Toyota Cold Engine Ping

dq1dq1 Member Posts: 44
edited March 2014 in Toyota
I've been working through Toyota Customer Assistance to figure out this ticking (possibly pinging?) noise coming from the engine of my '01 Celica when it is COLD. The dealer insists it isn't the valves and it has to do with the fuel. He has my using the next higher octane (89) for a few tanks to see if that helps the problem. After one tank, no change. But, of everything I've read, engine ping happens when an engine is hot, not when it's cold. Is that true? When the engine warms up, it sounds fine. Any suggestions or insights are appreciated.


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Yes, it doesn't sound like pinging. It sounds like either valves or the injectors clicking...of course, it could be any number of other things but usually on a cold engine one of those two is it.

    Pinging is hardly a "mystery noise". It's about as subtle as an elephant with a church bell around its neck---I am surprised that this sound wasn't either identified or dismissed right off by the dealer.

    Noisy injectors are easily diagnosed by a stethoscope; pinging by a test ride in which you load the engine (up a hill in a higher gear); and valve noise is rather obvious.

    So tell somebody at the dealership to put the doughnut down and come listen to your car.
  • dq1dq1 Member Posts: 44
    A couple more questions for you. The dealer insists it's not the valves and that "valve adjustments on these cars are unheard of!" That being said, can he tell by one test drive when the car is cold that it's not the valves? He insists he can and that the noise is absolutely not mechanical. (He must have better ears than a bat!)

    Are noisy valves or injectors when the car is cold anything to worry about. I only have 35k miles and was hoping to hold onto this car for at least 150k miles. A valve job costs about $800 since a system of shims is used :(

    Also, I noticed the sound was much worse about a month ago when morning temps here in Orlando were in the 30's. Now that it's a good 65 degrees in the morning, it's not so bad. Would a cold temperature change like that have any affect on the fuel grade being the cause? I'm worried that my engine is slowly being torn up when its cold.
  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Member Posts: 398
    This sounds very similar to what I am experiencing with my Maxima! In my case it sounds like a sawing machine, and the noise is in sync with the revolutions of the motor - rev it up and the frequency increases proportionally.

    Happens on very cold morning starts (if my car was not in the garage) and lasts for about five minutes. Best experienced under moderate acceleration - if you feather the gas pedal (i.e. very little load) there is no noise, or if you rev the engine up (above 4K RPM, say) - again no noise. Happens only under moderate acceleration, and is gone after the engine warms up.

    I have just over 30K miles on the car.

    Any ideas?

  • dq1dq1 Member Posts: 44
    You've exactly described my scenario... Sync'd with the revs, and now that I think about it, it is most noticeable under moderate acceleration. Mine only started doing it about 4k miles ago. Is your sound fairly new too?
  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Member Posts: 398
    Yes - the noise in my case started only 5-6K miles ago. I have had no noise during the previous two winters.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    You know, I don't have the reference material right here---but are these cars equipped with hydraulic lifters or mechanical (adjustable)?
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    the maintenance schedule includes valve clearance adjustment at periodic intervals.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Member Posts: 398
    I think it's unlikely that what we hear is valve clatter. Lifter noise is also unlikely, IMO, as lifter noise normally goes always within a few seconds of staring the car.

    I am wondering if it could be related to the timing chain somehow. Maybe the chain tensioner? Does the Celica use a timing chain? I know my Maxima does. Just a thought.
  • dq1dq1 Member Posts: 44
    Yes, my '01 Celica has a timing chain, and I think you're right that its probably not lifters or valves. Is their a tensioner on the chain?

    I had a very interesting observation over the last couple of days. This past Thurs. I had an oil change (same Castrol oil from the same dealer) and that seemed to help quiet the engine down. Not sure if this is relevent, but it seemed to make a bit of a difference.

    Nippon - I checked my maintenance manual and there is nothing about valve clearance adjustments at any of the service intervals. According to the service director, valve clearance adjustments on these cars are almost unheard of. I'm not sure if the Maxima calls out for the periodic adjustment or not.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Now that's not good diagnosis, if I may wave my little finger at you LOL!

    It could very well be valve noise. If the clearance is abnormally wide, it will not go away when the engine warms up. Also, some defect with the camshaft, camshaft oiling, etc., might cause this.

    Timing chains can make all kinds of weird noises, that's true.
  • dq1dq1 Member Posts: 44
    solve all problems Mr. Shiftright! I've seen dealer mechanics talk themselves into bad diagnosis plenty of times, lol.

    Anyway, does it give you any insight that I got a significant noise reduction with my oil change. I was running Quaker State (not my choice, but what another dealer put in) when this noise showed up. Now that another dealer is putting Castrol in, it doesn't sound as bad.

