Can you relate to this scenario? You’re cruising down the open road, your engine purring, and maybe you’re listening to music…All of a sudden while going about your day and enjoying the ride you start to notice a mysterious clicking noise. Do you turn the music up to drown out the noise? Or are you one of those people where once you hear something with your car that’s all you can focus on…
In the realm of automobiles, where every sound, every vibration, and every quirk usually hints towards an issue, the unexpected arrival of a clicking noise is no exception…
So why is your car making a clicking noise when you push the gas?
In most cases, your car will click when you push the gas as a result of low or dirty engine oil. With so many moving parts depending on the lubrication of the oil, when it’s low the upper engine starves for oil causing clicking from the valve train components. Other possible culprits include failing CV joints, or spark plugs that aren’t functioning optimally
This is an easy one to check to eliminate any other possibilities and get you closer to the bottom of what’s going on. Depending on certain factors like where, how, and the frequency of the clicking will guide you to the reason for this noise. Let’s dive in and uncover some of the possibilities and how to become a detective in this car-clicking case.
Reason 1: Low Or Dirty Engine Oil
Your engine is the heart that powers your car, and the engine oil is the blood flowing throughout it, keeping everything running smoothly. When that essential lubricant starts to run low or becomes dirty, your engine may begin to speak to you through a subtle yet persistent clicking noise when you hit the gas pedal. The noise will usually be proportional to the engine speed meaning it will click faster when your engine RPM increases.
This is the cause I see the most and you’re either looking at low oil or oil that’s too dirty.
Engine oil low
When your engine oil is low, it can’t perform its role as an effective lubricant. This lack of lubrication can lead to increased friction between components, and the result is often a distinct clicking sound usually from the top portion of your engine since it’s the highest area (like the lifters in the valve train).
Here is a video of what a lifter noise sounds like:
When engine oil becomes dirty it loses its ability to effectively lubricate and protect engine components. Contaminants and particulate matter suspended in the oil can lead to increased friction, wear, and make the flow of things more difficult. This is a good scenario to cause your engine’s ticking noise.
Reason 2: C/V Joint Or Axle Issue
A common issue is a bad CV joint (constant velocity joint). They are responsible for transmitting power from the transmission to the wheels. When these components encounter trouble, a clicking noise can be their way of telling you something is going on.
If a CV joint is worn or damaged
It may not rotate smoothly. As you press the gas pedal and the wheels start to turn, the joint’s failed internal structure can produce a noticeable clicking noise. This noise often becomes more noticeable when turning or accelerating, telling you there may be a potential CV joint issue.
The axle shaft part of the entire assembly can also be a source of trouble. A damaged or bent axle can lead to irregular wheel movement and, in turn, a clicking noise can develop.
A normal reason it might fail is the boots that hold the grease inside the CV joint become torn or punctured. The vehicle will throw the grease all around the area where it’s leaking. You can catch this during routine inspections before it becomes a bigger and more expensive concern.
Here is a video going into more detail on C/V axles and their noises:
Reason 3: Exhaust Issues
The exhaust on your car is on of the largest systems running from the front to the back of the car. Along the way, there are some things that can fail and be the cause of that clicking type of noise you are hearing…
Loose or bent heat shields
Heat shields are metal plates that protect the undercarriage and other components from the intense heat created by the exhaust system. If they become loose or bent, they can rattle and produce a clicking noise as you accelerate. Sometimes if you can locate the heatshield making the noise you can just simply bend it back to the normal position.
Exhaust Hangers Missing
Exhaust systems are held in place by hangers or brackets. If any of these hangers go missing or break, it can result in the exhaust components shifting and producing clicks during acceleration. A good way to check this is by hitting the exhaust with your fist while visually inspecting its movement.
Broken or loose exhaust parts
Loose or damaged exhaust components, such as a broken muffler baffle or cracked exhaust manifold can cause a clicking noise. Sometimes the catalytic converter can separate internally and cause broken parts to rattle around making a click noise.
Reason 4: Engine Timing Chain/Belt Issues
Engine timing is a critical aspect of your car’s operation. It’s the system that ensures various components, like valves and pistons, work together for optimal performance. When this synchronization is disrupted, a clicking noise during acceleration can be a telltale sign of engine timing issues.
Worn timing chain or tensioner
Over time the timing chain, which links the crankshaft to the camshaft, can wear down or stretch. A worn chain, sprocket, or faulty tensioner can disrupt the timing by “jumping a tooth” or even having the chain rattle against the engine. This may lead to a clicking noise when you accelerate.
Misaligned timing belt
In some engines, timing belts are used instead of chains. If these belts become misaligned, damaged, or stretched, it can result in irregular clicking sounds.
When you hear a clicking noise around the area of the timing chain or belt, it’s essential to address it promptly. Ignoring timing issues can lead to poor engine performance and, in severe cases, complete engine failure. A qualified technician should be the one to diagnose this because the work involved is in-depth.
Reason 5: Your Interior
While many mysterious automotive noises come from beneath the hood or under the chassis, some originate closer to where you sit. A clicking noise when you press the gas might not always be due to a mechanical issue – sometimes, it’s as simple as loose interior components.
This is another one of those things where you have to become in tune with the car to locate the noise. One time while trying to locate a noise for a customer I had to have another technician drive the car while I was moving around like a madman looking for this click noise. It ended up just being a flashlight that was moving back and forth in the glove box…
If the clicking noise seems to come from within your car’s interior, there’s often no need to panic. Check for loose trim pieces, ensure seat belts are properly secured, and make sure glove boxes and trunks are free from items that can shift during movement. Sometimes, the solution is as straightforward as securing your belongings. Finally, something that isn’t actually a threat to the car!
