocks you need to replace the bearings fast before they cause you to replace your entire engine block.

1 thought on “ Ticking Engine Noise – Causes & Fixes ”

  1. 08 sat redline- engine warm- running rich mixture- ticking noise with engine at idle. just bought the car, 50,000 miles , woman owner,I think it had poor maint.

  2. Due to very high demand and a high amount of comments, you might have trouble getting your comment answered by me. If you want to get fast answers from a certified automotive technician you should ask your questions here: Ask A Mechanic

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