Why Is My Car Ticking When It’s Off?

Why Is My Car Ticking When It’s Off?

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Why Is My Car Ticking When It’s Off?

Many components are moving inside your car’s engine as it runs. Therefore, it’s normal for your engine to make purring sounds and soft noises thanks to all the rotating shafts.

Still, there are pistons in motion that make soft noises. Al these noises are normal, although engine ticking doesn’t make it to the list.

Consequently, you need to be worried about any clicking sound in the engine. And it might be normal depending on your engine model.

But if your car is damaged, the engine might produce a ticking noise as a way of noise reciprocation for the damaged car.

Therefore, ensure that you ascertain the cause of any ticking noise from the car before you can be sure it is safe.

Ticking noise comes from the injector’s firing on fuel-injected engines. These small electrical valve fuel injectors make ticking sounds as they open and close at idle. This is normal for such engines. However, ticking noise in your car might be symbolic of a serious problem like low oil level or pressure.

As a result you have a bad state as oil cannot reach the top of the engine, creating a shrill tapping or ticking sound.

This mostly results from valve train components or the timing chain. Components like rockers, camshafts, lifters, and cam adjusters are part of this.

It’s therefore advisable to regularly check the oil level using the dipstick. If it’s low, it needs to be topped up to the recommended level.

Does A Bad Alternator Make A Clicking Noise?

Yes, An alternator that is going bad will make a ticking noise. As you might know, an alternator is designed for charging the battery and supplying a car with electrical power.

The most obvious sign that your alternator is bad or about to fail is a clicking sound. A ticking sound is often an indication that the alternator is about to fail.

When an alternator’s bearing or other components wear out or start wearing out, the alternator will produce a clicking sound.

Therefore, if you establish that the alternator produces a clicking sound, you will need it fixed.

An alternator may continue to perform its functions even though it fails. Therefore, the only sure way of knowing the state of your alternator is to have its performance determined.

A voltmeter comes in handy in this. And if you don’t have a voltmeter, most auto parts stores will test it for free.

What’s more, they might not even need to remove it from your car to test it.

Does Clicking Mean A Dead Battery?

No. You may hear clicking but still, have the battery continue to function as usual. This is quite annoying as your car won’t start at all.

Generally, the root cause for this will be a low battery. There are many causes of battery failure that might cause this.

Your battery might fail and cause the alternator(Amazon Link) to fail if it’s too old. Old batteries will scarcely hold the charge for long enough.

But if it’s old and cold, the chances of it holding any charge for any reasonable time become even slimmer.

And to make sure you know the real culprit, you can buy a voltmeter for about $15 and use it in this venture. You will only need to remove the battery cover.

Proceed to connect the voltmeter’s positive with the battery’s positive. This will mean that the negative goes to the negative of the battery.

But the voltmeter will need to be on the correct setting. You will be expecting to get a reading of between 12.4 and 12.7 volts.

If the battery has dropped to 12.4 volts, it means that you need to charge it. If the battery is dead, it needs to be charged or replaced.

But before you decide that it’s time to replace your battery, you want to be sure that the battery was being charged in the first place.

Therefore, you will need to look at the charging circuit. Loose or corroded wires can prevent your battery from charging well.

Therefore, if you notice a corroded or worn-down battery terminal, it’s advisable to test and establish if this is the cause of the problem.

How Do You Know If It’s The Battery Or Alternator?

Sometimes, separating the problems caused by a battery or an alternator might get confusing.

A faulty alternator or a dead battery might at times cause the same problem of your car not starting.

This is because these two components in your cars’ charging system share equal parts. And to establish whether it is the battery or the alternator, start the car by jumpstarting it.

This bypasses the role of the battery as you are technically using another battery to start your car.

Your engine might start and run shortly and then die, meaning that the alternator is likely faulty.

But if you jump start and the engine continues running and won’t start again with its power, you might be staring at a bad battery.

As I have alluded to, a car’s battery and an alternator play seemingly intertwined roles making it hard to tell which of the two is faulty when your car doesn’t start.

But it’s still good to know that a signal is sent to the battery after you insert the key in your car’s ignition and turn it on.

After the reception of the signal, the battery converts the chemical energy into electrical energy;

Delivering the power to the starter and distributing it through the spark plugs to ignite the engine’s cylinders. So your car starts and runs.

But the car will not run on the battery on its own as its role is the provision of the needed spark to have the car running.

As the car continues to run and electrical needs continue, they can only be sustained if there is a constant supply of power, which comes from the alternator that continuously charges the battery.

