Hydraulic Valve Lifter Noise – Usually, A Ticking Or Tapping

Hydraulic Valve Lifter Noise - Usually, A Ticking Or Tapping
Hydraulic Valve Lifter Noise - Usually, A Ticking Or Tapping

Hydraulic valve lifter engine noise, is usually a symptom, that something may be wrong with your engine.

So, all engines make some noise, but when you hear an unusual ticking or tapping noise, it usually means trouble.

A hydraulic valve lifter, uses oil pressure to adjust a plunger, that takes up the clearance, within the valve train.

So, a faulty hydraulic valve lifter, usually results in, the failure of other parts as well. Are you able to tell, when a lifter, is going bad ? And, do you know how to deal with it, when it does ?

Anatomy Of A Hydraulic Valve Lifter
Anatomy Of A Hydraulic Valve Lifter

Understanding, The Hydraulic Valve Lifter Noise

So, if you have hydraulic valve lifter noise, you will hear a ticking or tapping sound. Most often, that sound is caused by, the build up of dirt, within the lifter’s hydraulics. Subsequently, sticking lifters in most cases, are caused by a varnish build up, on the lifter surfaces.

For example, due to lack of routine oil changes. Consequently, this will cause, a drop in the internal oil pressure of the lifters, hence the ticking sound. So, the lifter is only responding to the conditions and trying to adjust for them. That’s why, it is critical, to make sure that the lifter is the culprit, when chasing any excessive noise.

What's Inside A Hydraulic Valve Lifter
What’s Inside A Hydraulic Valve Lifter

Not only will this work to create less engine noise, it will also provide longer levels of reliability. A “collapsed” lifter will allow, excessive valve lash and noise. A ticking or tapping noise that gets louder, when you rev the engine, is probably a faulty hydraulic valve lifter.

Confirming, The Ticking Or Tapping Noise

Above all, the most obvious symptom, of a faulty hydraulic valve lifter. Subsequently, is the sudden increase, in the amount of ticking or tapping noise. Because, a faulty lifter has a distinct sound, which makes it easily identifiable, even before you lift the hood. Instead of a knock or pinging sound, a faulty lifter will create, a ticking or tapping sound within your engine.

Consequently, the sound frequency of the valve train noise, is one-half the crankshaft speed.

Roller Lifter
Roller Lifter

Also, the ticking or tapping noise, will occur at a high rate. And, hydraulic valve lifter noise, is more likely to happen, when the engine is hot or cold.

Checking Oil Levels And Pressure

Firstly, check the engine dipstick, to see if the oil level is low. If low, add oil to bring it back up, to the full mark. Is the engine still noisy? Check your oil pressure.

Low Oil Pressure
Low Oil Pressure

A low gauge reading (or oil warning light) would show, a serious internal engine problem. Something is stopping normal oil pressure, from reaching the upper valve train parts.

Clogged Oil Pickup Screen
Clogged Oil Pickup Screen

The cause might be, a worn or damaged oil pump, a clogged pickup screen or a plugged oil filter. Consequently, using too thick a viscosity of engine oil, during cold weather. Will also slow down, the flow of oil to the upper valve train, causing noise and wear. Usually, this noise is less, as the engine heats up.

Possible Fixes For The Hydraulic Valve Lifter Noise

So, if your engine has a faulty hydraulic valve lifter, replace it as soon as possible. Also, to avoid further damage to your engine. Because, in most cases, a faulty hydraulic lifter, will simply need to be replaced. Consequently, you might be able to get away with, replacing a single bad lifter.

But, that depends on the make and model of your vehicle. However, many mechanics suggest that when replacing one lifter, you should go ahead and replace them all. In other words, if you find a bad one, the others are not far behind.


So, a hydraulic valve lifter, is designed to ensure, that there is zero clearance, in the valve train. Because, this leads to a quieter operation of the engine.

Thank You !