Replacing Your Engine Camshaft: A Beginner’s Guide

Camshafts typically last the engine’s life, so you may only need to replace the critical items when rebuilding an engine. A camshaft kit is an excellent product that helps streamline the replacement of the devices by ensuring you have all the necessary parts. Still, the replacement process can seem daunting, so you will want to follow a few steps to keep things organized and on track.

1. Use the Provided Tools and Timing Marks

Some engines have tools that allow you to lock the engine in its timing position. If your vehicle has these tools, use them. Also, engines typically have timing marks placed on them by the factory. 

If your engine doesn’t have the marks or tool, go ahead and make your own marks. Use nail polish or a paint pen, something that doesn’t come off easily. The marks ensure proper alignment and positioning as you replace and install the new parts.

2. Replace Related Parts

Whether replacing camshafts to get the best performance out of your engine for your new drag radials or for routine driving around town, you want to replace all related parts, such as the bearings and lifters. A common issue of damaged camshafts and old engines is the appearance of wear patterns on lifters and lobes. Unfortunately, replacing these components is costly, so many people try to reuse them if they can. Still, it is best to replace things if you can afford it.

3. Lubricate Everything

Before you install the new cams, lubricate all components. You want the bearings, lifters, and lobes to move freely and without restriction. Some manufacturers recommend soaking lifters in oil, but not all lifters. You only want to soak hydraulic lifters in engine oil.

If you decide to soak the lifters, you need to wait to start the engine. That said, when rebuilding the engine, the wait time is usually much shorter than the time it takes you to rebuild.

4. Organize as You Go

Whether working with an engine with an Edelbrock 1913 or a newer model, you want to take the rebuilding process slow. As you remove components, working from the outside in, organize and label everything. Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the final steps of a rebuild and finding “extra” parts.

Also, as you install things, working from the inside out, don’t fully tighten nuts and bolts. Slowly walk them in, moving back and forth. Moving slowly and deliberately ensures you don’t strip or damage parts. 

Finally, with the camshafts installed, do a cold rotation before you start the engine. Do two complete rotations to ensure everything goes well and the timing is correct. When you’re ready to start the engine, many manufacturers recommend immediately bringing the engine off idle to around 2,000 rpm. Leave it running for 20 to 30 minutes. 

Replacing engine camshafts and rebuilding an engine are tricky projects. If you’re worried you don’t have the knowledge or skill level to pull it off, consult a local mechanic. Also, reach out to a local auto parts dealer to find all the parts you need.

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