How to Change 5.3l Lifters without removing heads

How to Change 5.3l lifters without removing heads

I know what you’re thinking. You want to understand how to change 5.3l Lifters without removing heads. There is a myth that you have to pull out the headers to replace and change lifters. It is not the case for every engine lifter. Lifters are the most overlooked part of a vehicle, yet the most important. Without a lifter, your engine is vague. In this article, we tell you more about how you can change 5.3I lifters without removing heads. Once you finish this post up, you should be a pro at putting together a 5.3 lifter replacement. Let’s get going.

By the way – if you own a vehicle, then changing and replacing lifters is quite a regular job. Even if you do not DIY with it, you have to go to an expert. Either way, you have to know certain things about lifters just as a piece of generic information you have for other vehicle components. So, read out my article to know more.

Steps to Change 5.3l Lifters without removing heads:

Let us see three easy and simple steps on how you can replace the 5.3 engine AFM lifter. Follow these steps and you should be able to learn how to change filters in a 5.3 vortec.

Step 1:

Carefully dismantle all the ducts, pipes, and wires of the lifters and remember all the wiring systems. Dismantle the manifolds and remove the valve covers with care, making sure you do not scratch or break them. Unbolt all the disguised accessories, such as bolts, clamps, and brackets from the manifolds.

Step 2:

Now remove the old AFM lifters up which have rusted, worn-out, or damaged, and place the new lifters manually by wearing a pair of rubber gloves. Use a wrench to carefully torque the new lifters in place. Do not overtighten it or even keep it too loose. If the AFM lifters are flat-tapped, then replace the camshaft as well.

Step 3:

Finally, pour the required oil into the new lifters and close the valves. Start the engine idle for 10-15 minutes to examine the newly placed lifters if they are making any rattling noise or not. If everything goes well within that time, then mantle all the duct pipes, sensors, and wiring you have opened previously.

As easy as it looks, things might get complicated when you are actually doing it for the first time. Be careful with all the electric wiring and piping; though they can be easy to dismantle, things can get confusing during mantling. Hence, note down and take pictures of every step while you are opening the wires for reference.

Amount of Time for 5.3 Lifter Replacement without Removing Head:

Usually, there is no specific time claimed by lifter or vehicle manufacturer to replace lifters. But some manufacturers provide an indirect time limit, where they state to replace the filters after the vehicle travels a certain mile, such as 500 or 1000-miles. Other than that, you will know your lifters’ replacement time if you see them:

  • Cracked
  • Rusted on the outside
  • Sudden Wear
  • The engine starts to make weird noises
  • Vehicle backfiring
  • Sticking and noisy
  • Collapsed (More than 1)
  • Always clogged with oil (happens mostly due to leakage)

2010 5.3 lifter replacement without Removing Head: Process and Necessity

Process of 2010 5.3 lifters (Step-by-Step)

1. Study your engine

The first step is to study your engine for a while, because you have to deal with lots of parts to get to the lifters. Get to know where all the ducting, tubing and sensors are placed. For reference to avoid misplacement, take pictures of the parts before moving onto the next step.

2. Disconnect and remove

Starting from the tubing that points from the throttle box, dismantle the intake ducting. Now, start disconnecting the electrical sensors, line and tubing, and keep taking pictures for your notes.

3. Manifold unbolting

For your 5.3 engine, there should be two manifolds, upper and lower. To reach the lower portion, you need to unbolt the upper manifold first. Now, disconnect the lines and sensors, taking some time. Also, do unbolt the brackets and clamps from there.

4. Removal

Starting from the lower intake to the engine, remove all the nuts and bolts. Make sure you get to each of them because many of them are camouflaged. Now take the upper manifold up, and if it gets stuck, then use a rubber mallet to gently hit and remove it, do not use screwdrivers as it will damage the heads and intake. Gently remove the old lifter set.

5. Place new sets of lifters

Now gently place the new lifters in the sockets in their pattern. Do not mix the patterns, or else it will cause early wear and tear. Wear a pair of rubber gloves and twist each of the lifters inside their bores. Now, use a wrench to torque the lifters intact and fill them with the necessary oil.

6. Assemble

Finally, assemble all the duct pipes, wires and sensors you have dismantled previously. This should be done with 100% accuracy, and you should not mix and match the wirings. As you have taken pictures earlier, use them as a reference to set them.


The apparent step will be checking everything, whether you have put them in place or not. Start your engine and run it for a little while to see if the lifters are working correctly or not. If the engine runs without making excessive noises, then feel free to stay tension-free. And, make sure to cross-check after everything whether you have left any unnecessary stuff in there during the placement process.

The necessity of replacing lifters in your 2010 5.3 is as much important as any other engine. Replacing older, faulty, and damaged lifters with new ones spikes up the vehicle performance by providing a boost in the engine. The engine relies on the lifters to get fuel to work. Hence, with new and more efficient lifters, the process becomes faster, so your vehicle gains a renewed potential. You can also learn more about additional ways to improve vehicle performance and horsepower.

