Ford 5.4 lifters making noise

Lifter Tick Ford F150

One of the most annoying things that you can coming from under the hood of your Ford F150 is a ticking lifter.  The ticking noise makes it sound like the engine is going to give up the ghost at any time. 

There are a few things that can cause a lifter to tick, such as the lifter itself going bad, a bent push rod, or oil deposits.  We’ll go into greater depth on each below.


Bad Lifter Symptoms:  Ford F150

Obviously ticking is going to be the major symptom of a lifter tick.  It must go up and down with the F150’s engine speed, or it is not a lifter tick at all.

A lifter tick is usually not accompanied by any other symptoms than the noise.  The noise of a bad lifter is very distinct.  It’s not a knocking sound, which could be described more as a “thunk” (getting technical) and typically indicates a bad rod.  It’s going to be more of a “tick” that has a shallow tat tat tat to it. 

Here’s a short video that features a ticking lifter, if you would like to confirm that is the sound that you are actually hearing. 

The ticking may come and go when your F150 heats up or cools down respectively.  Even if it goes away when it warms up, it’s still something that needs to be addressed.


Ford F150 Lifter Tick Causes

Here are some of the most common causes of a ticking lifter:

Ford F150 Lifter Ticking Noise

1. Bad Lifter

The most common reason that a lifter will tick is because the lifter itself has gone bad.  Replacing a lifter is a pretty challenging job.  It involves taking a decent portion of the engine apart, which is above the skill level of most folks who aren’t qualified mechanics.  The exact process will be wildly different depending on whether or not the engine uses an overhead cam.

2. Bent Push Rod

Pushrods are used in engines where the camshaft is located in the engine block, and not in the head.  Pushrods connect the camshaft to the lifters.  If they bend, it will usually cause a horrible ticking sound.

3. Oiling Issues

It is possible for a lifter to tick if it is not given enough oil, if the oil is too dirty, or if it is too old.  Changing the oil may cause the problem to go away.  Since it’s so much easier and cost effective than anything else, we recommend giving it a shot before taking your F150’s engine apart.


Common Misdiagnosis

Here are some of the more common reasons that you could hear a sound that sounds like your Ford F150 has a lifter that is ticking, but is actually something else:



A lifter tick can sound a lot like an exhaust leak.  The most commonly affected area is the exhaust gasket where it bolts to the head.  Look to see if any of the head bolts have sheered off or are loose.

It’s less likely to sound like a lifter tick, but the exhaust gasket where the manifold meets the rest of the exhaust system can also make noise that bounces around the engine bay and can sound like a lifter tick.

See Also:  Ford F150 Exhaust Leak Diagnosis

Valve Lash

The rocker arms are what the lifter or pushrod pushes into to open the valve.  Many of them are self adjusting, while others require periodic adjustment.  Adjusting the valve lash is the process of adjusting the tension on the rocker arms.  Check to see if your F150 has valve adjustment on its maintenance schedule.

If it is too loose, it will make a terrible ticking sound that can be mistaken for a faulty lifter.  It’s tough to tell the difference since they are so close to one another.  This is a more common issue on foreign cars than domestic (🇺🇸).


Replacing the Lifter

Ford F150 Lifter Tick Diagnosis

The cost of replacing the offending lifter is going to depend on many factors, including your F150’s engine type, if it is pushrod or overhead cam, and more.  It is certainly not a cheap job.  Most of the cost that would go into it at a mechanic is going to be labor.  They have to take a decent chunk of the engine apart to get to the lifters. 

The shop that you take the vehicle to is going to recommend replacing all of the lifters at the same time.  They are going to recommend this for two reasons:

  1. The extra parts are only a few extra dollars.  If you have a four cylinder or inline six, it would be foolish not to go ahead and replace all of the lifters.  It CAN be more expensive to do a V configuration engine, since the tick will only be coming from one of the heads.  We would still recommend replacing the lifters on the other side anyway if you can afford it.
  2. If one lifter has failed, usually the others are right behind it, which means that you could end up in a situation where you are opening the engine up again much sooner than you would prefer.

Expect to pay around $500 or more for a mechanic to replace your lifters.  Most of this cost is labor.


Conclusion:  Ford F150 Lifter Ticking Sound

Don’t wait around for your lifter tick to get worse.  It will eventually hit the point where it can cause other engine problems.

Categories Ford F150Sours:

