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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
1991 Ford Escort 1.9L. Recently noticed ticking sound coming from engine. Checked under the valve cover, removed rocker arms in #1 cylinder position and one lifter top felt solid to the touch while the other could be wiggled a little. Checked the next two and both lifters, when grasped at the top could be wiggled. Skipped the next two and checked the last two - same thing, loose at the top. Removed one that is "collapsed" or stuck in the compressed position and one that isn't. Removed the retaining ring on both and the compressed lifter remained in that position. How can so many lifters be like this and the vehicle still operate?

Video of loose lifter
 

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After a few years the buildup of 'varnish' on the parts of the lifter that dont get the inner and outer parts of the lifter moving back and forth can result in the liter being sticky. If you take off the retaining clip at the top of a lifter, you should be able to pull the innner part ouf of the outer part of the lifter, but it may take some use of a solvent (like acetone) before the lifter will let the inner portion come out. This is how normal lifters seem to work. If you have lifters whose top can be squeezed down a milliterl, its likely that the spring loaded ball in the bottom part of the inner lifer i stuck in the open position. Again, letting them soak overnight may let them free up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
After a few years the buildup of 'varnish' on the parts of the lifter that dont get the inner and outer parts of the lifter moving back and forth can result in the liter being sticky. If you take off the retaining clip at the top of a lifter, you should be able to pull the innner part ouf of the outer part of the lifter, but it may take some use of a solvent (like acetone) before the lifter will let the inner portion come out. This is how normal lifters seem to work. If you have lifters whose top can be squeezed down a milliterl, its likely that the spring loaded ball in the bottom part of the inner lifer i stuck in the open position. Again, letting them soak overnight may let them free up.
OK, I understand that. But is it normal to find so many that are like that? I just started noticing the ticking sound about 3-4 weeks ago. Here's a pic of the one that wasn't found to be loose after I disassembled it to see what makes these things "tick" :)

Musical instrument Finger Revolver Wind instrument Jewellery


Sorry, couldn't resist.

If I understand correctly, the hydraulic roller lifter, when not pressed down by the rocker arm, should force itself back up due to the spring. But I am finding the majority are not like that. The part the arrow is pointing to is down about 1/8" from the top edge of the lifter "body" so that the part my finger is pointing to moves quite a bit.

This isn't normal - right? If I am finding so many lifters in this condition shouldn't there have been worse issues other than ticking?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Slowly building an understanding of what could be going on here.

From the beginning:

(1) I am going to spill my guts - after a week or two of hearing the potential "ticking lifter" I read about and then tried the Seafoam treatment. Followed the instructions carefully. Did not solve my problem.

(2) Checked compression starting at #1 spark plug and ending at #4. Results in that order; 160 PSI - 170 PSI - 145 PSI - 170 PSI.

(3) Removed spark wires, alternating one at a time, starting at #4 spark plug and ran engine each time to see if "ticking" sound went away. Ticking sound remained UNTIL I removed #1 spark plug wire.

(4) Removed valve cover and removed rocker arms. If you read my initial post you know the rest of the story.

After pulling the first two lifters, taking them apart, experimenting and analyzing, I thought for sure, based on what I have been reading, that the lifter that I could compress with my finger was the "good" lifter and the others were faulty.

Tonight I read this on Wiki:

Oil under constant pressure is supplied to the lifter via an oil channel, through a small hole in the lifter body. When the engine valve is closed (lifter in a neutral position), the lifter is free to fill with oil. As the camshaft lobe enters the lift phase of its travel, it compresses the lifter piston, and a valve shuts the oil inlet. Oil is nearly incompressible, so this greater pressure renders the lifter effectively solid during the lift phase.
As the camshaft lobe travels through its apex, the load is reduced on the lifter piston, and the internal spring returns the piston to its neutral state so the lifter can refill with oil. This small range of travel in the lifter's piston is enough to allow the elimination of the constant lash adjustment.


All those lifters that I was starting to think were damaged are probably fine. Starting to believe I have only one bad lifter which is the one I could take completely apart. Like I said before, the car was performing fine except for the "ticking" sound. If I had nearly 5 bad lifters instead of only one I am sure the car would have some serious performance issues. Right?

I have ordered a full set of 8 lifters. Should arrive by Friday. I will post results once repairs are made.
 