    Could it possibly be some sludge not letting the cold oil circulate properly until it warms up? I've heard QS oil can cause oil sludge relatively faster than other oils. I change oil every 3k to 4k miles religiously.
  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Member Posts: 398
    I doubt this is oil related. I change my oil regularly with Mobil 1. The oil change seems to make no difference in my case.

    I experience this problem very rarely lately, because, firstly, it is no longer so cold out; and secondly, I don't keep my car out overnight most of the time.

    Another interesting observation - I was on a long trip in very cold weather and after driving non-stop for 300+ miles I stopped for gas and got the same sawing machine noise when pulling out of the gas station!

    It seems like this is caused by some component that is far away from the combustion chambers, and got cooled down due to the long highway driving. But once you drive though traffic the engine heat gets distributed throughout the engine compartment and the noise is gone.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Hmmm...wish I could listen to it.

    I suppose if you changed to an oil that flowed better when cold, this might decrease noise. I recall one Saab I had was quieter at start up when I swithed to synthetic for instance. That was timing chain noise, easily heard because on that car (older Saab 900) the front of the engine faced the firewall.
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    If it is an ignition ping or spark knock, it might be EGR related. EGR reduces combustion temp to lower NOx emissions but doesn't operate until the engine's warmed up, to improve cold driveability.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Do you ever hear this noise at idle?
  • dq1dq1 Member Posts: 44
    this at idle. When the engine is cold and I run it up to over approx. 3,000 rpm's is when I start to hear it. I never rev it over 4,000 rpm's when it's cold. The higher the rpm's, the faster the rate of noise. It occurs on both acceleration and deceleration, but not at idle.
  • dq1dq1 Member Posts: 44
    Out of curiosity, when I got home this afternoon, I listened to my engine idle for a while. I can hear a ticking that is slower and is a different pitch than the injectors. As I gradually revved the engine up to 1k rpm's, the rate of the ticking increased.

    Unfortunately, when I put my ear up to the valve cover, the injectors are so loud, they drown everything else out. I actually have to be slightly away from the car (or in the cabin) to hear it. Now I'm back to thinking it needs a valve adjustment.

    Here's the million dollar question: How do I get the Service Director to acknowledge the ticking when he insists it can't be the valves or anything mechanical? He swears these cars never need valve adjustments. Also, if it is a ticking valve and the dealer won't fix it under warranty (I'm not paying the $800 they want for the adjustment), is this damaging the engine in any way?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    If they are adjustable lifters and the noise is pretty light, no I don't think it hurts anything but I don't want to distract you from further investigation of the real cause--just in case you are hearing the beginning of a problem.

    You may have to just give up and yet still insist that he mark on a repair order that you've complained about a ticking sound that matches engine rpm. That way you have something on record after the warranty expires.

    The dealer is certainly not going to tear down your engine looking for an unknown source of the noise.

    I would think he'd readily diagnose the noise as lifters since this would be profitable for his shop. Maybe he doesn't want to risk being wrong, I don't know.
  • dq1dq1 Member Posts: 44
    I had an interesting observation today that was odd that I thought I'd mention to you to see if you've heard of this before. At the start of this discussion, I mentioned the dealer had me try a higher grade of gas. I ran 2 tankfuls and didn't notice any difference. Last night, I went back to 87 octane (I was down to about 1 gallon left of 89). Then today after I had put probaby 40 miles on since the fill-up, the engine started sounding like a buzz saw when I would run it up to about 4k rpm's. If I went over 4.5k rpm's it disappeared. Could this have been due to the engine's computer adjusting to the lower grade of gas?

    At first I thought I had abruptly developed some new rattle in my dash, but it only did it in a small part of the rpm band and has since disappeared. Strangest thing.

    I'm becoming afraid to walk in front of my car for fear it will start itself up and try to run me down, lol.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    It's possible an engine could run smoother on higher octane, since higher octane really is all about a more even-burning type of fuel.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    the engine was always a little noisy - you could hear the valvetrain all the time - although nothing that sounded like pinging.

    However, when I was asking the dealer about routine maintenance for this car, they told me they recommended valve clearance adjustment at specified intervals, 60K.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • dq1dq1 Member Posts: 44
    I'm really bummed to hear your dealer recommends a valve clearance adjustment everyone 60k miles. Does your dealer charge $800 for the service? Maybe my dealer is just way out of the ballpark, but if I'd known the valves had a service interval of 60k miles and it cost this much, I never would have bougt a celica :(

    Sgrd0q, thanks for the link. I'll try some good injector cleaner and keep my fingers crossed.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaMember Posts: 12,555
    I never asked the price, because I figured by the time 60K was travelled, the price would have changed anyway.

