How to Quiet a Noisy Lifter: 4 Essential Tips (FULL GUIDE)

Hydraulic valve lifter is a small cylinder that is attached on the end of the pushrod or the rocker arm, where it meets the valve. Here’s how a 1997 Buick 3800 Vin1 Hydraulic Lifters look like when taken apart to showcase all the parts:

It’s purpose is to make the engine quieter while also improving its performance and longevity.Although lifters are meant to prevent noises, they can become noisy themselves. This is a common problem in older cars and those that have a large mileage. Especially if they’re not serviced often.

Faulty lifters produce tapping or ticking noise that can last anywhere between a few seconds to as long as the engine is running. This can be annoying to listen to. But it can also be a symptom of a more serious problem with the lifters that can lead to engine damage if not taken care of.

Is a noisy lifter bad?

Whether a noisy lifter is bad or not depends on the type of noise and its duration.

A lifter can produce some tapping sounds for a few seconds when you turn on the engine. This typically isn’t anything serious, but it can point to an accumulation of sludge and dirt that is starting to impede on the function of the lifters. In that case you can clean them by using an oil additive.

But if the ticking or tapping sound continues for longer, then it’s a symptom of an underlying problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

If the problem is not solved in a timely manner, it can prevent other components of the engine from functioning properly and cause damage in the long run. Damage to components that are far more expensive to fix than the lifters alone.

What causes noisy lifters and how to quiet them?

1. Change the oil

Your engine requires the correct oil for lubrication. If the oil you’re using is more or less heavy than your engine needs, it won’t lubricate properly. This leads to an annoying “tapping” sound as one metal part comes in contact with another.

If this continues for too long, the oil filters can build up grime and dirt, which further prevents lubrication of the engine components.

To get rid of this noise, and prevent possible damage to the engine due to lack of lubrication, change the oil with one of the correct gradation for your engine.


2. Clean the lifters with oil additives

You can use an oil additive to clean the lifters, valves and rockers from the grime and dirt that’s accumulated inside. Oil additives don’t change the viscosity of the oil that is used in the engine.

I highly recommend that you do this because it’s the most affordable option. Getting rid of the accumulated dirt will very likely fix the problem.


The products that were used in this video are available on Amazon:

Engine Flush

Oil Stabilizer

I personally haven’t used them, but based on this video and the numerous positive comments they make the engine squeaky clean.

3. Adjust the lifters

No, I’m not talking about the guys who grunt in your local gym. I’m strictly talking about your engine lifters. If you’re using the correct oil and you’ve tried the oil additives to no avail, you’ll want to do a full adjustment of the lifters.

To do this, get a feeler gauge. Use it to wedge between a rocker arm and the valve stem. Adjust the valve adjustment screw to the correct clearance. Before doing this, check out the workshop manual and find the correct factory setting to adjust to.


4. Replace a bent push rod

This is another possible reason for the tapping/ticking noise. Engine push rods work by opening and closing the valves in the engine. It can get bent if you go heavy on the accelerator, treating your regular vehicle like a Ferrari to reach ungodly speeds on the highway.

If the speed of the depression bends the rod, there’s nothing left to do but replace it. If you’re not skilled at fixing vehicles, I recommend taking yours to a professional to replace the push rod.

The replacement process can take anywhere between four to six hours, depending on the amount of cylinders your engine has. The cylinder heads and the intake and exhaust manifolds have to be removed.

While the parts usually cost around $20 each, the average labor cost of $80 an hour can increase the price by a lot. Unfortunately this is the only solution for a bent push rod. Luckily, this is a far less common problem than the other three mentioned before.


Final Thoughts

Hydraulic lifters remind me of pinkie toes. You don’t think about them while they’re healthy. But hit one against a piece of furniture and it suddenly becomes the most important part of the body.

Hydraulic lifters are the same. When they’re healthy they’ll improve your engine and driving experience. When they’re not, they’ll let you know by producing annoying tapping sounds all the time.

So if your hydraulic lifters need some loving, use one of the solutions in this article and you’ll bring them back to A level in no time.

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