Quieting noisy lifters is a must for any vehicle owner who wants to avoid costly engine repairs.
Many different products on the market claim to do this, but not all can deliver as promised. (Check my latest guide on the best additives that quiet a noisy engine)
This blog post will review five of our favorite new and old methods for quieting noisy lifters without spending tons of money or risking your safety with DIY solutions.
Also: Power Steering Pump Pulley Noise: Causes and Effective DIY Fixes
What Are Lifters, And What Do They Do?
A car lifter, also known as a hydraulic valve lifter, is a cylinder attached to the hydraulic valve by a rocker arm.
The small cylinder, about the size of a finger, lifts the rocker arm until it meets the top of the hydraulic valve.
While there is a lot of movement involved where hydraulic lifters are concerned, they are designed to work quietly.
The lifters are fitted with small holes in the inside for easy lubrication and quiet operation.
This system works well until something goes wrong, causing an irritating tapping or ticking noise.
Fortunately, there are enough solutions for noisy lifters depending on the underlying problem.
What Do Bad Lifters Sound Like?
Bad lifters produce a ticking or tapping noise.
The frequency of this noise will be depending on the problem’s severity.
Lifter ticks may be occasional, or they can last the entire time the car is running.
While you may think that tick isn’t loud enough to bother you, hearing it for even one hour can drive you crazy.
The noise is also more likely to distract you when driving and can be dangerous. (Source)
Therefore, it is a good idea to get it fixed as fast as possible.
Bad lifters are often associated with older cars that have covered quite some mileage. However, you can still experience it in newer cars, especially if you have not been consistent in service.
Can Noisy Lifters Cause Damage?
The short answer is yes. However, this depends on the severity of the problem.
If you only hear the lifter tick for a few minutes after turning on the engine, the lifter is likely functioning well.
The noise may simply indicate dirt in the engine that is affecting how the lifters work.
In older vehicles, lifters will produce noise because they are worn out.
The only solution, in this case, is to replace them for your car to continue running efficiently.
Noisy lifters may also indicate an oil problem.
Either the oil is too thick or thin, or dirt from the oil has accumulated around the lifters.
Extremely noisy lifters can be damaging to your ears.
If you have to endure hours of annoying ticking plus the traffic noise, your ears will suffer.
Can I Drive With Noisy Lifters?
Yes, you can drive with a noisy lifter.
As highlighted above, the noise could be caused by a minor problem in the lifters or oil.
However, it isn’t advisable to drive for too long with a noisy lifter, especially if you have not diagnosed the issue.
If the lifters are worn out, you can still drive safely, but you shouldn’t stay for too long before replacing them.
Damaged lifters may damage the camshaft, and this can only translate to added costs for you.
How Can I Make My Engine Lifter Quieter?
The first step towards resolving a noisy lifter problem or any other car-related issue for that matter is proper diagnosis. You may have to pay a mechanic to make the diagnosis, but the cost is always worth it and may save you more expensive repairs in the future.
However, before visiting the mechanic, below are some solutions you can try at home.
Also Read: How To Make Serpentine Belt Stop Squeaking
Change The Oil
If you don’t oil and grease your car regularly, you should consider changing your oil before taking any other action.
Going forward, you should add oil change to your car’s maintenance routine to ensure that all moving parts are well lubricated.
Failure to change the oil regularly leads to an accumulation of carbon deposits and sludge. This accumulation will eventually lead to a noisy lifter and engine inefficiency.
You also have to be careful when selecting oil for your car.
A thick oil rich in lubricating agents is ideal if you want to keep your engine in top condition.
If the oil you have been using is too thin or thick for your engine, it could be causing the lifter noise.
If you aren’t sure if the oil you are currently using is sufficient for your vehicle, ask your mechanic to recommend a good choice for your engine.
Before adding oil, make sure you drain the old one. There are enough videos on YouTube on how to complete this step.
Use Oil Additives To Clean The Lifter
Oil additives coat the engine parts enhancing the oil’s lubricating ability.
In addition, they also dislodge carbon deposits and debris accumulated in different parts of the engine.
If you only experience the tapping/ticking noise when starting the engine, oil additives may immediately rectify the problem.
