Need Advice About Valve Train Ticking Noise

Ok fellow Cougar fanatics, I need some advice. I have a 67 XR7 with a rebuilt 351w. It has an Anderson Ford Motorsport ROLLER cam, Comp Cams Roller rockers & Comp Cams tie bar roller lifters. All of the parts in this motor are new and only have about 1000 miles on it.

The issue I’m having is this: as the motor warms up the lifters/rocker arms start clatterering/ticking really loud; loud enough that I can hear the clattering/ticking above the glass pack mufflers. And it’s not just one lifter/rocker arm, it’s all of them. With the valve adjustment I’ve started out with a 1/2 turn adjustment (after zero lash), then went to 3/4 turn, then to 1 one turn with no change.

I checked the pattern of the rocker arm on the valve and it looks like the pushrod is a hair too long. The rocker pattern is located about 3/4 the way across the other side of the valve tip (away from the lifter); which tells me the pushrod is too long. Would a pushrod that’s too long (or too short) cause this clattering/ticking noise that I can’t adjust out?

I was doing a search online trying to find the answer to my problem and I ran across a post on a forum where a guy was having the exact same problems as I am having with his newly rebuilt engine, only he had a flat tappet cam setup, where I have a roller cam setup. Long story short, after trying everything he could think of to figure out what the problem was, he ended up installing a different cam & lifters and the problem went away. So in his case, it sounds like the cam or the lifters were the problem (I’m suspecting lifters). Someone mentioned to him that a lot of parts are made in China now and the quality isn’t that good and he could have got a Chinese made cam & lifters (even though he bought them from Comp Cams, if I remember correctly) and the tolerances and machining isn’t as good as American made stuff. However, I have no idea if this is true or not, but I wouldn’t doubt it (regarding stuff being made in China).

If I had to take an educated guess, I would think the issue would have been the lifters, not the cam. Is that the correct train of thought? If so, would the fact that he has a flat tappet cam/lifter setup have any bearing on this issue as compared to a roller setup? I suppose lifters are lifters regardless of flat tappet or roller, but the train of thought here is if the problem was the cam (and not the lifters), would a roller cam have this problem like this guy’s flat tappet cam setup was having? (Hope that made sense).

I feel like I’m grasping for straws here, but the clattering/ticking noise is driving me crazy and I want to fix the problem. The problem is definitely in the valve train somewhere, but I don’t know exactly what is causing the problem. My only guess is lifters or wrong pushrod length.

And come to think about it, I have the exact same style lifters in the 460 in my truck (roller cam setup with Comp Cams tie bar roller lifters) and it has the same ticking problem, only not near as bad; not even close. But I can’t adjust the noise out of it in this motor either…Any suggestions??? Thanks for the advice…

Pull the lifters and send them back.

Ticking occurs sometimes with large profile cams, and sometimes it will just not go away? However, a few things to check. Too long a Pushrod WILL create abnormal noise do to the valve not being pushed squarely down. If the Pushrod is too long/short, it will push valves to the side a bit. This will create noise, and abnormal wear. You NEED the correct length rods. Since too long a rod will cause the valve to push to the side, it could also make the valve have contact with the piston (depending on the piston manufacturer and style.). So, correct rod length is crucial.

A few suggestions that may help with noise after you get rod length corrected, and will help with longevity of the engine. Use either Comp Cams, or ARP rocker studs. I have seen and heard of nearly every other brand studs backing out while driving. Don’t skimp on pushrods either, it may seam like a good idea and money saver to buy the $40 set of hardened pushrods, but over 5000 rpm they tend to flex, this will create noise also. Use the Comp Cams, or Crower top end rods. Guide plates may not be necessary, but are always a good idea. I always use Comp Cams “high tech poly locks.” You get much better precision with these and again, they won’t back off while driving.

Of course you also want to make sure you’re getting enough oil up top.

As far as Chinese made stuff. All Com Camp valve train components are made right here in the good oL’ US of A. Same with Crower, and ARP. Edelbrock lists their products made in the US but some of their stuff is cast overseas…

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Tweeder, thanks for the excellent advice and the excellent description of what a pushrod that’s too long will do to the valve. The first thing I’m going to do is get the correct length pushrod and hope it solves the problem. And as far as quality of pushrods, I agree with you with not buying the cheap ones. I’ve always been a believer in buying quality parts even if it costs more up front. I won’t cheap out on the pushrods.

I do have rocker studs, but don’t know what brand they are. They were already in the heads when I bought them from my friend. Speaking of the heads, here’s the specs on them. They are stock 1969 351w iron heads that have been considerably worked over: 1.94 intake, 1.60 exhaust valves; ported/enlarged exhaust ports, heads shaved .030"; rocker studs; and pushrod guide plates are being used. My friend had these heads on his 302 that he drag raced for many years in his 68 Mustang. He ran in the mid 11’s with this setup, so I know the heads make some good power being an iron head.

