If my car is idle, and the key isn't in the ignition, everything works as usual, but the second I flip the car key (turning on the battery, but not the engine) there's a midly loud ticking noise. The sound is coming from the part of the engine shown below. The sound also continues when the engine is running but is harder to hear due to the engine noise. enter image description here

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I am not sure what part of the engine this is. Any ideas on what the problem is and how I can fix it?

2 Answers 2


I believe the noise is coming from the motor that controls the headlight height adjustments.

They can sometimes get into a state where they keep overshooting the set position and so the motor keeps going forward and backward.

Try moving the knob that controls the headlight height position that will be on your dashboard somewhere to see if it stops making the noise.

It is possible that the mechanism is faulty and needs replacing.

Check at night to see if the headlight beam moves up and down when you turn the knob in the car.


This seems to be the headlight mechanism motor like the already present answer found, but I offer three more alternatives in case somebody else with another car finds this question.

Usually cars have a brake booster operated by intake vacuum. It stores that vacuum for times when the vacuum may not be available (throttle stuck wide open throttle). However, in vehicles that lack a throttle such as diesels, or gasoline engines lacking throttle valve where the air intake amount is instead controlled by variable valve opening time (like Toyota's Valvematic), or hybrids where the engine may be off for even long periods, another mechanism is needed. That other mechanism is a vacuum pump. It may be linked to something else than turning on the engine: for example opening the driver's door may already turn on this vacuum pump.

Also hybrid vehicles that have combined regenerative and disc braking need a way to reduce disc brake pressure to allow regenerative to take over. That is made by the ABS actuator. It needs power too, and you can hear its motor running even if the engine is off.

Also the EVAP system sealing check is made with a vacuum pump and you can hear its motor running too in some circumstances.

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