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96 Legacy EJ22 constant ticking / knocking - help with diagnosis please!

ej22 hla legacy rod knock piston slap

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17 replies to this topic

#1 roodabigman

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 02:22 PM

I recently picked up a 96 legacy OB, 190k miles, fairly complete maintenance records to 175k, EJ22 motor, manual tranny.

 

The engine makes a ton of noise, which I have gathered is normal, but the ticking / knocking is louder than most videos I have looked at.  Initially i assumed lifter tick - replaced 1 qt oil with MMO, drove around.  500 miles later, not difference, if anything it is louder now...  Bought some valve cover gaskets, plan to pull the lifters this weekend and see what they look like.  Thought it might be a fuel injector, so i tried disconnecting each of the injectors on the driver side one at a time, no difference.  

 

symptoms: coming from driver side head (seemingly).  louder from above the engine than if i crawl underneath.  Tried to do some ghetto stethoscoping, but wasnt able to pinpoint it.  Noise is present cold OR warm, idle or rev, coast or accelerate.  Noise does get a little quieter when warm, but is still very much present.

 

car drives fine, doesnt have all that much power, but I am not familiar enough with the ej22 to know if it is "normal" or not.  No CEL or pending trouble codes in the computer (once i cleared the ones from my injector test :) ).

 

video of engine running here: 

I also looked at the sound clip, tick is every 2 engine revolutions, unfortunately most everything it could be happens once every 2 revs...

 

it sounds too high pitch to be a rod knock, too deep to be lifter tick, too quiet under the engine to be a crank bearing, could be piston slap?  I think piston slap would change more as it warms up, and it is never really cold here in CA, so the engine is never started all that cold.  Plus I though piston slap would get quieter with a disconnected fuel injector?

 

any suggestions would be appreciated!  I love my sooby, but its a bit embarrassing to drive through downtown like this....

 

 

 



#2 grossgary

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 03:40 PM

pull the drivers side timing belt cover, the timing tensioners can slap when they begin to fail and it sounds very much like rod knock, at least the new style tensioners.  a 96  *should* old style tensioner but they're easily interchangeable so best to check.

 

piston slap is really common and gets quieter as it warms up, sounds like this one is sort of doing that?

 

could be rod knock if it's ever been run low on oil, overheated, or a really long change interval.

any signs of significant oil loss, engine work, or cooling system items replaced (suggesting prior overheats)

 

"cold" is relative - in CA it's still cold compared to temperatures seen during petroleum based explosions in a combustion chamber. 



#3 roodabigman

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 04:31 PM

Thanks grossgary!  

 

I'll have a look at the timing belt tensioner this weekend when i pull the lifters to look at them.

 

for the piston slap - it does get quieter a bit as it warms up - but not a lot - what you hear in the video is the engine fully warmed up to operating temperature.  

 

If i can eliminate the lifters and timing belt tensioner this weekend, I can check between rod knock and piston slap by putting a thicker oil in, right? I won't drive it forever like that, but I think a thicker oil should quiet down piston slap, but have little to no effect on rod knock?



#4 johnceggleston

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 04:35 PM

i would bet it is the HLAs, (hydraulic lash adjusters) or lifter tick as you call it.

first make sure the oli level is correct.

my 95 would start to tick when the oil level got low.

 

then i would pull the driver side rocker assembly.

you already plan to replace the valve cover gasket, so you will be half way there.

NOTE.do nor over torque the bolts when reinstalling the rockers.

they can and will snap.

 

then i would remove the HLAs or a few of the them,

and i would clean and re-prime them.

it isn't hard to do.

 

i have read a couple of threads where some replacements were required.

one guy did this only to have a couple of them collapse again in a few days.

 

the other thing to check is your oil pressure.

if the pressure is low it may not pump up the HLAs enough.

if the pressure is low, pull the oil pump and check the screws on the back of the pump.

they can work loose and reduce the pump efficiency.

this would be good to do when replacing the timing belt and all the idlers.

 

if you can borrow a oil pressure tester, i would probably do this first.

less work.. 


Edited by johnceggleston, 20 March 2014 - 04:44 PM.


#5 roodabigman

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 05:10 PM

Thanks John!

 

I have 4 new HLA's along with the valve cover gaskets, in case some of the HLAs are collapsed and dont want to pump back up.  Hopefully more than 4 aren't toast....

 

The oil is another thing I forgot to mention, it does seem to have a slight oil leak.  The oil is full, and i never notice a change in the level, but the underside of the engine, especially the oil pan, always seems to be slightly wet with fresh oil.  The strange thing is that it never drips, have left it parked for days without a single drip, and let it idle in place for 20 minutes and watched the underside, no drips.  Naturally this makes it very hard to tell where the oil is coming from.

 

If it is the HLAs ticking, i definitely will get all new idlers, tensioner, timing belt, maybe even cam seals and crankshaft seal, and clean and reseal the oil pump while im in there.  I just want to see if I can figure out if it is a rod knock, in which case i wouldnt want to sink the 300 bucks into parts on the front-end, since it would be near the end of its life.  

