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Lifter installation

I have 03 grand am 3.400 v6
I’m installing new hydraulic roller lifters & not sure if I need to soak the lifters in oil or anything , everybody keeps saying spin the pushrod for the lash which I understand but this isn’t a flat tappet lifter engine it’s a hydraulic lifter so when I install lifters I don’t have to do the twist pushrod method the rockers are torqued to a specific ft lb with a extra 90° Turn, I imagine for preload , so I should just be able to throw them in right? I shouldn’t have to rotate engine or any of that crap?

You always soak hydraulic lifters prior to installation.


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Agreed… soak the lifters its not an optional step.

They need to have an internal cushion of oil so they can “hydraulic” and they do most of the fill up during the soak.

Ok cool & so after that like I said I should just be able to throw them in & torque the rockers down right, I just keep reading they need to be bled a little bit before starting or you may bend valves idk

If you have a service manual for this engine, follow that.

If you’re looking for all this information over interweb, good luck!


Soaking the lifters won’t accomplish anything. While the lifters are submerged in oil you need to actuate the check valve in the top-center of the lifter with a small rod or drill bit several times to purge the air from the lifter.

Most people skip this process, the valves will quite down after 30 minutes.

Tester your comments are as helpful as tits on a boar why reply at all if you have no help to offer

I think Tester gave you good advice and it’s quite rude of you to make a comment like that. Tester has likely forgotten far more than you will ever know and yes my comment is also rude. Hate me? I don’t care. You are the one who deviated from being civil.

I’ve been through numerous service schools ( VW, Nissan, Subaru, and others) and they have always recommended hydraulic lifters being soaked. VW especially issued strong precautions about pre-installation soaking. Do what you want; it’s your engine.


@Tester is one of my top respected voices on this forum, sorry the answer you felt was offensive.

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The GM manual makes no mention of soaking lifters prior to installation, but as others have said above, it’s a good idea, unless you can do a full engine prelube before startup. The manual does mention coating the lifters with an engine assembly lube.

Do you know what that torque value is and how many degrees of turn it should be (not 90)? If not, that is why it is suggested to have a service manual when doing these types of repairs/installations.

It should be noted that the intake and exhaust pushrods are different lengths, with the exhaust being the longer ones. Pushrod tips should be prelubed (w/ assembly lube). The rocker friction surfaces should also be prelubed. GM recommends using new rocker arm bolts, though I don’t know how necessary that is. Also, shims may be required under the rocker arm pedestals if reconditioning has been performed on the cylinder head or its components. There’s no mention on how to determine when these shims are required or how thick they should be if needed.. The shim requirement and thickness depends on the valve spring/stem installed height (see note below), which depends on the valve and valve seat dimensions, which may change from stock if valve work is done.

I see conflicting info in the GM FSMs for rocker arm bolt initial torque. The manuals for models with the 3.4L engine give different values. A service manual update bulletin (dated 2002) for the 2003 Grand Am revised the value to 14 N·m (124 lb-in). Another manual for a different car model but same engine says 15 N-m (11 lb-ft). Not really a significant difference. The second pass is an additional 30 degrees.

Added Note: The rocker arm bolts strictly mount the rocker arm pivot to the head. The pivot is fixed. The bolts are not used to adjust lifter preload. Lifter preload depends on the valve installed height.

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Regardless how the clearance is adjusted a specific clearance is required and on hydraulic lifter push rod engines when there is enough clearance for the push rod to spin when running fully warmed up the clearance is good. On flat tappet engines the operation of the cam on the lifter will actually spin the push rod.

Warren , this is an open forum so relax . Besides , while regular participants know who is actually qualified to post valid mechanical advice ( Yes , Tester is one of them ) you really don’t know who is . How would you even know if I said to soak or not to soak was correct ? Spend the money for some kind of service manual and do this repair properly.

Yes, @VOLVO_V70. It seems there is a great deal of confusion among the various industry methods of setting the clearance. Select fit push rods, select fit shims, grind to tolerance and adjustable rocker studs all provide a way to set the clearance but there is no interchangeability of methods.

I too have an enormous amount of respect for Tester’s input.

While his replies are usually spot on, they frequently come across as abrupt and curt. It’s easy to see what motivated Warrensivrup_166044’s reply.

