5 Causes of Engine Ticking Noise (At Idle, Acceleration, & After Oil Change)

A car engine is bound to make noises. After all, there are so many moving components and parts inside of an engine as it is running. Most of these noises are not very loud and they are nothing to worry about. But there are times when engine noises will sound a bit unusual or strange.

A good example of this is when there is a ticking noise coming from the engine. A ticking sound could be caused by any number of reasons, such as a low level of oil or loose components. You may hear a ticking, clicking, or tapping noise while the vehicle is idling, accelerating, or even after receiving an oil change. To understand what the actual problem is, you must understand the signs to look out for.

Common Causes of an Engine Ticking Noise

Below are the top 5 reasons your engine is making a ticking sound:

#1 – Bad Reciprocating Components

symptoms of bad piston rings and valve seals

When there is a ticking noise in the engine and it concerns a particular component, then it will usually be a reciprocating component that is to blame and not a rotating component. Some examples of reciprocating components include pushrods, pistons, and valves.

If any of these components were to become worn out, damaged, or go bad for whatever reason, you will begin to hear ticking noises. If you don’t replace these components in a timely manner, the ticking noises may progress into a whining or clunking noise.

#2 – Low Amount of Engine Oil

check engine oil

When you have a low level of oil in your engine, this will cause the components of the valvetrain to cause ticking sounds because the components are not being lubricated enough. The reason for low engine oil could be due to a leak somewhere.

Perhaps you have damaged or worn out gaskets or seals. Either way, you will know if you have low engine oil because your engine will start to overheat. It needs the oil to cool it off. Therefore, if you hear ticking sounds in addition to any of these other symptoms, then it’s likely due to your vehicle being low on oil.

#3 – Rod Knocking

rod knock

Want the best online repair manual?

ALLDATAdiy.com: The Leading Source of Professional Diagnostic and Repair Information.

If the bearing attached to the rod has gone bad, then the rod will knock around and cause a ticking sound. This happens if you have a worn out bearing because it will cause the rod to move.

There won’t be any temperature changes to the engine, but the RPM of the engine will change. The only real solution to fixing the rod knocking problem would be to rebuild your entire motor, which is obviously going to be expensive. But it will have to be done sooner or later.

#4 – Fuel Injectors Firing

fuel injectors

This will be the best-case scenario for engine ticking. Certain model cars with a fuel injection system will have ticking sounds whenever the fuel injectors start firing.

This is basically the valves of the injectors that are quickly opening and closing in order to allow the proper fuel amount to enter the internal combustion chamber. This sound is nothing to worry about and is part of the normal operation of your vehicle.

#5 – Valves Not Adjusted

valves

A valve train that is not adjusted will cause ticking sounds. This is often the cause of these sounds, so you might want to check this first.

When your engine spins a couple of times, the valves open and close. There is something called a rocker arm which is responsible for opening and closing the valves. The camshaft has a pushrod which controls the rocker arm and it needs to be the precise distance from the valve.

This is especially true because the valves move so fast and at a short distance. If the adjustments are not exactly right, then the components will move around and cause the ticking sounds.

 

Comments

  1. My car is making ticking noises, and my oil life said 16%, and when I checked it with the dipstick I had no oil, wanted to know if I put oil in it will it be ok???? Please let me know thank you

    • actually if you run the car without oil, it will make lots of problem for your engine. the first thing is your crankshaft, connecting rood, camshaft bearings will worn out.
      to answer your question, just put oil then see what happens

  2. My car engine ticking noise gets faster when the car accelerates and when I’m on the highway I hear it when I curve to the right or to the left. I wonder what it could be

  3. Sounds to me like the clicking noise many seem to hear when they reach the end of an outboard CV joint it will be the outer most joint from the diff on either side !

    • My Peugeot 207 was ticking like this for a few days. Booked it in with my local garage today and a mile from the garage the cam belt sheared off, smashed up the engine and estimate repairs are £2000. Cam belt should have been good for another 35k miles. Car now being scrapped and I’m carless.

  4. My car engine would not have any of those tapping sounds when cold. It started only after the engine warmed up, and only be heard during idle.

