BMW 4-Series Cars in a Row

Causes of Lifter Ticking in BMW

By Bavarian Performance Specialists August 9, 2018

BMWs are consistently one step ahead of other manufacturers when it comes to innovation and thoughtfulness. However, some of BMW’s engine designs have flaws and faults that seriously annoy drivers and enthusiasts alike. Although BMW’s N52 engine is still one of the most well known designs in automotive history, it’s not all for the greatest reasons. Lifter ticking in these engines is highly common – especially past a certain mileage. The ticking lifter in the N52 engine is a nuisance, and can be difficult to address without the proper expertise. Here’s what you should know about lifter ticking in these engines and what you can do to address the issue effectively.

Why this particular engine encounters ticking

When the N52 engine was created, it was thought to be one of the most forward-thinking designs of its time; however, soon after the engine was released for public use it was discovered that the engine produced a concerning ticking noise. Once the car reaches the 50k mile mark, the problem seems to worsen. With over a decade of produced vehicles experiencing this problem, the issue has become widespread and often goes unaddressed by drivers. This problem is purely a design and engineering issue of the hydraulic valve lifter that cannot be avoided with even the most consistent and preventive auto maintenance.

Diagnosing lifter ticking

While it’s common for cars to occasionally make noises or sounds, lifter ticking in BMWs is mostly noticeable while taking short trips through town involving a lot of stop and go traffic. Furthermore, the issue is most prevalent when the external temperature is lower than average. The problem of lifter ticking can be traced back to the hydraulic valve lifter in the N52 engine. Without proper, specialized knowledge in BMW vehicles – particularly those with the N52 engine – this issue is rather difficult to diagnose. Most automotive shops engage in a back and forth, trial and error process that results in unnecessary replacement parts and labor. Since we know that this common problem is related to the hydraulic valve lifter in certain BMW cars, this is the main avenue for repair.

The importance of the hydraulic valve lifter

The hydraulic valve lifter in these particular BMW vehicles is a poorly designed engine component that unfortunately leads to the annoying ticking noise that drivers commonly experience. The part is meant to allow for the expansion and contraction of various engine parts as the internal temperature rises, making room for the parts to grow even the slightest bit; this is important, as there is minimal room under the hood to begin with. When the hydraulic valve lifter has been “broken in,” it begins to run into problems that create the ticking sound we all dread. This is largely due to a lubrication issue, where the part does not receive enough oil to continue performing its function properly.

How to address this problem in your own BMW

Putting a Band-Aid on this problem is the approach that most automotive shops take when attempting to address the issue; however, this only winds up being a waste of money in the end. Since replacement parts don’t always do the trick, each individual case should be approached with an open mind and creative solution finding. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you notice that your BMW’s lifter is making a ticking noise.

BMW Mechanic Checking Lifter Ticking Noise As you can see, caring for a BMW requires specialized knowledge and expertise. Here at Bavarian Performance Specialists, we cater to the needs of BMW clients all over the areas of Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills, Westlake, Malibu, and Newbury Park, CA, and have attended to numerous lifter ticking issues. We know how frustrating this tick is for our BMW drivers, so we make it a point to address it preventively when possible. If you own a BMW with an N52 engine between the years of 2004-2015, please bring it in for an inspection of the hydraulic valve lifter so we can determine how to best prevent issues from arising.

* BMW 4-Series Cars in a Row image credit goes to: chasdesign.