BMW Lifter Tick: 7 Reasons Why Your Engine is Making a Ticking Noise

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Kathryn Fowler Contributor

Kathryn Fowler is an automobile enthusiast and Marketing Manager at Parts Avatar. She is a guest contributor for the BMW Repair Guide. 

BMW Lifter Tick

 

What do you know about the infamous BMW lifter tick? The sound can be continuous or occasional and often occurs as a tapping, ticking, or clicking noise. The type and duration of the noise can often indicate the severity of the issue, from a minor annoyance to a major repair concern. Lifter tick won’t stop your car from running, and many people may not even pay attention to the sound. Still, it’s recommended that you don’t ignore any kind of weird sound your vehicle is making as this can cause major damage in the long run.

As with most automobile engine issues (major or minor) this one requires maintenance. The good news is this particular repair can sometimes be as simple as an oil change. In rare cases, you may need to change the entire lifter to get rid of that bothersome ticking sound. In any case, you’ll want to make sure you resolve the issue to protect the life of your BMW.

 

So, What’s A Lifter?

The lifter (also known as a hydraulic lifter valve) is a small cylinder located next to your hydraulic valve. The lifter and the hydraulic valve are both connected by a small rod called the rocker arm. The lifter’s main job is to make sure that the engine is running quietly and performing efficiently, two features you are certain to want out of your BMW.
In older vehicles, it is not uncommon for the lifters to make a ticking noise. Fixing the sound is usually cheap, and there are multiple reasons why it might be occurring.

 

1. Dirty Engine Oil
The engine of your BMW depends on certified oil to provide proper lubrication and ensure peak performance. During your vehicle’s life, the engine oil will contain foreign particulates due to typical wear and tear. It is recommended you always get your oil changed and checked routinely, to maintain the life of your vehicle.

If you don’t change the engine oil at regular intervals, dirt and sludge may build up and clog the engine lifter, causing it to make this ticking sound. New engine oil will help clean contaminates from the engine and in most cases will fix your BMW’s engine ticking. If you change the oil and still hear the noise, there may be another underlying issue causing the noise.

It is a universally accepted fact that not using BMW certified oil in your BMW or MINI vehicle will cause hydraulic lifter ticking. BMW independently formulates its engine oils to properly lubricate the hydraulic lifters and prevent premature engine wear. If you are experiencing hydraulic lifter ticking “flush” the engine as follows:

  1. Replace the current oil and filter with a certified BMW brand.
  2. Drive the vehicle for about 50 miles.
  3. Replace the oil and filter again. This should flush out all of the bad engine lubricant and cure any lifter ticking.



2. Issues With Your Engine’s Lifter
Although not the leading cause of engine ticking noises, a mechanically faulty lifter could potentially be the root of the problem. If you have a broken lifter then the only way to actually fix the issue is to remove the cylinder head cover, which can be a hassle. It’s a complicated fix that will require hours of skilled labor.

3. High Vehicle Mileage
Older vehicles will often suffer from the engine ticking noise more often than newer vehicles, as the higher mileage, wear and tear, and general age affects all internal motor components. Older cars have a higher possibility for faulty lifters and may have additional issues that need to be addressed to fix engine tick. If an oil change does not fix the issue in your higher mileage BMW, you will probably have to ask your mechanic or auto repair shop for some additional details on how you can fix the issue.

4. Poor Overall Maintenance
You need to take good care of your BMW if you want your vehicle to last a long time. This includes regularly scheduled maintenance, special maintenance and using high quality auto parts. Although you may be keeping up with regularly scheduled car repairs, you may not be selecting the right people to do it. There are many factors to this, but overall weaker car performance comes from lack of care. The lifter, like any other part in the engine, must go through regular and precise maintenance to keep it functioning correctly.

 

BMW Lifter Tick

5. Low Engine Oil
All of us understand the importance of getting our oil changed on a regular basis. But often we need to attend to our oil outside of its regularly scheduled maintenance. Running your motor on low oil is just as brutal on your engine as running it on dirty oil. The engine simply won’t have the adequate level of lubrication to prevent ticking sounds when the metal parts touch each other. It is good practice to check the oil level regularly. Outside of taking your car in for maintenance, simply monitoring the engine’s oil level is a necessary requirement in preventing engine tick.

6. Using The Wrong Oil
Oil engines come in distinct varieties, and each vehicle requires a different and select viscosity rating. Using the correct oil in your BMW is crucial for prolonging your vehicle’s life, and this can vary by season. For example, in the winter months, your car should be running a lighter, less viscous oil that will flow faster and won’t make your engine suffer at those low temperatures. Still, it’s not quite as simple as choosing the right viscosity for the season; if you are unsure which oil to use consult with a professional mechanic, local auto repair shop, or consult the owner’s manual or Google for the correct oil to use. The BMW Repair Guide offers an excellent engine oil buyer’s guide that can get you headed in the right direction. You can read it by clicking here.

7. Issues With Your Engine Oil Filter
The filter is a necessary component for keeping dirt and sludge out of your oil and engine. The longer you wait to change your filter, the more clogged they will become. A clogged oil filter can often cause this ticking sound in your engine. You should always change your oil filter on a regular basis.

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So, How Do I Fix my BMW Lifter Tick?

As discussed above, if the lifter is not mechanically damaged then the solution is with the lubrication system. Changing your engine oil is always the first thing to do, although you may also consider cleaning the engine lifter with an oil additive. It’s also possible that your mechanic may have to change the lifter spacing, as there should be a balance between it and your other engine components. Getting this balance is no easy task and will require a professional. In some cases, your mechanic might suggest fixing the pushrod as well.
The average cost for fixing your BMW’s ticking noise most likely will be as cheap as an oil change, although if it is permanently damaged the cost will run in the 1000s of dollars. Keeping a strict engine oil and filter maintenance plan as well as only using BMW certified lubricants is essential to keeping your vehicle running strong and avoiding lifter ticking sounds.