How To Clean Flat-Tappet Hydraulic Lifters

Just How To Tidy Flat-Tappet Hydraulic Lifters

At the minimum, taking down, checking, and also cleansing hydraulic lifters is excellent engine health that can add to lengthy life span in your vintage car. It’s likewise an excellent method to check the wellness of your valvetrain and also can be handy in figuring out the resource of strange sounds. As well as if you’re tearing right into an engine with any type of sort of gas mileage on it, a great cleansing is the least you can use those worn out, old lifters.

I just recently developed a mess while servicing my 1969 Dodge Battery charger’s 440 with the lifter valley subjected. As opposed to just offering the lifters a fast shallow cleansing to clear particles from the surface area, I decided to tear right into them to guarantee I finished the task to the most effective of my capacity. While not completely essential to maintain my engine running, it did a minimum of function as a possibility to reveal others exactly how straightforward this failed to remember procedure is. 

Right Here’s what I required and also exactly how I did it.

Lifter Cleansing Security 

Do not allow the dimension of a lifter fool you, it prepares to provide you troubles you really did not enroll in. You’re managing tiny, thick springtimes and also similarly bad chemicals. Do on your own a support and also safeguard the soft things. 

Every little thing You’ll Require To Tidy Apartment Tappet Lifters 

To be completely clear, this overview concentrates on the procedure as it associates with level tappet lifters in a Chrysler 440. The details is still important to a lot of applications with hydraulic lifters, however various applications need various actions. It’s important to look into the procedure for your precise engine prior to entering. 

When It Comes To what you’ll require to take on level tappet lifters, there is an appropriate device for the task. Nevertheless, discovering a classic lifter compressor is much easier stated than done. Fortunately, a couple of fundamental hand devices will certainly function great in their location. Some choices, securing pliers, an old pushrod, lint-free store towels, and also birthed brushes ought to all go to the all set. You’ll likewise require some chemicals to do the hefty training. My old solution guidebook recommends utilizing kerosene, however a cleansing solvent such as mineral spirits or lacquer thinner and also your preferred degreaser will certainly function simply great. Naturally, some electric motor oil or setting up lube will certainly be essential when returning the lifters house too. 

Device Listing 

Organizing your devices and also equipment so every little thing is quickly obtainable will certainly conserve priceless mins waiting on your handy-dandy kid or four-legged assistant to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You will not require a blowtorch for this task. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)

Hank O’Hop

Here’s How To Clean a Lifter

1. Access the Lifters

The first step of this process is accessing the lifters. In my case, I already had the intake removed, which provides clear access to the lifter valley of this engine. Depending on the application, that may or may not be necessary, but you want to give yourself enough room to work cleanly and efficiently in any case. 

2. Remove the Lifter

I personally prefer to leave the lifters in their respective bores and work one by one. I do not mind giving it the extra time if it means I’m absolutely sure of lifter placement. You can pull them all out at once as long as you have a system that allows you to keep track of the lifters so you can return them to the bore they come from.

Removing lifters is simple on this engine, as I can pull them out by hand. That may not be an option on some engines, and a magnet on a stick is best to pull it free. 

Hank O’Hop

3. Clean the Exterior 

Before tearing into the lifter, give it a quick cleaning with some degreaser. Getting oil and gunk off the exterior will make it easier to work with. It also gives you the opportunity to inspect the exterior for any irregularities or wear patterns that signal bigger problems are afoot. 

Hank O’Hop

4. Remove the Retaining Clip

Set the lifter standing upright on your workbench. Take a spare pushrod and compress the internal plunger. It’ll be hard to get much movement out of it, but you only need just enough room for the retaining clip to easily be wiggled free.  

I like to remove the outer edges of the clip first, then gently pull it free with pliers. You just need to be careful not to pull too hard and deform the retaining clip. Locking pliers are also useful in preventing the clip from springing across the room on you. 

A bench vise is perfectly acceptable for holding roller lifters while removing the clip. Protective pads are always recommended, but the hard body of the lifter should be fine for light pressure. Forgo compressing the plunger for this as you will likely push the lifter out of the vise. 

Hank O’Hop

5. Carefully Remove the Guts of the Lifter 

With the clip out of the way, the internals are free to come out. They don’t always come easy, though. You may need a little persuasion with non-marring picks. Take note of the order of everything as the internals come out. 

6. Clean

Simply dip the parts in your solvent and work free any stubborn deposits with your brushes. Clean the internal portions as well as the exterior to ensure you’re leaving no debris or deposits behind. Now is the time to inspect the plunger and internal portion of the lifter for any signs of damage. 

7. Assemble 

Once the lifter is clean and dry, it’s time to reassemble. This is very simple, as everything goes in reverse order. Just be sure not to lose any of the small parts of the internal system, as the lifter will fail to work properly if it isn’t assembled properly. 

8. Prime the Lifters? 

My service manual specifically states that you are not to prime the lifters before installing them. That does not mean you don’t have to for your engine. Depending on the application and cam manufacturer, the procedure of priming might be necessary, which is one reason why you need to do the homework to determine what steps are necessary for the application. 

Hank O’Hop

9. Return Home and Repeat 

Once you’re done cleaning the lifter, all that’s left is to return it to the bore you pulled it from and carry on to the next. I like to take a lint-free rag with some solvent and give the lifter bore a quick pass for good measure. Then I dab the lifter with some assembly lube, spread it around, drop it back in place, and move on. 


The guide above, while generally helpful, has a particular focus on the 440 the lifters are for. The process is bound to change based on the application, which is why I included the video below that follows a similar process for a different engine. Keep in mind that your best resource will be the one that’s a match for your application, but both this guide and the video below will serve as good starting points. 

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