Here’s the cam I’m using:

Here’s the valve springs I’m using with the cam:

Here’s the style of lifters I’m using. I can’t find my receipt so I don’t remember exactly which ones I’m using, but it’s one of these:

I would attach a picture of the valve tip showing the rocker pattern, but I can’t figure out how to attach a picture on here. But the rocker pattern starts from the center of the valve and moves to the outside of the valve, about 3/4 of the way across the valve, which indicates to me the pushrod is too long.

The position of the rocker on top of the valve stem is controlled by the height and length of the rocker. When the pattern on the valve is toward the exhaust side then the rocker is too low or too short. In your case it sounds like it is too low, which means that the push rod is too short, and you have adjusted the rocker down to compensate.

I will read up a bit on the lifters you are using and see if there is more to be learned there. Was this a non roller block to start with?

What ever the cause of the noise is, I doubt that there are 16 defective lifters. One or two? maybe. There is a common problem or common charachtoristic between them.

Definitely, if you have a push rod length issue, get that corrected first. Problems there will cause accelorated wear or breakage. The rocker tip should be centered on the valve stem when the cam is at midlift.

A couple years ago I put together a 445 FE for a friend in a '66 Comet. We used a Comp roller cam and it had the same lifters with the links. There was a mild tick going on that wasn’t completely consistant with any particular rocker movement. It sounded like it was happening on multiple rocker movements at the same time. I attempted to make adjustments to the rockers with no change in sound. Talking with some other guys it sounded like the links between the lifters were causing the noise. But, keep in mind, this was a mild and sporadic ticking noise. I’m not sure how it compares to your noise.

Okay, you need to have a small base circle cam to avoid having the lifters come up high enough to expose the oil holes. It looks like this cam may be for the later model factory roller block. I would call the cam guys and tell them what you are running into.

Assuming your block was machined properly, then your combo is fine, the cam is on the larger size with .544/.568 lifts, but more than fixable. Your lifters are correct, and so are your springs. Can’t imagine anyone running 11’s with iron heads would use anything other than ARP studs, so most likely not the issue. So, goes to push rod length. If your roller pattern on the valve stem is toward the side of the engine (toward the header) then your rods are too long. If the pattern is toward the center of the engine (intake side) then the rods are too short.

If you don’t have one already, get a push rod length testing tool. Adjustable length Pushrod so you can find proper length, then measure it for proper length. I just did this same thing this afternoon. Lol. Getting my Pushrod lengths… Very easy but time consuming…

I did think of something else also. Full roller valve trains do require more oil than a flat tappet setup, are you running a high volume oil pump? Or is it a factory replacement?

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Tweeder did you notice that the cam he is running is for an OEM roller cam block and not a '69 flat tappet block? Unless he runs a smaller base circle, the lifter will rise high enough to expose the oil galley. He is losing oil pressure and the lifters are collapsing.

Yeah, but if the block was machined correctly for the cam it wouldn’t matter. I know what you’re saying about the lifter raising into the valley too far and exposing the top of the oil passage on the lifter, however the linked lifters like he has are the solution to that problem. The cam itself doesn’t really matter unless he wanted to use standard early type roller lifters? With the linked retrofit lifters like he linked to, the lifter itself is designed with a smaller and lower oil passage to compensate for the problem you’re referring to.

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The link bar keeps them from turning, but doesn’t do anything to keep them from lifting too high. That is why Comp Cams (among others) sells reduced base circle cams for this application. It looks like he has a bunch of parts that came off a late model 5.0 that was most likely an OEM roller block. I am thinking that he has put this on his early 351 and that is where the problems arise. The cam he is using is not recommended for early 302 or even 5.0 applications. There are a few lifters that are machined differently to move the oil passage lower, but in most cases they are the same and for retro fitting you use the reduced base circle. What kind of machining can extend the lifter bores higher?

From Comp Cams retrofit kit:

Ford Hydraulic Roller Retro-Fit Kit
This Ford Hydraulic Roller Retro-Fit Kit contains the pieces required to install
our complete line of hydraulic roller cams in 302, 351W, 351C and 351M-400
Ford engines that did not come with an OEM hydraulic roller cam. This kit
ships complete with detailed instructions and all necessary hardware.
• Works on all Small Block Ford engines originally equipped
with a flat tappet or roller cam
• When using this kit in a non-roller block, a small base circle
retro-fit cam must be used to ensure the lifters will not expose
oil hole or band out of the lifter bores

• Kit must be used with Part #851-16 and Part #877-16 lifters

Crane, Crower, Lunati, etc all sell retro-fit roller lifters for non roller blocks that work with standard base circle cams… I guess it is possible he has the wrong lifters installed? But if he called or talked to any cam company, or engine builder, before ordering I find this option highly unlikely. Also, oil pressure gauge and light would both show near zero oil pressure if the lifters were bleeding oil in this manner…

The links to the lifters he posted from summit, are all retro-fit lifters for non roller blocks…

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Yeah, that’s it… I don’t think he ordered this. It sounds like this was all on a newer 5.0 (OEM roller motor) that ran in the 11’s. You wouldn’t need to order the retro fit lifters for that. The odd thing is that it only does it when it warms up, and that sounds oil related. I wonder what the difference in base circle is for the cam he is using and the smaller base circle that you run with the Regular roller lifters.