    • First thing is to check your oil level and condition. Try running a heavier oil.
      Is it tied to the RPM (faster ticking at higher RPM)? It could mean valves out of adjustment or even rod knock. Sounds are tricky to diagnose without being there.

  5. I notice a ticking sound when I start up car. I don’t notice it while driving, but maybe because of all the other surrounding nouse from road, etc.

    • If it does it just when cold, it could be more of an annoyance than a real problem due to metal contracting when cooled (this equals less tolerance in engine parts which can cause more noise). Changing to a thicker motor oil may help. Ultimately, a mechanic can use a stethoscope to pinpoint the area and determine if it’s serious.

  6. My engine definitely has ticking. I CAN hear the injectors firing, there is an unknown ticking as well.

    I’m going to feel really stupid if it is what I’m thinking.

    I check my oil everytime before I leave my house. And while at the gas station. I don’t know if it could be the lifters with the wrong gap measurement, I just really hope it’s not rod knock, it’s my daily too, and I don’t have any other car at the moment. So if it is I’m completely screwed.

    • It’s possible it’s just more of an annoyance. Try switching to a slightly thicker oil and see if that helps. If not, use a stethoscope to try to pinpoint the area of noise. Otherwise, a good mechanic should be able to diagnose the noise. Noises are some of the trickiest issues to troubleshoot without being there.

  7. I got my car stuck in snow and now the engine makes ticking noises. The oil light was coming on before all that when I hit my brakes. Im broke and can’t really afford to fix it. I put two quarts of oils in and oil light has not came on since. Im not knowledgeable about cars at all.

    What could be wrong?

    • Running your car with low oil can cause all sorts of issues. Be sure to keep an eye on the oil level for at least a few days to make sure there’s no leak. If the ticking continues or the oil level gets low soon, you need to take your car to a mechanic before major repairs are needed.

  8. I have a 1999 buick lesabre that makes a ticking noise when i accelerate and hesitates and jurk a little when accelerating can anyone help?

  9. 2014 Ram 1500
    I have a ticking noise when started but once I accelerate and get moving it goes away- also after driving for a while – it stops and I don’t hear it even at idle.

    But once it is off and restarted it happens again

    Valves sticking???

  10. I have a 2016 outlander 2.4 and it ticks while at idle. Its brand new and on its second oil change.
    The car did not make this noise when I bought it.
    It almost sounds like a diesel. ……
    Its brand new never low on oil 0w20 oil. I suspect injectors. Noise is a tick tick tick fairly slow

  11. Hi I have a 06dodge Ram 1500 I have a ticking noise at idle if I give it gas it goes away when I stop giving it gas it comes back can you help

  12. My car when i drive long distance.it doesnt do taping inside engine.but after stoping it after 8minutes when is idle it starts the taping again

  13. Hi i have a 2000 Toyota Corolla. It suddenly made a continuous clanking sound. The oil level is within the range. At first it was not so loud. As I drive along it becomes louder even when in idle. Could this be from the engine or from the alternator belt?

    • A clanking sound is a bit hard to diagnose without being there in person since it can have different meanings to different people. Try to pinpoint the location of the noise. Sometimes a noise like that could even be a loose exhaust piece and not even in the engine.

  14. My chevy impala is making a tapping sound then it gose away then come back and while im driving u can hear it i turned the car off and back on now i dont hear it

    • Impalas are notorious for a loud tapping noise due to a faulty blend door actuator under the dash which is part of the climate control system. It seems like 90% of Impalas are affected by this yet there’s no recall as far as I know. There are plenty of Youtube videos showing how to replace this yourself.

  15. I have a 2009 Buick Lucerne I bought less than a year ago. I’ve had a new radiator put in and just last week a brand new engine! Now I hear terrible tapping under the hood that just started when I accelerate it gets louder! I thought it might be the oil and when I checked it looks like the whole dipstick to the top has oil on it! I bought a warranty and thus the dealer that I bought it from has been servicing my car, so I thought I had the best mechanics to deal with my problems!

  16. 2002 Ford Ranger. First of all, before I got an oil change, and yes the car had oil in it before. When I would first start the car, engine sounded smooth and okay, but after awhile my engine would make knocking/ticking sounds when first accelerating and then for a second or two after I took the foot off the accelerator. This sound could be replicated as well while the car was parked and idling and I would rev it.

