Engine Noises | Knocking and Ticking | Common Causes

Main Bearing Noise

Damaged or worn main bearing noise is revealed by dull thuds or knocks which happen on every engine revolution. This noise is loudest when the engine is under heavy load. Excessive crankshaft end play is indicated by an intermittent rap or knock sharper than a worn main bearing.

The following are causes of main bearing noise:


  • Low oil pump pressure
  • Thin, diluted or dirty oil and/or filter
  • Excessive main bearing clearance
  • Excessive crankshaft end play
  • Out-of-round crankshaft journals
  • Loose crankshaft pulley
  • Loose flywheel or torque converter
  • Loose main bearing cap

Connecting rod Bearings

A damaged or worn connecting rod bearing will produce knock under all speeds. During the early stages of wear, connecting rod noise may be confused with piston slap or loose wrist pins. Connecting rod knock noise increases in volume with engine speed and is at its loudest on deceleration.

The following are causes of connecting rod bearing noise:

  • Excessive bearing clearance
  • Worn crankshaft connecting rod journal
  • Thin, diluted or dirty oil and/or filter
  • Low oil pressure
  • Crankshaft connecting rod journals out-of-round
  • Misaligned connecting rod
  • Connecting rod bolts not properly torqued
  • The wrong bearing inserts or misaligned bearing half

Timing Chain and Gears

Engines designed with timing gears, or those equipped with a timing chain and sprockets, can produce different noise. The most common noise is a high frequency, light-knocking sound. This sound will generally be the same in intensity whether the engine is idling, operating at high speeds, or under load.

The following are causes of timing gear or chain and sprocket noise:

  • Worn timing chain and/or gears
  • Misaligned gears
  • Excessive backlash
  • A damaged tooth
  • Gear or sprocket loose on the shaft
  • Too much end play in the camshaft or crankshaft

Loose or improperly seated camshaft timing gears are usually loudest when warm. They are speed sensitive only. They are not load sensitive.

Cam gear noise will usually be evident at a warm idle in neutral and sounds much like a loose timing chain noise.

Piston Noise

Piston pin, piston, and connecting rod noise are hard to separate. A loose piston pin, for example, causes a sharp double knock usually heard when the engine is idling, or during sudden acceleration then deceleration of the engine. A piston pin that has been improperly fitted will emit a light ticking noise that is more noticeable with no load on the engine. Excessive piston-to-cylinder bore clearance will cause piston slap noise. The noise is similar to a metallic knock, as if the piston were "slapping" the cylinder wall during its stroke. As with most engine noise, understanding the cause of the noise will help you imagine what the noise sounds like. An indication of piston slap is a decrease in noise as the engine warms up. When the engine is cold, the piston to bore clearance is greater and piston slap will be louder.

Flywheel Noise

A loose or cracked flywheel will produce an irregular thud or click. To test for a loose or cracked flywheel, operate the vehicle at approximately 32 km/h (20 mph) and shut off the engine. If a thud is heard, the flywheel may be loose or damaged. This type of thud is loudest on deceleration. Loose torque converter-to-flywheel or flywheel-to-crankshaft bolts will sound similar to bearing knock. This condition produces several raps during quick acceleration on a free running engine. Depending on the idle smoothness, when the transaxle is in gear, the noise may or may not appear. Check the torque converter-to-flywheel and the flywheel-to-crankshaft bolts before attempting to investigate any bearing-related knock.

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  • Guest - wes

    09-00 grand prix started ticking on interstate oil does need changed but after 20 miles seemed to,be getting better stopped put gas in it pulled out car fell on it's face almost like a fouled plug. parked car restarted it oil light is on. It's not locked up it does start and run but shuts off could it be oil change or oil pump no check engine light just oil light and change oil light

  • Guest - Antonio Guerrero

    Question? I have a 02 chevy impala I hear knocking but I don't understand, there is oil in the motor and trans. my car stopped and wouldn't want to turn anymore can anyone help me please and thanks.....

  • Guest - pete

    I have a 2001 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD when I accelerate I have a high pitched rattling noise to me it sounds like it's coming from the exhaust system which is closest to the cats could this be a problem with the cats

  • Guest - lilly

    I have 2000 Pontiac grand prix with low mileage following change of rotars and pads I noticed intermittent rattling noise when there is a sharp right turn or steep road. Bushing was changed last year. Any idea what is causing the intermittent noise!

  • Guest - DNice

    My 2003 Chevy Blazer 4.3 6cyl has a metal clanking noise on start up, acceleration and sounds loudest at deceleration but is never consistent. Sounds tinny almost, can low / high oil pressure cause this? Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated

  • Guest - Yasmin

    I have a 2001 chevy impala, recently I was on the highway and low pressure oil light came on, the car shut off and oil seemed to have spilled everywhere, turned out that I had to buy a new Oil Pressure Sensor, since then it has been making a knocking noise, oil is good, but I don't know what the problem could be??? any advice???please help!!

  • Guest - Ray Alestock

    What are the main bearing specs for a 1995 Chevrolet Suburban 350 engine, 2 wheel drive? Thank You! Vhcvq

  • Guest - justine

    My saturn sl1 2001 has a sound when I start the car as if it is over heating but it isnt. When ever I push the clutch in to shift gears the sound gets louder.all the way till I get to 5 th gear then it stops or sound really light. If I take my foot off tge gas my car feels like its pulling faster and fast but yet my cars at the same speed as if it's on cruise control butvisnt. I would like to know whats going on im tired of mechanic saying they know what it is and fix it and then something else is messed up

  • Guest - renni

    I have a 1999 dodge durango and its making a loud knocking sound when I crank it up..

