Why is Motorcycle Engine Ticking? Causes & Solutions

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As a motorcycle owner, there are times where you may hear strange noises coming from your bike. One of these strange noises can be a ticking sound that comes from the motorcycle’s engine.

This might irritate you, and you will then feel the need to get to the bottom of the issue. Navigating through all this might be a bit challenging, especially if you lack in-depth knowledge of the matter. That is why we have compiled a complete guide to help you out.

Common Causes of Ticking Motorcycle Engine

Here are some of the most common causes why your motorcycle engine is ticking:

1. Low Oil level

Generally running on low engine oil is detrimental to the health of your engine. When your motorcycle’s engine has little amount of oil, a lot of friction takes place. Friction then causes a lot of heat to be produced.

These two factors combined make the engine parts starting wearing each other out. As the wearing out of parts takes place, a strange noise is heard when a rider is on the motorcycle. Therefore it is always advisable to maintain the required amount of oil in your engine.

2. Bad Spark Plug

The back spark plug is one of the most important parts of the motorcycle engine and the machine as a whole. This is due to the integral role it plays in facilitating the ignition of the engine.

In essence, it is responsible for generating a spark in the engine. It is this spark that produces a flame. The flame generated here then lights in the engine and gets it into action.

Now, when there is an issue with the plug, a ticking sound is produced. For you to understand how this happens, you need to know some integral components of the plug. Some examples include:

  • Wires
  • Coil Magnet
  • Plug Holder

Two of the parts highlighted above can cause a ticking noise, in case they become faulty. These parts are the plug holder and the wires. In the case of the plug holder, it only causes a ticking sound if it is shorted.

The wires, on the other hand, can cause ticking sound if they are spoilt/broken. This happens as a result of the wires forcing themselves to pass current.

Remember they are faulty, meaning they will be unable to complete this task properly. In turn, a ticking sound is generated.

3. Piston Smacking Noise

A piston is a disc or cylinder that is usually enclosed in a tube-like structure. Normally pistons move up and down against the engine fuel. This movement plays a big role in the internal combustion of the engine. This combustion is what brings about bike movement.

The piston contains many components, and one of them is rings. Rings are the ones responsible for generating the much-needed force in the engine. Over time they get worn out.

When this happens, you will find riders applying more throttle for more power. These two factors combined usually cause a ticking sound.

4. Cam Chain Noise

A cam chain is a strong piece of metal (chain) that runs through the engine of a motorcycle.  In most cases, it is referred to as a timing chain.

This name comes from the role it plays, which is to control the valve timing of the motorcycle’s engine.

Just like any part of a machine, the chain too is bound to get worn out. When this happens, it tends to move onto a small rubber bush.

This rubber bush is usually part of the chain just not on the metallic area. The constant movement of the metal parts onto this rubber is what causes the ticking sound.

5. Loose Valve Noise

Having a loose valve in your motorcycle’s engine can easily cause it to produce a ticking noise. Before we get to the ticking part, let us first talk about what a loose valve in the engine is and the dynamics around it.

Having a loose engine valve means that the owner is putting too much weight on the area that the valve sits on. There are two things that can make an engine’s valve becomes loose.

One of them is when they are set loose by an object or action. The other scenario is when your engine needs repair after a long-time service.

If you entrust your bike into the hands of a professional mechanic, there is no way he/she can set the valves wrongly. The reason is that there are proper mechanisms and specifications for doing so.

However, if you recently went to any mechanic and he/she worked on the engine valves, then there might be an issue. Basically, there are high chances he/she may have fixed/replaced them the wrong way.

There is always a shim that has the correct valve adjustment. This shim is what plays a major role in the valve fixing process, and hence it needs to be with a proper size.

In case, the mechanic puts a small-sized shim; the valve becomes loose. It is these loose valves that when the bike is in motion, produce a ticking sound.

Solutions for Ticking Motorcycle Engine

Here are few solutions for ticking motorcycle engine:

1. Add Oil to the Motorcycle’s Engine (Low Oil Level)

Constantly monitoring the engine oil levels is a great way of preventing this type of noise. Although many people may think it is complicated, in the real sense, it is not. All you have to do is pull out the gauge from the engine’s upper side.

You then clean the stick around where the measurement is present and place it back in. One the stick is fully immersed, pull it out again. With this, you can easily note the level of oil present in the motorcycle’s engine.

If you find that the level of oil in the engine is low, then that may be the cause of the ticking sound. If this is the case, the best thing to do is to fill in the required amount of oil into the motorcycle’s engine.

2. Replace Either the Plug Holder / Wires (Bad Spark Plug)

There are two things you can do to fix a motorcycle engine that is producing a ticking sound because of a bad plug. It all depends on whether it is the wire or plug holder causing it.

If it is the plug holder that has an issue, replace it. If it is the wire, then you just remove it and install a new one.

3. Take The Bike to The Mechanic (Piston Smacking Noise)

If you suspect that the ticking sound is as a result of piston smacking noise, call in a mechanic. A mechanic will check everything out and quickly rectify it.

4. Fix the Chain’s Spring (Cam Chain Noise)

One important part of solving this is knowing that the rubber bush usually has forks between it. When the chain wears off, a gap is created between these forks.

Therefore, you need to make adjustments on the chains, specifically on the cam chain’s springs. This can easily be done by taking it out and stretching it out properly.

You then place it back in its original place. When properly inserted, the sound slowly diminishes. As time goes by, it disappears completely.

5. Talk to A Professional Mechanic (Loose Valve Noise)

The best thing to do when in such a situation is to go to your bike’s official servicing company. You can also go to a professional motorcycle mechanic, and he/she can help you out.

You can get such by asking for referrals from friends who have had situations with their bikes.

You can also search on the internet for good motorcycle mechanics in your local area. Before choosing one, make sure that you look at their ratings and read through the reviews.

If you feel that the reviews and ratings are great, you can go ahead and take your motorcycle to them. One thing that you should not do is take your bike to an inexperienced mechanic.

He/she will cause more problems to your bike on top of the loose valves.

Is it Safe to Ride Your Motorcycle with Ticking Engine?

The ticking in your motorcycle’s engine can be caused by a wide range of things. None of these things are issues to joke around with.

Basically, nobody knows what may happen on the road when you just ignore the ticking and go on with your journey.

That is why it is advisable to always examine your bike regularly. As you do this, take note of what is causing the ticking sound.

Thereafter you can attempt to fix any issues that may cause these sounds. Doing so will go a long way in saving your life and even those of your passengers.


Your safety is of utmost importance, especially when you are using a bike on the road. Therefore you should always be on the lookout for any unusual things on the bike.

One of the things that occasionally happens in bikes is the production of a ticking sound in the engine.

Once you know what exactly is causing the problem, you can then fix it if you have the expertise to do so. If not, just call in the experts.

Josh Berry - MotoShark Editor
Josh Berry
I'm a off-road enthusiast, extreme sport fan and the editor of MotoShark. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding this article, please leave a comment or contact me.

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