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

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.

26 thoughts on “5 Causes of Engine Ticking Noise (At Idle, Acceleration, & After Oil Change)”

  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 !

  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?

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