Wise car owners pay close attention to the sounds their car makes. When well-maintained, a car should produce relatively few unusual noises. Yet as mechanical problems develop, they often manifest in ways that you can hear. One of the most common - and potentially serious - car noises involves a ticking sound from beneath your hood.
Unfortunately, engine ticking may stem from a number of different issues. Some such issues are nothing to worry about, while others can place your car in immediate danger. If you would like to learn more about why you should contact a professional when faced with a ticking engine, keep reading. This article outlines three potential causes behind this common sound.
1. Low Oil Pressure
One of the most common - as well as the most potentially destructive - causes of engine ticking involves low oil pressure. When oil pressure remains too low, your engine won't receive equal lubrication. As a result, components such as camshafts, cam adjusters, lifters, and rockers produce unusual noises as they struggle to do their job.
A very common cause of low pressure involves an inadequate oil supply. Check your oil levels regularly using your dipstick, and add additional oil as necessary. If your oil level seems to drop too quickly, your car may suffer from a leak. Pressure issues may also occur if you stock your car with too heavy or too light of an oil.
Another common cause of low oil pressure involves a clogged oil filter. By restricting oil flow, a clogged filter makes it more difficult for oil to get where it needs to go. Low oil pressure may also stem from a faulty oil pump, which struggles to move oil throughout your system. A damaged or worn-out pump must be replaced to restore adequate oil pressures.
Finally, poor pressure may occur as the result of component wear inside of your engine. For instance, valve guides and seals often succumb to wear that inhibits their ability to correctly regulate pressure. More seriously, excessive wear to your engine's rings and cylinders may have a negative effect on oil pressure.
2. Loose Spark Plugs
Spark plugs provide the small burst of flame necessary for each round of combustion. Each of your engine's cylinders has a dedicated spark plug. One end of the spark plug contains a series of threads, allowing it to screw into place on the engine. When installed correctly, a spark plug should remain tightly in place for its entire lifespan.
Yet poorly installed spark plugs may not receive an adequate amount of torque. In other words, a spark plug may not be screwed in tightly enough. As a result, vibrations from your engine can cause the threads to slowly come undone. Eventually a small amount of play will occur. As the spark plug jostles back and forth in its housing, it produces a noticeable tick.
3. Leaky Exhaust Manifold
Each round of combustion in your engine produces a small volume of exhaust gas, which flows out of your engine through the exhaust manifold. The exhaust manifold connects your engine to your exhaust system. A metal gasket between the manifold and the engine ensures an air-tight tight seal.
Over time, however, an exhaust manifold gasket may crack as the result of thermal stress and other factors. A cracked gasket allows exhaust gas to escape, often producing a distinctive ticking sound in the process. To eliminate this ticking - and to prevent exhaust from leaking - a mechanic must install a new manifold gasket.
Ticking sounds often mean that one or more components in your car require replacement. Fortunately, you can save money by replacing bad components with used parts rather than brand-new ones. For more information on selecting the right parts for your car, please contact the used auto part pros at John's Famous Auto Parts.