Why is My Engine Ticking? Causes of Cars Making Clicking Noises


engine tickingEngines can make all sorts of funny sounds, and honestly, we shouldn’t be surprised when they do. There are all sorts of things in motion from engine parts, rotating shafts, to pistons and valves, not to mention explosions, so it’s surprising your engine isn’t louder. Engines can make all sorts of noises from humming to screeching, or clunking and clicking noises when turning. In this article, we’re going to talk through why your car’s engine makes a ticking or clicking sound, what the problem might be, and how to repair it.

Why is My Car Making a Clicking or Ticking Noise?

The first thing to realize if you have a tick in your engine is that it is likely due to one of the reciprocating components rather than a rotating component.  Things like bad bearings or worn out accessories will usually make whirring or whining noises as they rotate while reciprocating components like your pistons, rods, valves, and pushrods usually make ticks, clunks or ratcheting type sounds.

Possible Engine Ticking Causes:

  • Normal wear and operating noise
  • Valves out of adjustment
  • Rod knock or noisy lifter
  • Low oil level

Normal Wear and Operating Noise

The tick in your engine could be normal based on the design of your engine or could just be from normal wear from your engine running.  First, let’s talk through some ticks your motor may have that aren’t a problem.  If you have a fuel injected car one of the ticks you could be hearing could be your injectors firing.  Your fuel injectors are small electrical valves that open and close very quickly allowing a certain amount of fuel to be injected with the air your engine is drawing in.  Some vehicles, like many Subarus, have injectors that you can actually hear opening and closing at idle.  It should sound like a sharp pencil tapping on a desk and be very rhythmic.  Injectors ticking are not a problem and you can drive with confidence.  Another tick could be from an exhaust manifold leak.  As high-pressure exhaust escapes from a crack in the manifold or a leak in the gasket it will sound like ticking or clicking especially at idle or low engine RPMs.  This tick also isn’t dangerous for your engine, but should be fixed as soon as possible to keep exhaust gases where they should be.

Valves Out of Adjustment

The most common cause of engine ticking is a noisy valve train.  Your valves have to open and close once for every 2 times your engine spins around. In an overhead cam engine, the camshaft lobes themselves depresses the valve while in single cam engines, the cam actuates push rods that open the valves by moving a lever called the rocker arm.  Since your valves move very quickly and only move a short distance, the distance from the cam or pushrod to the valve needs to be very precise.  These distances are controlled using shims or other adjustments and as normal wear occurs those distances can move out of tolerance.  If there is excessive play in these components you can usually hear them “tick” as they shift around while your engine is running.  This clearance can sometimes be removed by adjusting the rocker arms and sometimes requires installing new shims. If you have a pushrod style engine with solid lifters, may want to make sure the lifters are clean as there can be oil deposits built up on them which can also cause noise. This is the least expensive fix as you can typically change the motor oil in your car and the lifter tick will go away. 

Lifter Tick or Rod Knock?

If your engine ticks along with engine RPM and the ticking sounds slower, say once every engine revolution it could indicate that you’ve got rod knock. Rod knock comes from a bad bearing in your connecting rod. As the bearing wears out it will allow movement and that play will sound like tapping or clunking depending on how bad it is. If you’ve got rod knock the sound will change with engine RPM and will not change with engine temperature or load.  Unfortunately, if you’ve got rod knock, the only answer is rebuilding your motor.

Low Oil Level

A low oil level can cause engine ticking noises as valvetrain components aren’t getting the proper lubrication and start to get noisy.  If you hear a tick coming from your motor, check the oil level immediately.  If you find that you have a low oil level, consider adding an oil additive such as BlueDevil Oil Stop Leak as you top off your engine oil.  BlueDevil Oil Stop Leak is specially formulated to restore the seals and gaskets in your engine to stop both large and small oil leaks.  Ensuring you have a leak-free engine will make sure you have enough oil in your engine eliminating your tick and making sure everything says lubricated and safe.

