I have a Vauxhall Corsa "C" (2003)(EU) which is a standard 16v 1.2 petrol, the engine is chain driven and sits at 50k. I don't think it was well looked after (service wise) in previous lifes.

Recently it sounds a bit more like a diesel when cold, but not too loud -and a common issue with the Corsa, however at the moment when the engine hits ~80-90 degrees it starts to "tick" loudly, to the point I can hear it in the cabin.


  • When I accelerate the ticking gets faster, if I depress the clutch and throttle, it gets faster, once the ticking starts it doesn't go away till the engine is cool. It will be audible when Idle and parked too.

  • "slight" loss of power, hardly noticable not anything serious though, and no misfiring or overheating. Taking ~10min to get to temperature in 20-35mph traffic.

  • prior to the ticking starting, when moving off in 1st, it sounds a bit "throaty" like an exhaust rattle but being in the car I can't work out where this is. No noticable smoke or anything from the exhaust as far as I can tell.

  • Plenty (almost full) oil and coolant. Oil is fairly dark and theres a bit of gunk around from a bit of moisture (Not HGF, a common mistake when diagnosing things with this engine!) It's from doing short journeys and the build up of condensation. Multiple owner forums confirmed this.


  • Engine is warm and has typically being driven for ~15min

  • Starting in cold weather ~0-4 degrees c.

  • Used for short journeys (~6 miles each way)


  • When I start the engine, it goes to about 2K RPM, sounds rough for about half a second then it's fine. This has been diagnosed as normal though for this car.

  • When I move off when the engine is cold, I get slight revving for the first couple of seconds, again this looks fairly normal for this engine looking on owner forums.


My first though would be that it could be the oil, as it gets warmer the vicosity changes and it's not as effective? I thought it could be the timing chain, but it doesn't happen from cold. My third thought would be tappets. I'm not brilliant with mechanics so not a clue.

I recently put some Wynns Hydraulic Lifter fluid into the oil with no success. Sounds the same. The car did have some gasket work done and I'd be suprised if they did a full flush of fluids.

Tried to include as much info as I thought was relevant, but if theres anything else let me know

EDIT: Conclusion?

It got a bit worse when the engine got to 85-86ish and the ticking was getting louder, it was also happening on some cold starts for 30seconds.

It went in for a full check hoping it was the Ex. Man. gasket, and they found that the timing chain had a small amount of slack on it, and on an unrelated note the oil pressure switch needed replacing, the old oil in the system probably didn't help the longevity of the chain.

Update Months on and the car still does the same thing.

I have checked the oil, changed it, had the chain done and still after a 15-20 min drive it will tick away to itself. I think its the tappets, and occasionally the sound will go away again before returning later in my journey.

  • I'm not an expert, but it sounds like your valve clearance needs to be adjusted, and do it ASAP it's doing damage the longer you leave it like this. It should not be expensive to get a mechanic to adjust it for you, or you could do it yourself but you'll need to buy some tools and find a reliable source for the correct valve clearance for your engine. Basically valves are supposed to almost touch as the engine operates, they tick if they actually touch. It doesn't do it while cold because cold metal is slightly smaller and the valves are close enough to touching for that to make a difference Commented Feb 7, 2015 at 5:43
  • Thanks, I'll double check but I'm sure that the valves can't be adjusted on this model corsa, I think they are hydraulic
    – MechaDev
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 14:36
  • 1
    Edit: Checked. They are def Hydaulic Lifters and can't be adjusted on this model
    – MechaDev
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 22:07
  • 1
    Have you checked for exhaust leaks? These can easily be confused with valve train noise. It also tends to happen as you are suggesting, when most of the noise comes after the vehicle is warmed up (or at least not on first startup). Later when they are worse, it happens all the time. Look for patches of black suit at the head around the exhaust manifold. Just a suggestion. Commented Feb 13, 2015 at 12:14

4 Answers 4


Corsa's (actually Vauxhalls/Opels in general) sometimes have noisy hydraulic lifters. I drove mine for 60 thousand kilometers with this noise before I upgraded to a Turbo Coupe and gave the car to my mom. No problems so far. The Coupe had the same stupid tick. Again, I drove it for 30 thousand kilometers before trading it in for a Subaru Forester XT. Only problem I had with it was the turbo. Nothing wrong with the lifters or valves. If you click on my profile and check out my questions, you'll actually see one where I posted a video of a loud ticking coming from my engine bay in the Coupe. I assume this is the same sound you hear. (The video makes it out to be a bit harsher than it actually is).

These noises are usually a valve that's stuck for whatever reason. It's something you can have looked at when the car is in for a major service or something, but it's my experience, and there is considerable consensus, that it's not a serious problem that you need to immediately spend your Valentine's Day money on.

  • Thanks. Mine makes a similar albeit slightly quieter sound all the time, a bit like a diesel, come to live with it really as it seems common on Vauxhalls! The new noise speeds up and slows down to match my RPM once the engine is hot, sounds a bit like this: youtube.com/watch?v=DFtwUi4B2RU (Really quiet video) from about the 30s mark.
    – MechaDev
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 10:55
  • UPDATE: My Forester also makes that damned noise! It's usually thought to be incorrect valve to cam clearance, a stuck valve or wrong oil. Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 13:18
  • Another update: now that I'm older and more well-read, I've found that fully synthetic oil will also make your engine "louder" in this way. Something about the viscosity of synthetic oil vs mineral oil. Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 13:30

I think this is a dual overhead camshaft engine. In that case, one of your lifters or springs may be going bad. This would slow down the return of the lifter as the cam moves away from it. that would create a momentary space and then a click when the lifter contacts the cam again. Just a guess.

Your mechanic probably has a modified stethoscope that he (or she) can use to pinpoint which cylinder is clicking.

I had a rocker arm in a 351W ford that was slightly loose because it was not thick enough at the mounting hole and creating a click. Added a .020" SS washer and fixed that. No rockers (probably) in the DOHC.

  • Thanks. Would continued use cause any real damage or would it just make that particular lifter bad? Would bad/incorrect oil cause/worsen this? I only ask as I don't know if the old owner(s) did an oil change, and this only really happens once the engine is hot, which would correspond with the change in viscosity
    – MechaDev
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 10:40
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    The only problems really with these cars are the coilpack, battery, clutch pedal/cable and maybe the idle control valve. Apart from that the engines can take an amazing amount of abuse. Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 11:30

I had similar ticking noise when accelerating after changing my engine oil on Toyota Corolla 1NZE. I came to find out that the oil does not reach to the most parts of the engine and it was caused by a poor performance of the oil strainer. The strainer was blocked by some bad oil left overs. Get the straigner cleaned and everything will be OK.


I'm going with a leaking exhaust manifold for the ticking. Try tightening the manifold bolts a little. They will have a torque specification but hand tight will have a noticeable affect on the ticking if the manifold is your problem. Go back later and torque them properly. As far as the car running at 2000 RPM on start up, that is normal for most modern cars. My 2011 Nissan starts at about 1500 and slowly ends at 900.

-JMR(Auto Hobbyist / Diesel Mech. 8 Years)

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