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When you first install the new lifters, expect a very noticeable amount of valve clatter, slowly going away as the lifters get filled with oilt. It might take ten or fifteen minutes, but then should quiet down graduall. The oil gets delivered to the ring in the bore where the lifter goes, its not so much a pressurized supply, but its enough for the lifter to take it in. Once the initial 'filling' of the lifters, the engine noise should be tick free, just the sound of things spinning, like the camshaft, the timing belt, the alternator, the serpentine belt running, and maybe a minor hum from the power steering pump.
I would just dip each lifter into motor oil, to make sure the roller on the bottom of the lifter is free to spin.

P.S. To avoid a little oil seeping between the valve cover and the head, (and running down over the exhaust manifold and smoking) I have had to use a new gasket, with a thick bead of sealant on both sides of the gasket, then letting the sealant cure overnight. My favorite sealant is Permatex Ultra Black. It doesht happen to all valve covers, may 3 out of five. And dont think you can stop the seeping by tightening down the three small bolts holding the valve cover down. They are a shouldered bolt, and once the shoulder is snug against the threaded holes in the head, you shouldnt try to tighten them further; that can snap the little bolts of strip the threads in the head. I think the torque spec is 7 lb-ft.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
When you first install the new lifters, expect a very noticeable amount of valve clatter, slowly going away as the lifters get filled with oilt. It might take ten or fifteen minutes, but then should quiet down graduall. The oil gets delivered to the ring in the bore where the lifter goes, its not so much a pressurized supply, but its enough for the lifter to take it in. Once the initial 'filling' of the lifters, the engine noise should be tick free, just the sound of things spinning, like the camshaft, the timing belt, the alternator, the serpentine belt running, and maybe a minor hum from the power steering pump.
I would just dip each lifter into motor oil, to make sure the roller on the bottom of the lifter is free to spin.

P.S. To avoid a little oil seeping between the valve cover and the head, (and running down over the exhaust manifold and smoking) I have had to use a new gasket, with a thick bead of sealant on both sides of the gasket, then letting the sealant cure overnight. My favorite sealant is Permatex Ultra Black. It doesht happen to all valve covers, may 3 out of five. And dont think you can stop the seeping by tightening down the three small bolts holding the valve cover down. They are a shouldered bolt, and once the shoulder is snug against the threaded holes in the head, you shouldnt try to tighten them further; that can snap the little bolts of strip the threads in the head. I think the torque spec is 7 lb-ft.
I have a new gasket and will try the sealant like you suggest.

How about the rocker arms torque? The Haynes manual gives a wide range. Is there anything to look for when torquing the bolts?

Thanks
 

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All hydraulic lifters I have ever taken out of used engines have been varnished up and have very limited travel.
I clean them initially in gasoline, then 99% isopropyl alcohol. I then clean up the mating surfaces with very fine emery paper and reassemble the lifter with a drop or two of oil.
N.B.: The inner plunger and outer housing are matched, so these parts must be kept together on each lifter.

They always perform fine after this cleaning procedure. I also re-install them in the head empty of oil, and they fill up and quiet down in tens of seconds.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
New lifters in. Sounds fine when idling. Give it a little gas and clickety-clackety-clickety... Same as before.

Before running the engine I turned the crankshaft pulley slowly with a socket to observe each lifter. Everything looked good. Changed the oil, too.

Back to the drawing board.
 

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Lifter clatter has a distinct sound. Have a video to post? Might want to check the cam lobes for pitting or other.

The hydraulics and pushbuttons on the roller lifters in my 1.9L never really failed... it was always the rollers that lost bearings and flat-spotted. Carefully inspect all of your rollers for missing bearings and/or flat-spotting.

No, it isn't normal to have those buttons be loose. The buttons are all stiff/hard; no turn. I could see vertical wear marks indicating that the buttons were moving under pressure.

Yes, it may be normal to see more than one lifter with the same type of failure. Presumably manufactured at the same time, same factory and operating under very similar conditions means they suffer very similar failures around the same time frame. So I don't think it's a bad idea to replace all eight. But hang-on to the old ones that are still good.

