Lots of things tick. Clocks, my wife’s fingernails when I start talking about going on a hunting trip, and bombs. Like a ticking bomb, you should be scared if you start to hear your engine ticking in your vehicle.
Now, a little ticking might not be a big deal. There are some noises your engine will make that won’t leave you stuck waiting for a tow. Join me in the garage to learn about some of the engine ticking sounds that are normal or at least won’t lead to big problems down the road.
Checking for Ticks
There is one ticking sound that could be an indication that you need to make some adjustments to your engine and that is valvetrain noise or valve ticking. The valvetrain is called such because it’s a long line of valves in your engine’s head that open and close in sequence with the crankshaft rotation. The valves need to open and close at very specific times to allow air into and out of your engine and trap the air-fuel mixture as it explodes. These valves are opened either by a rocker arm driven by a pushrod or directly by the camshaft lobes. For a better description of how all this works, and some cool pictures, here’s an introduction to the engine valvetrain.
If all is working right with your valvetrain, it should operate surprisingly quietly. Part of the reason your valvetrain can operate so quietly is because all of the parts are designed and installed very close together with not much wiggle room at all. After all the miles you’ve driven, it’s possible that a little bit of wear has taken place and now there is some room to wiggle and it’s most common to have a ticking sound in the engine while idling. That space could be in between the valve shim and the cam in an overhead cam engine, or between the pushrod and rocker arm in a pushrod-style engine.
If this is the case in your engine, you should be able to take up that wiggle room by adjusting the valve lash or by adding different thickness shims. This is a pretty tricky procedure so it’s a good time to take your car to see a mechanic.
Engine Ticking Could Just Be an Oil Leak
The other reason your valvetrain normally operates so quietly is because the whole operation should be slathered in oil allowing it to operate smoothly and quietly even though your camshaft is spinning so fast and your valves are flying open and shut with every two engine revolutions. If you are hearing engine ticking when you start your vehicle, it could be telling you that you’re low on engine oil and that valvetrain isn’t getting the lubrication it needs.
That’s a big problem!!
First Line of Defense Against Engine Ticking
If you hear engine ticking, check your oil level immediately and top it off right away. Along with the new oil you add, put in some BlueDevil Oil Stop Leak. That will seal whatever leak caused your oil level to get low in the first place, so you don’t end up with engine ticking again.
Photo provided by:
engine_ticking.jpg – by Vladru – Licensed by Getty Images – Original Link