You can pick up BlueDevil Oil Stop leak from any of our partnering local auto parts stores like:

  • AutoZone
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  • S&E Quick Lube Distributor
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  • Any Part Auto Parts
  • Consumer Auto Parts

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engine_ticking.jpg – by Simazoran – Licensed by Getty Images – Original Link

22 responses to "Why is My Engine Ticking? Causes of Cars Making Clicking Noises"


  1. david steffey on November 17, 2014 at 6:58 am

    I bought the 32 oz. Head gasket sealer for my 2005 Chevy express V-6.for loosing water thru tail pipe, followed instructions [I have used this before and it worked for water leak in oil] This time it did not work for me.I see your guarantee states to return the UNOPENED product. This is not possible as I used it to no avail. Is that just a scam to get you to use it?
    now a question for help .should i have tried a different sealer? and can I get my 55.00 dollars back[it was on sale]? Sincerely,Dave

    • BlueDevil Pro on November 17, 2014 at 3:22 pm


      The portion you have read under the “returns” section of our website is referring to product that was purchased through us directly and never used.

      All of our products do carry a money back guarantee. Please contact us at 888-863-0426 so that we may assist you in getting a refund.



  2. norberto on December 21, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Would blue devil work on my 1996 nissan quest van cause I put motor oil and leaks drips in the bottom and when the car is warm up smoke comes up through the hood like the car is overheating but its not.
    I just added a 5 quart gallon motor oil cause it was low on oil and this happened to me
    Would blue devil work and if I already added the 5 quart gallon I still could put in there blue devil send me instructions please?

    • BlueDevil Pro on December 30, 2014 at 11:02 am


      You may be experiencing the smoking due to the oil leaking onto the exhaust or other hot areas on the engine. The BlueDevil Oil Stop Leak will work for you as long at the leak is coming from a leaking seal or gasket; most likely that is the case. You will simply need to add one bottle of BlueDevil Oil Stop Leak.


  3. lakeisha on July 29, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    I got a oil change in June and my check engine oil words keep popping up. When I check my oil I see that I have oil. So now my car is making a ticking noise and started running hot . I put some more oil to be sure I have enough oil . I want to know what is going on with my car.

    • BlueDevil Pro on August 10, 2015 at 10:44 am


      Depending on what kind of car you have the “check engine oil” light may be coming on due to an oil level sensor or an oil pressure sensor. Based on the description of your problems it sounds like you may possibly have the wrong weight oil installed in your car. The wrong weight oil would causing poor lubrication of your motor, the ticking sound that you’re hearing and improper oil pressure. We would recommend taking your car back to the shop that did the oil change and having them verify they used the correct type and amount oil for your vehicle.

      Thank You!


  4. Christy on August 27, 2015 at 11:56 am

    What’s the reasoning behind continuous driving for 1 to 2 hours or in extreme cases up to 2 days after putting this in my oil? Do I have to be continuously driving it or can I just leave it running?

    • BlueDevil Pro on August 27, 2015 at 12:04 pm


      You will need to drive the vehicle, not just let it idle, in order for the product to seal. It does not have to be a continuous drive. You are fine to drive 5, 10 mile intervals here and there. Feel free to contact our technical support at 888-863-0426 with any other questions.

      Thank you!


  5. Junior on October 2, 2015 at 7:25 am

    Like you said about Subaru fuel injectors making a rhythmic ticking noise. Can it be heard when car is idling. And what about when it’s taking off at low rpms

    • BlueDevil Pro on October 14, 2015 at 5:20 pm


      Thanks for your question. Yes often times fuel injectors firing can be heard at idle, usually you can’t hear them during take off as road noise quickly overcomes injector noise. If you can hear ticking during take off, you may be hearing valve train noise as described in the article.

