'96 Buick Skylark 3.1 V6, noisy lifters

A customer has this Buick that he claims started making all kinds of noise all at once last Thursday night. It sounds like many of not all of the lifters are low on oil pressure. The low pressure light is working (on prior to cranking, off imediately after it statrs) so it’s not low on pressure NOW. The lifters are ticking like crazy. It is my thinking that the lifters all get their oil through the camshaft bearings. Could it be that the camshaft bearing’s oil delivery holes may have been covered by the one or more bearings spining due to low oil or low oil pressure? The two rockers that I can “feel” with a screwdriver through the oil fill hole seem to have A LOT of play. The owner maintains that the engine has not run hot, nor has it run low on oil. He admits to having to add a quart of oil after the ticking started. Since the oil sticker shows that a change is a bit past due (which he admits to), and the oil is QUITE CLEAN, I think he has added more oil than he’s admitting to. I’d guess four quarts…

Do my theories sound plausible? Do you have other ideas as to why all the lifters sound like an explosion in a ping pong ball factory?

The lifters are supplied with oil from small oil galleys in the lifter bores. These galleys may be plugged with oil sludge/varnish. Try adding a half a can of SeaFoam Motor Treatment to the engine oil. If the galleys are plugged, the stoddard solvent in the SeaFoam might break up this sludge/varnish so the lifters are supplied with oil pressure. If doing this shows no improvement, then it’s time to install a mechanical oil gauge to check the oil pressure.


Good ol’ Seafoam. It’s one of those things that Click & Clack referr to as a miracle in a can, but it WORKS for many things. I’ll have him try half a can tomorrow.

Thanks Tester