Engine Ticking Noise? (Causes & How to Fix it)

If your engine is ticking at idle, during acceleration, or after an oil change there are several possible reasons for this. Here are the most common causes

engine ticking noise

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

The type of noise will guide you to the source of the problem. If you hear a ticking sound from your car engine, the cause is most likely any of the following in our list. Let’s take a look at the most common reasons:

The most common cause of engine ticking noise is low engine oil level or old engine oil. This can result in low oil pressure which will cause the engine to tick. A faulty hydraulic lifter could also cause a ticking engine.

The chance is that your engine ticking is just a minor problem, but it may also be a risk that something costly is causing your engine ticking noise.

Here is a much more detailed list of the most common reasons for engine ticking noise:

8 Common Engine Ticking Noise Causes

1. Low engine oil level

Check engine oil level

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 any seals, gaskets, or oil pan. Identify the source of the leak and fix it to avoid engine damage due to excess heat.

2. Old Engine Oil

dirty old engine oil

If you haven’t replaced the engine oil in your car for a long time it is definitely time to change it.

Engine oil should in most cars be changed after 10k miles and every year to make sure it has its full potential.

You also need to make sure that you have the right engine oil type for your car in the engine. The wrong type of engine oil can cause ticking noises.

3. Low Oil Pressure

high oil pressure e1609893002560

If your Oil pump is starting to get bad or another component is causing low oil pressure, you should replace it and fix it as soon as possible.

Low oil pressure can damage the whole engine very quickly so you need to make sure that low oil pressure is not causing the ticking noise.

If you are not sure of the oil pressure you can connect a manual oil pressure gauge to your engine.

4. Bad or Empty Lifters

hydrualic lifter

The lifters or pushers are installed between the valves and the camshaft. In newer cars, these are self-adjusted with help of oil pressure. If one of these is bad it can cause engine ticking noise.

Also if your car has been standing for a long time without running, it can be air in the lifter which will cause engine ticking noise. Luckily, it will disappear after a few full cycles.

5. Fuel injector Ticking

fuel injectors e1609793590952

A lot of people don’t realize that fuel injectors can make a high ticking noise. This is completely normal and nothing you should be worried about.

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.

6. Rod knocking

bad rod bearing

Rod knocking is not a very common problem, luckily, because it is costly. But it can happen, though. If you have rod knock, you will experience a pretty heavy 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.

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 very expensive to fix because you will be forced to open up the whole engine to replace the bearings.

7. Unadjusted valves

adjusting valves

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.

8. Recently Engine Oil Change

engine oil change

If you or a mechanic recently replaced the engine oil of your car – you can experience engine ticking noise for a while after the replacement. This can be because the lifters got air stuck into them after the oil change.

If the ticking noise doesn’t disappear after the engine oil change, you should make sure that you or your mechanic filled the engine with the right engine oil type for your car.

Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of MechanicBase. He has been working as a mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced diagnostics and troubleshooting. He has also been a motorsport (drifting) driver for over 5 years.