5.7L HEMI Lifter Issues – Causes & Solutions
The Gen III HEMI has been a beloved engine series since its release in 2003. Obviously, the HEMI has an extensive history that extends much further into the past than that. The HEMI is a trademark Chrysler design, and they have been producing them since the end of World War II. In fundamental terms, HEMIs work slightly differently from most other internal combustion engines. In contrast to a normal engine that uses cylindrical combustion chambers, a HEMI uses a hemispherical combustion chamber with dome-shaped cylinders. There are numerous benefits and shortcomings of this design, but Chrysler has been the primary manufacturer providing this type of engine.
At this point in time, Chrysler has developed three generations of the HEMI engine. The first generation was produced from 1951-1958, the second generation from 1964-1971, and the third generation from 2003 to the current day. Of the third-generation engines, the 5.7 HEMI is arguably the most popular and most produced engine in the engine series. It has been used in a number of Ram, Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler models. While it is a cherished engine, it does have a couple of notable issues. 5.7 HEMI Lifter problems are common on the engine and a major stressor for owners.
In this guide, we take a close look at Chrysler 5.7L HEMI lifter issues, the severity of these issues, and some potential solutions. For more 5.7L HEMI content, see our full 5.7L HEMI Common Problems Guide.
HEMI Exhaust Manifold Rattle vs Lifter Tick
Before we jump into the details of true HEMI lifter issues and their causes, let’s first clear up a common source of confusion about ticking sounds coming from the 5.7L HEMI engine. Unfortunately, there are a couple of common 345 HEMI issues that can cause a similar, but not identical, ticking sound. Oftentimes, 5.7L HEMI owners will begin to hear a ticking sound and immediately attribute it to lifter issues. However, another common 345 HEMI issue, broken exhaust manifold bolts, can cause a very similar ticking sound as well.
While lifter issues are very common on the 5.7L HEMI, broken exhaust manifold bolts are unquestionably the most common issue on the 345 V8. This issue is due to the design of the HEMI exhaust manifold. It is a problem as the manifold passes very close to the hottest part of the engine. Since HEMIs naturally run very hot due to their design, this puts additional strain on the manifold bolts. Over time, they eventually give out. When these bolts do snap, they cause the exhaust manifold to rattle around. That causes them to hit surrounding components, causing a ticking or clanging noise. This is often mistaken for lifter tick.
The main difference between the two issues is when the sound occurs. As far as broken exhaust manifold bolts go, the ticking sound is most notable and apparent on startup. The sound will usually dissipate when the engine gets warm. The inverse is true for lifter tick, which usually gets more pronounced as the engine heats up. Since snapped exhaust manifold bolts are the more commonly occurring issue, it is a good idea to check them first before assuming that the issue is lifter-related.
Is 5.7L HEMI Lifter Tick A Serious Issue?
5.7L HEMI lifter tick can eventually become a very serious and costly issue if left alone. If you don’t address the HEMI tick in a timely manner, the lifters can gather so much play that they no longer glide over the cam lobes like they are supposed to. Instead, the lifter’s play can allow the lifter ears to dig into the camshaft lobes. This grinds them down and changes the profile of the cam lobes themselves. If left for a long time, the lifters will eventually destroy the cam lobes entirely. That can lead to misfires and other performance-affecting problems.
Ultimately, if you let 345 HEMI lifter tick fester for too long, it can damage multiple components in the engine. This can be an extremely expensive issue to repair due to the design of the HEMI engine. To replace HEMI lifter components, you first have to remove the cylinder heads which can be time-consuming. Additionally, if there is damage to your camshaft due to a lifter issue, you’ll also have to remove the timing cover, and timing belt, and replace the camshaft entirely.
What Causes 345 HEMI Lifter Tick Issues?
There is actually contention in the Chrysler community about the exact cause of the 5.7L HEMI lifter issue. While some claim that it is a manufacturer design flaw in the multi-displacement system and its associated lifters, others claim that it isn’t due to a design flaw at all. The most common explanation for the 345 HEMI tick is a lack of lubrication to the lifters.