    I figured the fact that it would require periodic maintenance meant it did NOT have hydraulic lifters. However, my old celica had mechanical valves too, with the 60K "recommended" adjustment interval, and I did them once at 120K. You can usually tell if they need adjustment by the sound.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Not really, although your idea does speak to logic.

    In fact, valves will burn when the valve clearance is too tight, so you wouldn't hear that.

    A light tapping is probably harmless. Quiet valves, if they are mechanical, could mean trouble. Odd but true.

    Beware the whisper quiet engine if you have mechanical lifters.
  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Member Posts: 398
    Mr_Shiftright HOST - What is you opinion on using an injector cleaner?

    The link that I posted earlier in this thread talks about the guy using a Slick-50 Fuel System Cleaner. Apparently he had a similar noise (under similar conditions) that we are experiencing, and in his case the noise disappeared. He seems to think that some component of the fuel system might have been dirty.

    I personally never trusted those "additives". But now I am curious...
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I've used them but not for injector "noise". I don't have much personal experience with treating injector noise with a cleaner. I did have good luck clearing up one balky injector using a very vicious professional cleaner.

    My impression is that noisy injectors are not "curable"---injectors have a service life and then you replace them if they start making too much of a racket. It's natural wear not really a defect per se.

    But I won't disagree that some injectors are noisier than others, from make to make.
  • jsleesijsleesi Member Posts: 33
    I have 99 Toyota Corolla CE had same noise when the car had about 35000 miles. I even took car to
    local dealer for the noise. They checked and they told me most all the engine do make valve chatter when oil is not present top of the engine valve.
    One of my friend who has Toyota told me he had same problem but after using Rislone treatment in oil the noise stoped. I also tried and about 500 miles the noise down about 50 % and now I have 12500 miles the noise is completely gone. Also I feel I have better compression and more horse power and engine runs more smooth.

    Thanks for all the good recommendations about the
    Toyota engine, It is a good discussion board.

  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Member Posts: 398
    jsleesi - 35000 to 12500 miles, this is a lot of driving in reverse! :)

    How long did your valve chatter last? With us the noise persists for up to ten minutes. (Which makes me think that we have a different problem.)
  • jsleesijsleesi Member Posts: 33
    Mr. Sgrd0q,

    My chatter lasted about 2 to 3 minutes, as I drive it goes away, as I have mention to you,
    I don't have any more.
    I feel the Rislone cleaned inside oil small oil passage to top of the valve.
    If you purchase the Rislone, all the instruction
    is on battle. I even called the Rislone tech support, they giave me good solid answers.

    Good luck to you,

  • 01ravioli01ravioli Member Posts: 2
    I am having the exact same problem with my 01 Rav4....only under load when cold....gone when warm....started this past winter....tried a little quieter at last oil change....not too bad right now using 93 octane gas...but I still hear it.....Rav4 also has timing chain....I am in Florida.....wonder if we're getting ripped off on the gas.....strange that we are seeing this problem in different engines and models of cars........
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    You might try switching the synthetic oil if you are getting a little valve noise when cold. I really don't think a little valve tapping when cold is anything to worry about as long as it goes away or diminishes when warm. Like I said, it's the valves you DON'T hear that you often have to worry about.

    Of course, if your camshaft is being hammered, this is something serious, but you'd hear a very sharp and constant noise in that case, a lot more than a soft light tapping.
  • sgrd0qsgrd0q Member Posts: 398
    The synthetic oil advice is good, but may not solve the problem. I've always used Mobil 1 synthetic, and I get the noise (2001 Maxima.)

    I agree with Mr Shiftright - as long as the noise disappears (it does in my case) once the engine has warmed up - this shouldn't really be much of a concern. Still puzzling though. I'll try an injector cleaner fuel additive next.
  • dq1dq1 Member Posts: 44
    I got my '01 Celica back from the dealership today with the Southeast Toyota Dealer having spent time trying to diagnose my problem. Toyota's bottom line is that this is pre-ignition spark knock. Cold engine temp is the major factor in determining how loud the noise is. Once the computer detects the problem, it compensates the timing to get rid of the problem. No one could answer the question "Why hasn't this occurred during the past two winters?" I think the service manager through me a bone by saying maybe the plugs needed to be changed. I pointed out that these are iridium plugs that his parts manager said should be good for 120k miles. Then he agreed to replace them under warranty.

    I can't believe these new plugs cost $17 each!!! This new technology is such an improvement, lol. I'll post again after a few days with an update on whether or not this helped.

    Also, totally off topic, I called Goodyear tire today to see how their prices compared to, and the manager agreed to give me Tire Rack's price plus shipping. Not bad, but just goes to show that tire shops can be negotiated with on price if your educated on their competitors.
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