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2003 Discovery 2 SE7
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Discussion Starter #1
Hello everyone,

I am new to the forum, and have recently purchased a 2003 Disco 2 SE7 with 114,000 miles on it for cheap because of a slight ticking sound in the motor. I usually buy old Volvos and fix them up as a fun side project, but couldn't pass on this Disco because of the price, despite knowing next to nothing about them, figuring I could part it out, as it is in pretty nice shape otherwise. I have since driven it around a bit and have fallen in love with it despite its long list of flaws, and now I want to try to fix it up and possibly turn it into a budget overlanding rig. Anyway, after exhaustive research on what this engine noise could be, I have come up with a plethora of answers, none of which seem to be definitive. So, I am hoping someone could point me in the right direction.

When I start the truck up cold, it doesn't tick. About two minutes after I start it, it starts lightly ticking at the raised warm-up idle speed (around 1,000 RPM). Once it settles down to normal idle (700 or so RPM) it ticks infrequently, unless I bring it up to around 1000-1400 RPM. Past that, the noise of the motor drowns it out. The tick gets more frequent as the revs increase. Once the truck is fully warmed up after going for a drive, it doesn't tick at all at idle. Once I bring the revs up to around 1,000, it starts ticking consistently. If I drop it back down to idle, it goes away again. I have read about the notorious liner slip that causes ticking in these motors, but have read that it is most pronounced at idle, and is very loud. The tick in my engine isn't very loud, and I can't hear it in the cabin unless I roll the windows down. Once I start driving I can't hear it over tire noise unless I am going very slowly and really listen for it. This makes me hopeful it isn't the liners, but I don't know for sure. I haven't pulled the heads to look for any signs, nor have I pulled the valve covers to look for any signs of rocker failure or anything similar. I don't know the service history of the truck besides what I learned from a few receipts left in the glove box:
  • Head gaskets were done at the dealer at around 45,000 miles. I don't know why this was done, only that it was and that it cost the previous owner a small fortune.
  • Various other receipts from the dealership for things like wheel speed sensors and brakes.
  • I changed the oil the other day. When I got the truck the oil level was filled about 4-5 inches ABOVE the max fill mark on the dipstick. When I changed it, the oil that came out of the truck was a strange dark brown "muddy" color, not black or dark golden-brown. It did not seem to be the "milkshake" consistency of something that had coolant leaking into the motor, but I could be wrong. It was exactly the same color as mud. I changed it when the oil was warm (as one should) and the oil coming out of the engine was steaming like crazy - nothing I had ever seen before. Unfortunately, I neglected to take pictures of it. The oil filter evidently had not been changed in many years - it was rusting both around the rubber gasket and rusting underneath the paint on the filter. I put fresh 10W-40 in it and a new filter, which the engine seemed to like, but didn't help with the ticking. The strange part is that one of those receipts showed an oil change at one of those quick-lube joints only 700 miles before I bought it. I think they didn't actually change it, because the oil I put in is still perfectly clear after 40 miles of decently hard driving (mostly up and down a dirt road and driving through a rocky, hilly off-road track I built in my backyard while in low range, with occasional moderate to heavy acceleration on paved roads).
Overall, it runs perfectly other than the tick, the transmission shifts smoothly, and everything works as it should. No error codes after I swapped out the XYZ switch to fix the flashing M and S lights so I could drive it around. I have put around 40 miles on it so far, and it runs and drives great, other than the ticking noise, which I can't hear when I'm driving anyways. Engine pulls strongly and cleanly to 5,000 RPM, sounds great otherwise, and is making good power.

I have two options at this point, as far as I can tell: fix whatever the noise is, and drive it until something else breaks (assuming this option is cheap enough to make it worthwhile - I am not afraid to do major engine work if it is worth my time and if the parts are cheap enough), or just run it like it is until it blows up, if it even does. It won't be my main vehicle, and I just want to have some fun with it off-road and around town for a little while. Will it last long enough with this noise to have 5,000 miles worth of fun with it, then I can part it out like I had intended when the motor lets go, or is it cheap enough to fix? I took a quick video from inside today, which might help get a better idea of the type of noise that is going on.
I will try to get some better footage from outside the car this weekend. As I said, I am totally new to the Land Rover world, so any help would be much appreciated. Thanks for your time.
 