Obviously, like everything else in the engine bay, the 5.7L HEMI lifters rely on oil lubrication to prevent excess friction and wear. If the lifters aren’t supplied with effective oil to lubricate the contact point with the camshaft, damage can occur to both components. There are multiple reasons that the lifters might not be sufficiently lubricated. Since the 345 HEMI lifters are angled nearly horizontally, it is harder for oil to reach the needle bearings in the rollers themselves. If there is an insufficient amount of oil in the engine, due to an oil leak or oil loss, there might not be enough oil to lubricate the lifters.
Chrysler has addressed the HEMI tick issue directly to differing levels of acceptance by the public. They say that the issue is mainly due to oil breaking down over time, losing its lubricative properties. This is especially common with HEMI-powered police cars or fleet cars that spend a lot of time idling. If you get oil changes based on elapsed miles but you leave your car idling for an extended period of time, the oil is still breaking down despite not adding additional miles to the engine.
How to Prevent 5.7L HEMI Lifter Problems
While there are no fail-proof solutions to the 5.7L HEMI lifter tick issue, there are certainly some things that you can do to lessen the chances of running into issues. One of the most obvious, but most impactful, things that you can do to prevent 345 HEMI lifter tick is to change your oil on a more frequent basis. If you do your oil changes based on mileage, it might be a better idea to go off of engine hours instead. This accounts for idle time which also causes oil to break down. Changing your HEMI’s oil frequently will reduce the negative effects of oil breakdown. In the long run, this might be enough to prevent lifter issues from cropping up.
Along similar lines, it is extremely important to check your 345 HEMI’s oil levels regularly. It is always important to know if your engine is losing oil due to a leak. The only way to know this for sure is to check your oil often. Some recommend checking it every third time you fill up, which is a pretty good timeframe. When you do perform an oil change, it is also crucial to use the correct oil. Oil weights other than the manufacturer’s recommendation can cause additional lubrication problems. For the 5.7L HEMI, Chrysler recommends a 5W-30 synthetic blend. For the best performance, it is best to stick with that recommendation.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace 345 HEMI Lifters?
Naturally, one of the most important and frequently asked questions about this problem is how much it costs to fix. Ultimately, the repair cost for faulty 5.7 HEMI lifters depends on how much internal damage was been done. The cost also depends on how many lifters are affected by the problem. If you have been driving with faulty lifters for an extended period, it is likely that your 345 HEMI’s camshaft has also been damaged, resulting in a higher repair cost. Since the 5.7 V8 utilizes 16 individual lifters, the number of affected lifters can vary quite a bit.
Replacing all of your 345 HEMI lifters can cost nearly $3,000 if done by the dealer. An additional $1,500 can be added to that total if there is damage to the camshaft. Most of the associated cost is due to the labor required to replace them. Since the heads need to be removed to replace the lifters, there are a lot of billable hours associated with the job. If you are familiar with a set of tools, the cost of a 5.7L HEMI lifter replacement can be halved. Obviously, it is a pretty in-depth job that requires some engine knowledge and skill. If you are interested in taking on the job yourself, check out this video that walks you through the process:
345 HEMI Lifter Issues Summary
While the 5.7L HEMI is a fantastic engine for a multitude of reasons, there are some notable issues with one of Chrysler’s most popular engines. One of the most severe is significant lifter tick issues. Before you jump into any repairs, it is crucial to verify that the issue is lifter-related. 345 HEMIs are also known to snap exhaust manifold bolts, which can cause a similar sound to lifter tick. If a ticking noise is only prominent on startup, chances are that broken exhaust manifold bolts are the culprit. 5.7L HEMI lifter tick is really only noticeable when the engine is up to temperature.
It is crucial that you not continue to drive too far or too long with HEMI lifter tick. The longer you drive with damaged lifters, the more damage will likely be done. If you are able to catch the issue early, you’ll likely be able to replace only the lifters. However, if the lifters have scored the camshaft lobes, the cam will have to be replaced too.
5.7L HEMI lifter tick is most often caused by poor lifter lubrication. While this is technically a design flaw with the nearly-horizontal lifters, problems often arise as a result of old or non-lubricious oil. This can be solved by ensuring there are no oil leaks, checking and changing your oil frequently, and using recommended 5W-30 synthetic oil. Repairs for 5.7L HEMI lifter tick can range between $2,000-$5,000 depending on the severity of the damage and if you intend on doing the work yourself or taking it to a repair facility.