tl;dr; If I have an exhaust leak that is sufficiently small such that upon the engine heating up the leak was reduced or removed to a satisfactory level to avoid seeing a Check Engine Light (CEL); how long would that be; is there a buffer for the light to appear? Could I buy a code reader and see the problem before it was resolved?

I have a 2016 Ram 1500 5.7L that started making a louder ticking noise on start as of late. At cold start, it will tick loud enough to hear inside the cabin with all doors and windows closed. After it warms up, it [mostly] goes away though I'm hearing it under the right conditions (and in my sleep); I get no CEL. My understanding is emission problems result in a CEL.

Prior to the sound, two events happened about the same time:

  1. I installed a K&N lifetime air filter which, at first, made the truck very responsive.
  2. I came down hard on a large bump on a trail at a spot on the truck where the exhaust could've been hit.

While looking into the tick, I've come across two possibilities aside from the fact Hemis tick:

  1. It's recommended to use 89 and I haven't been. Add that to the additional air I'm getting from the K&N filter and perhaps I'm getting some pre-combustion or something thereby causing the tick.
  2. I've got an exhaust leak. But after a thorough inspection I can't see anything and the entire system is very tight. I do however seem to smell exhaust fumes on the right side of the engine while ticking.

My thought is that I may have a small leak at the gasket either due to a gasket failure or perhaps I ever so slightly warped the manifold upon impact from the second event above. If that's the case, then I can spend $30 on a code reader and know for sure or spend $180 for the same information at a service center. I would prefer the former if possible.

  • You don't get "additional air... from the K&N filter", so remove that myth from your troubleshooting. Dec 15, 2019 at 6:40
  • @JimmyFix-it - Do you have any reference to backup your comment? Dec 15, 2019 at 13:23
  • 1
    @Paulster2, by my reasoning you get precisely the amount of air you ask for (no more, no less) by pressing the pedal and opening the throttle plate. While the (dubious) gain of the K&N would indeed be distributed across the range of throttle plate position (better "response" perhaps), it's not worth it because it has been shown that K&N, while less restrictive, pass more dirt than OEM. Logical that a less restrictive filter passes more dirt, yes? I ain't drinking the KoolAid. nicoclub.com/archives/kn-vs-oem-filter.html. Dec 15, 2019 at 19:08

2 Answers 2


Exhaust leaks can only be found if it's bad enough for the Oxygen sensor to detect it - which is unlikely. Investing in a $30 code scanner for your glove box is a great thing, but it's unlikely you have a pending DTC to tell you what's up.

Since this is a 5.7 Hemi, I would recommend changing your oil before you do anything. As the owner of one, I've learned the Hemi tick is pretty much an audible oil change indicator.

Otherwise, did you just install a K&N panel filter? Or a full intake? The latter would explain the increase in volume.

  • I've got about 1500 miles on the current oil change using fully synthetic oil with a K&N oil filter. Yes, it's a flat panel filter. I suppose it's a quick check to change it and see. Since posting I've now run a full tank of 89 through it and the tick is still very loud on start but then immediately gets nearly quiet. I can still hear it a bit and more when giving it some gas but it seems better. I can't tell how much of this is conditional or mental at this point. Dec 18, 2019 at 15:36
  • Based on your description it sounds like normal Hemi stuff - they tick on cold start, and they'll tick if they're due for an oil change. I don't know what Chrysler did to make the hydraulic lifters so picky, but they've done it since '04 and it doesn't seem to impact longevity more than anything else.
    – Drewster
    Dec 18, 2019 at 16:50
  • I changed the oil and it did nothing about the noise; I wasn't surprised because I was pretty sure it couldn't be the tick known to hemis. I went over the exhaust again and was able to locate a broken bolt on the passenger side manifold. Extracted it and replaced the set of mounting hardware; it's quiet as a mouse now. Dec 30, 2019 at 2:08
  • Congratulations! Hopefully a skid plate was on your Christmas list :)
    – Drewster
    Dec 30, 2019 at 20:03

To trace an exhaust leak have an assistant hold a rag over the tail pipe while idling to create back pressure. Follow exhaust until you see and\or hear the exhaust leak location. When you buy your scanner, also get a stethoscope and use it to locate the ticking source being very careful of belts pulleys and fans.

  • If done right, a K&N filter will not cause you problems with your MAF. I've been running one in my trucks ('06 Silverado/'18 SIlverado) for ~6 years without a single complaint because of it. Too much oil can cause you problems. Dec 15, 2019 at 13:22
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    That vehicle does not have a MAF sensor
    – Drewster
    Dec 16, 2019 at 17:20
  • You're right, that's what I get for generalizing. I'll delete that portion
    – Jupiter
    Dec 16, 2019 at 18:33

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