All computer controlled fuel injected vehicles have a "flood clear mode" that turns of the fuel injectors while cranking. Without fuel, the engine won't start. Post oil or lifter change, or after an extended amount of time sitting, you can use the starter motor to prime the engine before starting. Hold the accelerator pedal to the floor. Begin cranking the engine. To avoid stressing the starter motor, I avoid cranking longer than ten seconds at a time. Three to six ten second cranking sessions should be enough to prime the hydraulic roller lifters. (simple oil changes don't need that much) With the priming, there should be little or no lifter clatter when the engine starts.
 

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Since @Joey_Twowagons mentioned it, I've had the heat shields on the catalytic converter rattle after the road salt melted away some of the welds. But it would only rattle at a certain "frequency" of vibration. The downside of the shield was probably lost on the roadways somewhere but the topside I had to bend-up to remove.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Lifter clatter has a distinct sound. Have a video to post? Might want to check the cam lobes for pitting or other.

The hydraulics and pushbuttons on the roller lifters in my 1.9L never really failed... it was always the rollers that lost bearings and flat-spotted. Carefully inspect all of your rollers for missing bearings and/or flat-spotting.

No, it isn't normal to have those buttons be loose. The buttons are all stiff/hard; no turn. I could see vertical wear marks indicating that the buttons were moving under pressure.

Yes, it may be normal to see more than one lifter with the same type of failure. Presumably manufactured at the same time, same factory and operating under very similar conditions means they suffer very similar failures around the same time frame. So I don't think it's a bad idea to replace all eight. But hang-on to the old ones that are still good.

All computer controlled fuel injected vehicles have a "flood clear mode" that turns of the fuel injectors while cranking. Without fuel, the engine won't start. Post oil or lifter change, or after an extended amount of time sitting, you can use the starter motor to prime the engine before starting. Hold the accelerator pedal to the floor. Begin cranking the engine. To avoid stressing the starter motor, I avoid cranking longer than ten seconds at a time. Three to six ten second cranking sessions should be enough to prime the hydraulic roller lifters. (simple oil changes don't need that much) With the priming, there should be little or no lifter clatter when the engine starts.
Original rollers all look and operate fine. Lobes look good from what I was able to see.

Sound that I am hearing occurs only when:

  • when idling I rev the engine
  • if I take my foot off the accelerator. For example, let's say I was travelling at 50 kmph, then accelerated to 60 kmph, and then let my foot off the accelerator - that's when I will hear ticking for a few seconds.

Otherwise, the engine does not make a noticeable ticking noise.
 

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Seems too consistent and rythmic to be sourced externally to the engine.
But it's easy enough to start grabbing heat shields just to be sure.
A crank bearing I'd think would have a "heavier" sound.
Is there any chance that a valve seat is starting to drop?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Seems too consistent and rythmic to be sourced externally to the engine.
But it's easy enough to start grabbing heat shields just to be sure.
A crank bearing I'd think would have a "heavier" sound.
Is there any chance that a valve seat is starting to drop?
I have seen that video before.

Question - if the valve seat were starting to drop would there be some noticeable performance issues? Right now it seems to run fine other than the noise.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
First time I seen this video of a guy explaining what can happen before a valve seat completely drops for the Ford 2.0 SPI:


This is what is making me hesitant about the sound coming from the engine (although it sure sounds like it) I haven't noticed any of the problems he speaks of.

Yet...

I am thinking of going back to what I tried earlier, before replacing the lifters. I pulled the spark plug cable off the #1 plug position and ran the engine briefly while revving it. Pretty sure the noise did not occur unlike it did when doing the same with the other plugs. If I go through this again I guess I am back to looking at something engine related.
 

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Idle thought... pull one intake lifter (and maybe corresponding fuel injector) at a time to see whether the noise changes or ceases?

Cannot of course, pull an exhaust lifter. In theory that could cause damage.

I dunno whether you could pull both lifters simultaneously. In theory that shouldn't cause any damage... in theory.

I do know that disabling only one cylinder has little/no impact on idle. I remember pulling spark plug boots on a running engine and it took, pulling a minimum of two spark plug boots for it to even notice.

To state the obvious, we're talking about selectively pulling lifters for a short idle period and without driving or loading the engine.

@denisond3 - Whatcha think sir?
 

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Hmm, sounds lifter like from the top end, but not so much on the bottom end, is this an ATX car? Weird guess, but maybe flex plate worked loose? The cadence is more top end timing like than bottom end.
 
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