trying to diagnose ticking noise on 88 5.0 coupe


May 19, 2005
i am trying to diagnose the ticking noise that my 88 5.0 5spd coupe is making. the car runs great and is reliable and a daily driver, but it has a ticking noise. i am pretty sure it is not an exhaust leak. i sometimes hear it on start up and it comes and goes depending on rpm. and varies. sometimes i drive the car and will think it has gone away, then later i will drive it and i will hear it again. the car has gt40 heads, upper/lower edelbrock intake, bigger throttle body, bbk headers, mac cold air intake. in the past it had a real bad tick. we thought it was the lifters and i swapped them out for ones from a 91 5.0 stock with 100K on them. Then when i started the car up it was ticking again so we figured it was the oil pump and it was because the shaft broke. So another thing I was thinking it could be was the lifters or rockers or push rods, also since it had a broken oil pump maybe worn bearings... what do you guys think? what would you check for first? also what oil should i be running in it?
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Have you actually eliminated the exhaust leak as a problem for sure? I had an incredibly mysterious ticking on my '88, and finally found it about 3 months later.. it was where the mid-pipe connected to the cat-back.

Is it possible maybe for you to have somebody or possibly a couple people stand on different sides of the car, listening, then possibly you could narrow it down (i.e. the guy standing over the engine clearly hears it.)

I'll let someone more experienced recommend your oil.. but what I've been told by the experienced guys is, to run the thinnest oil you are able to run while still maintaining comfortable oil pressure.
Try using a short (2 foot or so) piece of plastic tubing as a stethoscope and probe around the suspect areas (headers, exhaust joints, valve covers, etc.) until you track it down. I swore I had a problem with my roller rockers but it was just a blown out header gasket on cylinder 5. Good luck!
Definitely use some sort of stethoscope to narrow it down or else youll be playing the "well, THIS could make a ticking noise... better replace it" game until you either run out of money or get lucky and replace it.