When it comes to automotive troubleshooting, many car owners assume that they simply don't have the skills necessary to make an accurate diagnosis. Yet even a car amateur can derive key information using no more than their basic senses. For example, odd or unusual sounds often provide vital clues to underlying problems.
Odd noises from beneath the hood rank among the most common-and the more troubling-signs of automotive misbehavior. Ticking sounds in particular may indicate a range of underlying issues. If you would like to learn more about why your car makes the sounds it does, keep reading. This article covers three possible culprits responsible for under-hood ticking sounds.
1. Bad Bearings
Your engine contains a set of main bearings that reduce the amount of friction occurring between the rotating and the stationary parts of your engine. Likewise, the bearings provide lateral support to the crankshaft, allowing it to spin freely while limiting the amount of radial play.
Bearings often fail as the result of dirt or debris buildup, which creates friction that abrades the surface of the bearing metal. Bearings also suffer damage as the result of improper lubrication, misassembly, or the phenomenon known as bearing crush. Even well-maintained bearings may eventually succumb to the large amounts of wear they experience.
Bad main bearings usually produce unusual knocking sounds that continue at a steady pace while your engine runs. A low oil pressure warning on your dash often accompanies ticking caused by bad main bearings.
If you hear a ticking that you suspect comes from your engine, but you don't have a low oil pressure warning, the fault may lie with a second set of engine bearings known as the rod bearings. The rod bearings provide similar support and friction reduction for the engine's rods.
Mechanics often describe the ticking caused by rod bearings as having a tinnier sound, more like that of someone striking a thin piece of aluminum. Unlike bad engine bearings, the ticking produced by bad rod bearings grows faster as your engine accelerates.
2. Fan Problems
Bad bearings aren't the only thing that mean trouble for a car. Fortunately, not all ticking noises have such a serious cause. In some cases, the ticking may stem from relatively minor issues with your engine fan. Also known as the radiator fan, this component circulates air around your radiator to help it more effectively release heat.
Engine fans often produce ticking noises when the fan blade unintentionally come into contact with the fan's outer framework, known as the shroud. This issue sometimes occurs if the screws holding the shroud in place work loose. Likewise, bent or damaged fan blades may cause a clicking sound when the fan comes on.
3. Incorrect Ignition Timing
Your car's engine produces power by combusting small amounts of gasoline and air inside of the cylinders. Your spark plugs trigger the combustion by releasing a tiny jolt of electricity. In order to maximize the power output, the timing of the spark plugs must be carefully adjusted. If the spark plugs fire too soon, it causes a problem known as pre-ignition.
When pre-ignition happens, the force of the combusting fuel presses against the piston, which has not yet finished its compression stroke. These two forces pushing in opposite directions manifests as a ticking or knocking sound from your engine. Unless professionally attended to, pre-ignition places serious amounts of stress on your engine.
Fortunately, a trained mechanic can adjust your ignition timing to resolve the issue. For more information about identifying the source of your car's ticking sound, please contact the auto repair pros at Frankie & Dylan's Complete Collision & Custom Repair Center.