You should always listen to the sounds that your car makes while you're driving it. Have you been hearing a noise coming from the engine as you drive? If so, there's a chance it could be something that needs to be checked immediately. Here, you'll learn a little about engine rod knock and valve ticks to help you diagnose what could be going on with your car's engine.
Valve ticks and rod knocks are both troublesome issues, but if the rods are knocking you're looking at a much more serious issue.
Valve ticks are a lighter-sounding, higher pitch than rod knocks. The valve ticks come from the top end of the engine, while the deeper sounding rod knocks come from the low end.
Mechanics sometimes use stethoscopes to listen to the engine to hear exactly where the sound is coming from. If you don't have a stethoscope, you can use a piece of PVC piping or the plastic pipe from your vacuum to listen to your engine. Just place the piping on the engine and hold your ear against it. Hold it towards the top of the engine and then to the lower end. Where did you hear the sounds from? Were they more of a tinging sound or a rapping sound?
Open the oil fill cap and have a listen. If the noise gets louder, the sound is valve ticks. Put the oil cap back on and pull the dip stick out. If the sound gets louder, the sound is rod knock. Please know that if you run your car with the dipstick out, your car may idle incorrectly and the check engine light could come on due to a vacuum leak being created. Once you put the dipstick back in the idle will adjust, but you will need to clear the code yourself.
Well, the good news is if the sounds are valve ticks, you may just need to add some oil. Unfortunately, if the sounds are rod knocks, the engine is on its last legs. Soon you'll be finding yourself looking for a new engine to replace the bad one.
If you're dealing with valve ticks, make sure to get your oil changed and keep it topped off. Running low oil causes all kinds of problems that are never a cheap fix. Talk with your local engine replacement and repair technician to learn more about what it will take to keep your car on the road for a few more years. Companies like First Class Engines can offer more information.