Best 5.3 lifter kit for 5.3 AFM Lifter Replacement Kit

Buy the best Complete 5.3 AFM Lifter Replacement Kit:

Michigan Motorsports LS7 Lifters Set of 16 and Guide Trays

VVT NON-MDS Camshaft & Lifter Install Kit for 2009-2015 Chrysler Dodge Jeep Truck SUV 5.7L Hemi Engines

GM Kit AFM: 5.3 Lifter Replacement Without Removing Head. Head Gasket Set, Head Bolts, Full Lifter Set.

GM 5.3 Lifter Replacement Kit (not for AFM)

How to clean and Change 5.3l Lifters without removing heads

To clean the lifters, you don’t necessarily have to remove them. For better and hassle-free cleaning, it is better to invest in a fuel injector cleaning kit to help clean out the clogged injectors. However, if you don’t have the kit, get yourself these items before starting:

  • Engine cleaning motor oil
  • Detergent flush
  • Wrench
  • Cotton swans with towel lint
  • Kerosene jar
  • Automotive stethoscope

Wash engine to clean the filters:

  • Open the valves, and pour the laundry detergent that is specified by your vehicle.’
  • Start off the engine idle for 15 minutes so that the detergent starts loosening all the clogged debris and oil. Now, uncover lifters and turn off the engine.
  • Now drain off the engine oil and detergents after turning off the engine.
  • Add new oil according to the lifter requirement.
  • Start the engine again to recirculate the oil throughout and make sure there is no rattling noise.
  • Use the stethoscope and listen to any faulty lifters
  • Before finally closing the valve covers, soak the covers in kerosene for few minutes to protect them from defects, and clean them with cotton swabs before placing them.
  • Close the covers, and you are good to go.

GM 6.2 lifter replacement cost

  • How much does it cost to replace lifters on a 5.3 Vortec? For replacing GM 6.2 lifter, you at least need to spend $3600, including mechanic payment. The cost is for the entire set of lifters because even if you require 1 or 2 replacements, you need to buy the entire lifter kit/ set. Unlike older engine lifters, the 6.2 lifter replacement requires the header to be out first. So, while releasing the old lifters, if you damage the headers, you ought to break your bank and spend almost a thousand dollars more for the headers.

It is always good to buy lifters with a long-term warranty to save the cost of replacement within those years.

AFM lifter failure symptoms

AFM Lifters fail primarily due to vehicle owner’s silly overlooks, such as oil pressure issues when you use bad-quality oil or induce lesser oil than what the lifters require, and due to poor control issues. These failures are preceded by some symptoms which must not be overlooked. These are as follows:

  • A tapping, chirping, or ticking sound from the engine (Intermittently or consistently)
  • Engine misfiring
  • More exhaust gas coming off than usual
  • Valve leakage and sticking
  • Collapsed and stuck AFM lifters
  • Work cam lobe
  • Fuel or oil congestion

AFM lifter release tool

For releasing AFM lifters, you require a release tool as such It is a thick metal stick with which you unlock the lifters to release them from their place and remove them.

Check out additional articles on the best cams to improve horsepower and performance

5.3 lifter upgrade to Change 5.3l Lifters without removing heads


Can you replace 5.3 lifters without removing heads?

  • Yes, it is possible to replace lifters without removing the heads. However, if you are entirely new to this, then it is safe for both you and your vehicle to remove the heads. Or else, in order to save little time, you might end up disturbing the surrounding components of lifters.

How do you get lifters unstuck?

  • In order to unstuck lifters, you need to apply engine detergent in your gasoline and a higher octane gas. Usually, a detergent or specific fuel system cleaners help get rid off of clogged debris and help unstuck lifters. Next, use engine flush from any motor store, and change the engine oil and filter. Now, drive your vehicle for 500 miles at least at higher octane gas; hence the stuck lifters should get unstuck.

Can you replace lifters without Removing Heads?

  • Yes, you can definitely replace lifters, and you must replace them if you see faults in them. Since lifters are one of the main components of a vehicle engine, they help with the engine’s efficiency, so replacing faulty and damaged ones with a new set of lifters will increase your engine’s efficiency improving your vehicle’s all-over performance.

Will disabling AFM save lifters?

  • If your lifters are already faulty or belong to an unreliable manufacturer, then whether or not you disable lifters, it is going to fail anyway. However, if you disable AFM, then it can slow down the wear on your lifters and make it even more long-lasting. If that’s the case, you can purchase a set of wearproof lifters if you don’t want to disable the lifters.

What are Common 5.3 lifter Failure Symptoms?

The most common 5.3 lifter failure symptoms are:

  1. Engine ticking noise: A ticking noise from the engine is a common symptom of a failed lifter.
  2. Engine misfire: A misfire is when one or more cylinders are not firing correctly, resulting in a loss of power and a rough running engine.
  3. Engine knocking noise: If a lifter has failed, it can cause the engine to produce a knocking or slapping noise.
  4. Engine oil pressure warning light: If the oil pressure drops, it can cause the lifter to collapse and result in engine damage.
  5. Engine warning codes: If a lifter has failed, it may trigger an error code and illuminate the check engine light.
  6. Engine performance issues: Engine performance issues such as poor acceleration, reduced power, or stalling can indicate a failed lifter.