Since oil additives don’t change your engine oil’s viscosity, you can use them without worrying about ruining it.
Make a point of using the oil additives every time you change your oil.
If the lifters are still noisy after changing the oil and using additives, there are more solutions to try.
However, you may want to leave these to the professionals unless you know your way around cars and engines.
These additional solutions include:
Lift The Lifters
The lifter may be squeaking because it isn’t aligned to the correct clearance.
A simple lift will resolve this problem.
However, you will need a feeler gauge to use on the valve stem and rocker arm.
You may also need a valve adjustment screw to rectify the clearance.
You need to know the correct factory setting for the lifter clearance.
Check the logbook for this information or do a search online based on your car engine and model.
Replace Bent Push Rods
Push rods open and close engine valves.
However, they may get bent if you decelerate and accelerate suddenly.
Just like lifters, bent push rods will produce a tapping noise. It is easy to confuse one of these noises for the other.
Once damaged, it is impossible to repair push rods. Fortunately, they aren’t as expensive to replace.
Replace The Lifter
If your lifters are worn out, it is advisable to replace them.
Changing the oil or using additives may quiet worn-out lifters for some time, but the noise will eventually come back.
If you want to resolve the lifter noise once and for all, just get a new piece for your vehicle.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Noisy Lifter?
A lifter set will cost anywhere between $150 and $ 400.
If you choose to DIY, the only other cost you need to consider is the hydraulic valve lifter tool.
Since the filter removal and replacement process involves, you may need to set apart a few hours for the job.
If you involve a mechanic, the amount you pay will depend on the number of lifters replaced and the expertise, among other factors.
Some mechanics will charge up to $1000 for all engine lifters.
To reduce costs, you can choose to have your lifters changed during your annual maintenance, significantly if you don’t drive for long distances.
What Is The Best Product To Quiet Noisy Lifters?
One of the best products to quiet a noisy lifter is engine oil.
If you have not changed your oil for a while, some fresh oil can make all the difference in lifter noise and overall engine performance.
Mobil, Castrol, Valvoline, and Shell have a huge selection of top-rated engine oils that will do your engine a lot of good.
One of my most recommended oil additive in this case is Archoil AR9100 Oil Additive (16oz) for All Vehicles.
Since they work to dislodge dirt in the engine, additives will effectively remove whatever buildup prevents the lifters and other parts of the engine from working correctly.
Will Synthetic Oil Quiet Noisy Lifters?
If you have been using conventional oil, it is customary to wonder if changing to the synthetic one will quiet your noisy lifters.
Yes, as highlighted above, synthetic oil can help quiet noisy lifters. However, this depends on what is causing the noise.
If you have not changed your engine oil for a while, a good synthetic oil may quickly resolve the noise issue.
You may need to drive a few miles to get the desired results.
However, if the lifters are broken or worn out, no oil will resolve the problem.
When switching to synthetic oil, it is always wise to listen to your mechanic’s advice or someone familiar with how the engine work.
The last thing you want is to switch to synthetic only to discover that the oil negatively affects your engine’s performance.
However, synthetic oils primarily work just like their conventional counterparts.
They don’t cause any significant change in the engine, and you will experience no problem with them.
Final Thoughts on How to Quiet Noisy Lifters
The above solutions will come in handy when you want to quiet noisy lifters.
Whatever is causing the noise, you can rest easy knowing that the problem is solvable.
Just like with other engine parts, noisy lifters need to be fixed to prevent further damage.
That click you ignore may grow into something that will cost you thousands of dollars to fix.
However, unless yours is an old car, an oil change and additives will quiet a noisy lifter.
If the problem persists after these solutions, your mechanic will quickly diagnose and rectify the problem.
Meet Mike O’Connor, (a DIY enthusiast), living in Cincinnati, a city ranked as the noisiest in the USA.
As a work from home dad, I have a first hand experience of how noise can truly affect your well being.
Soundproofing isn’t something that should be taken as a hobby, it should be a skill that every homeowner should be equipped with.
Most of the work documented on this blog comes from purely first hand experience, and the products recommended work as indicated.