Has your Jeep recently developed a weird clicking noise? Does the clicking become louder as the engine reaches operating temperature? Does the sound resemble a clicking pen or a ticking noise? Is the sound in sync with engine RPM or wheel speed? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, your solution could be right here in this article, so stick around.
The Jeep Wrangler emits a clicking/ticking sound that could be caused by any of the below components being faulty:
- Worn Hydraulic Lifters
- Exhaust Manifold Gasket Leak
- Bad Purge Solenoid Valve
- Dry U-Joint
- Dry CV Joint
- Low Oil level
- Faulty Oil Pump Drive Assembly
When we troubleshoot the clicking noise, there are a few important behavioral factors we need to pay close attention to. For example, if the clicking only occurs under acceleration, we know its drivetrain related.
Alternatively, if the ticking sounds louder as the engine reaches operating temperature, it is more closely related to lubrication. If the clicking is loud at cold operating temperatures but dissipates slightly as the engine warms up, it isolates exhaust and drivetrain components and could be more related to the engine’s head/top.
So it’s important to pay close attention and determine when exactly the problem occurs, and when it’s most noticeable since that will narrow down your search to one or two possibilities.
Let’s now look more closely at the symptoms and possible causes
Jeep Wrangler Clicking Noise While Driving – POSSIBLE CAUSES
- Sounds like a pen taping or clicking
- Most audible at slower speeds
- Most obvious when driving next to a wall or tunnel
- Clicking/Ticking in sync with engine RPM
- Clicking/Ticking in sync with wheel rotation
- Higher speeds dissipates the noise somewhat
Next, let’s determine if the clicking noise can be the result of bad lifters
Worn Hydraulic Lifters
It’s a well-known fact that the 4.0 Wranglers are synonymous with ticking and clicking lifters. A lifter ticking and an injector rattle are two separate conditions and should not be confused.
I’ve personally experienced rattling injectors, and man is it annoying. Some days they are super quiet and you just wish they can remain that silent, and other days they drive you crazy, no matter how loud you put the radio, you can’t help but listen to them clicking and rattling away.
With Wranglers, the lifter-tick syndrome is a common occurrence and many owners choose ignore the noise and just live with it.
A ticking lifter is something different though. It is caused when a gap develops between the pushrod/camshaft to the point where they fail to make continuous contact with the lifters. In the case of hydraulic lifters, they become worn out with old age.
With Wranglers, the lifter-tick syndrome is a common occurrence and many owners choose to ignore the noise and just live with it. The only way to eliminate it in the case with the Hydraulic lifters is to rebuild the cylinder head with new lifters. Expensive!
If you can learn to ignore the clicking, rather leave it since it won’t harm your engine and is nothing to be overly concerned about.
If you simply cannot tolerate the noise, you could try your hand at oil additives. I am skeptical, however, I guess there’s nothing to lose by trying. In many cases, it won’t completely eliminate the clicking but will make your engine considerably quieter, which is always a plus I guess.
Exhaust Manifold Blow
Your exhaust manifold can be another possible cause for the constant clicking/ticking noises. The noise is most audible on cold startup. The clicking noise resembles that of a musician’s metronome and is in sync with the engine RPM.
The cause of an exhaust manifold tick is when the manifold bolts work themselves loose or break off completely. This results in exhaust gasses escaping around that area, resulting in a clicking/ticking noise.
One way to identify where the leak is coming from is to use a soapy water combination and spray it around the entire manifold. Bubbles forming will be a dead giveaway where the leak is. Inspect all bolts first for obvious signs. You are looking for broken-off bolts or missing bolts/nuts.
If you pop your hood and locate the purge valve. All TJ models are equipped with a duty cycle EVAP canister purge solenoid. The solenoid regulates the rate of vapor flow from the EVAP (EVAPORATION CONTROL SYSTEM) canister to the intake manifold. The solenoid attaches to a bracket located in the engine compartment near the EVAP canister. The top of the solenoid has the word UP or TOP on it.
The solenoid will not operate properly unless it is installed correctly. The ticking noise is normal and you can actually feel it clicking/ticking if you place your hand on the solenoid. The clicking solenoid shouldn’t be heard from inside the cabin. If the valve is audible from inside then you will need to replace the valve.
Replace the Purge valve to rectify the problem
The Wranglers have 4x U-joints. One on each end of the front axle and one located on the front driveshaft. The 4th one is located on the rear driveshaft where it connects to the rear diff. A worn U-joint will emit an audible clicking noise as it rotates. U-joints wear out quickly and are caused by a lack of lubrication. It’s not advisable to drive your vehicle as the U-joint may break, causing possible damage to the brake lines, transmission line, or drive shaft.
There are tiny pin-shaped bearings inside the short cross-shaped joint. If these lose lubrication and dry out, you might be able to hear a distinct clicking noise with each rotating of the drive shaft.
Thoroughly inspect the u-joint where the stub shaft meets the inner axle for excessive play. The clicking could be a result of a dry U-joint or a missing C-clip. Inspect the U-joint cap that it hasn’t shifted which will cause it to make contact with the C as the driveshaft rotates. When replacing the U-joint, ensure you have all the needle bearing nicely lined up before you fit the cap, else it won’t fit snug and straight.
If you have a worn-out, or dry wheel bearing hub, you can usually hear an audible snapping, clicking or popping noise. Usually as a result of excessive bearing endplay.
Open and inspect, lubricate or replace
I can’t count how many times this has happened to me when I leave the dirt road and suddenly hear a clicking sound. It is in sync with wheel rotation. If you are running an AT (All-Terrain) or MD (Mud Terrain) tire with an aggressive tread pattern you are more susceptible to this. The rubber lugs are spaced further apart than an HT (Highway Terrain) tire, causing small stones and debris to easily get trapped.
The clicking sound is made by the stone as it makes contact with the pavement or tarmac. By the time you realize it’s only a stone, they’re usually filed flat due to the friction against the road surface. A nail in your tire can result in the same noise.
Inspect all tires and dislodge any tiny pebbles and stones trapped between the rubber lugs. Nails will require a patch or a puncture repair at the tire shop.
Oil Pump Drive Assembly
If your engine is running low on oil or not getting enough oil pressure, you need to address this issue immediately. It’s the worst-case scenario and will result in catastrophic engine failure if left unattended. Low oil levels will become audible immediately on the head and top level of the engine simply because it’s the highest point to pump sufficient oil and keep lubricated.
Check oil levels. Top-up if necessary. Avoid driving the vehicle until the problem has been resolved.
Another very common cause of clicks and ticking when driving is your CVs. it’s a very common occurrence on IFS vehicles where a raised suspension aggravates the CV joint angle resulting in the CV joint losing its flexibility and causing the joint to “climb over itself” when doing extreme off-roading, especially when there are tire lifts.
When altering a truck’s suspension to make it higher, the vehicle’s frame and body is moved up and away from the differentials. This places enormous amounts of pressure on the CV and damages it just enough to start clicking and ticking before it eventually breaks completely.
On a Jeep that has an SFA (Solid Front Axle), it’s not much of a problem for the CV Ball when the vehicle is lifted. However, a dry CV will result in premature wear and nasty vibrations
It’s hard to immediately identify which of the above components are responsible for the ticking sound. Your best bet is to systematically work your way through each of the above-mentioned parts to determine which one is the culprit. The most common causes on Wranglers are bad lifters/rockers, low or thin oil, and exhaust manifold leaks, however, it can be something as simple as a stone jammed in your tire.