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I had a 2003 SE7 that ticked like that. I spent quite a bit of money on top end work and diagnostics. Never sorted it out, but it also never broke. I sold the truck well over 150k and ticking strong.

welcome to the forum
 
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2003 Discovery 2 SE7
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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks!
That's good to hear. I have read a lot of horror stories with these engines, so I figured it wasn't going to last, but I'm hoping it proves me wrong. Looks like I am going to drive it like that and hope for the best. Thanks for the reply.
 

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It is an old style engine, so there are lots of things that tick:

Liners do not really tick that is more of thump noise
  • Rockers tick they at will speed up with RPM if you have low oil pressure or they are sloppy
If you open the hood and raise the RPM, rocker tick will come from the top end mostly at the valve covers

You can get a bottom end tick if the bearings for the connect rods are getting worn or possibly the oil pump gears are cracked
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I can't really tell where it is coming from. Just from listening under the hood with the RPMs raised, it sounds like top end, coming from the passenger side by the valve cover. When I poured some Marvel Mystery Oil into the engine while it was running to see what would happen, the ticking stopped, then gradually came back. The same thing did not happen when I added regular motor oil.

If I crawl underneath the truck while someone else is raising the RPMs, it sounds like bottom end, coming from the driver's side near where the transmission meets up with the engine. In both locations, it is a pretty light tick, not really consistent with rod knock that I've heard, but it could be light rod knock I suppose.

That said, I dumped out the ancient oil filter that came out of it when I changed the oil and could see a lot of sparkly metal bits in the oil that came out of the filter. No chunks, just lots of tiny sparkles, but that isn't a good sign. Looked like a toddler dumped some of that ultra-fine glitter into the filter.

I will take video both from on top of the engine and underneath the truck and post it as soon as I can so you can take a listen for yourself.
 

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Yeah - I agree - those sparkles are not a good sign, especially with that tick you got. Possibility the tick is coming from the lifters too, if there's metal contamination in your oil.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Good point about the lifters - thanks. It does sound like it might be coming from that area. I have no idea when the oil on the truck was last changed - the filter was very rusty, and the filter itself was so old that I can't find any mention of it anywhere online (yellow painted filter - VO95 printed on the side in big black letters - that's it, no branding), so that could be 10,000 miles worth of metal or 70,000 miles worth of metal. In the probably 25 receipts I found in the glove box, not one was for an oil change. I will change the oil again soon so I can see if there is any significant amount of metal sparkles in the filter I put in when I last changed it.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Finally got a chance to get better video of it running from outside the truck. This was after I had warmed it up and driven it about 5 miles to get everything up to temperature.
 

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my previous 2003 (which started ticking around 110k) was quiet when cold, and didn't start to tick until warmed up. it would then tick rhythmically at idle, and the cadence of the ticking would increase with RPM until it was either ticking too fast, the engine was too loud to hear, or it was otherwise indistinguishable.

i spent probably $1800 in diagnostics and top end work, without so much as one iota of improvement.

i sold the truck off and i still see it driving around town to this day, and i let it go back in 2010 i think.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Wow, that's interesting. Looks like I should leave it as is and hope my truck lasts as long as yours has with just general maintenance and upkeep. Thanks for the information.
 

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that your truck is doing what mine was... you should definitely look into it, and make some effort to rule out some impending catastrophe..

im just saying that there may not be anything to worry about other than an embarrassing tick, once you’ve ruled out the big bad things
 

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Sounds to me like the oil was in there for years without a change so you would have all kinds of contamination in the systems. Sparkly metal bits could bad or as you said a lifetime of abuse. But you also said the ticking stopped briefly with addition of the marvel mystery oil as you added it. A heavy weight oil might help the tick 20/50 is a good choice. But my bet is one of or all of the following: bottom end wear, sticky lifters and worn rockers.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I will look into it for sure. I just found out though another forum thread that I am well within the VIN range for oil pump failures, so I am going to order an oil pressure gauge today. I found a good thread on this site with recommendations on what to get. When I have some spare time, I will pull the valve covers to inspect for any worn/damaged parts.

