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A Ford Playing Taps

Q. I have a 1994 Ford Escort sport version, with about 100,000 miles. Its a great little car and it runs very good. It's an automatic with the larger of the 2 engine options, I think its a 2.3 or a 3.2 liter overhead valve with fuel injection. The engine runs great, but the valve lifters are excessively loud, with the tapping sound. It needs something fixed now before it get worse. I would like to fix it myself.

What I would like to know is... what do I need to replace? All or some of the rocker arms, all or some of the push rods, or the lifters or the little tappet pads between the rocker arms and the valve lifters. Can I go buy an inclusive rocker arm kit that has all the necessary parts in it. Or can you suggest a easier fix for this problem.

A. Under normal conditions the valves should not have to be adjusted since the lifters are hydraulic. There is a way to check the valve clearance but it requires a special tool. Lacking that tool, you can use a big screwdriver.

Take off the valve cover and turn the crankshaft until #1 cylinder is at Top Dead Center (TDC) on the compression stroke. The timing marks on the crank and cam gear will be together. In this position you can check #1 Intake, #1 Exhaust. #2 Intake and #3 exhaust valves. With the appropriate tool, push down on the lifter until it is completely collapsed. Next, use a feeler gauge to check the clearance between the rocker arm and valve stem. It should be 0.075 to 0.174 inches.

Now rotate the crankshaft one complete turn and check the clearance on #2 Exhaust, #3 Intake, #4 Intake and #4 Exhaust. If they are out of spec, they can be adjusted by buying longer or shorter push rods. If the clearance is less, you need a shorter push rod. If it is more than specified, then you need a longer push rod.

Now this is assuming there aren't any collapsed lifters or extreme wear on the valve train parts. Do a complete visual inspection on the camshaft, rocker arms, push rods and pads. The pads should be nice and flat, if they are dished out, they need to be replaced. Look at where the rockers meet the pads and see if they are worn down. Same thing for the push rods. You also need to look at the lobes on the cam. Is there a wide grove where the arm rides on the cam lobe? If there is, then the camshaft is worn out, possibly beyond adjustment.

The lifters have a small hole on the side, inside the lifter is a check valve consisting of a small steel ball and spring. Sometimes the spring breaks or wears out, or dirt gets inside and doesn't allow the ball to seal. This would require replacement to repair.

All the parts are available separately. Someone may have a "kit" as a performance package, but you don't need that. I would recommend that if you're going to replace parts, do it as a set. Replace all the rockers or replace all the pads etc. There's no reason why you can't do this job yourself. It's pretty simple and straight forward. If you go to remove a rocker arm, make sure there is no pressure on it. This will prevent stripping or bending the rocker arm bolts or studs. I would allow 3 or 4 hours to do the job.

If you do need to replace parts, I would recommend checking the valve clearance again before starting the car and pumping up the lifters. With new parts you may need to make adjustments.

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Additional Information provided courtesy of AllDATA and Warranty Direct
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