      Thanks Again!
      -BD Auto Pro

  6. Kenya on October 6, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    I ran out of oil due to a leak and my car started to make noise so I added more oil and it still makes the noise why is this

    • BlueDevil Pro on October 14, 2015 at 5:47 pm


      Your car’s engine requires lubrication for the bearings and internal equipment to run properly and not get damaged. When your car ran out of oil some of the bearing surfaces may have come in contact which can damage them in a matter of seconds. It’s great that you added oil, but you may have some permanent internal damage to your engine so it may make that noise continually now.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  7. Rebecca on October 10, 2015 at 10:31 am

    Hi I bought a car with a slight oil leak and the engine with tapping on long distances so I took it to a garage and paid for what I thought the oil leak was fixed a few days later it’s leaking again, I take it to a different garage and they said it was the switch again I thought it was fixed but it’s still leaking and tapping I’m constantly topping up the oil.. Will BlueDevil Oil Stop leak work or help?

    • BlueDevil Pro on October 22, 2015 at 4:50 pm


      Thanks for your question about your oil leak. If the leak is coming from the pressure switch, BlueDevil Oil Stop Leak may not seal the leak. BlueDevil oil stop leak can only revitalize gaskets and seals, so if it has a gasket or an o-ring, BlueDevil will work great! If the switch is only screwed into your engine block you may need to use thread sealant on the switch to stop the leak. As for the tapping, you may also consider running the next higher weight oil as the tapping may indicate that clearances have opened up in your older motor and require a little thicker oil to quiet things down.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  8. Branden on October 14, 2015 at 4:03 am

    I have a 08 dodge charger I get oil changes on time but it’s starting to tick son as I crank it up but the ticking stops after its warmed up. What is the problem?

    • BlueDevil Pro on October 23, 2015 at 10:35 am


      Thanks for your question about your 2008 Charger. Depending how many miles you have on your car, it may be simply that your engine is starting to wear and the ticking you are hearing is simply an indication of that. If that is the case you can try running a heavier weight oil than you’re running or try using an oil stabilizer. There also may be a technical service bulletin out for you car due to lifter noise, so it may be worth calling your local Dodge dealership and giving them your VIN number. They will be able to tell you if there are any bulletins or recalls out for your car.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  9. Francine on November 21, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    I have a 2002 saturn l300. I just recently got my crank sensor replaced. And I’ve been hearing this ticking noise while I let the car warm up and sometimes while idle. Does this mean I need an oil change it need oil in the car?

    • BlueDevil Pro on December 8, 2015 at 1:49 pm


      Yes, this could mean the oil level has fallen too low. You should first check the oil level and if you are still getting the “ticking” noise then you may want to visit a certified mechanic to look deeper into it.



  10. Domonik clayton on December 28, 2015 at 11:01 am

    I have a 1996 peugeot 106 gti and on idle it’s.making a really strange ticking noise my oil level is fine it doesn’t leak oil it sounds like it’s coming from the top of the engine but can’t really tell any ideas?

    • BlueDevil Pro on January 7, 2016 at 6:08 pm


      Thanks for your question about your 1996 Peugeot 106 gti. The ticking noise you’re describing could be simply coming from your injectors if it is quiet and rhythmic which wouldn’t indicate a problem. if you remove your oil cap slightly and can hear the ticking get louder, then it could also be from your valve train. This could indicate you need to adjust your valves either by adjusting the rockers or adding shims based on the design of your car, or it could indicate excessive valve train wear.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  11. Keitra on January 20, 2016 at 6:42 am

    I have a 07 Chevy malibu and it recently just started making a ticking noise. It was low on oil so i put some in but the noise is still there. Sometimes the noise fades away but if I go faster than 55 it grows louder or if I’m idle. Need help???

    • BlueDevil Pro on January 28, 2016 at 11:37 am


      Thanks for your question about your Chevy Malibu. Depending how many miles you have on your car you may need to be using a heavier weight oil or you may need to adjust your valve clearance. If your low oil level is due to an oil leak in your engine, you can also use BlueDevil Oil Stop Leak to seal the leak and make sure you don’t end up with a low oil level again.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

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