I agree with your diagnosis, Richard. Good call on the thicker oil. I'll use that next time I change it and see what happens. I have a suspicion that it may be rockers that are ticking, but all three do seem like the could be making some noise.
Would it be a good idea to use an oil additive to help clean all the sludge and gunk out of the motor, or will that cause more harm than good at this point? I saw that Atlantic British sells this two-part additive (one part to clean, one part as an after treatment) that is supposed to help clean everything out and quiet down noises. Would that help at all, or should I just keep changing the oil frequently?
 

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Would it be a good idea to use an oil additive to help clean all the sludge and gunk out of the motor, or will that cause more harm than good at this point? I saw that Atlantic British sells this two-part additive (one part to clean, one part as an after treatment) that is supposed to help clean everything out and quiet down noises. Would that help at all, or should I just keep changing the oil frequently?
6 of 1, half dozen of another? This is the realm of preference imho.

Personally, I'd do my best to let it clean things up on its own. You've probably got some caked on stuff and it's going to take some time to clean it all out. You know how that goes, you can't clean up decades worth of abuse in only 1 or 2 oil changes - some of that may be helping with the smooth operation of the vehicle, aside for the ticking. I've found that after buying a vehicle that was likely abused, I don't refresh a lot off the bat (I own BMWs too and if you go crazy changing things, they go cra-cra too as the computer doesn't know up from down and their fuel/air systems are unforgiving)?

On the other side of the coin, like has been pointed out, I wouldn't ignore this. Just keep a eye on your temps and drive it 'normal' while you go through each part of the process (i.e. you know you have a tick and you have a idea of what can cause it). I really believe this is probably in your lifters/rockers due to all that contamination, but again, it could be a few things and with all that metal in your oil, bearings, oil pump, etc should obviously not be ruled out. I would think it would have gone away for longer with the mystery oil, but the fact you don't know when the last oil change (w/filter) really was, that could still be it.

Personally, I'd check your oil pressure and then keep a eye on the oil and get to cleaning that up, slowly but surely.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I will definetly be keeping a close eye on it. Changing the oil frequently and letting the engine clean itself has worked well for me in the past. I bought a '60s Volvo that had been sitting in a barn for 20 years about a year ago. Had all sorts of junk in the crankcase from sitting. Changed the oil and filter every 150 miles or so for 1,000 miles, and now it makes a lot more power than it did and runs a lot quieter and smoother. Modern oil technology is a thing of beauty.
 

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Try some Shell Rotella 15W40 thats what I use on my D2. Try it for 3000 miles see if it cleans it up and helps with the tapping. But 03's are re-known for misaligned oil pumps from factory. Might want to have that checked.
Dave
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks Dave. I'll use that when I change it next. I have read about the oil pump issues on '03s. I have an oil pressure gauge on the way, so I will check oil pressures and go from there, and if they aren't where they should be, I'll take the front cover off and have a look at the oil pump.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
A little update:
Today I took the truck for a drive, and drove it up on some straight (and quite deserted) roads, doing some 10-50 full-throttle pulls and some more aggressive driving (well, aggressive for a Disco - she's no Ferrari). This is something I hadn't really tried yet. I wanted to see how the engine would behave with some additional load and temperature. After driving for around 20 minutes, I pulled off the road, popped the hood, and listened for ticking while raising the idle from the engine bay. It was completely gone, and the engine was running much quieter and smoother than usual. I don't know why this is (higher oil temps perhaps?), but it sounded like a brand new truck. After letting it idle for about five minutes, the ticking started to slowly return, and after driving normally back home, it was still there, but was at about half the volume as the video I took above. I could barely hear it over other engine noises and fan noise.
What I have theorized based on this and the condition of old oil (and your plethora of responses - thanks!) is that neglect from the previous owner and a lack of oil changes has caused a bunch of sludge to build up in the engine, causing parts of the valvetrain to become gummed up, causing the tick I have been hearing. Not sure how driving aggressively would stop that though.
Thoughts?
 

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Sounds like some of your hydraulic lifters are sticking. The new oil and running it hard are cleaning things up in there and causing them to stick less. Just my $.02.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
That's what I was thinking as well. I plan to drive it somewhat aggressively for a while and change the oil frequently to get everything cleaned out. Hopefully that will take care of the noise for good.
I will post back with updates after I drive it some longer distances, as well as oil pressure readings when my pressure gauge shows up.
 
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