  • Guest - Alex

    I have a 2007 Ford Explorer Sport Trac. Recently it has been making a noise coming from the front of the drivers side. It makes a noise sort of like a loose chain and it only happens when I go over bumps even the smallest bumps on the roads. Any idea what it can be and how to fix it?

  • Guest - Guest

    I have a 2001 Chevy venture it has a rel loud ticking noise especially when I ecellerateup a hill

  • Guest - angela

    I have a 2001 Chevy venture it makes a loud ticking noise con constantly. It does it all the time.its a lot worse when I ecellerate up a hill.

  • Guest - kyle

    I have a 90 Chevy 1500 and there is a knocking noise and does get louder when I accelerate. Wondering what I need to do to get it fixed. I have great oil pressure and do have oil in the truck. Only has 182000 miles on it. Am I ok to keep driving it?

  • Guest - Jerry

    I have a 1995 chevy tahoe. Started tuning rough no check engine like and underneath the car more so by the transmission I hear a clunking noise. I have no idea what it could be any ideas?

  • Guest - Leonie

    Hi my holden VX was driving fine no noises no sigh a of anything was wrong, I accelerated from being stopped at a roundabout and next thing u know I heard a loud clunk noise and everything went stiff like the break and steering and turned off so I tried to start it again and it was making a weird noise but not making any attempt to turn over. My partner thinks he can fix everything but dosnt always have the best outcome so I need another opinion if u can plz.

  • Guest - Wolfie

    I Have A Chrysler 300 Hemi It Was Running Fine Until I Passed Alot Of Water It Was Passing The Tire And Then The Car Just Stopped I Turned It On And It Made A Really Loud Knocking Noise I Checked The Oil And It Disnt Have Any But I Had Just Changed The Oil It SmoKes Alot Out Of The Exhoust Now And The Knocking Noise Is Still Really Louds Whats Wrong Whit It ?

  • Guest - Cliff

    I got a 95 silverado 5 spd. Runs great. Has a buzzing noise in floor board like at tranny or bellhousing. And itll stop when i pull out slow then goes back and stays buzzing

  • Guest - Jonathan Jones

    I just came back from a trip out of town and I started hearing a knocking sound in my engine. I pulled over and put some more oil into my vehicle. The knocking became less but was still there. Once I made it home I parked it and I have not driven it since. I have however cranked it and the light knocking noise is still there. Can anyway help me better understand this. I am going to take it to a professional tomorrow. But my main question is whether the knocking noise automatically means a engine that needs replaced. Im sure it could be many things possibly causing the knock. I just wanted to know if there is a chance it could NOT be "WORSE CASE SCENARIO ENGINE BAD". Hope that makes sense. Obviously something is wrong and needs replacing or fixed. I'm just hoping there is a chance it doesn't automatically mean I have to replace my engine. Thanks for any feedback.

  • Guest - rick wilks

    I just bought a chevy ss trailblazer 2008 and it started to smell like gas was coming in from the vents in the chevy and it was sputtering and almost stalled last night. I took it to the dealer today and told them to check it out, they called me a couple hours later and said it didn't smell of gas and no sputtering. I went up and picked it up and when I left all the lights were coming on and said it was overheating and there was 2 engine lights on and then when I turned around and basically crawled in, there was a huge puddle of milk shake lookink liquid pouring out and where you fill it up with oil was smoking. and now I am smoking from being so pissed off. Of course no mechanics were there so I have to back tomorrow am. Any comment or explanation would be great. Thank you for your time

  • Guest - joshua

    i got a ticking noise coming from behind my motor and transmission it a 94 s10 5speed i replaced spark plugs and so much more to much to list but its kinda funny i think its a flywheel tick cuz it only happens when i step on the gas fast if i just slowly push it down it dont make a sound and at low rpms it makes the ticking sound and then when i drive down the road it only makes the sound when i step on it hard if i take off like a 90 year old make it dont make the sound let me know what u guys think thanks!!!

  • Guest - Tom

    I have a 98 Chevy z71 with 5.7 ltr when I accelerate real fast or go up a hill on interstate pops through throttle body and exhaust any ideas. Ty

  • Guest - Hank

    In reply to: Guest - Tom

    A pop noise is usually an engine backfire or misfire caused by an ignition problem. It could also be a bad camshaft.

  • Guest - kfluke87@yahoo.com

    i have a 2006 grand prix i put to much oil in my var drove it about 10 miles then drain it out 3daya later it started knockin no smoke tho what is the knockin noise and how do i fix it

  • Guest - Jarrett

    I have a 91 s10. The vehicle idles fine when in park. When I go to put it in gear it idles rough until you touch the accelerator to start moving. It does this every time I stop even at normal operating temperature. When the vehicle idles rough it will also loose oil pressure and will bottom out and almost shut off. The check oil level light will come on but the check engine light has never came on. The oil level in vehicle is fine. Just changed about 200 miles ago. The mileage is around 250xxx. What is causing this?

  • Guest - davisamcl@gmail.com

    Right inside cam shaft...or were I insert oil there is a ticking sound on idle...tick..tick...tick. What could it be?

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