Most vehicle’s engines are designed to be quiet when on the road. However, sometimes, even the most silent engines could make unusual noises when accelerating for different reasons. The noises range from ticking to squeaking, rattling, and chirping.

So, what are the reasons for the ticking noise in the engine when accelerating? If you hear a ticking noise in the engine during accelerations only, it could be due to the following reasons.

  • An exhaust gas leak
  • Faulty lifters
  • Loose spark plugs
  • Engine oil issues
  • Failing timing belts.

But how do you diagnose the ticking noise and fix the problem? Keep reading to find out.

Causes and Solutions for Ticking Engine Noise When Accelerating: A Quick Overview

Below is a table summarizing the various causes of the ticking sound in the engine during acceleration and the solutions.

Exhaust Gas LeakSeal the leaking points
Replace the gasket and the exhaust manifold
Worn os Stuck LiftersAdjust the lifters
Replace the worn lifters
Loose or Cracked Spark PlugsRetighten the plugs
Install new plugs
Engine Oil ProblemsTop off the engine oil levels
Drain all the oil and add a fresh one
Failing Timing BeltReplace the belt

What Are The Reasons For Engine Ticking Noise When Accelerating?

Causes of ticking noise in engine when accelerating

A ticking noise from the engine during acceleration could mean an engine component is damaged, worn, or faulty. Below are the possible reasons for the noise occurring

1.     Exhaust Gas Leak

The most common reason for the ticking sound in the engine during acceleration is an exhaust leak. Typically, the leak can be caused by a cracked exhaust manifold or blown gasket.

As the gasses try to escape through these components, they will produce a ticking noise. And the more you accelerate, the more pronounced the noise will be.

Diagnosing and Fixing the Issue

There are several ways to check for exhaust leaks. These include:

  • Inspect the exhaust manifold for carbon marks.
  • Spray soapy water on a cold manifold immediately at start-up and look for bubbles.
  • Blow air into the exhaust pipe using a shop vac and with the engine off. Then, scan for a hissing sound at the manifold.

As a temporary fix, you can apply putty or use epoxy bonds and tape to seal the leaking surfaces. However, if the exhaust gasses are leaking around the gasket or manifold, you should let a qualified mechanic replace it. Here is how to replace the gasket and exhaust manifold.

  • Step 1: Turn the engine off and detach the negative battery cable.
  • Step 2: Open the hood and locate the exhaust manifold. Depending on your car, you can access the manifold from the top or underneath of the hood.
  • Step 3: Apply penetrating oil to the bolts securing the manifold to the engine block.
  • Step 4: Unfasten the bolts and remove everything connecting to the manifold. Then, gently remove it from the engine.
  • Step 5: Remove the damaged gasket and clean the area where it was sitting.
  • Step 6: Check the exhaust manifold for cracks and fissures and replace it.
  • Step 7: If not, install the new gasket onto the old manifold in reverse order and torque the bolts.

2.     Worn or Stuck Lifters

A lifter, also called a tappet, helps actuate the intake and exhaust valves, ensuring zero clearance in the valve train. This ensures quieter engine operation.

So, when the lifter wears out, this usually creates a metal-on-metal clicking sound. This is what produces the ticking noise in the engine when accelerating.

Sometimes, the ticking sound can result from lifters that are stuck on the rocker arm assembly or not adjusted correctly. The ticking may get slightly louder and faster as you accelerate.

Ticking Noise In Engine When Accelerating

Diagnosing and Fixing the Issue

To determine if the lifters are the source of the ticking noise, position an automotive stethoscope over the valve covers. Then, listen for any clicking, tapping, or ticking noise.

