Engine ticking and knocking sounds - what they mean, and what to do about them

mechanic repairing diesel engine

Is your engine knocking or ticking? Here’s some information on engine noises, what they mean, and what to do about it, from McKenzie's North Side Auto Repair in Madisonville, KY.

Whenever your engine starts making a noise it shouldn’t be making, it’s always a cause for concern. If you’re hearing a rhythmic ticking or knocking sound, definitely have it checked into immediately. Here are some causes of engine ticks and knocks, and what to do about them.

Lifter Ticking

Inside your engine, there are lifters that pump up with oil to transfer motion of your camshaft into movement of your valves. If a lifter goes flat, or won’t hold pressure, you’ll likely hear it begin to make noise. Often, a lifter tick will be most prevalent as soon as you start the engine, and may get quieter or disappear completely as the engine warms up. You may also notice the sound is more prevalent at idle.

If you hear lifter noise, get it checked out. Sometimes they’ll hold up for a while, but if it’s bad enough the lifter could shatter. If it’s caught early on, a new lifter is all you’ll need - if neglected, a lifter can ruin a camshaft or entire engine in no time.

Exhaust Leaks

An exhaust leak in the right place will sometimes sound like a lifter tick. A professional technician can diagnose the issue quickly, and take the appropriate action. Typically it’s just a bad gasket at the manifold.

Rod Knock

A rod knock is the most notorious of these issues. A knocking rod will make a sound emanating from the lower part of the engine, and probably get worse with more RPM. If you’ve got a rod knock, stop driving the vehicle - your engine is on limited time and will need replacement or major repair. Don’t just run it until it dies - you’ll ruin any good parts on the engine and it won’t last long anyway.

Piston Slap

“Piston slap” occurs when part of the piston skirt breaks off, allowing the piston to move in the cylinder and slap the cylinder walls. Some engines run forever like this - but some don’t. It’s best to get a technicians opinion on where to go from there.

Loose Converter

A loose torque converter can sometimes sound like piston slap or a rod knock, but it’s actually just the TC hitting the flywheel. While this definitely isn’t good, all your technician typically has to do is tighten the bolts, as long as nothing else has been damaged yet. If you’re hearing a lower end noise, definitely get it checked out.

No matter your repair or maintenance needs, we’ve got you covered. We want you to be as safe as possible on the road, so that's why we offer the more reliable repairs! For the best diesel service shop in Madisonville, KY call or stop by McKenzie's North Side Auto Repair today.



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Thank you for visiting McKenzie's Northside Auto Repair in Madisonville, KY. Count on our automotive repair technicians to keep your car, truck, suv, or van on the roads longer and safer.

Schedule your appointment today (270) 821-3005 or REQUEST APPOINTMENT HERE.

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McKenzie's Northside Auto Repair

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