New spark plugs ticking?

Today I installed new spark plugs on my truck as well as an ignition wire set. Once I fired the engine up for the first time, I noticed a ticking sound coming from the driver’s side of the engine. I turned my the engine off, made sure everything was thread/properly seated (it was). I started it back up and the same thing. It’s not too loud but it is noticeable. I haven’t noticed a change in the engines output/performance but obviously I would like to know if this noise is normal or something to try to correct.

Is what I’m hearing normal? Do I hear this ticking noise because of the new, performance-quality spark plugs?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Check your plug wires at night - you may have a bad wire that is sparking to ground.

Good idea. Will do. Thank you for your help.

Whenever someone mentions ticking, my first thought is you have a lifter starting to go south. How old is this truck? Are you certain this noise wasn’t there before you changed the plugs? Does the noise go away if the engine runs for a bit? How is your oil level?

A spray bottle of water at night will show you pretty plainly if you’ve got an arc somewhere.

Noise wasn’t there. Truck is barely 5 years old. Oil level is where it should be, recently changed.

I’m nearly positive it’s directly related to the sparking. The intensity of the ticking increases along with my speed. It even sounds like an electric spark.

the spritz of water mentioned above is a good way of seeing this at night. You can probably feel if the contact is seated on the plug by just wiggling all the wires on the side you’re hearing the noise (engine off of course).


I looked last night at each individual plug and all were seated correctly and there were no apparent sparks outside the engine itself. I looked closely and even sprayed some water but nothing.

I then unplugged each cylinder, one by one, and restarted the engine. The ticking persisted throughout the entire process.

I’m CERTAIN it is an electrical tick, however.

could be the distributor end of the plug wire is not seated.

Did you get “high performance” specialty wires or just basic stuff?

I seem to recall once doing a spark plug and wire redo and having problems. The NEW wire set was bad!

Check that everything is seated right. If the electrical ticking sound persist try removing one wire at time while the car idles, then replacing it and moving to next wire. Use the old wires if you still have em.

Opps , I see you’ve sorta done that already, but it wouldnt hurt to double check. Also make sure your spark pugs are the correct type and that you have them gapped right. Also, if your spark plug wires get too close to each other or a ground, they can still short out.

Did you route the new wires EXACTLY the same way as the old ones?
If no, go back and re-route them correctly. Trust me on this.

Rick, when you say ‘reroute’, you mean the path they take to the plug? You are not asking him to check the firing order, right? …just the path/route to the plugs, right?? It could be that important? What are you getting at, some sort of interference?

You may not have torqued down the plugs enough and have a leak. Recommend you find the torque spec for your plugs and use a torque wrench.

If the source of the ticking is not electrical-related, I’d consider a bad exhaust manifold gaskit. This is a bit of a stretch on a newer car with stock manifolds, but if modified with exhaust headers, it’s quite common.

Modern secondary ignition systems use very high voltage and the engineers spend a lot of time routing the wires just so to prevent any cross fire between plugs.
If you don’t route the new wires exactly as the old ones were, there is a possibility of a cross fire from induced voltage from a different wire, or you might get it to close to a exhaust manifold and cook the wire to death in a few thousand miles.
There is a reason for all of those heat shields and strange routings.

I checked the paths of the wires to each cylinder. My distributor has them labeled, as were the wires. All was good. I gapped and torqued them according to the Haynes manual I have, but I even rechecked that.

As for removing and replugging in each wire while the engine is idling, I did that and I’d advise no one to ever try it. Got a nice shock a few plugs in and that ended that little journey.

I’m dropping it off at my mechanic today because I am completely perplexed over this. I’ll let everyone know what it turns out to be (I’m with a few of you in thinking one of the wires is bad), but I really, really do appreciate all the input and help.

Thanks again!

I meant stop the engine, remove a wire, start it back up…blah blah blah

NOT while the car was running ! Sorry bout that !

Want me to tell you about the “lick it with your toungue” test ? :slight_smile:

good luck

I was going to suggest you use a stethoscope or wood dowel rod to isolate the sound. Since the only thing you did was replace the plugs/wires there are only a few real possibilities. A bad plug, a bad wire, incorrect installation, incorrect parts, damage to unrelated part.

I can’t imagine that you installed the wrong plug and it was so long it hit the piston crown. If something is arcing then it leaves a discoloration so either the plug end or the coil connection would leave a telltale discoloration. If a wire is broken internally it would be a bitch to find it. You would have to swap out each wire with an old one to see if the sound disappears.

It should be interesting to find out what the mechanic tells you.

The problem was found and fixed, and the sound I was hearing wasn’t entirely electrical in nature.

Apparently when my spark plugs were installed at the factory, the person in charge of putting the plugs into the engines cross threaded the spark plug in question. It was actually the 5th spark plug in a V6 engine, which would have put it on the side of the engine I was hearing noise from.

So, when I pulled out my spark plugs the other day, I didn’t think any differently when they all were a bit difficult to remove (which, I just wrote off as a result of rust, wear, etc.). When I put them all back in, which was as smooth as butter might I add, I didn’t even once contemplate checking the threads.

The clicking noise I heard was a combination of compressed air and an electric spark that were escaping the engine through a small gap because reinstalling the plug did not put it where it needed to be.

My mechanic was able to re-tap the hole and save me the misfortune of re-machining the heads or outright replacing them. He gave me grave news, however, in that there is no guarantee that once I replace them 90,000 miles down the road that they will go back in or even hold.

Naturally, this has introduced a new dilemma into my life: who should I be going after to correct all of this. CarMax (who I bought the car from) certifies their cars via their checklist (and this area of the engine is covered under that) and their manager told me that if they could determine my claim to be factual, they would take steps in correcting my issue because of their gaurantee- what that means I don’t even know at this point. Aside from a stripped Motorcraft, factory spark plug I don’t know how I’m going to prove this. My bigger fear is that they’ll remove the plug, say they found nothing wrong, and not be able to re-install it - which could mean I’m SOL.

I hate to keep asking questions, but what would you guys do? Pursue CarMax and press that they certified a portion of the car which wasn’t up to snuff? Cut my losses and just deal with it 90,000 miles down the road?

Again, thank you everyone.

I would pursue it. This is something you absolutely cannot fix yourself unless you have a complete machine shop. You’re better off securing a new head for it and more importantly, the labor behind it.