How Long Can You Drive With Bad Lifters & How Much Does It Cost?

One of the costly experiences I have had when dealing with engines for vehicles and other machines is the replacement of lifters. It is always a sign of ticking dollars I am about to spend. Purchasing new lifters in the market is not a great challenge; it is relatively cheap. The most challenging part is the cost of repairing.

The cost of a single lifter ranges between $5 to $30; this will depend on the engine, which is not that expensive; however, the main job will be to get to where those lifters are in the engine.

Let us simply calculate the cost you will incur in replacing the lifters. The number of lifters in an engine range from 8-24, depending on the type of vehicle. This will make the purchasing cost range between $40 – $ 1,000. The labor will then cost between $300 – $700.

How Do I Know If My Hydraulic Lifter Is Bad? (Bad Hydraulic Lifters Symptoms)

Given that you cannot see the hydraulic lifters, for they are not exposed to contaminants such as dust and water, it does not mean that they cannot break. However, they tend to have some problems after using them for some time.

All bad hydraulic lifters I have come across have one symptom in common, the engine is noisy, and a warning sign of “check engine” will appear on the dashboard.

Let me take you through some common symptoms you will experience and observe in all engines with bad lifters.

1.     Engine Noise

The first and the easiest sign that makes me suspect that a vehicle has bad hydraulic lifters is the tickling of the lifters. The noise of the metals after igniting the engine is very clear as they rub against each other.

Driver starting the car engine.

This noise becomes even louder as the vehicle increases the RPM, as the oscillations increase, creating unnecessary excessive noise. This noise clearly indicates that you need other hydraulic lifters.

2.     Misfiring of the engine

There is a connection between the pushrods and the rocker arms in the engine, though not in all vehicles. The main function of the rocker’s arms is to control the inhalation and exhalation of the engine. Due to the connections with the rocker’s arms in an engine with broken lifts, the valves will not open and close as required.

This means that there will be interference in the engine’s air circulation affecting the combustion rate, which causes misfiring. Misfiring means that there will be a change in the sound produced by the engine. At the same time, low combustion affects the performance of the vehicle.

Misfiring should clearly message the vehicle owner that lifters need to be repaired. If not, the consequences will be more damage and more broken lifters.

3.     Dead Cylinders and Broken Pushrods

Most of the vehicles I have come across are overhead valve engines, meaning that the pushrods are connected to the camshaft and the intake and exhaust valves. That is the reason why the lifters are bad, they can break the cylinder.

The main work of the lift cylinder in the engine is to push the push rods in the same direction. When the lift cylinder is not working, which means that it is dead, either the inhale or the exhaust will not work, significantly reducing the engine’s performance due to low combustion.

If you are experiencing this, you should consider replacing the lifts as fast as possible because it is only a matter of time before the whole engine gets damaged. Replacing the entire engine means that you will be incurring more costs. So, it is ideal to replace the hydraulic lifters as soon as you note the problem.

4.     Check the warning on the dashboard

Before I had significant knowledge of vehicle engines, I relied on the check light on the dashboard. In almost every part of the engine, from the intake to the exhaust, some sensors have the intelligence to analyze the chemical composition of the exhaust.

Everything in the vehicle’s engine is designed to work perfectly, so the sensors can pick it up if there is any malfunction. As a result, there can be a lot of warning lights on the dashboard, but one that I am sure must appear is the engine check light when the hydraulic lifts are not working properly.

What is the Function of a Hydraulic Lifter

The main function of the hydraulic lifters in the engine is to transmit the force from the camshaft lobe to the valves. The play between the camshaft and the valve makes the valves remain closed, for there are chances that the valves will open because metals tend to move when they are warm. And here is where the hydraulic lift comes in to control this play of the valves.

One of the reasons I prefer hydraulic lifters and not mechanical filters is that they are directly against camshaft lobes. Unlike mechanical, commonly known as traditional lifters, when they heat, they leave some space for expansion. However, recently, traditional lifters are making some improvements, in that they are lower in cost.

I cannot say that I prefer mechanical lifts to hydraulic ones since they also require maintenance and repair. Still, when you replace the mechanical lifters with hydraulic you will notice a significant performance change, which is why many vehicles prefer hydraulic ones.

Where are Hydraulic Lifters Located?

In all the engines I have come across, no matter the size of the engine, the hydraulic lifters are always located between the valves and the camshaft. This is a reasonable position given their function in the engine of transmitting the force between the camshaft and the valves.

However, the only difference that you may notice in some cars is the push rods and the rocker arms between the two.

Even though it is obvious that the hydraulic lifter will be located between the valves and the camshaft, it is very tricky to know their location in different types of vehicles, in some engines, it will be located at the top, while in others, it will be at the bottom.

In all the engines in this world, where you see the camshaft there will also be the hydraulic lift, and if it is not there, you will find the mechanical lift. There is no way in this world the camshaft can press the pushrods and the valves directly.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace The Hydraulic Lifters

When I visited my mechanic for the first time, my vehicle had broken hydraulic lifters. I never thought it was a serious issue when he told me we would replace the lifters. Purchasing the new lifers did not strike as hard as the labor cost

I cannot be able to tell you that it will cost you this much to replace your lifters. The prices differ with the type of engine and the number of lifters that require replacement. However, the least you can pay for hydraulic lifters replacement is $100, which can go as far as $ 11,000 for large engines such as truck engines.

For a single lift, according to the number of times I have replaced it, it ranges between $5 for the least and $30; this will depend on where you are buying it.

In real-life situations that I have come across, it is rare to find that the engines only need one lifter replacement. Most of them work in duos, and the malfunctioning of one can cause the breaking down of the others, especially when it has taken a long time for the replacement to be done.

When it comes to labor, it also depends; it has never taken me less than 3 hours, no matter how small the engine is. The labor cost will depend more on the engine’s complexity and where the hydraulic lifts are located.

When removing the lifters, the following steps are followed:

  • I begin by removing the ancillary service components, such as the intake ducting, disconnecting the tubes, and the sensors.
  • Then I remove the manifold by unbolting all the lines and the sensors.
  • Remove the fuel system by unbolting the fuel rails and pulling out the injectors.
  • Lower the intake to lift out the manifold.
  • Removing the valve covers, which involves removing ignition coils. This step is more complicated with the new engines.
  • I get to removing old filters, installing new ones, and then gauging them.
  • Return everything to normal as it was before.
  • Start the engine and observe how it is working.


It is important to replace the filters as soon as you notice a change in your engine’s performance. One of the key warnings is excessive noise from the engine and the check engine light on the dashboard.

To reduce the damages, take action to replace the lifters to keep your engine clean and efficient. Broken lifters mean no complete combustion of fuel, which means reduced performance and possible breakdown of the whole engine.

With this, we hope that you have learned more when it comes to the hydraulic lifters of your vehicle.

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About Matthew Webb

Hi, I am Matthew! I am a dedicated car nerd! During the day, I am a journalist, at night I enjoy working on my 2 project cars. I have been a car nerd all my life, and am excited to share my knowledge with you!

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