How To Changing 5.3L Lifters Without Removing Heads

Your car’s 5.3L engine is the heart of its power, providing the muscle needed to propel your vehicle. Unfortunately, 5.3L lifters can sometimes be the source of trouble. When these lifters malfunction, your engine’s performance may suffer. In this article, we’ll guide you on how to replace 5.3L lifters without the hassle of removing the cylinder heads.

Can You Replace Lifters Without Removing Heads?

Yes, in most cases, you can replace 5.3L lifters without removing the cylinder heads, except for specific vehicle models like certain Impreza versions that require a special tool to remove the head bolts. Our simple steps will get your engine back in peak condition without this extensive operation.

The Ideal Time to Change 5.3L Lifters

5.3L lifters can experience wear and tear due to various reasons, and one of the telltale signs is decreased power production. If you notice low-end torque issues, it’s time to consider replacing your lifters. Additionally, some common indicators that your lifters need replacement include:

  • Cracks and wear under the camshaft
  • Persistent rust on the lifter’s surface
  • Stuck lifters leading to ticking noises
  • Collapsed lifters causing misfires
  • Damaged lifters resulting in vehicle backfiring
  • Unstable rocker arm noise during engine operation

If the lifters are oil-stained and leaking, inspection and replacement are necessary.

The Cost of Replacing 5.3L Lifters Without Removing Heads

Replacing 5.3L lifters without removing the cylinder heads won’t break the bank. On average, it will cost you approximately $50 to $60, depending on your car model. In contrast, replacing the engine’s camshaft can set you back around $1,000, depending on the extent of damage.

How to Replace 5.3L Lifters Without Removing Heads

Changing the 5.3L lifters on your own can save you money. Here are the detailed steps to successfully replace 5.3L lifters without removing the cylinder heads:

Step 1: Engine Assessment

Although replacing a faulty lifter might seem daunting, it’s manageable with some technical know-how. Start by assessing your engine thoroughly. Take pictures of different engine parts to reference during reassembly. Your owner’s manual provides additional insights into sensors, ducts, and pipes.

Step 2: Detach Wires, Sensors, and Duct Pipes

After assessing the engine, remove wires, duct pipes, and sensors. Disconnect intake ducting and tubing through the throttle box. Pay close attention to engine sensors during this step.

Step 3: Unbolt the Car’s Manifold

A 5.3L engine typically has two manifolds: upper and lower. To access the lower manifold, you must remove the upper manifold first. Manifolds distribute air to all engine cylinders, making it essential to detach wires and sensors connected to them. Remove the six bolts securing the upper manifold and disconnect the wires with an Allen wrench. Carefully detach any fasteners, as they are connected to other engine components.

Step 4: Remove the Faulty Lifter

Eliminate all nuts and bolts from the car engine and lower intake. Separately remove all fasteners, including the clocked ones, from the engine bay. Once removed, separate the upper manifold from the lower manifold. If it’s stuck or jammed, use a rubber mallet to gently tap it, avoiding the use of screwdrivers to prevent damage.

Step 5: Install New Lifters

Install the new lifters into their sockets, following the correct pattern, ensuring they’re not mashed to avoid premature wear. Wear gloves and use a wrench to rotate the lifters into the right bore. Compress them with oil.

Step 6: Reconnect Wires, Duct Pipes, and Sensors

After installing the new lifters and oiling them, properly reconnect all sensors, duct pipes, and wires. Refer to the pictures you took earlier if you’re unsure of their placement. A mistake in connections can lead to costly repairs.

Before starting the engine, double-check that all engine components are in place. If you encounter any issues, such as a misconnected wire, address them before running the engine. If the engine runs smoothly, you’ve completed the replacement correctly. In case of unusual noises, reopen and reinstall the lifters.

Can You Drive With a Bad Lifter?

While it’s possible to drive with a faulty lifter, it’s not advisable. A bad lifter can create excessive noise and potentially harm your engine. If you notice engine issues while driving, it’s best to address them promptly by repairing or replacing the lifters.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are lifters hard to replace? Replacing lifters is not overly difficult but may require some mechanical skills and patience.
  2. Can you replace lifters without removing heads? Yes, in most cases, you can replace lifters without removing the cylinder heads, as long as your vehicle isn’t a special exception.
  3. Can I just replace lifters? It’s recommended to replace the entire lifter set to ensure proper installation and smooth engine operation.
  4. How long does it take to change lifters? Replacing the lifter set typically takes around 60 minutes, but the time may vary depending on your familiarity with the process.


You’ve successfully replaced the old lifters with new ones. Ensure everything is correctly installed before starting the engine. Any issues should be addressed promptly to avoid further complications.

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