How to Clean Lifters Without Removing

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an image of a person adding engine cleaner detergent to a car engineOver time, dirt and oil debris can form around solid or hydraulic lifters, resulting in weird and annoying sounds. Oil sludge makes it almost impossible for the lifters to function correctly, and this is an indication that there is a problem with the motor oil. In other cases, the noise could result from a worn-out or faulty lifter that needs replacement.

But assuming the noise problem is caused by oil and dirt build-up, you will need a thorough cleanup of the lifters. In most cases, professionals recommend removing the valve lifters for proper cleaning. However, removing and cleaning lifters is a strenuous activity, not to mention the amount of time you’d spend to get the lifters cleaned.

So, is there a way you can clean lifters without removing them? The easiest way to clean the lifters without removing them would be to flush the engine with a cleaner.

For this process, you will need the following materials:

  • Jack stands
  • Oil filter
  • Engine flush cleaner
  • Oil drain pan
  • New oil (as per manufacturer’s recommendations)
  • Replacement oil drain plug (if the current one is faulty)

1. Add the Engine flush cleaner

An engine flush cleaner is a chemical additive created to help clean sludge, accumulated deposits, and sludge from an automobile engine.

The engine flush cleaner is poured directly into the engine’s oil filler hole and left idle for 10-15 minutes. This allows the cleaner to mix with the oil and circulate throughout the engine, helping dissolve and clean sludge and deposits.

After 10-15 minutes of idling, you will need to drain the oil (which is already accumulated with sludge and gunk), replace the oil filter, and add fresh oil.

Ensure that you follow the instructions provided for your engine flush. Some engines may require one or two bottles.

2. Allow The Cleaner to Work on The Engine

After topping up the engine, flush the cleaner and allow the detergent to work on the engine. As aforementioned, you will need to run the engine for 15 minutes. This will allow the detergent to work through the engine and clean the lifters.

You may hear the valve lifters quieten the longer the engine idles, indicating the cleaner is efficiently working on the lifters. After 15 minutes, you will need to switch off the car and replace the oil filter and oil.

There are three ways through which an engine flush is done:

  • A small volume of oil is drained from the engine, and a non-solvent additive chemical formulated to dissolve carbon deposits is introduced into the system. The vehicle is then driven to circulate the chemical all through the engine. As the deposits are dislodged, they are trapped in the oil and then collected by the filter. Last but not least, the car undergoes an oil change and a new filter fitted.
  • After removing a small quantity of oil, a non-solvent flush additive chemical is added to the engine, and then the car is allowed to idle for five to ten minutes. This enables the chemical fluid to flow through the engine, degrade sludge, and trap it in the oil filter. Finally, the oil and filter are both replaced. The engine’s muck is eliminated using the used oil.
  • Like any oil change, oil is drained from the vehicle and replaced with clean oil that includes a non-solvent chemical composition. The engine is then either run or allowed to idle to guarantee that the cleaning solution reaches all areas of the engine that oil would. Finally, the oil and filter are replaced to restore the car’s normal state.

3. Replace The Oil Filter and Engine Oil

After allowing the cleaner to work on your car engine, you must replace the car oil and oil filter.

While some engine detergent manufacturers may indicate that no engine oil change is needed, I highly recommend changing the filter and oil. This is because the engine detergents dissolve all the accumulated carbon and gunk on the engine block. These contaminants then mix with the engine oil.

As you all know, contaminated oil won’t properly lubricate your engine, and it can it worse for your engine.

Below is a simple guide on how to replace the engine oil and the oil filter:

  • Place the car on a level surface, apply the handbrake, and switch off the engine. If required, lift the front of the vehicle by moving it up a ramp or raising it using jack stands.

Caution: You should never get under a car when a jack only supports it. Using wheel chocks is highly recommended to prevent the wheels from rolling.

  • Open the car hood
  • Locate and remove the engine oil dipstick (it helps the oil flow when draining).
  • Once the car is securely and safely supported, wear protective glasses, slide underneath it, and find the oil pan. (Refer to the owner’s handbook for details.)
  • Find the oil drain stopper, a long bolt head located at the pan’s bottom. The drain stopper permits the oil to escape the pan. (Note: Certain automobiles have two drain plugs.)
  • Underneath the drain stopper, place a container like an EPA oil collection pan. Ensure that the catching pan is sufficient to hold the oil drained from the engine. Consult your owner’s handbook to see how much oil your vehicle requires.
  • Remove the drain plug with a 6-point socket or box-end wrench. Remove the plug manually while ensuring that the catch pan is beneath the plug hole. Allow a few minutes for the old oil to run out of the hole. (Refer to the owner’s handbook for further information. (Caution: The oil could be hot)
  • Using an oil filter wrench, loosen the oil filter or cap and allow oil from the oil filter to drain.
  • Add a light coating of the new engine oil to the oil filter gasket for smoother installation on the engine. You should never use grease. Install the new oil filter by hand- turn it clockwise.
  • Under the car bonnet/hood, locate the oil fill cap and add the new oil with a funnel. Confirm with the owner’s manual for the recommended oil grade and amount
  • Replace the oil fill cap
  • Start the engine and let it run idle for at least 30 seconds. Carefully inspect the underneath of the car for any oil leaks. If there are leaks, turn off the engine and have the leaks repaired.
  • Switch off the engine and allow up to 30 seconds for the oil to settle in the car engine. And if there are no leaks underneath, safely lower your car to level ground.
  • Install and then remove the dipstick to check for the proper oil level. Add more if more oil is required.

What to Do If the Lifters Are Still Making Noise

If you can still hear the noise after using the cleaner, you will need to have them inspected manually by professional mechanics.

This process will involve removing and cleaning them individually but will vary highly from vehicle to vehicle and should be handled by qualified mechs.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning the lifters doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to remove and clean them individually. A good cleaning additive will do the job because most of these cleaners can dissolve gunk and carbon buildup on the lifters.

Even though removing the lifters is the best way of getting rid of all dirt accumulation, using engine cleaners regularly will often get the job done. You won’t have to remove the lifters manually and have them cleaned.


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