Re: ticking noise
Depending on your wheel construction, you may be able to see the front pads by turning sharply as you park.
As for the ticking noise, see if it is coming from a largish box on the drivers side just behind the radiator. Its part of the emissions control system and makes a rather prominent ticking noise as you start and it purges.
Could be a noisy lifter, but if you open the hood you may be able to spot the difference.