Reason 6: Faulty Strut
A faulty strut can be the source of that annoying clicking noise, but the solution may not be as bad as you think. Struts are a vital part of your car’s suspension system. They absorb shocks, provide stability, and contribute to smooth handling.
There are certain criteria you can understand to help figure out if the strut is actually what is causing this.
Driving over bumps
If you notice the clicking noise when driving over bumps, it may point to an issue with the upper mounting plate or bump stop. This plate connects the strut to the body of the car and when it fails – you might get a clicking noise. Inspect it for signs of wear and replace it if necessary to eliminate the noise.
When the clicking sound occurs while turning, it’s typically related to the upper bearing assembly. This component allows the strut to pivot during turns. Like most bearings when they fail they typically bind and create noises such as clicking. You might also hear this noise at a standstill. Inspect and replace this assembly if needed to restore a noise-free operation and maintain your car’s handling.
Reason 7: Wheel Or Tire Issues
Your car’s wheels and the road are fundamental to your ride. When this connection messes up, whether it’s due to issues with the wheels, tires, or sometimes overlooked elements like fender liners, it can generate an audible clicking noise.
While not the most common reason for a clicking noise is loose lugnuts. These nuts secure the wheel to the hub. If they’re not properly tightened, the wheel can move slightly and create a clicking sound when driving.
Worn or damaged wheel bearings can cause a clicking or grinding noise, especially when turning. The load on these bearings is constantly changing while moving your car along the road. These bearings allow the wheels to rotate smoothly. If they fail, it can lead to unwanted clicking sounds.
Objects in the Tire
Occasionally, small objects like rocks or debris can become lodged in the tire’s tread. As the tire rotates, these objects can produce a clicking noise as they hit the road. They are most noticeable when you driving next to a building or other cars parked.
Fender liners are covers that protect the wheel well from debris and road elements. If they come partially undone they can rub against the wheel when the car is in motion and cause a clicking noise. Usually, the fix is just putting fasteners back in that hold it to the car.
Reasons 8: Brake Issues
A car’s braking system consists of various components, including brake pads, rotors, calipers, and the hydraulic system. These work together to ensure reliable and controlled braking. However, there could be a connection between your clicking and this system…
Most modern cars have an anchor bracket-style caliper that uses stainless steel clips to load the pads in a certain direction. When they are loose they cause the brake pad to move around and vibrate causing a clicking noise.
A warped rotor can lead to clicking noises and vibrations when you brake. As the uneven rotor rotates it pushes the brake pads back against the caliper creating clicks. Rotor warping often occurs due to heat from heavy braking or moisture exposure, causing the metal to expand and contract unevenly.
Sometimes, foreign objects like rocks or debris can become trapped between the rotor and the dust shield or caliper, leading to clicking noises during wheel rotation.
Reason 9: Spark Plugs
Spark plugs are responsible for igniting the air-fuel mixture that keeps the pistons pumping. However, when these essential components are no longer at their best, they can introduce an unwelcome clicking noise into the engine.
Improper gap or wear
If a spark plug’s gap is not set correctly or if the plug is worn, it can result in an inconsistent spark, leading to a clicking type rhymic noise within the engine due to misfiring. This noise is sometimes more noticeable during acceleration.
Cracked or loose sparkplug
Although a loose sparkplug is less likely to happen to you, it is possible for a sparkplug to crack due to various reasons – typically from old age. When you have a loose spark plug it will allow exhaust gases to sneak past the sparkplug and may produce a sound similar to a clicking noise.
Can It Be Normal To Hear A Clicking Noise From Your Car?
Sometimes there’s no need to worry, as some occurrences in your car can produce clicking sounds:
Fuel injectors open and close rapidly to deliver fuel to the engine. The clicking sound is a result of this operation and is considered normal.
In some engines, you might hear a rhythmic clicking sound. This is often associated with the valve train’s operation and is a normal part of engine dynamics. Earlier we talked about how low oil can make noise from your valve train. The difference is much more noticeable as it is considerably louder when it’s low or dirty oil.
Depending on the road surface and your tires, you might hear clicking or humming sounds as the tires roll. This is part of the tire’s interaction with the road and is generally expected.
Should You Worry About A Clicking Noise Heard When You Press The Gas?
If you are hearing a clicking noise when you press the gas pedal, then it is likely that something is wrong with your car. You should most likely take your vehicle to a technician and have them check the issue as soon as possible. Depending on the cause of the noise, it could be something minor, more serious, or hopefully normal.
Sometimes it can feel as if your car speaks a different language, and every clicking noise it makes when you press the gas pedal is just a part of its vocabulary. While some clicks are simply the ordinary sounds of a well-functioning vehicle, others can signify underlying issues. In this article, we’ve explored some of the concerning reasons behind clicking sounds in your car.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of these messages and can make an appropriate decision on what to do. Recognizing when a clicking noise is just a part of the everyday background noise or a signal of potential problems is essential for maintaining a safe, efficient, and enjoyable driving experience. So, continue to listen to your car’s conversation and decode what it’s trying to tell you.
Kris’s journey in the automotive world began straight out of the Mercedes Benz training program at Universal Technical Institute in 2010. He has since worked for both Mercedes-Benz dealerships and independent shops as a technician. Along the way, he has honed his skills under the guidance of multiple master technicians and has earned ASE certifications.