Your cam phasers are an integral part of your vehicle’s variable valve timing system. When they aren’t functioning as they should, however, they can cause severe engine problems over time.
Because of this, it’s important to have your cam phasers replaced as soon as you notice an issue.
Generally, a cam phaser replacement will cost you between $800-$2,500 when done by a mechanic. The actual price will depend on the make and model of your vehicle, as well as the mechanic you go to.
Replacing a cam phaser is a complicated process, so a big portion of this cost will go towards labor.
Keep reading to learn more about the causes and symptoms of a bad cam phaser, as well as why it’s important to have this fixed as soon as possible.
- How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Cam Phaser?
- What is a Cam Phaser?
- What are the Symptoms of a Bad Cam Phaser?
- What Happens if Your Cam Phaser Goes Bad?
- How is a Cam Phaser Replaced?
- How to Prevent Damage to Your Cam Phaser
- Final Thoughts
How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Cam Phaser?
A cam phaser replacement is not a simple job. A lot of work is required to get to the cam phaser in order to replace it, and the whole process may take up to four hours.
Partly because of this, a cam phaser replacement may cost anywhere from $800-$2,500 for a professional to complete.
If you have the necessary experience to do so, you can save some money by replacing it yourself. However, DIY replacement kits still range in price between anywhere from $200 to over $1,000.
Although it is a costly replacement, it’s not one that you want to put off. When left unattended, bad cam phasers are one of the leading causes of engine failure.
What is a Cam Phaser?
A cam phaser is an important part of the variable valve timing (VVT) system in most modern vehicles. VVT systems improve your engine’s performance, reduce your emissions, and increase your fuel economy.
Cam phasers are computer-operated sprockets, mounted on the cam drive sprocket, that control the camshaft.
They work by altering the position of the camshaft in relation to the crankshaft in order to adjust the engine’s valve timing.
How Do Cam Phasers Work?
A cam phaser’s main job is to adjust the position of the camshaft. In a VVT system, the position of the camshaft needs to be adjusted in order to alter the valve timing and improve the vehicle’s performance.
These hydraulically operated phasers are located at the end of each camshaft. They are activated by an oil control solenoid, also called a VVT solenoid, which applies oil pressure to the phaser. Each phaser typically has just one solenoid.
While some vehicles have a phaser on both the exhaust and intake camshafts, others only have one. Depending on the vehicle, this one phaser may be on either the exhaust or the intake camshaft.
Cam phasers rotate the camshaft slightly to open or close the valves. At low RPMs, the phasers open the valves to improve drivability and throttle response. At high RPMs, they close the valve to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy.
What are the Symptoms of a Bad Cam Phaser?
There are a few different symptoms that may be exhibited by a bad cam phaser. Below, we’ll discuss a few of the signs that tell you to get your cam phaser checked as soon as possible.
You Notice Poor Engine Performance
When your cam phaser isn’t working properly, it won’t be able to open or close the valves as needed.
This could cause many engine performance issues, including
Decreased fuel economy
Loss of engine power
What happens when they go bad
All of these problems constitute poor engine performance. If you notice these recurring problems in your vehicle, it’s a good idea to have the cam phasers checked out by a mechanic.
Your Check Engine Light Turns On
Your powertrain control module, or PCM, monitors the position of your camshaft. If the PCM detects that the camshaft is in the wrong position because of a faulty phaser, the check engine light will illuminate.
Thankfully, this makes the problem very simple to diagnose. Just plug a check engine code reader into the OBD2 port and check the code!
If the PCM detects a problem with the cam phaser, the ECU may prevent your engine from exceeding a certain RPM.
If you’re having problems accelerating and then notice the check engine light turning on, the cam phaser is likely the culprit.
You Hear Noises Coming from the Engine
If your cam phaser fails, your engine could start making noises for several reasons. Most lock into position at the base of the camshaft, but they may not do this if they are not working properly.
This may result in a rattling or knocking sound when the engine is running and the vehicle is idle.
In addition, a lack of lubrication in the cam phaser could result in either a rattling, locking, clicking, or squealing noise.
Different types of cam phasers make different noises, so it’s always best to get suspicious sounds checked out quickly.
What Happens if Your Cam Phaser Goes Bad?
It’s not uncommon for cam phasers to go bad over time due to general wear and tear. When they do go bad, however, your vehicle’s computer will not be able to control the valve timing properly.
If you leave a bad cam phaser unchecked for too long, it could lead to severe engine damage.
Problems with cam phasers account for a large portion of engine failures, so it’s essential to get them replaced as soon as a problem occurs.
Can You Drive with a Bad Cam Phaser?
Driving when you know there is a problem with your cam phasers is never a good idea. Over time, it could damage your VCT, intake/exhaust valves, solenoids, ECU, or engine.
In addition, bad cam phasers could cause a loss of power as you’re driving. Not only does this pose a risk to you, but it also puts everyone else on the road with you in danger.
For these reasons, driving with bad cam phasers is typically considered very dangerous. Make sure to get a bad cam phaser replaced as soon as possible, and do not take any risks by driving in the interim.
How is a Cam Phaser Replaced?
If you are familiar with car repair, you can save some money by replacing your cam phaser yourself.
However, keep in mind that this is a long and complicated process. If you do not have the experience necessary, it’s best to leave it to a mechanic.
Below, we’ll outline the steps required to replace a cam phaser. Be extremely careful if you’re doing this yourself, as you don’t want to risk causing any engine damage. Here’s how to get started:
- Open your vehicle’s hood and disconnect the battery.
- Remove the air intake tube.
- Unbolt the three 10mm bolts located on the power steering reservoir.
- Unbolt the 18mm bolt and the two 13mm bolts located on the power steering reservoir bracket.
- Remove the PVC tube located on the valve cover.
- Unplug all the wiring plugs and electrical components on the driver’s side of the valve cover. These include the throttle control sensor, cam position sensor, variable cam timing solenoid, coil packs, and fuel injectors. Make sure to label all plugs so you can easily reconnect them later.
- Unplug the PCM and disconnect the mounting bracket.
- Use an air compressor to blow away any dirt on the valve cover. This will prevent dirt from getting inside the valve train when you remove the cover.
- Loosen the 8mm bolts on the valve cover.
- Remove the 8mm bolt on the dipstick tube, but do not remove the dipstick tube itself.
- Carefully remove the valve cover, making sure not to damage the cam timing solenoid in the process.
- Insert a timing chain wedge tool between the two halves of the chain.
- Using a dowel pin, mark the cam phaser’s current position.
- Using a bar breaker and vice grips, loosen the cam phaser bolts. Gently remove the bolts, then gently remove the old cam phaser.
- Install the new cam phaser, aligning it to the same position as the old phaser.
- Tighten the cam phaser bolts to the correct torque.
- Carefully replace all the parts that you removed.
As you can see, this can be a tedious process. If you aren’t comfortable doing so yourself, it’s best to pay the extra money and have a professional complete the job.
How to Prevent Damage to Your Cam Phaser
One of the most effective ways to extend the lifespan of your cam phasers is getting regular oil changes. Low oil pressure, dirty oil, and poor oil viscosity can all damage your cam phasers.
Each time you go for an oil change, make sure the technician changes the oil filter to prevent any leakage. Doing this will ensure the level, viscosity, and type of oil in your vehicle are correct at all times.
If you need a new cam phaser, it will probably cost you a significant amount of money. Depending on the vehicle you have and the mechanic you visit, the total price could be anywhere between $800-$2,500.
You can save some money by doing the replacement yourself. However, it may be best to have a mechanic do it unless you have a significant amount of car repair experience.