    After my oil change and after operating the truck for awhile, the check gauges light would turn on. In addition, the truck’s engine would tick and get worse the longer I drove it. By worse i mean the car would sound louder over time, more like a deisel than something that runs on unleaded gas. It also seemed a bit off performance-wise, but that is hard to gauge as I was reluctant to stomp the gas pedal to make the car sound even louder than it was.

    I don’t know for sure if the gauge is the oil pressure one because it’s currently broken. Also, there is oil in the car, and it’s not leaking.

    I took the car into an Auto Service place. They listened to it and said basically the car is on its last legs in the engine department. They said that the noise is due to lack of oil pressure which is caused from the wear the engine has gone through.

    I know it’s hard to diagnose sounds when you can’t hear them yourself. It’s one of the reasons I drove the car in it’s state of loud noises to a friend to listen to. A couple of last details. I think the noise gets worse when in highway travel or when the engine is taxed more, like on steep grades.

    • Low oil pressure would be my guess too. Was a thinner oil used in the recent oil change by chance? This could make the noise louder. Are you absolutely sure the oil pressure gauge is not working? Cause could be engine/crankshaft bearings or faulty oil pump.

  17. I have a 2005 Ford Mustang that I just had work done on a week ago. I would make a ticking noise when I started it up and then go away. The other day while I was drivivg the noise came back and now it’s really loud and isn’t going away. Any idea what it could be?

    • I have a 2006 Kia Sportage, it’s got 250 km and when I cold start it then there’s this loud ticking noise right by the engine bay, this ticking noise keeps going until it’s all warmed up then it stops ticking. I’m guessing it’s coming from the engine and I do my regular oil changes?.. I was also told that it could be a piston or a lose componant in the engine, and also to use a thicker oil?what should I do?

  18. My car has a ticking when it’s idling and the rpm is a little under 1k and when I get between 25 to 45 mph there’s a whistling type noise coming from the engine and after 45 it goes away

  19. Had oil change about month later my gage says oil needs changing plenty oil in tank.Then about a month when turned of car off it statarted making noise now each time it’s getting louder and longer .
    It’s a 2008 Impala.

    • They might not be related. Whoever changed your oil may simply have forgotten reset the car’s oil life monitor which is common. Unfortunately, the noise could be various things.

    • I also have a 2008 Impala. My guage tells me “Oil Pressure Low” when driving on around turns at speed (On/Off-Ramp on the Highway). I also hear a clicking/tapping noise intermittently while driving. If I increase the RPM beyond 5000, the noise will go away temporarily, but come back after a few more minutes of driving.

      I’m not a mechanic. I have been reading a number of articles and various forums. My best guess for what is happening is either a dirty/clogged Oil Pump Pickup Screen or it is just a “Lifter Tick.” or perhaps one is causing the other – I don’t know enough about engines to say.

      I’m going to try one of the suggested Oil Additives – the one most often mentioned for this issue is Liqui Moly Hydraulic Lifter Additive. If this doesn’t work, then I will decide if I’m skilled enough to “drop the pan” and manually clean the Pickup Screen. Beyond that, I guess it will have to go to the shop.

  20. I have a 2005 Toyota Corolla. We had the oil pressure switch fail and the oil leaked out on a long drive. It was a very cold day so the engine did not overheat and the sensor light never came on. We put oil back in, and it seemed fine on several long runs. Over the course of 6 weeks a faint ticking sound developed, and has become a little bit louder each time the car has been run. The ticking seems to be coming where the air hose (?) assembly attaches to the engine on its way to the air filter. The ticking keeps pace with rpms. Best guess? What life span may it still have? Thx!

  21. I have a 1996 f-150 when I start the truck I hear no ticking in park as soon as I hit the gas or go into drive I hear ticking…. any solutions?

  22. When I put my foot on the gas for my 1996 k1500 Chevy I hear a clicking sound and when I take of it still clicks can anybody tell me what might be wrong with it

  23. Drove my car into water this morning its got stuck and i pushed it outside now its giving me the ticking sound it goes a bit lowe wen i accelerate and worse when ive stopped

    • Start by checking your serpentine belt for signs of slipping. You can spray a bit of WD-40 on the pulleys that move the belt and see if the noise stops. It may just need to dry out.
      Also, open your air intake box to make sure no water got in there. If so, the filter would be damp. This would be bad since it means water may have gotten into the engine.

