Engine Rocker Noise after Aluminum heads and 1 piece CM Pushrods


something stupid will fall out of my mouth
Founding Member
Jul 21, 2000
Tulsa, OK
Ok, Been messing with this for a couple of weeks. I will post the combo, What I have done and what I have been told which I dont totally think is the issue. Yes I have done plenty of searching on forums and have found lots of guessing and speculation but not a smoking gun that has fixed my problem.

Combo is Stock bottom end from a 90 car with trw forged factory pistons, E303 cam, early twisted wedge heads, Elgin 1.6 roller rockers, Crower one piece pushrods (yes the length is good and pattern on the valve looks good) Factory roller lifters, poly locks, trick flow street burner intake and factory valve covers with the baffle removed. I previously had ported and polished E7 heads machined for screw in studs and had these same rockers on them and I did have some ticking but not bad. Now it sounds like I left 4 or 5 of them loose.

I have pulled the valve covers and adjusted the rockers using several different methods, quarter turn, half turn, full turn, primed the oil pump with a drill, spun on most of my tries, I replaced a couple of lifters because I felt they were maybe a little spongy after they set overnight, I have sprayed carb cleaner down the pushrod holes to free up any sticky lfiters (yes changed the oil and filter after). Currently I have them over adjusted I believe because after the car starts to warm it barely runs so going to have to go back into it again. The guy that did the dyno tune on my car told me I needed to install oil restrictors in the block but that I might be able to get away with just a HV oil pump but I cannot imagine that everyone that installs aluminum heads and similar parts deals with this. Also when I do prime the oil pump The second rocker from the back on both sides seems to get less oil than the others. Some I see really good oil flow from and others seem week and it doesnt matter where the cam is on rotation and I did try moving lifters and rockers around and the oil flow does not follow so its definitely just the block or oil flow path doing it. But the lifters all seem nice and tight when they have oil so cant imagine thats the noise.

And before anyone asks, no its not an exhaust leak or rockers hitting the valve covers. I have verified both multiple times. Its most definitely something in the valve train and the car does start right up and idle great when its adjusted with most of the tried and true methods, just noisy as hell. Way more than I think is normal for a roller motor even with adjustable rockers with any amount of preload on the lifter. Ive been working on and building motors for myself for years and this sounds bad. I would be embarrassed to pop the hood on this thing running at any kind of meet up. Anyone run into this? Is it really needing oil restrictors because that seems like pulling the motor and going through the block. Surely everyone doesnt do this to install heads.
  • Sponsors (?)

I chased my tail with something that sounds similar to what you're experiencing only to find that I forgot to install the set screw plugs in the end of the heads. This won't explain any oiling issues you may or may not have, but if it runs well when everything is adjusted properly that could be a reason for the ticking. :shrug:
Ok, Explain this set screw? The heads were used that came off a running motor so I assumed they were ready to bolt on but I am not sure what set screw your referring too. Ok, With that said, I did drop them off at my machine shop guy and had them checked over and he said they were good to go. I didnt actually just take them and bold them on.
They're listed in the parts list on page 4 and the in the instructions on page 6:

I can't seem to find a good pic anywhere online, but there's an illustration on page 7 that shows the location. My set has 4, one on each end of the head.
Those appear to be the inserts to block the EGR passage and allow for threading bolts in. I have those installed on each end of the heads. This is definitely rocker arm noise from inside the valve covers.
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Were these heads ever checked over?Early TFS heads had valve guide issues.Also,what lifters? OEM?
I did drop them off at the machine shop and have him go over them. I dont think he took out any valves but he did check all of the bolt holes and the surface for issues. Factory lifters and I do have tons of them. I replaced a couple that I felt were spongy but right now when I prime the pump all of them pump up very solid. The guy at the machine shop said it looked like they had been gone through not long ago. They do have what appear to be almost new guide seals but no idea on valve guides themselves.
I am going to go back over it this weekend but its just rocker arm clatter like loose rockers. Not much to describe. If you have ever heard very poorly adjusted rockers before thats what it sounds like. As if several of them are backed off a solid turn.
The issues you describe are the same issues I dealt with ...Id drop the oil and check it for aluminum glitter from forged piston skirts..

