I have a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the 318 V8 with about 167,000 kms (100,00 miles). The other day on the highway, I noticed a ticking sound which I interpreted to be valve lifter noise, which seemed to be intermittent - would be apparent for a few minutes, then disappear for a while before returning. At that time I also noticed the oil pressure gauge would go to zero or fluctuate. I immediately pulled over, checked oil level, found it to be OK. The engine otherwise seemed to be operating normally (no loss of power, difficulty starting, roughness, or any such). Took it to the shop who identified and replaced a faulty oil pressure sensor and changed the oil (oil change was significantly overdue).
The engine seems to be operating normally again.
My question: is the pressure sensor used in any way to regulate oil flow in the engine? In other words, could the faulty sensor have caused an oil flow problem resulting in the lifter noise? Was the noise due to overly dirty oil? Is any of this pointing to a possibility of engine damage and/or imminent breakdown?