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I just bought a 1997 Honda Accord 31,000 miles & it seemed to run good but I've been noticing ticking from the engine. What could that mean?
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Two thoughts, though it could it be a several things :( . If its worse at low revs it could be valve clatter, but this doesn't seem likely in your low mileage vehicle. It could also be an exhaust leak; does it worsen with engine speed?

My '97 Prelude with 33,000 miles also ticks but has no deleterious effect on performance or mileage. May be Honda engine management hardware or some similar from that year.

I'm sure others will post better suggestions.
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There are just way too many possibilities to figure this one out via internet. You'll have to find a mechanic to actually check the car out. Unless you can get a reference for a mechanic from somebody you trust I'd go with a Honda dealer. Ask other Honda owners for a good dealer in your area. We'd just be shooting in the dark on this one.
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I just bought a 1997 Honda Accord 31,000 miles & it seemed to run good but I've been noticing ticking from the engine. What could that mean?

As others noted, it's probably not valve train noise on such a low milage motor. Are you familiar with detonation, also known as spark knock and pinging? That can sound like ticking. If you don't know what I'm talking about, try a tank of mid-grade fuel and see if that affects the noise at all.

Still could be the valve train of course. Even new parts can fail right away.

Cheers,
Richard
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Would an exhaust leak make the hub caps look like there's black soot on them? Thanks
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That's probably brake pad dust. Hard to get off.
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That's brake dust. There are several spray-and-wipe/rinse products that actually work for this. Also soap, water and wipe hard works.
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Many Honda Engines, especially the V-TEC, make a noise similar to a sewing machine at idle. A slight ticking is usually the valve train making noise. The noise should go away at higher RPM's. If it does not it may be a problem. My Acura has a 30K mile valve adjustment interval. Some people reporting a ticking if it is slightly out of adj. I would take it to a mechanic that specializes in Honda. With 31K miles you may be able to take it to a Honda Dealer under warranty to get it checked out.

The noise could also be the exhaust system cooling. Most cars do this when they are turned off and the different parts of the system expand and contract at different rates.
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