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A hydraulic lifter, also known as a hydraulic tappet or a hydraulic lash adjuster, is a device for maintaining zero valve clearance in an internal combustion engine. The conventional means of adjusting valve actuation always requires a small clearance to be left between the valve and its rocker or cam follower to allow for thermal expansion and wear. The hydraulic lifter was designed to ensure that the valve train always operates with zero clearance, leading to quieter operation and eliminating the need for periodic adjustment of valve clearance.

The hydraulic lifter consists of a hollow expanding piston situated between the camshaft and valve. It is operated either by a rocker mechanism, or in the case of one or more overhead camshafts , directly by the camshaft. The lifter is filled with engine oil intermittently from an oil gallery via a small drilling. When the engine valve is closed, the lifter is free to fill with oil. When the valve is opening and the lifter is being operated by the camshaft, the oil feed is blocked and the lifter acts just as a solid one would, oil being incompressible.
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