 

I'll ask around to see if someone has an oil pressure tester, thanks for all the help!!



#6 johnceggleston

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 06:06 PM

if it is HLAs it isn't going to kill your engine.

it is loud and a pain, and it may not run as efficiently,

but no major damage.

 

if it is rod knock,

 it will not last long.

 

buy a mechanics stethoscope and see if you can isolate the noise.

 

common oil leaks:

5/ cam and crank seals , behind the timing cover.

4/ valve cover gaskets

3/ oil fill spout gasket

2/ power steering reservoir o-ring

 

and the #1 most common oil leak on a 90s ej22 is (drum roll please)

the oil separator plate on the rear of the block behind the fly wheel / flex plate.

you have to pull the engine to replace it.

most folks assume it is the rear main seal because of the leak location,

but they rarely leak.

 

buy a couple of cans of brake clean from the parts store

and spray off, clean, the under side of the engine.

then check it every day to see where the oil appears first.

remember, the oil runs down and back,

so your leak is above and in front of the wet spot.



#7 auto2

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 06:09 PM

really a bad idea to put new lifters on a old camshaft. but with 200,000 miles i gues you have nothing to loose.



#8 Fairtax4me

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 07:02 PM

When these lifters bleed out they are LOUD. Very common for the oil feed in the rocker shaft to plug with bits of RTV and starve the lifters of oil. Easy fix though, takes about two hours to remove, disassemble, clean, and re-install the rocker assembly. 3 bolts on the valve cover, 8 bolts to get the rocker assembly off of the head. Spin the engine over with a 22mm socket until all the valves on that head close. Find the timing mark on the cam sprocket, it should point straight down when all of the valves are closed. With the valves closed there is no spring pressure on the rocker arms. Then remove the bolts for the rocker assembly.

To disassemble the rocker shaft assembly remove the 10mm bolt from one of the end caps and slide the rockers off of the shaft. Be sure to keep track of the rocker arms and the spring washers. Lay them out in order as you remove them, be sure they go back on in the same order. Oil the rockers and the rocker shaft before re-assembly.


Auto2, lifters in these do not touch the cams. The rocker arms have rollers that ride on the cam, the lash adjusters are on the other end of the rocker arm and push on top of the valve stem. Perfectly fine to replace the lifters on the ej22, no matter the mileage.

#9 MilesFox

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 08:15 PM

consider rebuilding the oil pump. this is lifter tick. definitely not a rod knock or piston slap.



#10 roodabigman

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Posted 20 March 2014 - 09:35 PM

When these lifters bleed out they are LOUD. Very common for the oil feed in the rocker shaft to plug with bits of RTV and starve the lifters of oil. Easy fix though, takes about two hours to remove, disassemble, clean, and re-install the rocker assembly. 3 bolts on the valve cover, 8 bolts to get the rocker assembly off of the head. Spin the engine over with a 22mm socket until all the valves on that head close. Find the timing mark on the cam sprocket, it should point straight down when all of the valves are closed. With the valves closed there is no spring pressure on the rocker arms. Then remove the bolts for the rocker assembly.

To disassemble the rocker shaft assembly remove the 10mm bolt from one of the end caps and slide the rockers off of the shaft. Be sure to keep track of the rocker arms and the spring washers. Lay them out in order as you remove them, be sure they go back on in the same order. Oil the rockers and the rocker shaft before re-assembly.


Auto2, lifters in these do not touch the cams. The rocker arms have rollers that ride on the cam, the lash adjusters are on the other end of the rocker arm and push on top of the valve stem. Perfectly fine to replace the lifters on the ej22, no matter the mileage.

 

Thanks for the info!!  That will help me a lot, I will tackle this project this weekend.  Didn't even think about taking apart the rocker assembly to be sure theres no gunk stuck in there, thats money.  Thanks again, feeling more confident about the project now.

 

 

consider rebuilding the oil pump. this is lifter tick. definitely not a rod knock or piston slap.

 

Awesome.  Thats what I'm hoping.  Will definitely pull the oil pump and look at it when i do the timing belt, hopefully within the next couple weeks.  Would probably be better to do them all at one i guess - valve rocker and HLA maintenance, timing belt, oil pump.


Edited by roodabigman, 20 March 2014 - 09:36 PM.


#11 roodabigman

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 01:09 AM

so...  This is definitely lifter tick!  What is causing it is still a mystery.

 

I pulled off the rocker arms on the driver side head today.  ALL 4 of the intake HLAs were completely collapsed, full of nothing but air.  All 4 of the exhaust HLAs were fine.  There were no obstructions of the holes in the main shaft or the rocker arms themselves, everything actually looked really clean.

 

Obviously the fact that all of the intake HLAs had lost oil, and the exhaust were fine made me very suspicious.  I replaced the collapsed HLAs with the 4 i just bought, oiled everything up, and put the head back together.  

