Hydraulic Valve Lifter – Takes up the clearance, within the valve train.

Hydraulic Valve Lifter - Takes up the clearance, within the valve train.
Hydraulic Valve Lifter - Takes up the clearance, within the valve train.

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 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 components as well.

So, are you able to tell, when a hydraulic valve lifter, is going bad ? Also, do you know how to deal with it, when it does ? Subsequently, sticking lifters in most cases; are caused by a varnish build up, on the lifter surfaces.

Common Hydraulic Valve Lifter Components
Common Hydraulic Valve Lifter Components

If you have hydraulic lifter noise; the tapping sound can be caused by; the accumulation of dirt, within the lifter’s hydraulics. For example, due to lack of routine oil changes. As a result, this will then 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.

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 tapping noise that gets louder; when you rev the engine is probably, a faulty hydraulic lifter.

Confirming, The Hydraulic Valve Lifter Noise

So, the most obvious symptom of a faulty hydraulic valve lifter is; the sudden increase in the amount of 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 tapping sound within your engine. Consequently, the sound frequency of the valve train noise, is one-half the crankshaft speed.

Hydraulic Check Valve In Lifter
Hydraulic Check Valve In Lifter

The tapping will occur at a high rate and is more likely to happen; when the engine is hot or cold. One of the most common issues in this situation is; that the vehicle is experiencing issues with a; sticking hydraulic check valve or that dirt has begun to, block up the engine.

Hydraulic Valve Lifter, Check

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. A low gauge reading (or oil warning light) would indicate a, serious internal engine problem. Something is preventing normal oil pressure, from reaching the upper valve train components. The cause might be, a worn or damaged oil pump a; clogged oil pump pickup screen or a plugged up oil filter.

Too Thick A Viscosity Of Engine Oil
Too Thick A Viscosity Of Engine Oil

Using too thick a viscosity of motor oil during cold weather; can also slow down the flow of oil, to the upper valve train, causing noise and wear.

Fixing The Noise

So, if your car has a faulty hydraulic valve lifter; replace it as soon as possible to, avoid further damaging 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 hydraulic valve lifter; depending 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. As a result, this leads to a quieter operation of the engine. Finally, in many cases, hydraulic lifters have to be replaced instead of adjusted.

Thank You !