Ticking, Knocking Noise Complaints: Ford 4.6L / 5.4L 3V Engines

59079f15054ljpg_00000021867Before starting diagnosis, it is critical to determine the specific engine noise the customer is concerned with, The customer should be interviewed to get their detailed description of the noise, and to determine if the noise occurs at idle or above idle speed, and if the engine is cold, hot or both. Attempt to duplicate the noise, and determine the source of the symptom. Refer installers to the following Service Procedure to help determine the source of the noise and if a repair is needed. The 4.6L 3V and 5.4L 3V engines are installed in several vehicle platforms, which may influence the intensity of noise due to vehicle differences in sound transmission paths, hood and body insulation packages, and root cause of the component(s) causing the noise. PRE-CHECKS 1. Make sure you have a detailed description of the noise the customer is concerned with, including whether the noise is occurring at idie or above idle speed (does it disappear above 1,200 rpm), and if the engine is cold, hot or both when the noise is occurring. These engines generate a lot of “normal” noises, so it is critical to confirm the noise the customer is concerned with. 2. Determine what environment the customer is in when the noise is most noticeable to them (inside passenger compartment, next to building with/without the driver and/or passenger window open, or beside the wheel well). Validate by using your own perception. 3. Compare the noise generated with a new vehicle, if available, with an ENGINE build date of 3/30/2005 or later on Mustang and 4/18/2005 or later on F-150 to F-350, Expedition and Navigator vehicles. if the noise is the same, the noise is normal and would be a characteristic of the vehicle. Do not contiue with this bulletin. 4. Diagnose noise when engine is at normal operating temperature (Oil at 160° F, 71° C or above). Verify oil temperature by using a diagnostic scan tool and monitoring the engine oil temperature (EOT) PID. 5. Check the type of oil filter installed on the vehicle. A dirty or clogged filter may cause a pressure drop. Look for aftermarket brands not recognized in the market or a production filter that has gone beyond the standard Ford recommended change interval. 6. Check for signs of oil brand used and viscosity (interview customer if needed), Motorcraft SAE 5W-20 Premium Synthetic Blend Motor Oil or equivalent is recommended. Once the above pre-checks are complete, check for sound level from the following components, in the order listed. Compare the sound from these components to the noise the customer is concerned with, to determine the source of the noise. INJECTION / FUEL SYSTEM Injector noise (ticking) is considered normal. Noise increases wilh rpm hot or cold and is recognized at the top of the engine. VALVE TRAIN Lash adjusters can make a tickingltapping noise noticeable at any engine rpm/temperature and is audible through the wheel well or an open hood. However, with the hood down, lash adjuster noise can be heard as a light tapping noise through the wheel well and is considered normal. Tracing this noise must be isolated to a cylinder bank. If one bank is louder than the other bank, focus the diagnostic to the loud bank. If both banks seem loud with the hood down, compare wheel well sound level to one another and work on the loudest bank. Use a stethoscope on the top of the cam cover bolt heads to confirm which bank is affected. Move the probe from front to rear if necessary. If isolated to a specific bank replace all the lifters, intake and exhaust, only on the affected cylinder bank. If the noise can not be isolated to a specific bank, then in the majority of situations this would not be a lifter related noise. VARIABLE CAM TIMING The 4.6L 3V and 5.4L 3V variable cam timing (VCT) feature may emit a light knock in normal operation and is audible only at idle speed, with a hot engine (gear selector in parktneutral). However, it may be masked by or mistaken for other noises generated from either injector firing or a malfunctioning valve train as described above. The noise does not affect performance or durability of the part. VCT phasers may knock at hot idle. it may be heard inside the passenger compartment, or the wheel well area. Some light noise is normal. The engine may require a cold soak overnight for a full diagnosis to effectively be made at hot idle, particularly when a VCT phaser is suspected. The knock is not prevalent at cold temperature. To test for VCT noise: 1. Place the transmission in park or neutral. 2. Bring engine oil temperature to 160°F (71° C) or above as indicated by the scan tool “EOT” PID. 3. Allow engine to idle, and determine if noise is noticeable. 4. Set engine speed to over 1,200 rpm (if noise is a VCT knock, the noise should disappear). 5. Return engine speed to idle (verily knock returns). If the noise intensity is more than a lightly audible knock at hot idle under 1,200 rpm at engine operating temperature, replace the cam phaser using the camshaft “In-Vehicle Repair” procedure found In the Workshop Manual. If the noise is only a lighly audible knock at hot idle under 1,200 rpm, do not attempt to repair this normal engine noise. STARTUP RATTLE Some 2004 F150 and 2005 F150, Expedition, Navigator, Super Duty, and Mustang vehicles may have a rattle on startup that lasts 1 to 3 seconds. If initial pre-checks have been completed and the noise sounds like it is coming from the front of the engine, replace the VCT phaser (3R2Z-6A257-DA kit). If the engine continues to make the rattle noise after the initial startup, check for other possible areas.   Some or all of this information was provided by the Automotive Parts Remanufacturers Association (APRA). For more information on technical bulletins available through APRA call 703-968-2772 or visit

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5.4 Ford Engine Noise Remedy

In the unlikely event your 5.4-liter suffers from this next noise, be prepared to spend anywhere from $200 to $5,000 to have it repaired by a qualified technician. Worst-case scenarios on high-mileage engines translate to full engine replacement. In extremely rare cases, the 5.4-liter and its 6.8L V-10 cousin can have a spark plug “spit” out of the cylinder head. This is usually accompanied by a loud bang and a hammering noise that beats in rhythm with the engine. If this happens to you, have your truck towed to the nearest qualified repair facility for repairs. Attempting to drive it in this state can lead to an under-hood fire. In these cases, the threaded sleeve in the head loses its bond with the surrounding cylinder head material and shoots outward on a hard compression stroke, ejecting the threads, spark plug and coil-on-plug unit. Prior to 2009, Ford Motor Company expressly forbid dealership service departments from repairing the cylinder heads with a "helicoil," a common quick fix in the aftermarket, due to the potential for severe engine damage caused by the helicoil’s inability to dissipate heat in the same manner as the surrounding head material. However, Ford released a helicoil kit of its own in 2009, which transferred heat to the surrounding cylinder head in a proper fashion. Ask your service adviser for this repair step first, before authorizing any major repairs.



Noise ford 5.4 lifters making



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