 

fired up the car, sounded ok for about 2 seconds, then some ticking started coming back.  it was variable for a few minutes.  After actually driving it, it is back to exactly the way it was before changing the HLAs.  I would put real money on when i pull the rocker arms again, the intake HLAs are collapsed.

 

So why would all of the intake HLAs collapse almost instantly?  The only thing I can think of is oil pressure.  The intake HLAs are on the top side, the exhaust on the bottom.  so for 1, gravity is helping the bottom lifters and hindering the top.  2nd, the exhaust rocker arms do not have any external holes?? it looks like oil comes in off the shaft, and thats it, no exit except into the HLA.  On the intake rocker arms, there is a pinhole on the end.  Im guessing this is to let oil come out the top of the rocker arm, then it drips down over the rockers and makes sure everything stays nice and lubricated.

 

the problem is, if this is simply an oil pressure problem, why does it only happen on one head of the engine??

 

didnt have a chance to check the oil pressure, is the only way to do it to remove the alternator to get to the oil pressure switch?



#12 tbolt1003

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 06:27 AM

I just went through this exact same situation with my '95 EJ22 a few months ago. I had the tick on the passenger side, had the rockers apart at least (5) times to find my exhaust HLAs collapsed. I was pulling my hair out, too. Thanks to the same advice fairtax gave above, my problem is gone. I pulled and completely disassembled the rocker assembly. I mean completely! What I found was a very small piece of RTV sealant that was plugging up the oil feed hole in the rocker shaft. Without taking the rocker assembly apart, I'd never have seen it. After reassembling everything, priming the HLAs and putting the engine back together, my engine purrs like a kitten. Super quiet and power restored.

#13 Fairtax4me

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 01:16 PM

Because its a pressure problem with that one rocker shaft. The feed still has an obstruction. I think the feed end of the shaft is at the front on the drivers side. Need to remove the cap on the feed end and make sure the feed hole in the rocker shaft is clear. Compressed air is good to help blow out the feed holes. I usually just use brake cleaner though.

The lifters on the exhaust side may be stuck in position and are not bleeding down.

#14 MilesFox

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 09:17 PM

if the o-ring behind the oil pump has collapesd, it could be aerating the oil where the hla's are getting oil, but not pumping up with pressure. look for fine bubbles on the dipstick whele she's running.

 

I like the idea oc removing the rockershfts and inspecting for RTV junk. RTV should not be used for anything but maybe the water pump or exhaust gaskets. Ultra black is preferred for the water pump, and ultra grey is preferred for ayy mating surfaces containing oil (oil pump, pan gasket, case halves, oil separator baffle, corners of valve cover gasets)



#15 roodabigman

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 12:17 PM

Problem Solved!  I feel stupid, I obviously missed something the first time i pulled the rockers. 

 

fairtax, tbolt, you guys had it 100% right, when I pulled the rockers again, there was a glob of gunk clogging the oil inlet hole on the rocker shaft, it looked completely obstructed.  

 

Fairtax - you were right about the exhaust lifters too!  On closer inspection, they were all stuck in position, and it took some real force in the oil path to break them loose and get them moving again.  You are a gentlemen and a scholar.

 

I bled and pumped up all 8 HLAs, used compressed air and brake cleaner to get every piece clean as a whistle, oiled everything up, put it back in the engine, and the second the engine fired, it purred like a kitten.  drove it 200 miles home from my dads place, still sounds great. 

 

Thank you to everyone on this thread who helped me pinpoint this, it makes me smile every time i start the car now :) 

 

On a side note, the EJ22 is really an impressive engine.  at 190k miles, the cams and rocker arms looked perfect.  even having been driving for probably 1000 miles starved of oil, every surface looked perfect, not flat spots, no dull areas.  I've seen German engines after 50k miles where the cams looked MUCH worse than this.  Truly an impressive accomplishment for Subaru.



#16 Olnick

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 12:59 PM

Congratulations roodabigman!  I just love success stories like this.  Once again the caring/sharing good guys of USMB put on their white hats and fight the forces of darkness!  And once again a sweet-running EJ22 purrs off into the sunset.  :D



#17 Fairtax4me

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 01:06 PM

Glad to hear you got it sorted out! Never a good feeling when something doesn't pan out the first time, but the satisfaction after finally getting it fixed always seems to make up for it.

The Germans like to use flat tappet followers (where the cam rides directly over the lifter, directly over the valve) which you expect to see some wear on immediately after break-in. The Roller style followers used in these japanese engines don't show any real wear unless the roller seizes in the rocker arm, and that takes some serious neglect to accomplish. Usually see the cams seize in the head or the rod bearings chewed to bits before a roller locks up.

#18 tbolt1003

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 11:30 AM

Glad you got it all fixed!!

Yes, the 2.2 is quite an impressive little engine. First time i had my rockers apart, I remember my brain saying "Wow, this engine is an automotive work of art"





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