Will A Bad Alternator Drain A Battery?

The short answer is No. However, a bad alternator will have the battery drained as it doesn’t provide the recharge required to continue supplying the car’s electrical requirements.

By now, you know that a car’s ignition system banks on the function of the battery and the alternator to guarantee a steady supply of electrical power to the car.

Unfortunately, if you have a faulty alternator, the consequences might be frustrating. A faulty alternator means that your battery won’t charge as it should.

Consequently, your car might stop suddenly after the battery dies off unless you are driving one of those ancient cars that can continue running even without a battery being charged.

But this is far from the ultimate relevance of a bad alternator. You might be astonished to learn that a faulty alternator will quickly drain your battery even when your car isn’t running.

Start the car and keep the hood open to see if your alternator is draining the battery.

As your car’s engine continues to run, disconnect the negative battery terminal from the 12V battery. The engine will immediately stop if you have a bad alternator.

It means that it has been draining your batteries, and there is no way they can supply sufficient power to your engine to run on its own.

Alternatively, you can test if an alternator is functioning well by removing it and having it tested.

If you connect it to a terminal, a good alternator will show anything between 12 and 13.5 volts. If it has a lesser reading, it won’t charge the battery completely.

And if it shows more than that threshold, you have an overcharging condition, and both cases will drain the long-term battery life.

Can You Test An Alternator Without Removing It?

Yes. Although I have previously pointed out that you will be removing the alternator when testing it, you can still test it without removing it.

Yes, you don’t have to disconnect the alternator to test it! Luckily, the only tool you will need will be a voltmeter. And voltmeters are not expensive.

If your battery is not old and you find that your car isn’t starting, you probably have a bad alternator.

At this point, many people struggle with the thought of disconnecting the negative battery cable, but it’s not necessary.

Did you know that a good alternator will keep the engine running even less the negative cable? So this can never be a reliable test.

While it was safe to pull it off in older cars that didn’t come with a computer, you don’t want to go there with a modern car as this can fry every electrical device in your vehicle.

The voltage regulator pegs the alternator to put out maximum power as soon as you disconnect the battery.

You will be amazed to learn that an alternator can put out up to 150 volts if it doesn’t have a battery in the circuit. It’s the battery that acts as the buffer.

Armed with a voltmeter, turn off the engine and check the voltage. You will be seeing anything between 12.5 and 12.8 volts.

But if the voltage is lower than that, first use a battery charger to charge the battery and test the battery again.

Now you can start the engine and see an increased voltage reading. A good alternator will occasion higher readings.

How Can I Tell If My Alternator Is Bad Without A Multimeter?

You can test an alternator without a multimeter by using a voltmeter. However, there are manual ways of going about this.

Therefore, if you have neither a multimeter nor a voltmeter, you can still test your alternator manually.

But if you have a voltmeter, you will only need to follow the process discussed above.

When manually testing your alternator, the amp or the volt gauge will serve as your tool for reading the alternator.

Start by revving the engine at 2000 RPMS for testing, turning ON all the electrical components in the car like the air conditioner, heater, wipers, and headlights.

Maintain an eye on the voltmeter. If the engine is running, your alternator should be in good working order if it measures higher.

Still, you will want to listen to the way the alternator sounds as you run the engine.

You will know some trouble is brewing in the alternator if you hear a weird sound like screeching or squealing. Indeed, this can be magnified with your car’s components running.

Turn your car radio on at AM and then tune it to the lowest, lowering the volume. If you hear a whining sound as you step on the gas, your alternator might be faulty.

Still, there might be some fuzziness on the radio, meaning the alternator needs to be checked and fixed.

What Happens When Your Alternator Goes Out?

When your alternator #goes out, your car will be stalled. And you will need to be towed if you can’t get someone to come and fix it where you are.

As I have alluded to, the battery will be dead without the alternator, and your car won’t start or continue running if this happens while you are driving.

When your alternator is going out, there will not be enough power going to the spark plugs, meaning that you will have issues with gasoline being ignited in the engine.

Consequently, you might have problems starting your car if you are lucky enough not to be stalled.

What’s more, you might be staring at a potential death to your battery as a bad alternator will do this mercilessly.

When an alternator fails, it might either undercharge or overcharge the battery. Either of the two scenarios is a complete recipe for a dead battery.

As the battery gets flat, it will have a significantly shorter lifespan. Therefore, if you notice that your alternator is failing, you want to fix it as soon as possible.

Expect to spend between $500 and $1000, depending on where this is done.


There are many reasons why your car might be ticking when it is off, indicating a normal thing or a problem.

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