How to Quiet Noisy Lifters; Can they be harmful?

So, you woke up one morning and got ready to go to work. You get in your car and start it only to find that it’s making some unusual noises.

This may very likely be the lifter.

Here’s a complete guide on what you should do about it to fix it.

What is a Lifter?

The hydraulic valve lifter, also known as hydraulic tappet, in a car’s engine is a cylinder with springs and a plunger in it that uses oil pressure to adjust that plunger.

It is attached on the one end to the pushrod, where is where it meets the valve.

It’s designed to keep the engine quiet and increase performance at the same time.

When it’s working perfectly, it shouldn’t make any noise whatsoever.

Common causes for a Lifter Tick

A lifter tick is caused when the camshaft or push rod doesn’t make continuous contact with the lifters.

This can be because the lifter has become worn out or the valve has come out of adjustment.

Bad Lifter

A faulty lifter can cause the typical tick sound and it should be replaced as soon as possible.

This can be simply because your car has a lot of millage or because it hasn’t been taken care of properly, like not keeping the oil levels where they should be.

In this case I’d advice that you take it to a garage and have it checked by a professional.

Dirty Oil Deposits

This is another common reason and one that’s easily fixed without having to spend that much money.

The only way to check if this is the issue is by changing the oil and seeing if it solves the problem.

Bent Push Rod

Another very common reason for having a ticking lifter is a bent push rod.

This tends to happen if the vehicle is pushed too hard and the speed of the depression on the push rod is too much.

This pressure bends the push rod and the only solution is to replace it.

Can a Noisy Lifter Damage the Engine?

I Wouldn’t be too concerned about the ticking if it’s just for a minute after you start the car, you should get it fixed but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the car’s engine is in any immediate danger.

If it’s cold outside and your car and the oil is cold, this just means that the oil is taking its time to warm up.

Another reason for temporary ticking when you start the car is the accumulations of dirt and mud somewhere in the engine which can easily be fixed with oil additives.

This short ticking still causes friction, and we all know what friction does in the long run… It wears things out.

If the lifters are still ticking after a couple minutes, you should worry a bit more and think about fixing this as soon as possible.

If the lifter noises persist, it can prevent other parts of your car’s engine from working properly and cause some serious damage in the long run.

One of the most common issues that arise with a ticking lifter is a reduced performance of your car’s engine.

If the valves don’t open as much as they should, they won’t be getting as much fuel or air and won’t be able to expel a full charge of exhaust.

A faulty lifter will usually result in the rocker arm, valve tip and push rod also going bad if left unattended.

How to fix and quiet a noisy lifter

Depending on what the actual problem is, you have a couple solutions available to you.

The first two are very simple and easy fixes which you should try before taking the car to a mechanic, since it will only take up a couple minutes of your time.

Change the Oil

Lubrication es essential for any engine, and your car’s engine is no exception to this.

Without lubrication, or even if you are putting oil which isn’t the exact one your car needs, problems can arise.

Improper lubrication can cause parts to come in contact with each other, even when they shouldn’t, which can produce the lifter tick that you’re trying to solve.

Another issue with improper lubrication is friction, which in the long run can cause a lot of problems.

If the tapping and the friction continue for too long, the oil filters in the engine might accumulate too much dirt.

What this will do is prevent further lubrication of other parts of the engine.

The good news?

Fixing this is quite simple; Changing the oil, making absolutely sure that it’s the right one for your specific engine, should in most cases solve this issue.

One question remains; How to choose the proper oil for your car’s engine?

Here you have a complete video on that topic which should be more than enough to clarify which one you need.

Choosing the correct engine oil is critical to engine life with Pat Goss from Goss Garage

Clean the Car’s Lifters with Oil Additives

If you can still hear the lifters ticking/tapping in your engine as soon as you start it, then this next tip is definitely going to help.

Oil additives help remove dirt and mud from the Lifters as well as the valves and rockers, meaning that it will help you take better care of the engine in the long run if you keep doing this regularly.

But they cost money!…

I know! But I prefer to spend a bit of money now and then to keep my engine as healthy as possible, because in the long run, I’m actually saving money.

This is very important for the simple fact that if you decide to ignore a problem like this, you could ruin the engine and repairing it could cost a couple thousands, at least!

Which are the best Oil Additives?

I tried a couple over the years and most of them worked pretty well, but the one I feel comfortable recommending is this one by Liqui Moly, which luckily you can get from Amazon.

By just adding a little it will get the oil working like it should, cleaning the lifters, valves, etc. and preventing any mud from building up and keeping everything lubricated.

It can be used with basically every commercial oil available as well.

Another great alternative is the Marvel Mystery Oil, also on Amazon, which reduces wear and tear on engines, provides lubrication and sludge control and also helps increase gas mileage.

What to look for in Oil Additives?

  • It should reduce Friction; Too much friction will wear the lifters out. Using the right oil additive will keep friction to a minimum.
  • It should increase your Car’s Mile per Gallon; This means that if you can increase the Millage, even if it’s just by 2%, your engine parts will be performing better, effectively lasting longer.
  • Check the thickness; Most people think that the thicker the oil additive the better, when in reality it all depends on your specific engine. If the oil passages are narrow, then you might require a thinner one.

Adjust the Lifters

This is something that you should try ONLY if changing the oil and adding the oil additives didn’t work.

If you don’t feel confident doing this then definitely take your car to a mechanic to have it looked at.

If, however, you’re the brave type, then you’re going to need a feeler gauge to be able to do this properly.

If you don’t have one already, don’t worry, they are dirt cheap. I’d recommend you get this one from Amazon.

Also, you’ll need a socket set. Almost everyone has one of these at home, but if you need to purchase one, here’s a link to one I found on Amazon.

Here’s a video on how to do this properly and easily;

Hydraulic valve adjustment made easy - Your Engine Guy

Replace a bent Push rod

This is the final solution which, hopefully, you don’t need to do because the previous steps worked for you.

The push rods work by opening and closing the engine’s valves, but like I mentioned earlier, if you push the engine too hard, the speed of the depression on the push rod is too much.

This pressure bends the push rod and the only solution is to replace it.

This process should be done by a professional, which I know will be quite expensive because it can take up to 6 hours of labor, or even more.

The components alone won’t cost you any more than $20, but when taking the hours of labor by the mechanic into account, the cost could end up near the $500 mark.

This is exactly why you should take proper care of the engine using the oil additives to keep everything clean and lubricated.

This way you will avoid headaches in the future.


I think I made it clear that I’d much rather you take care of your car regularly by keeping an eye on the oil levels and adding some oil additives in order to avoid a bigger problem in the future.

Just follow these steps, try the additives y listed and see what happens.

Until the next time!

Last Updated on March 3, 2021 by Facundo

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