Your vehicle’s engine has many moving components. If any of these become worn or damaged, they can produce all kinds of noises like whining and clicking. These noises vary depending on which part is faulty.

So, what does a ticking noise in an engine when idle and accelerating mean? A ticking noise in the engine could mean the oil level or pressure is low or the exhaust manifold is leaking. In addition, the noise could be due to worn spark plugs, fuel injectors firing, or worn-out engine accessories.

Wait, that’s not all! So, in this guide, we will delve into all the factors that contribute to ticking engine noise and how to diagnose and fix them.

Reasons For Engine Ticking Noise When Idle And Accelerating

There are many reasons you may hear a ticking noise in your vehicle’s engine when idle or accelerating. Here, we have included the reasons and their potential diagnoses and solutions. They are as follows.

Reasons For Engine Ticking Noise When Idle And Accelerating

1.     Low Engine Oil or Oil Pressure

One of the common causes of ticking noise in the engine is inadequate engine oil or low oil pressure. Engine components such as the timing chain and various valve train parts need to stay lubricated to function appropriately.

So, if the engine oil pressure is low or insufficient, it can lead to poor lubrication. As a result, all the engine metal components will rub against each other, causing the ticking noise at idle and during acceleration.

Diagnosing and Fixing the Problem

To determine if the motor oil level is low and fix the problem, here is what you should do:

  • Step 1: Remove the oil dipstick from the engine compartment to check the oil levels.
  • Step 2: Wipe all the oil on the dipstick. Then, insert it back and pull it out again. If the oil is below the ‘low’ or ‘min’ mark, top it up to the max line.
  • Step 3: Before topping up the engine oil, check its condition. If dirty, it will appear thick and dark or black. In this case, drain all of it and add new oil.

To fix the low oil pressure issue, do the following:

  • Check if the oil filter is clogged and replace it.
  • Clean out the oil pan before replacing the motor oil.
  • Check for oil leaks and replace any damaged gaskets or seals.
  • Replace the oil pan and oil pump if it is damaged.
Cost of Fixing

Generally, the cost of an oil change can range between $20 and $165, depending on whether you use conventional or synthetic oil. This cost includes that of the filter. On the other hand, oil pan and pump replacement can cost between $300 and $2,500

2.     Leaks in the Exhaust Manifold

The exhaust manifold is directly bolted to the engine block. Its job is to collect engine exhaust gasses and convey them to the catalytic converter.

Unfortunately, the exhaust manifold can crack over time, and the gaskets wear down, leading to leaks. When this happens, you can hear a loud ticking or tapping noise when the engine is cold or during accelerations.

Diagnosing and Fixing the Problem

One way to diagnose a leak in the exhaust manifold is to look out for smoke or steam coming from the manifold while the engine is running. You may also smell the exhaust fumes inside the cabin while driving.

Once you have diagnosed the leak, there are different ways to fix the problem, including the following.

  • Use epoxy, adhesive, or exhaust putties to seal the leaking points.
  • If the cracks on the manifold are small, weld them.
  • Remove the exhaust manifold and replace the worn-out gaskets. This process can be laborious and complex since the manifold is out in plain sight. So, we recommend having a professional do the job on your behalf.
Cost of Fixing

To replace the gasket only, you can expect to pay between $100 and $400, including labor and parts. However, to replace the exhaust manifold, the cost can range from $200 to $1,500.

common causes of ticking noise in the engine

3.     Faulty Valve Train Components

The valve train comprises lifters, pushrods, valve springs, and rocker arms. These components control the opening and closing of intake and exhaust valves.

Unfortunately, valvetrain components can fail over time and develop too much clearance due to low or contaminated motor oil. This can cause them to move around more than they should, leading to a tapping or ticking sound in the cylinder head. The noise is more prevalent at idle.

Diagnosing and Fixing the Problem

The best way to diagnose defective valve train components is to place a mechanic’s stethoscope on the valve cover. Then, move the stethoscope from the front to the back, listening for the ticking noise. If the sound is eminent in a particular area, replace the component.

