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You'll hear a ticking noise if a lifter is not able to leak down or does not pump up with oil.

A noisy lifter often is an indication of an oil pressure problem. A noise may occurs when the engine is first started because a lifter has drained when the engine was off. When the engine is shut not running some valves are held open. This puts spring pressure on lifter. The lifter bleeds down. After the engine starts the oil flows under pressure back into the lifter and the noise halts.

Other reasons for lifter noise may be:

A. Intermittent noise at idle:
Dirt in the lifter check valve or wear the valve's worn out.
B. Noise at idle, and it goes away as engine RPM increses.
1. It's wear between the lifter body and the plunger that's out of spec.
2. It could be caused by Low oil pressure, or;
3. Thin oil.
D. The Lifer is quiet at idle and the noise increses with RPM.
1. The oil's full of air. Too much oil in the crankcase and it's being beaten to a froth, and the froth's sucked up into the pump.
2. A bad pump letting air siphon in... and spreading it into the oil gallies. E. Lifter noise at ALL engine RPM.
1. Dirt buildup inside the lifter body.
2. Varnish buildup inside the lifter body.
3. A worn cam
4. A worn Rocker arm.
5. A worn pushrod
6. Low oil volume.
8. Thin oil, wrong viscoity, or too high a temp thinning it out.
9. Worn Oil pump.

It's going to be hard to isolate a bad lifter without teardown. You could purchase a mechanics stethscope and try to narrow down the noise. A good visual inspection of the lifter is usually necessary.

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