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Old 01-06-2020, 12:18 AM   #1
can0fspam
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1999 SL2
Default Unknown engine noise when cold

I have a 1999 SL2 (auto swapped to mp2 manual), 189,000 mi.
It makes a constant ticking noise immediately upon cold startup and it doesn't go away until the temp needle starts rising. When warmed up, the engine sounds totally normal and the ticking is gone.

I've run the engine without a belt on it, and the ticking sounds exactly the same. I've also recently replaced the belt tensioner and alternator.
The noise depends only on engine temperature. Regardless of how long the car has sat (overnight versus a few hours), it will make the same sound if the engine's cold. On a hot restart, it doesn't do it.

Stepping on the gas seems to make the ticking stabilize for a second - it's loudest at the cold idle speed of 1200 RPM.

Oil pressure is good, oil is always topped off, fresh oil doesn't affect it, and no SES lights are thrown. I have owned the car for 7 months and it's been doing it the whole time.
The sound comes generally from the front of the motor however I've yet to find it with a stethoscope.

Here's a video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c79uOCu0QDY

Any leads or similar experiences? Thanks for all the advice as always.

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Old 01-06-2020, 12:33 AM   #2
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

I can't really hear anything in that video, but my guess is an exhaust leak or looseness in an exhaust component that tightens up as the exhaust gets hot. Worst case is a crack in the manifold.

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Old 01-06-2020, 12:50 AM   #3
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

Valve train noise? It might help to record a before (cold engine noise) and after (warm engine noise gone) video. I hear the noise at the beginning of the video and it sounds like lifters.

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Old 01-06-2020, 01:00 AM   #4
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1999 SL2
Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

Sorry about the audio quality. I will get better videos soon to show you what it sounds like cold versus hot.

Exhaust leak sounds possible as it would expand and contract to seal the leak when warmed up. I'll look for soot spots around the manifold or try to soapy water trick.

Valvetrain noise - I wouldn't be too surprised with the mileage on the car.
If the lifters have excessive clearance should I be able to rock them by hand with the valve cover off? I checked that recently and everything underneath the valve cover feels tight -- the chain is also very tight and barely flexible.

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Old 01-06-2020, 08:23 AM   #5
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

How about opening the hood?

I suspect it's the same noise my car makes... I thought maybe it's the timing chain, but I'm not sure that would go away.

...
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Old 01-06-2020, 08:59 AM   #6
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

If its a lifter noise, which can go away as the motor heats up, I have stopped it completely on my older suburban (331K) by simply adding a pint of any kind of transmission fluid (or marvel mystery oil) in to the gas tank. I will quiet them down after a days of driving, and the clacking stops even when a cold start.

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Old 01-06-2020, 01:54 PM   #7
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

Next oil change I'm going to try running a zinc additive in the oil.

I ran a can of seafoam in the gas recently and didn't notice a difference, although it was probably good to do. I wouldn't think that putting something in the gas would ever affect the lifters though.

And yeah, hopefully it's not timing chain. The noise has stayed constant without any worsening effects for as long as I've known the car, which sounds like lifters. I'd think a chain would have gotten worse by now or had some noticeable play in it.

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Old 01-06-2020, 02:27 PM   #8
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

I wouldn't expect putting anything in the gas to help lifter or valve noise, only injector or fuel pump noise.

The lifters are hydraulic, no adjustment available.

Add half a quart or a full quart of cheap actual Dex III or Dex/Mercron to the oil and run it at idle for 15-20min before the next oil change. Try not to overfill it with the ATF so try to time it for when it's already burned off a quart or so (on the DOHC's I had that'd be a measly 600 miles).

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Old 01-06-2020, 02:29 PM   #9
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

Actually, from my own experience, the ATF idea will work a whole lot faster IF in the gas, not oil.

Try it and see. You cannot hurt anything by adding a pint to the gas.

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Old 01-06-2020, 02:35 PM   #10
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

Quote:
Originally Posted by toggenburg View Post
Actually, from my own experience, the ATF idea will work a whole lot faster IF in the gas, not oil.

Try it and see. You cannot hurt anything by adding a pint to the gas.
How does it get from the gas to the lifters though?

