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2 Common Camshaft Problems To Be Aware Of

Motor Camshaft
The camshaft plays a vital role in the proper functioning of an automotive engine. This rotating horizontal bar contains the oblong cams — also known as lobes — responsible for opening and closing the valves on your engine cylinders. The movement of the valves allows fuel to enter your cylinders at the beginning of a cycle, while also allowing combustion byproducts to exit at the end.

Over time, camshafts may fall prone to various problems that can keep them from fulfilling their purpose. Unfortunately, many car owners remain ignorant of common camshaft issues, thus leaving them without the ability to recognize them. This article will help to improve your automotive troubleshooting skills by discussing two common camshaft problems.

1. Insufficient Lubrication

Like virtually any moving part in your car, the camshaft requires lubrication in order to protect it against wear and friction. Lubricant allows the camshaft to rotate freely under the power it receives from the cam belt. This lubricant plays a doubly important role in flat tappet cam systems.

Put simply, tappets are the part of the valve or actuator mechanism that the cams come into direct contact with. Flat tappets, as their name implies, possess a flat surface. More expensive roller tappets, by contrast, have a roller ball at their tip. This ball allows for a smooth transmission of force from the cam.

In flat tappet systems, the cams must remain properly lubricated. Otherwise, friction will cause the sharp edge of the tappet to grind into the cam. Over time, this kind of contact will cause the cam to wear down. Eventually it will no longer be able to push the valve down completely, leading to highly problematic cylinder leaks.

Cars with flat tappet systems must have their cams lubricated on a regular basis. Only the manufacturer's recommended lubricant should be used for this purpose. Be sure to contact a reputable maintenance technician for more information about camshaft lubrication.

2. Excessive End Play

Another way that flat tappet cam systems differ from roller cam systems has to do with the phenomenon known as end play. End play refers to the movement of the camshaft inside of the engine block. Simply put, flat tappet cam systems don't have to worry about end play. That's because the nature of a flat tappet system naturally forces the camshaft into a fixed position.

Roller camshafts, on the other hand, must take end play into account. Mechanics consider a small amount of end play acceptable, since it permits the camshaft to shift in relation to temperature gain. In addition, a small amount of end play allows the cams to better resist wear by shifting their position in response to especially hard contact.

Yet when end play becomes excessive, it can lead to serious problems. Most significantly, it increases the amount of wear the cams receive as they contact the tappets. Over time, such wear will lead to cams that no longer exert the necessary amount of movement to the tappets — and hence to the valves themselves.

Too much end play can also create problems for the distributor gear in the form of uneven wear. Such wear will eventually lead to timing problems for your engine. Fuel economy and engine performance tend to drop off as a result of such wear.

Fortunately, a trained mechanic can measure the amount of camshaft end play in your car. This information allows them to make any changes necessary to keep end play within acceptable limits.

For more information about what it takes to keep your camshaft operating correctly as time goes on, please contact the automotive pros at Walnut Creek Import Service.
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