Q. When I first start my car in the morning, I hear a ticking noise coming from the engine. It's a 2003 Ford Escape Limited with a V-6 engine and 70,000 miles. It goes away after 30 seconds or less and doesn't do it upon subsequent warm startups, like after a visit to the grocery store. I've changed oil on a routine basis, but just to be sure I didn't get inferior oil or the wrong weight put in on the last oil change, I had it changed again at the Ford dealer using their super blend oil. That didn't help -- it still does the "ticking" noise on cold starts.
Is this something serious to worry about? I've heard differing opinions. What could be the problem and how can I get it properly diagnosed?
A. Good question, John! It really depends on how severe the noise is and how long it lasts. It sounds, from your description, like you have a lifter or two that is bleeding down when the car sits overnight. When you start it cold it takes a few seconds for the oil to build pressure and pump the lifter back up and that is when the noise goes away.
If that is all it is I don't think you need to worry, the vehicle will perform fine indefinitely like that. If you want to try something to improve the situation, you could put a can of Valvoline oil additive in the oil; sometimes that will cure a lazy lifter. If nothing else it will improve the oil flow when cold.