Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: clicking noise in engine

asked by on

When I was driving my 5 speed Saturn I could hear something in the engine clicking. It sounded like a bent push rod, a bad piston, or a rod bearing. The car was running without oil for a little while, and the clicking noise got worse the higher the RPMs. How can I tell what’s wrong with the car? And what’s the difference in the clicking for each problem?

A: Internal engine noises vary by the size of ...

Internal engine noises vary by the size of the parts making the noise and how fast they are moving. Think of drums, cymbals, or guitar strings. Smaller, lighter engine parts make clicking or tapping sounds, while bigger heavier parts make deeper, low pitched knocking sounds. The crankshaft is the heaviest, so it would have a deep, low knock, but is not as common. One or more connecting rods can knock as their bearings wear, especially if they’ve suffered from lack of lubrication. Their knock is slower and medium low pitched.

Pistons slap can be recognized by its tendency to be heard on cold start-up, diminishing as the engine warms and the pistons expand. Your Saturn doesn’t have pushrods, but it does have cam followers, (also called rocker arms) and hydraulic lifters. Those pieces are called valve train and are particularly affected by loss of oil pressure common in high-mileage engines. They are small and so they make clicking sounds similar to a ball point pen.

It’s rather difficult to talk about sounds and try to describe them rather than just listening to them. If you want to have the clicking sound diagnosed in person, a certified technician from YourMechanic can come to your car’s location to inspect the car and determine what repairs may be needed.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Fair and transparent pricing

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: My car will not start - 2002 Saturn SC2

This is a common sign of a faulty ignition coil. Ignition coils are coated with a varnish-like insulation that becomes brittle over time after being stretched and contracted repeatedly as the copper beneath them expands and contracts at a higher...

Q: My car isn't starting, it's really cold out. I was wondering how can I start it with this cold weather

Hi there. Given the description of not being able to start your vehicle, when it is cold and jump starting the vehicle without any problem. This leads me to believe the battery does not have enough cold cranking amp capacity....

Q: cv axel not fitting

The axle bore in the transaxle needs to be checked for debris, burying, or a damaged locking ring that could be preventing the axle from fully inserting into the transaxle axle bore. Also, replacement axles are generally refurbished from...

Related articles

How Do Power Car Windows Increase Passenger Safety?
Power windows are responsible for approximately 2,000 emergency room visits every year. When a power window closes, it exerts enough force to bruise or break bones, crush fingers, or restrict an airway. Though...
What Causes Hoses to Leak?
While the largest part of your engine is mechanical, hydraulics plays a significant role. You’ll find fluids at work in a number of different areas. Your car's fluids include: Engine oil Transmission...
P2428 OBD-II Trouble Code: Exhaust Gas Temperature Too High Bank 1
P2428 code definition A P2428 trouble code signifies that the PCM has detected a problem in the exhaust gas temperature sensor circuit in bank 1, which subsequently contains the number one...