Why is My Engine Ticking?

Engine Ticking
Valve Train

Engines can make all sorts of funny sounds, and honestly we shouldn’t be surprised when they do.  There are all sorts of moving parts and rotating things, not to mention explosions going on inside of them.  As a mechanic you hear the phrase “my engine is making a strange noise” relatively often.  Strange noises can be anything from humming to screeching or clunking.  In this article we’re going to talk through a ticking engine and how to repair the problem.

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 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.

The tick in your engine could be from normal wear of your motor running or it could be an indication that something is wrong.  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 on in confidence.  Another tick could be from an exhaust gas leak somewhere in your exhaust manifold.  For more information about how to find a fix an exhaust gas leak checkout our article on fixing exhaust leaks.

The last likely cause of your 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 itself 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 to the valve or push rod has 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 any play in the components you can usually hear them “tick” as they shift around while your engine is running.  Also, your valve train requires a lot of lubrication so a tick could indicate that you have a low oil level, or possibly even that you are in need of an oil change because your old, dirty oil just isn’t keeping things lubricated enough.

Engine TickingIf you hear a trick coming from your motor, it could be indicating you have a low oil level.  Having a low oil level in your vehicle can cause a significant amount of damage or even be catastrophic to you vehicle’s engine.  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 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 your have enough oil in your engine eliminating your tick and making sure everything says lubricated and safe.

BlueDevil Oil Stop Leak

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

  • AutoZone
  • Advance Auto Parts
  • Bennett Auto Supply
  • CarQuest Auto parts
  • NAPA Auto Parts
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts
  • Pep Boys
  • Fast Track
  • Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts Specialists
  • S&E Quick Lube Distributer
  • DYK Automotive

You can also purchase Blue Devil Oil Stop Leak online.

Pictures Courtesy of:

Valve Train: “installvalvetrain” By CDX Online eTextbook Licensnced under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Original Link

Engine Oil Dipstick: “Engine oil dipstick” by Dvortygirl – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – Original Link

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22 responses to “Why is My Engine Ticking?

  1. 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

    1. David-

      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.

      Thanks,

      -BDP

  2. 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?

    1. Norberto-

      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.

      -BDP

  3. 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.

    1. Lakeisha-

      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!

      -BDP

  4. 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?

    1. Christy-

      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!

      -BDP

  5. 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

    1. Junior,

      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. 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

    1. Kenya,

      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. 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?

    1. Rebecca,

      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. 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?

    1. Branden,

      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. 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?

    1. Francine-

      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.

      Thanks!

      -BDP

  10. 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?

    1. Domonik,

      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. 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???

    1. Keitra,

      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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