But before replacing anything, adjust the valve between the camshaft and valve actuator. If this does not fix the problem, replace the faulty parts through these steps:

  • Step 1: Remove the valve covers by unfastening the bolt securing them.
  • Step 2: Move the first engine cylinder to the top center.
  • Step 3: Loosen the rocker arm assembly bolts and move the component aside to access the pushrods.
  • Step 4: Remove the pushrods and lift out the valve lifters.
  • Step 5: If the rocker arm and pushrods are damaged, replace them.
  • Step 6: Install new lifters in reverse order.
Cost of Fixing

The cost of replacing the rocker arm is between $500 and $1,500, while that of the pushrod ranges from $800 to $1,200. To replace the lifters, you could pay a professional mechanic between $1,000 and $2,500.

4.     Worn or Misaligned Spark Plugs

Spark plugs emit a spark across a small gap that helps ignite the air/fuel mixture in the engine. If these plugs wear out or become misaligned, the gap will increase, causing higher emissions of exhaust gasses. Consequently, these exhaust gas leaks can cause a ticking noise in the engine while idling.

Diagnosing and Fixing the Problem

To change the worn spark plugs, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Disconnect the spark plug wires.
  • Step 2: Remove the spark plugs from their housing using a spark plug socket.
  • Step 3: Compare the old spark plug with the new one.  If the tip looks worn, replace your plugs.
  • Step 4: Install new plugs and ensure they are torqued correctly with a torque wrench.
  • Step 5: Reinstall the plug wires.

If you plan to change the plugs yourself, you can watch this video for a detailed explanation:

To diagnose misaligned spark plugs, check their gap, which is the distance between the side and center electrodes with a feeler or gap gauge.

If the gap does not match your vehicle’s recommended setting, adjust it accordingly using your gap gauge.

Cost of Fixing

If the spark plugs need replacement, the cost could range from $100 to $500, depending on your vehicle’s make and model.

5.     Worn Out Engine Accessories

Sometimes, the ticking engine noise can be due to worn engine accessories such as the bearings, pulleys, and belt tensioners.

For example, if the bearings wear off, this can lead to metal-to-metal contact between the connecting rod and crankshaft. This form of contact is what produces the ticking noise from the engine.

Similarly, if the timing belt is not correctly tensioned, it will knock against other components, causing the noise.

Diagnosing and Fixing the Problem

For proper diagnosis, you can use a mechanic’s stethoscope or consult a professional technician for assistance. With that said, whatever the cause of the ticking noise is, the best solution is to replace the worn engine accessory.

Unfortunately, replacing most of these accessories is not an easy task. Therefore, you should let a qualified technician handle it.

Cost of Fixing

If the rod bearings are worn, the cost of replacing them can range between $2,000 and $3,000 for parts and labor. To replace the idler pulley, the cost can be between $125 and $380. On the other hand, it will cost you between $100 and $400 to replace the belt tensioners.

6.     Fuel Injectors Firing

If your car’s engine uses a fuel injection system, you should hear a ticking noise from the engine at idle. The ticking sound is expected and occurs when the injectors are opening to release the fuel and closing.

Fuel Injectors Firing(Ticking Noise In Engine When Idle and Accelerating: Reason)

Diagnosing and Fixing the Problem

To confirm the ticking noise is from the injectors, place the tip of a metal screwdriver against one of them as the engine runs. Then, lean in and position your ear on the screwdriver’s handle. You will hear the ticking sound, which is normal and does not need fixing.

Cost of Fixing

The ticking noise caused by fuel injectors firing does not need fixing. You just need to buy a screwdriver for diagnosis, which costs between $12 and $30.


Below, you can find commonly asked questions about the causes of engine ticking at idle and when accelerating.

Is the ticking noise in the engine when idle and accelerating a serious issue?

Sometimes, it can be grave, and other times minor. Therefore, it is advisable to have it checked by a mechanic and fixed immediately to avoid more damage to the engine.

Can a faulty fuel pump cause ticking noise in the engine at idle and when accelerating?

No. A bad fuel pump typically makes a high-pitched whining sound that you can hear from the gas tank. The pump may make this sound when the fuel is contaminated, and the levels are low.

Will a damaged engine fan cause a ticking noise in the engine?

No. If the fan is out of alignment or damaged, it will make a loud clicking, grinding, or whirring noise. It usually makes these sounds as it hits other components.


Ticking noise in the engine is a common problem when a vehicle is idling and accelerating. The noise can result from a range of things, including low engine oil. Fortunately, there are many ways to fix the problem, depending on the cause.

That said, immediately you hear the ticking sound, you should seek a professional diagnosis. This is because a qualified mechanic can recommend the correct repairs and adjustments. If you ignore the noise, it could lead to significant issues down the line.

Similar Posts