This Outback is ticking during its first 15 minutes of driving.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 2000

Dear Tom and Ray:

I own a '97 Subaru Outback wagon with 60,000 miles on it. When I start it up in the morning, even if the weather is on the warm side, the engine makes a loud ticking noise for about 15 minutes of driving. What can be done about this noisy problem? -- Peter

TOM: Ticking, huh? Well, if you've eliminated the ex-wife/pyrotechnic device possibility, then I'd say you have bad lifters, Peter.

RAY: We see this problem on lots of cars -- Subarus, Volkswagens, Chryslers and Mazdas, to name a few. My guess is that your hydraulic lifters aren't holding their oil pressure overnight. During the night, the oil drains down out of them and is replaced by air. Then, when you start the car the next morning, it takes a long time for them to purge themselves of that air and get refilled with oil.

TOM: And it's not good for your engine, especially if it's clacking for fifteen minutes every day. When you have extra lash in the valve train like that, you're also whacking the cam lobes and valve stems, and all of that banging eventually is going to turn your engine to junk.

RAY: So I'd definitely go back to your Subaru dealer and complain. The first thing they should do is check for a weak oil pump, which can also cause or exacerbate this problem. But assuming the pump is OK, maybe they have a newer design for the lifters that doesn't drain down as readily. Or, at the very least, maybe they'll install some lifters that don't have 60,000 miles on them.

TOM: In either case, you want to fix this. If you were hearing the noise for a minute or less, I'd probably say don't worry about it. But 15 minutes is way too long.

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