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I have a 2002 Toyota Camry V6 (1MZ-FE) with about 129,000 miles on it. Recently, I noticed a ticking that seems to be loudest at the end of the front valve cover, on the opposite side of the timing belt. It's not terribly loud, but it's obvious with the hood up. It seems a lot quieter even slightly above idle, but it may just be being masked by other noise.

Is this something I should be worried about right away? What further steps should I take to track this down and fix it?

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In my experience, unexpected engine ticks/clicks are typically due to low oil level, therefore I recommend checking the oil immediately. If that was your problem, you will want to track down why your oil was so low to begin with: either your leaking, burning, or someone didn't quite fill it up enough at the last oil change.

Assuming your oil level is fine, however, then it sounds like you have a damaged lifter. I would recommend fixing this, as improper valve lash can lead to drastic performance issues, and eventually could cause a catastrophic failure. You could 'spot fix' the culprit, but honestly with one failing, I'd consider them all suspect. My personal path would be the rebuild the entire cylinder head (it is a 10 year old vehicle) but you could get away with just replacing all your lifters. If the head has solid lifters in it, however, then a replacement will require a rebuild either way, in order to set the lash appropriately.

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