What Causes Engine Ticking Noise When Idling, Accelerating or After Oil Change?

Internal combustion engines generate a lot of noise. It is because of the mechanical action of different mechanical parts that work in unison to power the vehicle. Most of these noises are within acceptable limits and do not affect driving comfort. However, the engine ticking noise should concern the driver. It is a common occurrence when the oil levels drop below the desired levels or if the internal engine components have few loose ends.

As a driver, you should understand the intensity of different noises from the engine. Here are some common causes of engine ticking noises when the engine is idle, accelerating, or the engine is fresh from an engine oil change. Understanding these signs assists you when troubleshooting related engine problems.

Faulty reciprocating components

The car engine contains rotating and reciprocating engines. When the engine ticks, one of the reciprocating components is wearing out or has been positioned improperly. Reciprocating components that are likely to fail include pushrods, intake and outlet valves, and pistons.

When these components are damaged, the driver notices faint ticking noises. With time they become louder and in the end cause a clunking or whining noise. These components require immediate replacement as severe damage affects engine performance.

Low oil levels

Engine oil lubricates all the internal components of the engine. Low oil levels are to blame for insufficient lubrication of the engine’s valvetrain. The low oil levels could result from unnoticed leakages or improper refilling after engine service. It is easy to connect engine ticking noises to low oil levels if the engine is prone to overheating. 

Damaged rod bearings

The ticking sound could emanate from a damaged rod bearing. The damage causes irregular movement. The motion causes knocking of the rod, causing an irritating ticking noise. A faulty bearing will not affect the internal temperatures of the engine. Therefore, the driver will not experience overheating of the car. 

Rod knocking problems are expensive to fix. The best solution to rod-related issues is a complete engine rebuild. If the ticking noise arises from the damaged rod and bearings, drivers should fix the problem immediately. Any delay will cause irreversible engine damage. 

The fuel injector is firing

When the fuel injector is delivering fuel to the engine cylinder, there are faint ticking noises. The noises are dominant in a few car models. Such ticking noises are normal and should not worry the driver.

Poor valve adjustment

Engine valves are controlled by a rocker arm that controls their opening and closing. The valve train contains components like the pushrod that maintains the distance between the rocker arm and the camshaft. Improper adjustment of the valve train components causes the rocker arm and camshaft to travel beyond the desired limits. The movement causes ticking noises in the engine.


Engine ticking noises could result from the normal operation of the motor. However, there are underlying defects that may cause the ticking noise. Ensure you troubleshoot the problem and resolve the issues to avoid extensive engine damage.