A rocker arm is a crucial and a lesser-known component of a vehicle’s engine’s combustion chamber, contributing to the optimal performance of the engine. It usually lasts longer, equal to the lifecycle of the engine and that’s why there is little scope for its repair.

But inadequate maintenance and incautious use can cause premature damage or wear and tear that can cause poor engine performance. If this issue is left unaddressed and you keep driving with a damaged rocker arm, the engine performance will only get worse and eventually can damage the engine beyond repair, we will tell you how.

Here in this article, you will learn about all the important symptoms that tell you when your vehicle’s rocker arm is going bad and how much it will cost for replacement, but before that, it is important to know that what is a rocker arm and how does it work.

So let’s get to the bottom line!

What is a Rocker Arm

A rocker arm is a valvetrain component in internal combustion engines, transmits the movement of the camshaft towards the intake and exhaust valves of the engine that opens and closes the valves in order to let the mix of air and fuel enter the combustion chamber.

It is usually made of alloy steel and located between the intake and exhaust valves and pushrods which are connected with crankshaft below the engine.

How Does a Rocker Arm Work

Basically, rocker arms help transfer the movement from pushrods to the valves. When the camshaft rotates, the pushrod pushes down on the rocker arm causing the valves to open and close so, the mixture of air and fuel can enter the combustion chamber and enable the engine to work optimally.

The rocker arms are connected to the tappet at one of its ends while the other end is connected to the intake and exhaust valves. This means that, when the camshaft rotates, the rocker arm lowers one of its sides, allowing the valve to be opened and there is a spring attached to it that takes the valves back to their initial position.

If your car has a broken or loose rocker arm, the exhaust valves and intake valves would not function properly and due to that, the fuel cylinder will not be able to do its job. This will ultimately deteriorate the performance of your engine and your ability to drive the car smoothly and safely.

4 Common Symptoms of Bad Rocker Arm

#1 – Clicking or Ticking Noises

If you hear a clicking or ticking sound while starting the engine, the faulty rocker arm may be the culprit. But such sounds can also be the result of other issues such as lack of lubrication between moving parts, worn camshaft lobes, and warped valves. The ticking noise may also come when your engine has a bad timing belt.

The best thing you can do is that visually check the rocker arm and see if it is properly opening and closing the valve. If everything looks normal but you still hear that noise then take your vehicle to a mechanic.

#2 – Weak Engine Performance

It is essential that the intake and exhaust valves of the engine open and close at the right time for the efficient performance of the engine. But if any of the rocker arms gets bad, this process of open and close does not work the way it should be and it affects the overall performance of the engine and fuel efficiency. You clearly notice decreased power and poor acceleration.

If this issue is not resolved and the rocker arms are completely worn out then the time will come when the engine will completely stall and would not start at all until the rocker arm is replaced.

#3 – Check Engine Light On

If you have a modern vehicle with an AI system installed in it then you will find a check engine light on in dashboard if your rocker arm is damaged. Although, there are several reasons that can cause the check engine light to come on, so to find the root cause of the problem run a diagnostic scan to check any stored codes.

The codes mainly associated with a rocker arm are P2646, P2647, if you find any of these codes then take your vehicle immediately to a mechanic.

Related Article: How to Reset Check Engine Light On

#4 – Physical Tear & Wear

When you visually inspect the rocker arm on hearing the ticking or clicking sound, then look for metal pieces lying below the rocker arm as when rocker arm moves along the valve tip, they grind together that causes damage to the surface of the rocker arm.

Even if you do not find any metal pieces but the rocker arm is in poor condition, then it should be replaced before the problem appears over time.

How Long Can You Drive with a Bad Rocker Arm

Of course, you can drive with a bad rocker arm but it can be a very expensive failure. It can damage or ruin your engine, even on extensive damage to the rocker arm, it can fall off the pushrod and damage the valve. The damaged valve can drop into the combustion chamber which will possibly damage the engine.

Another probability is that when the rocker arm grinds together with the valve, the tiny pieces of metal may enter into the combustion chamber and will be circulated throughout the engine which will ultimately ruin the engine parts and deteriorate the engine condition.

Rocker Arm Replacement Cost

Replacing a rocker arm is an expensive deal, however, a rocker arm will cost only between $15 and $60 but this is not only the rocker arm you will need, there are other components that you will need during the replacement such as guide plates and pushrods.

It is better you go for the rocker arm kit that includes all necessary components costing you between $100 and $500.

Because locating and replacing rocker arms is extensively time-consuming work, so it’s not going to be cheap, you will have to pay around $500 to $1,500 for parts and labor both depending on the brand and model of the vehicle.


Now that you understand how important it is to have a good conditioned rocker arm. In this context, it is also vital that you choose the right type of rocker arm for your vehicle. Usually, rockers are made of steel which is inexpensive as well as fairly strong and lightweight.

But heavy-duty vehicles such as truck uses rocker arms made of forged carbon steel or cast iron that is extensively stronger. In some high-end expensive cars, you might see an aluminum rocker arm that is strong and lightweight. If you change your rocker arm yourself, then choose it wisely according to the vehicle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a Loose Rocker Arm Cause a Misfire

When there is a damaged or loose rocker arm, ignition does not happen at the right time that causes the engine to misfire or overheat.