You guys have me curious regarding the cam I’m using and if it’s a small base circle cam or not. I e-mailed Anderson Ford Motorsport just now and told them what the issue was and what parts I have and I’m hoping they can tell me if the cam and lifters I have will or will not work with my 1969 block. I’ll let you know what they say; however, being that tomorrow is Sunday, I don’t expect to hear from them until Monday at the earliest.

The oil pressure is good, but I honestly don’t remember if it’s a stock volume oil pump or a high volume pump. But like I said, the oil pressure is fine.

I appreciate all of your input.

If your oil pressure is good, and remains constant, then you’re not bleeding oil pressure anywhere. However, if the oil pump isn’t moving enough volume, that could have an effect. If you have your intake off the engine, turn the engine over with the lifters, pushrods, and rockers installed and set. Look to see if the bar on the lifters are hitting the block at the lifter openings?? some of those style lifters can make contact with the block.

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Tweeder, I’ll definitely look into that. But at this point, I haven’t opened the engine up yet. I’m wanting to figure out which direction to go before I tear the engine open. Some guys mentioned that they think I might have the wrong base circle cam to use with the link bar lifters I have and that the lifter is being pushed up too far when the valve is open and the oil hole in the lifter is not staying in the oil valley at this point. So I e-mailed Anderson Ford Motorsport to confirm whether the cam I have will work with my 69 block with the lifters I have. I’m waiting to hear from them, but since it’s Sunday I don’t expect to hear from them until Monday at the earliest.

I’m having a feeling that I’m going to have to do a cam swap so I can use my link bar lifters or go with the shorter factory style lifters, which means I’ll have to drill and tap holes in the oil valley to screw down the factory style spider & dog bone setup. Swapping the cam and keeping the lifters I have is a much easier rout and I’m leaning towards that. The link bar lifers I’m using cost more than the roller cam did and I’d hate to not use them. Plus a cam swap means I don’t have to pull the intake, etc…I know what you’re thinking…I’ll have to pull the intake to remove the lifters before I pull the cam. Not true my friend. Anderson Ford Motorsport sells a threaded magnetic tool that you put in place of the pushrod and it holds the lifters up off the cam when you adjust the nut on the threaded rod (it’s a threaded rod with a wing nut and a magnet on the end; there are 16 of them). I bought this tool years ago when i bought the cam in case I had to remove a cam someday and didn’t want to take the intake off to accomplish it. Looks like I might be getting my first opportunity to use this tool. But before I do anything, I want to confirm my cam and lifter combo with AFM. If they say I have the wrong base circle cam for my block, then I think we have figured out the problem and will probably swap cams.

Yeah, I don’t think this is your problem. If that were, you would be bleeding oil pressure. Which you’re not…

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It would sure help to know which lifters you had.

A little history. Flat tappets are designed to rotate in order to wear evenly. Obviously roller lifters can’t be allowed to rotate. When Ford went to roller lifters they used the spyder with the dog bone positioners to keep the lifters from rotating. The lifter bores cast into the block were also taller since the lower part of the lifter had to carry the roller assembly. The cam base circle was the same as earlier flat tappet designs.

If you wanted to retro fit the “new” roller lifters into an older flat tappet style block, you had to do something to get the roller lifter to sit a little lower in the bore. The solution was to use a cam with a smaller base circle. The smaller base circle means the lifter will sit slightly lower in the bore and not get pushed too far up, crashing into the retainer and possibly revealing the oil inlet hole in the side of the lifter. Note that when the lifter rises in the bore, it blocks the oil hole in the block. This limits the amount of oil that can be lost to just what is inside the lifter.

Here is an excellent article that describes the whole subject:

Excellent explanation and excellent article. Thank you for your advice and for providing that article.

Here’s something that might help determine the problem. Someone asked me if the ticking noise is worse after getting on it or revving the engine to high rpm’s. I didn’t recall the answer to that off the top of my head at the time, but I just took the car for a short drive, but did NOT get on it or rev the engine above 2500 rpm (I was driving through town and didn’t have a chance to get on it or even bring it up to highway speed). The ticking noise was barely detectable at idle, but was still there a little bit. However, I do know for a fact that after I get on it or just drive it at highway speeds (cruises at 3000 rpm at 60) and the engine completely warmed up and oil has thinned out, the ticking noise is extremely loud. Does this info help determine if I have the wrong cam/lifter combo based on the cam’s base circle size issue? Just grasping at straws here, but it might help narrow things down…

I explained the differance a couple months ago in a post over on, in the last post is a picture comparing the lifters and you can see the differance. I think Bill has you on the right path. Also, check for clearance with your rocker arms to the rocker arm stud. Sometimes with a higher lift cam the pocket in the rocker arm fulcrum isn’t large enough and the rocker arm hits the stud on full lift.