Can You Replace AFM Lifters With Regular Lifters?

To replace Active Fuel Management (AFM) lifters with regular hydraulic lifters, you need to consider the specific engine and intended use of the vehicle. AFM is a fuel-saving technology that deactivates cylinders, and regular hydraulic lifters lack this capability. To ensure reliable and consistent operation, you may need to change the engine’s camshaft profile and make additional modifications. Before replacing AFM lifters, consult a knowledgeable engine builder or mechanic.

Should you disable AFM?

  • If you own a sports car, then obviously, you will need more speed to run the vehicle with its maximum speed. Here, AFM lifters block or deactivate half of the lifters to reduce oil consumption. Hence, the vehicle cannot reach its maximum speed. In this case, you can disable the AFM. Or else, if you do not require high vehicle speed, then it is better to keep them enabled.

Why do AFM lifters fail?

  • AFM lifters fail due to poor oil pressure or poor handling them. These are the primary reasons that are observed. However, there are other reasons for AFM lifter failure, such as using bad-quality oil that leads to lifter degradation. Also, using lesser oil than the AFM lifters require leads them to improper functioning. Lastly, due to aging, the lifters have reached their limit of a lifetime due to everyday usage.

Can lifter tick cause damage?

  • In most cases, a lifter tick is a sign of lifter damage only if it lasts from the time you start the motor till you stop it. The ticks should be considered and must be diagnosed as early as possible, even if they remain for a short period. Because their rate can increase if ignored and can cause serious lifter damage over time.

Can You Replace Just Filters?

You can replace just filters. For 5.3L lifters in particular, the process involves removing the valve covers, old lifters, and installing new ones. Ensure to use the proper type of lifters for the 5.3L engine. If you need assistance, seek the advice of a mechanic or engine builder. Changing the 5.3L lifters requires mechanical knowledge and experience.

What is the 5.3 Lifter Replacement Cost?

The cost of replacing lifters on a 5.3 engine varies based on several factors such as location of repair shop, type of lifters used, and amount of labor involved. On average, the cost ranges from $1,000 to $2,000, but it can be higher or lower.

Factors that impact the cost include:

  1. Type of lifters: High-performance or racing lifters can be more expensive than standard replacement lifters.
  2. Location of repair shop: Labor and parts cost can vary based on the location of the repair shop. Urban areas can have higher labor costs than rural areas.
  3. Labor: A more complex or time-consuming job increases the overall cost.
  4. Other repairs: Replacing additional parts such as pushrods or rocker arms increases the overall cost.

Many people with a 2009 Chevy tend to have these issues. You can expect a similar replacement cost for a 5.3 Lifter in a 2009 Chevy.

How much does it cost to replace lifters in a Silverado?

  • The cost to replace lifters in your Silverado depends on how many lifters you eventually want to replace. For instance, if you’re going to replace the entire set of your Silverado, then it will cost over a thousand dollars. And if the faulty lifters have done other damages, then repairing those damages will also cost extra.

Do You Have to Replace All Lifters with Cam?

In general, you only replace lifters if they have failed or are worn out. If you are replacing a camshaft, it’s possible that some of the lifters may also need to be replaced, but it depends on the specific engine and the condition of the lifters.

Before replacing lifters or a camshaft, it’s important to diagnose the issue and determine the root cause of the problem. In some cases, replacing just the lifters or just the camshaft may resolve the issue, while in other cases, it may be necessary to replace both. If you are in need of a new camshaft, check out our best cams for 5.3 vortec engines.

How Do You Unstick a Lifter?

To unstick a lifter, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Locate the affected lifter and mark it for identification.
  2. Remove the valve covers to access the lifters.
  3. Remove the pushrod that connects the lifter to the rocker arm.
  4. Turn the engine by hand using a ratchet and socket to bring the lifter to the top of its travel.
  5. Apply a penetrating oil, such as WD-40, to the lifter and its surroundings.
  6. Wait for several minutes to allow the penetrating oil to work.
  7. Repeat the process of turning the engine by hand and applying penetrating oil several times.
  8. Reinstall the pushrod and valve covers.
  9. Start the engine and let it idle for several minutes to allow the lifter to move and lubricate.

It’s important to exercise caution when working on engines, as improper handling can cause damage or injury. If you are unsure how to unstick a lifter or need help with the process, it’s best to consult a mechanic or engine builder for professional assistance.

Will disabling AFM stop oil consumption?

  • Actually, no, disabling AFM lifters won’t stop the oil consumption of your vehicle. Rather than new vehicles, disabling the AFM can ‘slow down the oil consumption instead of stopping it. But older vehicles will generally consume more oil with or without AFM.


On a final note, I want to say that if you have enough knowledge regarding your vehicle’s parts, only then you should handle such sensitive and vital processes like replacing lifters. Since other automotive parts are related to the lifters, proper placement is required for the vehicle’s outstanding performance. Hence, you should gain some practical experience before finally starting to change the 5.3l lifters.

Hopefully this article has helped you to learn how to change 5.3l lifters without removing heads. And hopefully you’ve learned a few more things along the way as well.

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