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Rebuilt at 204,067 September 2017
Engine, subframe, diff pin mod, brake lines, headliner, alternator, and so on!
'98 SC2, 5SP bought 2018

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Old 01-06-2020, 04:34 PM   #11
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

It really cannot IF it's truely a lifter issue, however, since I have only resolved the 'ticking' on non-carburetored cars, I might presume that the noise is basically the fuel injectors that are opening and closing quickly to allow the proper amount of gas to enter the combustion chamber.

Valve slapping, lifter and injector sounds are all audible 'ticking' but the actual cause of the sound may hard to isolate, no?

So actually, me not knowing exactly which is ticking, I just add ATF to the gas and this has so far resolved it for me.

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Old 01-06-2020, 09:21 PM   #12
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

I went out and got videos of the engine running dead cold and after warmed up, from under the hood.

cold idle with noise:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtgwmxD8Vps

warm idle without noise:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbACqSWJrO4

The noise is pretty obvious from these videos. Let me know what u think!

Last edited by can0fspam; 01-06-2020 at 09:28 PM..

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Old 01-06-2020, 11:19 PM   #13
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

doesn't sound like lifters to me are you sure its the engine and not the air injection pump?
with it cold try disconnecting it its on the front passenger side (might set the CEL).

A screwdriver or toilet plunger handle could work as a stethoscope (don't get it in the belt though) so you could narrow down where its coming from

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Old 01-06-2020, 11:26 PM   #14
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

I don't think this car has air injection unless you saw it in the video. It's a non-california 1999.

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Old 01-06-2020, 11:36 PM   #15
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

You didn't show the area it'd be in in the video but looking closely I don't see the metal tube going to the header so yeah no air injection
Its hard to get a feel for the noise on your video but it seems like the belt side of the engine

does the noise get louder/faster when you rev the engine, I assume it does, how long before it warms up and stops?
do oil changes make a difference
how long has the noise been there
have you tried removing the belt

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Old 01-06-2020, 11:40 PM   #16
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

it just sounds really sharp to me like something vibrating like the prop rod or a loose pulley but maybe someone else will have more insight

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Old 01-07-2020, 12:11 AM   #17
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

I'm with billr on this one - exhaust leak somewhere that seals with the heat of expansion. See if you can feel exhaust shooting out somewhere before it gets hot.

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Rebuilt at 204,067 September 2017
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Old 01-07-2020, 01:15 AM   #18
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

Attach a leaf-blower to the tail pipe (engine not running!) and feel around for leaks. If you can create smoke to suck into the blower inlet, even better...

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Old 01-07-2020, 01:45 AM   #19
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

Quote:
Originally Posted by me.theuser View Post
You didn't show the area it'd be in in the video but looking closely I don't see the metal tube going to the header so yeah no air injection
Its hard to get a feel for the noise on your video but it seems like the belt side of the engine

does the noise get louder/faster when you rev the engine, I assume it does, how long before it warms up and stops?
do oil changes make a difference
how long has the noise been there
have you tried removing the belt
It gets faster when you rev the engine, however it seems loudest around 1200 RPM. It seems like it settles down in volume if you rev it higher and you don't hear it as loud when inside the car. However if you bring it up to 2500 and shift when it's still cold, you can hear it going pretty fast in the background. This is the part that makes the worry it's chain-related, it sounds almost like a noisy bike chain when you drive on it.
I'll get another vid with some throttle input next time.

It gets less noticeable when the temperature reaches 1/8 of the gauge, and it's gone completely when it's at operating temp (between 1/4 and 3/8 of the gauge).
Again, when I'm driving the car, I don't hear it very much so I'm not sure when it completely goes away.

Oil changes make no difference and I do them every 3k. Noise has been there for as long as I know (7+ months).
I have removed the belt and it does not affect the noise.
Car has copper NGK plugs and the correct 4123 firing order

At this point I wouldn't be surprised if it was an exhaust leak. My buddy who sold me the car also has an old Nova which sounded like it had a bent pushrod and it was a single exhaust leak all along.

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Old 01-07-2020, 09:11 AM   #20
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Default Re: Unknown engine noise when cold

It ain't no lifter or valve lash that's for sure.
And no amount of additive anywhere will resolve this one for sure....sounds though like a cold exhaust leak that some metal expands as it gets hotter.

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