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

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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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Comments (241)
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  • Guest - Paul

    In reply to: Guest - Barbara

    Does not sound like the level system. Check control arm and trailing arm bushings for being worn out.

  • Guest - Sally

    Thank you for this great information. I have a knocking noise in my car engine, now i think i know what the problem is.

  • Guest - jennifer

    My dodge intrepid is making a knocking sound but stops when I accelerate. The sound is most prominent when vehicle is stopped at a light or something like that. The noise decreases when vehicle is in neutral...any guesses on what it could be?? Please help!!

  • Guest - Tim

    In reply to: Guest - jennifer

    Could be a broken crank pulley or flywheel.

  • Guest - jennifer

    In reply to: Guest - Tim

    Ok I will have it checked thanks !!

  • Guest - brian

    Irecently acquired a 1998 gmc jimmy that either has a broken flywheel or rod knock. I purchased a motor but it came from a 1994 chevy s10 my question is what has to be swapped over to make the engine run without the vortech heads

  • Guest - Phil09

    In reply to: Guest - brian

    You will have to modify or change the sensors, harnesses,alternator and A/C mountings,computer, exhaust, etc.

  • Guest - Terri

    have anoise when I stop at certain spots on the road in the rear under Trailblazer

  • Guest - Samatha

    When going over bumps in the road I hear a noise in the rear under my Trailblazer what could this be ?

  • Guest - Paul

    In reply to: Guest - Samatha

    Most likly the rear stablizer bar bushings are worn our and need to be replaced.

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