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Yea no disrespect guys calm down fellas just thought it was a comment better left unsaid I’ve worked on cars just like everyone else here & to assume I don’t know anything just cause I ask a question that so far doesn’t seem like anybody else seems to know either I know soaking lifters is almost a personal preference not worried about that question I’m more less talking about the consensus of what the process of installation (hydraulic roller lifters I should just be able to throw in right) as far a tester goes he’s gave me few good answers but the last was like I said useless to me maybe not you you guys but to me yes apologize if I offended anybody but maybe tester should work on text edicacy

A brief apology for my bristling up and then an FYI.
Did you know that some lifter kits come with a special packet of oil to use as a pre-soak for their lifters? Some cam manufacturers state that they do not consider it mandatory but “its’ a good idea to do so”.

Roller lifers generally use needle bearings with a few using bushings. Would you rather have those new lifters including those tiny bearings/bushing and the rest of the lifter already lubed before installation rather than having them running dry for a bit before engine oil makes it way to the lifter galley?

My first thought in your original post was why are you replacing a full set of lifters on a 17 year old Grand AM? If all or most of the set has failed and noisy that could point to an oil pressure problem and it can also damage the cam lobes, etc. Just wonderin’…

I took my 3.4 lifters apart to clean them. Virus and all. Timing chain has never been off so pistons/ valves are positioned ok. Crank motor with fuel pump fuse out and they will be oiled fine.

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You may or may not soak the lifters, that’s up to you, but I would strongly recommend that you at least coat the outside of the lifters and the cam lobes with either assembly lube or oil so you don’t have a dry start.

You do however have to rotate the crankshaft when you torque the rockers. Specifically, if you torque the lifters while they are up on a cam lobe, as soon as the cam rotates, the rocker will be loose.

The old way was to tighten all the rockers that were not on a lobe until you could no longer rotate the pushrod, then back off until you could just rotate the pushrod. This was the preset. You would rotate the engine to get the lifters that were on the cam lobes off. and then repeat for those. After all this, you then tightened them all down an additional turn and a half IIRC.

It appears the procedure has changed, but you still need to set the preload with the lifter not on a lobe. You can probably go to final torque right after the preload. Do all the ones not lobes, then when finished, rotate the crankshaft as needed to get to the rest.

There is no magic to this job, and no special procedures outlined in the factory service manual. Here are the steps given in the manual (somewhat edited):

Lifter Installation:

  1. Coat the valve lifter with assembly lube.

  2. Install the lifters. If using original lifters, install into their original positions.

  3. Install the valve lifter guide. Torque lifter guide bolts to 10 N·m (89 lb in).

Rocker Arm and Push Rod Replacement:

  1. Coat the ends of the push rods and rocker arm friction surfaces with assembly lube.

  2. Install the push rods in their original locations.

  3. Install the rocker arms and rocker arm bolts. Tighten bolts as discussed in my previous post (#10) above.

As mentioned before, there is nothing in the manual about soaking lifters, just coating them with prelube. Also, there is no mention of special procedures, such as rotating the crank/cam (as @keith mentions) to get the lifters off the cam lobes when torquing the rocker bolts, though that may not be a bad idea just to be sure that any valve spring pressure on the rocker doesn’t affect the bolt torque reading.

Note that these directions assume that nothing has been done to change part dimensions, such as milling the cylinder head (maximum .010" removed before head replacement is required) or block deck , or grinding valves or valve seats, which would change the valve installed height. Proper lifter preload depends on all those dimensions being within spec, otherwise rocker arm shimming, or part replacement, may be required.

Disclaimer: I have no first hand experience with these procedures on this particular engine. I’m just conveying the FSM procedures. Use the info at your own risk.

I should have mentioned that there are two basic types of rockers. I have adjusted them on the 2.8 L version of this engine. With that engine, the bolt that held the rocker down was also its bearing surface. There was nothing under the rocker but the stud. The rocker was suspended between pushrod and the valve and the spring inside the lifter provided the tension to hold the lifter in place when it was not up on a lobe. This was most common on Chevrolets.

The old Pontiacs had a bushing that went through the rocker and rested on a seat on the stud. This one was just torqued down. The torque was the bushing against the seat and this type was not adjustable. If the lifters started ticking, they had to be replaced, no adjustment.