Bad Hydraulic Lifter Symptoms and How to test a hydraulic lifter

To make sure your vehicle is running smoothly and efficiently, there is a part in your engine called hydraulic lifters. When the lifters go bad, you will experience driving issues. The engine starts making a noise and also causes efficiency issues in your car.

So, whenever you have a bad hydraulic lifter, you have to get it fixed right away. For that, you need to be aware of the bad hydraulic lifter symptoms. Without knowing them, you will always keep wondering what’s wrong with your car.

That’s why here I will discuss all the symptoms of a bad hydraulic lifter. This will give you an idea to identify the issue quickly and fix it right away.

Bad Hydraulic Lifter Symptoms

There are several symptoms to look out for when you have a bad hydraulic lifter. The first and obvious one is unusual noises coming out of your engine. However, several issues can cause such noises. That’s why you will need to check out the following symptoms as well.

Excessive noise from the engine

When the noises you get from your engine keep getting louder as you speed up, this indicates a faulty hydraulic lifter. You can sometimes even hear the internal parts of the lifter hammering against each other. The clanging of the metals becomes audible in some cases.

As soon as you get to higher RPMs, you will see the noises getting louder. This is because the lifters try to actuate faster, which leads them to move even more and end up with these noises.

Misfiring engine

If your hydraulic lifters impact the intake or exhaust valves, you will experience engine misfires. Because when the hydraulic lifter goes bad, it will stop the valves from opening or closing at the right moments. This leads to the engine failing to produce the required combustion.

Whenever the engine misfires, you will hear a different sound. Also, there will be a sudden drop in the performance of your engine as soon as it happens. In such a scenario, you have to get the engine repaired as soon as you can.

Dead cylinder

Does your car have pushrods connecting to the camshaft and exhaust valve? If so, then a broken or damaged hydraulic lifter can cause dead cylinder issues it. Because when you have a bad hydraulic lifter, it will cause the pushrods to bend or break completely.

This eventually results in the cylinder not working. This is what’s called a dead cylinder. The drop in performance in this scenario is significant and pretty noticeable. Also, your engine won’t sound the way it should sound.

So, when you have a dead cylinder, it’s most likely because of a bad hydraulic lifter. And you will need to get it fixed right after you notice the symptoms.

Check engine light

Well, there are lots of reasons for a check engine light to come on. So, you can’t be hundred percent what and where the problem is with your car engine. But if you see your car engine light coming on with another symptom from this list, you can pretty much tell it’s the hydraulic lifter.

Typically, these are the telling signs of a bad hydraulic lifter in your car engine. Whenever you see one or more symptoms, you should immediately get your car checked because it’s an issue that can cause further damage to your car. Also, it causes several problems in the drivability of your car. So, you have to be wary of that as well.

Related: Bad Transmission Solenoid Symptoms

How to test a hydraulic lifter

Now that you know the symptoms of a bad hydraulic lifter, how do you ascertain the situation? Because these symptoms can be caused by other issues as well. So, the best way to solve those issues is to test your hydraulic lifter. Here, I will tell you how you can do that.

  1. First, you have to park your car in neutral. See if the check engine light is on or not.
  2. Then, if you have an oil pressure gauge, you can easily check out the oil pressure psi. You can find the recommended psi in your owner’s manual of your car. If the pressure is low, then there can be a clog in the valve passage. This impacts the lifter performance.
  3. Try hearing all sorts of clacking noises coming from your engine. You can use a stethoscope to hear those noises. If the noises are too loud, then there is probably an issue with the worn-out hydraulic lifter.
  4. As soon as you hear loud noises, you should shut off the engine. Then, you have to check the oil level of your engine. If the oil level is lower than the recommended line, your lifter is noisy because it lacks lubrication.
  5. At this point, you have to remove your valve covers for further inspection. You will also have to use a socket for disconnecting the negative battery cable before removing the covers.
  6. Then connect the cables back again. The startup your engine, but make sure you are not revving it. After that, you can check if all the pushrods, valve springs are moving up and down.
  7. Lastly, you have to check on the rocker arm tappet. If it sounds noisy, then you can make some little adjustments here and there. Use a screwdriver to make those adjustments.
  8. If you still get noises from your tappet after the adjustments, then the lifter is most probably broken.

While this may sound a bit tricky and difficult on paper, it’s quite easy once you start doing it. However, if you don’t have mechanical experience, then I suggest not doing this at all.

Related: Bad input shaft bearing symptoms

Wrap up

All in all, knowing about the bad hydraulic lifter symptoms is super important. Since the problem can cause further damage, you have to get it fixed right away. Also, before getting it fixed, you can run some tests to check out whether it’s truly the lifters or not. However, if you don’t have prior technical experience, then you should avoid doing it.

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