How long can you drive with bad lifters? A Bad Lifter Symptoms, Replacement Cost and No-Nonsense Guide

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Lifters have great importance for any vehicle engine. Showing problems in lifters is a common phenomenon. If you don’t take immediate action, your engine may be seriously damaged. Therefore, you may have to spend a good amount to fix it. Interestingly, some bad hydraulic lifter symptoms will notify you of the bad lifters. 

how long can you drive with bad lifters

So, if you detect the symptoms, then how long can you drive with bad lifters? Some owners claimed that they wouldn’t drive their cars if they found such an issue, especially for a long drive. Experts recommend that one shouldn’t go over 100 miles with a collapsed or bad lifter. 

In our following section, we try to enlist all that information related to “how to tell if a hydraulic lifter is bad” to help you detect faults. Also, we show the easy fixing hacks. So, let’s get started. 

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What are lifters on a car?

what are lifters in an engine

So, what are lifters in an engine? Well, you can relate a lifter with a cylinder. A lifter is a mechanical device inserted between the camshaft and the cylinder valve. 

Moreover, this mechanical device helps to open the valve. A lifter will actuate whenever the camshaft moves over the top of the lifter; hence the valve will open temporarily. 

The manufacturer attached a lifter on each valve which will help to open the intake and exhaust valve. The design of the lifter varies from vehicle to vehicle. 

How do hydraulic lifters work?

You already know what a lifter is. Now, we are going to notify you of how it works. Actually, a hydraulic lifter lies between the camshaft and the valve. 

Here the valve helps to convert the camshaft’s sideways motion into a vertical motion. The manufacturer adjusts the tap for any excessive clearance in the valvetrian. 

During running the engine and the valve is shut, a groove on the tappet is aligned with a pressurized oil feed from the oil pump. 

The lifter will block the oil inlet when the camshaft lobe pushes the lifter. The lifter acts as a solid lifter since it is pressurized with oil. After returning the tap, it comes back in contact with the oil inlet. 

 A one-way valve is fitted with a lifter; therefore, oil can enter but not escape. If any leak develops on the lifter, it may collapse because the camshaft pushes it. Consequently, you will hear ticking noise while running the engine. Also, it may affect the engine efficiency.

You may also like: What To Do After Replacing Camshaft Sensor?

How to check hydraulic lifters?

  • Firstly, park or neutral your vehicle based on the transmission type. Then, ensure the emergency brake is active, start the engine, and keep it cool. Now, check the dashboard to see whether any red “Oil” or “Check Engine” light. 

    That light will indicate the damage lifter. Low oil pressure will affect the lifter. For instance, if the manufacturer recommended oil pressure is 40 psi, and the gauge reading is 20 psi. This status could affect lifter performance.
  • Now, check the engine top, especially near the valve covers and ask yourself, “could you hear any “clacking” or “clicking”. You use a stethoscope for better hearing. The clacking or clicking noise shows the hydraulic lifter is worn or maladjusted.
  • If you detect the sound, then shut off your vehicle’s engine. Then, check the oil level using the oil dipstick to see the minimal level line or see nothing. That means the lifter noise arises because of lubricant. Also, you need to check the oil color. White, foamy, tan, or gray oil is an oil contamination sign. Also, that shows the oil lost its viscosity. 
  • Now, check the manual to remove the engine’s valve cover. Then, remove the valve cover using a wrench and socket. Also, if the engine is a four – or six-cylinder engine, then use screwdrivers, sockets and fuel line wrenches to remove the vacuum hose, sensor wires, fuel line, etc to remove valve covers or single cover. 
  • Then, start your vehicle engine and let it idle. Then, to correctly set the exhaust valve in the front of the engine, you need to pick a feeler gauge. 
  • Now, locate the space between the rocker arm lifter and the valve stem top then take the feeler gauge and stick into that space. You will feel a slight drag while pulling your gauge back and forth. For the noisy lifter, you need to lose the lifter’s lock nut using the wrench.
  • Next, tighten the adjustment using a screwdriver and set the screw clockwise. Then, to adjust each valve, you need to tighten the tappet lock nut.
  • Finally, take a wrench to loosen the tappet lock nut. Then, lose the set screw using a screwdriver until the tappet starts to clack. Now, tighten the locknut using the wrench by turning the set screw clockwise. You don’t need a feeler gauge in this method. 

How to tell if a lifter is bad?

bad hydraulic lifter symptoms

One of the important components of a vehicle is a hydraulic lifter. Getting problems in hydraulic lifters is pretty normal. 

For example, this component may produce some rattling noise during cold engine startup because they have lost their oil while the engine isn’t moving. The rattling of hydraulic lifters will stop whenever they get filled with oil again.

If you still get rattle noise, it means the boil feed is blocked or the filter is worn out. In either case, the filter is no longer opening the valve completely. 

Another bad lifter symptom is when their noise increases as the engine revive up. 

However, if the hydraulic lifter breaks or is damaged seriously, it can cause misfires. The reason behind this is the lifter is delaying the opening and closure of the valve so bad that it results in timing issues. 

 The hydraulic lifter can lose its capacity to retain oil if the damage is serious. 

You can unclog the slightly clogged hydraulic lifter by changing the oil and using an additive or a carbon cleaner

But in most cases, when you find your hydraulic lifter is failing, you have better replace it. It’s better and safer just to replace it.

What Does a Bad Lifter Sound Like?

If you detect the bad lifter sound earlier and fix it immediately, you can easily save some amount. You could hear continuous tapping sounds from a bad hydraulic lifter. Rapid succession will trigger that tapping. 

Also, over time the tapping becomes worse. The hot or cold engine doesn’t matter; instead, the sound may occur because of the exact issue. 