At first when my engine started it was quiet...Then over time it started developing a tick I thought was valvetrain related as it went away when the engine was warmed up..

While driving with the loud exhaust I could hear a faint rattle like I had my timing too far advanced and when I put the quiet exhaust the noise became louder in 3rd when you lug down the engine a lil going into a turn it sounded like I had a bad shift ring in my brand new TKO600 so I removed it and shipped it back to Tennessee to have it looked over and they found nothing wrong..

Then the valvetrain noise got worse and it was some noise coming from the Comp Cams Pro Magnum Steel rockers as the guide plates allowed too much side to side movement and popped the roller bearings loose outwards on the clips and it sounded like a sewing machine sort of..

I removed the Pro Magnums and put Comp Cams self aligning rollertip rockers in and the sewing machine noise on the topend went away but still had a noise that sounded like a an exhaust leak or collapsed lifter or a valve that needed adjustment so I tried adjusting the valves every which way to Sunday then I went crazy thinking my exhaust gaskets were leaking and making the noise sound valvetrain related...spent 4 hours changing headder gaskets..No dice. Then I tore the topend off and changed the lifters....

Started it up again brought the engine up to 2000 rpms to set the lifters and still heard a noise that slowly got louder as I drove until my engine sounded like a diesel at idle and while cruising...........

Dropped the oil and it was glittery..I thought the camshaft went bad but the metal wouldnt stick to a magnet......Put an inspection camera through the oilpan hole and found nothing so I pulled the engine and thats when the source of the noise became clear.....

The OP explained that he had TRW Forged pistons...TRW pistons are so resilient they can actually wear out the bore in bad ways if the engine wasnt bored and honed with a torqueplate and the pistons can get bashed around in the shirt area if the block wasnt prepped right.... Another thing to touch upon is aftermarket pistons are made of two different alloys...4032 and 2618..

4032 alloy doesnt expand as much as 2618 alloy pistons but 2618 alloy pistons are tougher than 4032 pistons..Each piston manufacturer gives a sheet on how to finish bore the cylinders for different engine applications with overall finish size ..

When I took the heads off everything seemed kind of normal except for the slight scoring on some cylinders until I tried rocking the pistons and low and behold found the sources to my noise which ended up being Piston slap............

I rebuilt the engine myself and I know every clearance for every bearing,,ring gap,,quench etc plus I know its 100% right also...

Ill never put trust in anyone who proclaims themselves to be experts in the field. Its easy to mass produce brand new racing engines all day but not as easy rebuilding engines that requires a lil more attention to details it seems,,,

Then I find out the place I trusted doesnt even have a DBA to do rebuilding services for the public...Their business license is only for building and selling brand new racing engines..

Do your diligence beforehand and if you ask questions and they make you feel like a scumbag for even entertaining the question saying theyve been doing the game a long time...Walk away and do research on them before they waste your time and take your money..,,

And another piece of advice even though they will make you seem like a scumbag for doing is pay with a credit card,,,,

Paying with cash saves you nothing when you cant do a chargeback and force the scumbags who do shoddy work to do the right thing...

They say cash is King..Not in my case....LOL

Good Luck OP
Yes pushrod length was checked and the roller tips are riding very close to center on the valve stem and I cant imagine this would be pistons. These are factory pistons and the sound changed abruptly with just changing heads. Poston slap is a gradual build up, not a night and day change with a head swap so its baffling me. I appreciate the help though but I did change the oil during all this and no metal in the oil. Oil looks great. I am leaning towards trying a high volume oil pump and see if I can get more oil up top. Not the easiest thing to do in the car but I can do it. I am almost thinking this block may have some oil passages that are clogged. It didnt seem dirty and I did not have the block vatted. Just new rings and bearings done by me and it maybe has 1000 miles on it since but the noise did get way worse with these heads and it has not left the garage.
I did mach it up with clay and turned it over and the combo itself is suppose to be safe anyway. But yes I did check it before I bolted it down.