  24. I have got a Mercedes A160 with a ticking sound and takes time to start and hesitates l even changed the lifters but still the same ,what could be the problem

  25. I have an 08 Saturn Vue with the 2.4 eco-tech what would cause it to have a Knocking noise during acceleration but not while sitting idol

  26. I have a loud ticking noise from somewhere in the engine, up near the dashboard in my 2013 Chevy Cruze LT. Oil is fine, get it changed regularly when due. Noise seems louder in the morning after car has been sitting overnight & is cold (louder in cold weather) & quiets down when the temperature outside is warmer &/or after car has been running a few hours (sometimes). Had the plugs changed recently & when I came to pick the car up is when I first noticed the very loud ticking!?!?! The mechanic who did the work did not offer any help when I asked why it was making that noise which it was not making when I dropped it off to him! Had the oil changed at the dealer after that to see if it would help. It did not. There is no check engine light on or any indicators lighting up on the dash to tell me anything is wrong…just the ticking noise, which also causes engine hesitation/sluggishness; like in the morning when trying to excellerate on the highway. What do you think? A Chevy mechanic thought the ticking was coming from the vapor canister purge valve (which was also recently replaced, but check engine light was on then & code came up to indicate that’s what is was). That was less than 1 year ago & never noticed that ticking sound then & check engine light came on which is not on right now?

  27. How can I ease off and lower the ticking sound of my 2005 C240 Mercedes temporarily till I fix it.( I already change the oil and check it regularly), Thank you.

  28. My 1995 Crown Victoria run good but all of a student I crunk it one morning and it’s making a Loud clicking sound like my valves tapping but I not long had an oil change and spark plugs changed. I don’t know what’s making this sound.Sounds like the fan is hitting something.

    • Try to pinpoint the location with the hood open and car running. It’s possible a fan blade is hitting something.

  29. Physically feel tapping when I press accelerator. Only happens when you get down on the gas. Does not happen when coasting or idle

  30. 2012 ford taurus I got an oil change last month (april) 2 wks later my oil light came on…I figured that they simply forgot to reset the sensor. Now at this very moment my car is running hard, engine hard knocking when the car is in reverse. Never had any mechanical issues before and I get my oil changed religiously from the same place. Thoughts on the potential issue?

    • How’s your oil level? I’ve heard too many stories of the techs at Jiffy Lube type places not tightening the drain plug enough or overtightening to the point where the threads are stripped. Each scenario causes a small leak.

  31. 2008 Nissan Armada has a ticking noise coming from bottom of vehicle only during driving. No sound from the engine during idling, regardless of pressing the gas to rev engine. The frequency of the ticking varies based on speed. Inspected the wheels and brakes, no issues evident. In an effort to further troubleshoot, I shift from drive to neutral, but the ticking sound continues. Please help.

  32. I had ticking noise on my 97 mazda miata. I got some high mileage oil. Put in 3 qts and let it run. After so long the ticking noise began to go away.

  33. why would there be a ticking coming from under the hood with the truck turned off…even sounds louder in the cab.

    • This is normal. It’s simply metal exhaust components (ie: the heat shield) slightly contracting as they cool down.

  34. My 2003 np200 has a huge sound even in gear no.5 as if you can put another gear.when I took it to service they technicians says is normal but I’m not convinced cos the sound is disturbing and is about 3years now.can u have an idea what might be the problem?

  35. My Jeep has just been rebuilt and has break in oil in it but there is a ticking on startup then it gets quieter. Is this a probably or something that can be fixed.

  36. I have a 93 Ford e150 conversion van, 5.8 L..had a ticking noise then had a gasket replaced near the cat converter and it stopped for a few months..now it’s back only upon acceleration..any ideas..cant afford a shop mechanic at $100 an hour..I have a neighbor/mechanic that works on my van..gonna run it to him next week but just thought I’d ask..could it still be an exhaust issue..I havent seen this mentioned in these replies..thx

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.