How to Change 5.3L Lifters Without Removing Heads?


It is a well-known fact that every component of a car can degrade after some time due to some reasons, affecting your vehicle’s mobility and performance. Some of the components that can easily affect your car’s performance are the lifters.

Though the lifters may look insignificant, they perform an essential function in the vehicle. The lifters are located between the camshaft and the cylinder. As a result, they may fail for many reasons, including rust, dirt, crack, and wear.

Changing damaged lifters on time will help to prevent more severe damage. Replacing damaged filters is very easy, and you can fix it yourself. Continue reading to learn how to change 5.3 l lifters without removing heads.

What is 5.3 l lifter?

You might have seen or heard about “5.3 l lifter”, but you may not know its meaning and use. The 5.3 l lifters are cylinders that sit between your car’s cylinder valves and camshaft. The lifter actuates and opens the valves temporarily when the camshaft moves over it.

The 5.3 l lifter is one of the essential parts of a car, and they are usually referred to as the powerhouse that drives a car. However, if the lifter is damaged, it may lead to several problems.

What is lifter used for?

Now that we know the meaning of a lifter, we can explain some of its uses. The essential functions of a lifter in your car are described below:

  1. One of the functions of the lifter is to provide torque and power to the wheels. If the lifter is faulty, it will not be able to provide the necessary power and torque.
  2. Another function of the lifter is to open the engine valves and clear the valve train during thermal expansion.

Like every other car component, the lifter may degrade after some time for some reason. To know more, read our section on Why do 5.3 lifters fail?.

Why do 5.3 lifters fail?

The mobility and the performance of your car will be affected if the lifters are faulty or damaged. Here are some reasons why 5.3 lifters may fail:


Lifters are susceptible to rust because they are made from steel. Although rustiness can be easily removed with water and baking soda, you must not expose them to water. You should also check for rust whenever you are inspecting the lifters.

Rust on Engine

Dirt and Impurities

Another reason why 5.3 lifters fail is because of dirt and impurities. Lifters may get stuck if exposed to engine oil that contains too much dirt. The only way to fix this problem is by replacing the dirty oil.

Crack and Wear

The lifters are susceptible to cracking since their primary function is to open the engine valves when they are hot. Therefore, it is essential to check them regularly to confirm if they are still intact or cracked. You should replace lifters immediately if they are worn out or cracked.

Improper Lifters Spacing

Improper spacing may also cause lifters to fail. If you notice that your lifter is producing a ticking sound, you can fix it by cleaning the lifters and adjusting their spacing.

Symptoms of damaged 5.3 l lifters

Now that you know some fundamental reasons lifters fail, you should also know the associated symptoms of a damaged 5.3 l lifter. Some of these symptoms are:

  • Vehicle Backfiring
  • Engine making weird noises
  • Lifters producing a ticking sound
  • Misfire caused by collapsed lifters

If you notice one or more signs listed above in your car, then it means that it is time to clean or replace the lifters.

How to change 5.3 l lifters without removing heads (Steps)

Just like we said earlier, the 5.3 l lifters are essential parts of your car, and your car performance will be affected if they are weak or faulty. To fix this problem, you need to replace the lifters.

Many people believe that it is compulsory to remove lifters before replacing 5.3 l lifters, but that is not true. If you have not tried it before, the following steps will guide you to change 5.3 l lifters without removing heads.

Check the Engine

Lifter replacement is not difficult, but before you can access the lifters, you need to lose or unbolt a large part of your car engine. So, before you start the process, you need to carefully study the engine and know where every ducting and sensor goes.

Man checking the engine

You can also get more information about how to fix all the ducts, pipes, and sensors in the manufacturer’s manual. If you are working on the engine for the first time, you may need to take some pictures. Just because you’ve worked on a car engine before doesn’t mean that you can work on all car engines. Remember, there are different types of engines.

Detach the Wires, Sensors, Duct Pipes

After carefully studying the engine, you can start disconnecting the wires, duct pipes, and sensors. First, remove the tubing, and then move to the intake ducting and other parts. While disconnecting the components, make sure you stay focused.

Manifold Unbolting

The 5.3 l engine consists of two manifolds – upper and lower manifolds. You can only access the lower intake manifold by first removing the upper manifold. The upper manifold is usually located in the cylinder heads, and its primary function is to distribute air to the engine’s cylinder.

Cables and sensors are attached to the manifolds, so make sure you disconnect all the wires and sensors before you start removing manifolds. The upper manifold is held in place with six bolts, and you need to lose all the bolts with an Allen wrench to remove the upper manifold.

Remove the Damaged Lifters

To access the damaged lifters, you need to loosen all the bolts and nuts in the engine, including the cloaked ones. After removing all the bolts, you can now take off the upper manifold.

If the upper manifold is stuck, you can tap it gently using a rubber mallet. However, hitting the upper manifold with a hammer or opening it by force with a screwdriver may damage the engine’s heads and intake.

Install New Lifters

After removing the damaged lifters, you can now insert the new 5.3 l lifters set. Lifters will wear out quickly if you don’t install them properly. Make sure you wear your gloves while replacing the lifters. Put the lifters in the correct bores, force them in place with a wrench, and fill them with the recommended engine oil.

Install the Wires, Sensors, and Duct Pipes

After replacing the 5.3 l lifters, you can assemble or reconnect all the components you dismantled before. You can now use the owner’s manual and the pictures you took early as a reference when reconnecting the loose components. You need to be very careful during this process as any mistake when connecting cables may lead to a more severe problem.

Check and Verify

Before starting the engine, you need to check and verify that all the components are correctly installed. If you notice any error, make sure you correct it immediately. If there is no error, you can start the engine. You need to run the engine for a few minutes to know if the new 5.3 l lifters are working correctly or not.

5.3 Lifter Replacement Kit

To replace a damaged 5.3 filter set, you will need to buy the GM 5.3 Lifter Replacement Kit, which contains 16 roller lifters, new head bolts, and a cylinder head gasket set. This kit includes all the components required for replacing the lifters in 2005 to 2014 GM 5.3 V-8 engines.

Chevy 5.3 Lifter Replacement Cost

If you want an expert to do the job, lifters and the engine’s camshaft replacement will cost around $1,000. The final cost may be more than this if there are additional damages. To save more money, you should do the job yourself.


Can you replace lifters without removing heads?

Yes, you can replace lifters without removing heads. However, if you can’t do this, you can check our guide on how to change 5.3 l lifters without removing heads.

How hard is it to fix lifters?

Replacing damaged lifters is not tricky, but it requires quality time and patience. However, with the help of a step-by-step guide and basic mechanical skills, you should be able to fix it yourself. Please consult a car professional if you lack the basic skills needed.

How do I get my lifters to pump up?

You can get your lifters to pump up themselves by soaking them in motor oil for an extended period.

Wrapping Up

Failure to change damaged 5.3 lifters quickly may lead to a more severe problem. You can check the section in this article where we explained why 5.3 lifters fail and how to detect damaged or faulty lifters. It is not necessary to remove heads before replacing lifters. Read this article carefully to learn how to change 5.3 l lifters without removing heads.

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