Once you have diagnosed the lifters, start by adjusting them. To do this, spin the pushrods with your fingers until you feel resistance to tighten the lock nut. If this does not fix the problem, replace the worn lifters following these steps:

  • Step 1: Remove all accessories attached to the valve covers.
  • Step 2: Unfasten all the bolts on the valve covers and pry the cover off the block.
  • Step 3: Move the engine cylinder out of the way. Then, remove the intake manifold and set it aside.
  • Step 4: Unscrew the bolts for the rocker arm assembly. Then, remove the pushrods.
  • Step 5: Use a magnet to pull out the worn lifters.
  • Step 6: Slide the new lifters in place using the magnet. Then, reassemble everything in reverse order.

3. Loose or Cracked Spark Plugs

Spark plugs are usually bolted into the cylinder head to help ignite the fuel inside the combustion chamber. Therefore, if one cracks or becomes loose, it can lead to an exhaust leak, which can make the engine tick when accelerating.

Diagnosing and Fixing the Issue

You can tell if the spark plugs are loose by twisting them. If you can turn the plugs around effortlessly, they are loose, and you should tighten them using a torque wrench.

Just make sure to tighten them according to the torque specification recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer in the manual.

If the plugs are worn, you must replace them immediately, and here is how to do it:

  • Step 1: Allow the engine to cool and open your vehicle’s hood.
  • Step 2: Locate the plugs at the top of the cylinder head.
  • Step 3: Disconnect the spark plug wire and remove one plug at a time.
  • Step 4: Check if plugs are cracked around the tip.
  • Step 5: Clean the spark plug hole and around the threads.
  • Step 6: Inserting the new spark plugs.
  • Step 7: Reinstall all plug wires.

4.     Engine Oil Problems

If the oil levels in the engine are low, the engine metal components will rub against each other due to inadequate lubrication. As a result, this can create a ticking sound in the engine when accelerating or idle.

The ticking noise may also occur if the engine motor oil is contaminated or the pressure is low.

Diagnosing and Fixing the Issue

The only way to diagnose engine oil issues is to check the oil level and quality. Here is how to do it and fix the issues:

  • Step 1: Turn the engine off and pop the hood open.
  • Step 2: Remove the dipstick from the engine and wipe it with a piece of cloth.
  • Step 3: Reinsert the dipstick and remove it again.
  • Step 4: Check the tip of the dipstick. If the oil is not between the two lines, it is low, and you should top it off, but don’t overfill.
  • Step 5: Before adding more oil, check if it is gritty, dark, and very thick, a sign that it is dirty.
  • Step 6: If dirty, schedule an oil change with your mechanic. Otherwise, just refill to the required oil level.

5.     Failing Timing Belt

A timing belt is simply an internal engine component connecting the crankshaft and camshaft. It helps ensure the valves open and close in time with the pistons.

Over time, the belt may wear out or become loose and slap against the engine components. When this happens, the slap could manifest as a ticking sound when accelerating.

Diagnosing and Fixing the Issue

A professional mechanic is the best person to help you diagnose a failing timing belt. After the diagnosis, the best way to fix the belt is to replace it.

That said, if you decide to do the job yourself, here is an illustration video to help you:


Here, we will respond to some frequently asked questions about the engine ticking noise when accelerating.

Can you drive a car with a ticking noise in the engine?

Yes, you can. However, it is not recommended for safety reasons. This is because the ticking noise can be a sign of a significant issue with the engine or its components.

Will the engine ticking noise go away after the oil change?

Yes, but only if the cause of the ticking sound is dirty or low engine oil. If not, the noise can persist until you fix its root cause, which could be a worn exhaust gasket or loose spark plugs.

How long does it take for the ticking noise to go away after topping off the engine oil?

It can take half an hour or so. You just need to let your car run for at least 30 minutes after the oil change. This is to ensure all the engine components are lubricated well enough.


Ticking noise in the engine when only accelerating can be a symptom of various underlying issues in your car. Some can be minor, and others more critical. Therefore, proper diagnosis is crucial in ensuring timely repairs and longer engine life.

With that said, if you don’t have the diagnostic tools, you should seek the expertise of a qualified technician. And once the issue is solved, you should practice regular maintenance to prevent some of these problems from occurring.

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