Why is my car making a ticking noise?

The timing belt is attached through a series of pulleys to the engine’s cam and crankshaft, and those complex systems are regulated by the timing belt, if something is wrong on either side – belt or cam/crankshaft – this ticking noise is a sign of trouble. When the timing belt starts to wear out, it may start making a ticking or humming sound in the engine. This warning sign may also be an indication of low oil pressure or the engine not having the proper amount of lubrication.

Since the timing belt is a crucial component to the inner workings of your car, if you notice these noises coming from your engine, you should arrange for your car to be collected and taken for a vehicle diagnostic or timing belt replacement as soon as possible.

These ticking or tapping sounds can also be heard if your car’s EGR valve is not opening properly. If the valve is sticking the flow of exhaust gases is being blocked, creating these ticking noises from the engine. A faulty EGR valve can cause performance issues including a reduction in power, reduced acceleration and decreased fuel efficiency. It can also cause vehicle emissions to increase, so must be fixed as soon as possible.

What are the common causes of car ticking noises?

Worn or faulty timing belt

Risk level – Medium

What to do – In most cars you can visually inspect your timing belt. Be sure to look for signs of wear, such as shredding or tearing and check for cracks in the belt as this can be a sign that your belt is old, dried-out and needs replacing.

On average, you might need a new timing belt every 4-6 years or after doing 40,000 miles in your car. This varies depending on your car’s age and condition. However, if your timing belt starts making noises or you can see that it’s worn out, you’ll need to book in for a replacement. You can book your timing belt replacement online and one of our dedicated drivers will collect your car and take it to a trusted garage near you.

Low oil pressure

Risk level – Medium

What to do – You should check the oil level with a dipstick and fill up the tank if the level is low. Check the oil pressure next with a pressure gauge when the engine is warm at idling. The pressure is fine if the reading is between 15 and 20 psi.

Usually there is a more serious problem when the ticking sound in an engine is coupled with low oil levels or low oil pressure. When this happens, it means oil is not reaching the top part of the engine, causing a shrill tapping or ticking sound. The root of the problem is likely to be linked to the timing belt or valvetrain components, including camshafts, rockers, lifters, and cam adjusters.

Issues with EGR valve

Risk level – Medium

What to do – You may be able to clean the EGR valve to unblock it, however we recommend having your car looked at by a mechanic as you may need a replacement EGR valve.

Booking a repair with Fixter couldn’t be easier. Simply select the repairs you need online, choose where and when you’d like us to collect your car, our drivers will take it to one of our vetted, local garages, and we’ll return your car back to you once the work is complete.

How do I get rid of the ticking noise in my engine?

If your timing belt is the cause of the ticking noise you will need to book your car in for a replacement. Fitting a new timing belt requires a decent understanding of engines, so if you’re not that experienced working under the bonnet we’d advise you to leave it to the pros. 

Low oil levels or pressure could also be linked to the ticking noises. Oil levels and pressure affect many different components in the engine. For example, there is a tensioner that keeps the timing belt taut, and this tensioner is pressurized by the engine oil. However, topping up your oil may not resolve the root of the problem. We would still recommend booking your car in for a diagnostic check so it can be thoroughly inspected by our highly-trained mechanics.

The EGR valve is a small component designed to allow the flow of exhaust gases into the intake manifold in controlled amounts. When operating properly the valve opens and closes as needed. However, if the EGR valve is stuck shut or blocked the flow of gases will be interrupted or prevented, causing tapping and ticking noises in the engine. If this is the case, we recommend booking your car in to have a replacement fitted.

Is a ticking engine dangerous? Can I drive with a ticking engine?

The ticking noise could indicate a worn or failing timing belt. You cannot drive your car if the timing belt is broken. The timing belt is one of the most important parts of your entire engine though not every driver is even aware of what it does or where to find it. While it looks like a simple part of your engine, and really it is, the job it does is integral to the operation of your entire car. Continuing to drive without getting your timing belt replaced, may result in a heavy damage to the engine with broken or bent valves, damaged pistons and, possibly, destroyed cylinder head and block.

How much does it cost to replace a timing belt?

The ticking noise you are hearing is most likely related to issues with your timing belt. Depending on your car’s make and model, the cost of a new timing belt and water pump can range between £210 and £620, the average cost is £369. 

How much does it cost to replace an EGR valve?

If the ticking or tapping noise is related to an EGR valve, you may need a replacement. Like all car repairs the cost will depend on the make, model and age of your car. We estimate that a replacement EGR valve will cost between £337 and £804, and the average cost of a new EGR valve in the UK is £465.

About Fixter

Fixter is revolutionising the car maintenance industry, one repair at a time. Fixter was founded to make car maintenance as easy as booking a taxi. Digital, transparent and stress-free, with world-class customer service. Since launching in Manchester in 2017, Fixter has expanded to more than 100 towns and cities across the UK and provided thousands of car owners with honest, convenient and affordable car repair services.