Remember that if the problem becomes severe, you will hear a banging noise or a loud knocking. The following reasons trigger the fault of the lifter.

Lifter spacing issuesLack of lubrication or dirty engine oilA sticking check valve
High vehicle mileageIrregular servicingLifter wear or dirt in the system
Clogged/faulty engine oil filterNot using the correct engine oil

How long can you drive with bad lifters? 

If you experience such a problem in your vehicle, then you can’t go a long way. Usually, how long you can drive depends on the issues lifters have.

A bad lifter means a tapping and ticking noise from the engine. When you experience such noise from your vehicle, immediately check the lifter. 

Never ignore this issue, and don’t drive over 100 miles. You had better use those miles to bring your vehicle to the repair shop. 

If you drive too long with a bad lifter, then the lifter’s inside section can damage your vehicle’s camshaft. Driving with collapsed lifters can cost you thousands of dollars. 

How to clean lifters without removing them?

how to clean lifters without removing

If the lifter removal seems complex to you, then use this trick to clean the clogged and dirty filter.

If the noise is coming from a clogged lifter or dirty lifter, Rislone 4102 Concentrated Engine Treatment, Conditioner and cleaner will clean it up. However, if the lifter is completely collapsed and defective, then you have to be replaced. 

 I’m going to start the engine to hear the horrible ticking sound. As the vehicle is running, I will go ahead and pour cleaner. It works excellent for quieting noisy lifters and valves.

Now, look at the backside of the bottle; it says you need to add this entire bottle to every five quarts of oil. Hopefully, a whole bottle in your oil tank;

 After that, try to run your vehicle for about 10 to 15 minutes. It will take it for a spin around your block vehicle engine.

How to stop the lifter tick?

In the following discussion, We will teach you how to get rid of lifter tick. Hopefully, this trick will be an effective solution for you.

  • Firstly, you need a couple of things, for example, a Motor flush, an oil filter, and a RISLONE Engine Treatment
  • Now, park your car wherever you’re going to do your oil change. Then you need to put the Motor flush in your engine. On the back, you will find the instruction. 

Don’t forget to let your engine idle for five minutes. Therefore, the Motor flush circulates through the engine and cleans it up.

  • Next, you need to drain your oil, change your oil filter, and put the oil plug back in. Now, put your fresh oil in and then the engine treatment. 

One user mentioned that this technique helps him solve the lifter tick problem after driving 10 miles. 

What are the best lifters on a car?


OverstockDirect Genuine OEM LS7 LS2 16 GM Performance Hydraulic Roller Lifters

OverstockDirect Genuine OEM LS7 LS2 16 GM Performance Hydraulic Roller Lifters

Our top pick is the USA made hydraulic roller lifter that offers reliability, quality and durability. The features you will get hopefully don’t upset you. Trays with this package are also the outstanding quality and spec packaged nicely. 

Suppose your vehicle comes with Active Fuel Management or Displacement On Demand. In that case, you can’t use this lifter set without replacing the camshaft and doing a full “delete” of the fuel management components.


COMP Cams 850-16 OE-Style Hydraulic Roller Lifter Set

COMP Cams 850-16 OE-Style Hydraulic Roller Lifter Set

Our 2nd picked hydraulic roller lifter is ideal for your OE-Roller Engine and multiple applications. The manufacturer uses Superior materials to build this lifter set. Using these, you can increase longevity and decrease friction, increasing durability. 

It will offer better performance than the flat tappet lifters. Also, you will find it ready for an aggressive cam profile when you compare it with the flat tappet lifters. Furthermore, you can use this filter set as a retro-fit roller lifter using the appropriate hardware. 

Any More Questions?

How much does the replacement cost of different types of lifter?

If you look at the valve lifter replacement cost, you can’t give an exact average cost. The V8 engine comes with 16 lifters; for that, you need to spend $1000 to $2000, including V8 parts + engine lifter repair cost v8. That cost typically depends on the quality of the parts and the independent mechanic or the dealer. 

Another is gm 6.2 lifter replacement cost will be  $3500 to $4500. Finally, the 5.7 hemi lifter replacement cost will be $994 and $1,254 and the parts will be $354.

What are the stuck lifter symptoms?

The most obvious symptom of a stuck filter is the noise. The faulty lifter can create discerned sound, and you may hear a tapping sound instead of a ping or a knock. 

How To Change 5.3l Lifters Without Removing Heads

Here we enlist some simple steps on replacing the 5.3 lifters without removing heads.

01. Firstly, you need to check the engine to detect the ducts, sensor, and pipes position. 

02. Now, unplug and remove all the electrical wires, sensors and tubing.

03. Then, remove the upper manifold to reach the lower manifold. You may need too much time to disconnect the sensor and the cable. Be careful in removing retaining clips and brackets. 

04. Up next, you need to remove your vehicle’s nuts and bolts. Then, pull up the upper manifold. Take a rubber mallet to lose if you find the upper manifold is stuck. Also, be careful while removing your car’s oil lifter set.

05. Now, take a new filter, place it in the right place, and then tighten it using a wrench. Don’t forget to use the necessary lubricant to fill the filters. Then reconnect all the previous sensors and cables.

06. Finally, recheck every connection and then start the engine and see whether it works properly.

Why 5.3 vortec lifter noise comes and goes?

Ticking is considered a common problem. This problem arises because of the valve lifters. You may know the lifters need to fill with oil while operating the engine. 

Is lifter tick bad?

If you diagnose a tick or tap on your lifter tick, then don’t make a late; instead, try to fix it as soon as possible. If you don’t take immediate action, you can lead your engine to severe and expensive damage. 

Closing Thoughts

It’s time to wrap up our discussion, and before leaving, we notify you that though the problem in the lifter is serious, you need to take it seriously and take action immediately.

Robert Lozano

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