Why Would a Car Need a New Camshaft? (Answered)

A car engine usually has lots of moving parts that all play different roles in the performance of the car.

The camshaft is one of such parts that play an important role. The car would not run properly without one or if the one available is damaged.

In this article, we will be discussing what a camshaft is, why a car would need a new one, and how much it costs to get a new camshaft.

What is a camshaft?

Simply put, the camshaft in a vehicle is a shaft with cams attached to it which are placed precisely along the shaft.

The function of the camshaft is to open and close the valves at the top of each cylinder within the engine. As the camshaft rotates, there are high spots on the cams that press down on the valves and force the valve to open.

As soon as the cam lobe rotates past, the valve closes again. The camshaft rotates in the engine as a result of the timing belt which connects sprockets on the front of the camshaft and the crankshaft so they operate in sync.

How to know if your camshaft is faulty

As with all moving parts in a car’s engine, there is the likelihood that the parts might develop a fault. The simplest way to know if your camshaft is bad is by seeing the “check engine light” light up on the dashboard. Other symptoms include

  • Backfiring or popping sounds from the exhaust pipe
  • Tapping noise from the engine
  • Loss of engine power.

Because none of these symptoms are unique to only faulty camshafts, you want to ensure that you have an experienced mechanic look at your car when you detect these issues.

Can the camshaft be repaired?

Due to the manufacturing process and the way camshafts are produced, it is not advisable to repair a faulty camshaft.

While you might find some high-performance engines that have camshafts that can be repaired, it is not cost-effective or practical for the average car on the road. In most cases, it is better to replace the faulty camshaft with a new one than to repair it.

How much does it cost to replace a camshaft?

The cost of parts to replace a camshaft will usually be in the $200 to $300 range. This includes related accessories such as seals and the gasket.

The cost of labor is usually the expensive part of the equation and costs from $800 to $1000. 

Common camshaft problems

The camshaft is a solid steel component of a car’s engine and it is prone to wear and tear. There are a few common issues that can affect the camshaft and it is ideal you identify how to detect them.

  1. Worn cam lobes. Worn cam lobes also called “wiped out” or “flogged” refers to a situation whereby the cam lobes have worn out and lost their treads. Worn out cam lobes will not open the valves as much as needed and might lead to poor engine performance and misfiring of the cylinder.
  1. Worn lifters. A worn lifter occurs when the valves in the camshaft will not lift as intended and can be heard as a clattering or tapping noise. While a worn lifter is not exclusively a camshaft problem, it can affect other components that affect the performance of the camshaft.
  1. Broken Camshaft: This refers to a situation where the camshaft fails in a car engine. This could be a manufacturing defect or be caused by the camshaft seizing. In some cases like pushrod engines, a broken camshaft could significantly damage connecting rods, cylinder block, pistons, or the crankshaft. In interference engines, a broken camshaft could damage the cylinder head, valves, or pistons.


Replacing a faulty camshaft is a better option than trying to repair a faulty one. There are certain symptoms that show you have a faulty camshaft.

A car will need a new camshaft when you notice that the engine is misfiring, loss of engine power or tapping noise from the engine.

If you are in the market for a used vehicle, getting the previous history of the vehicle is crucial. Doing this allows you to identify past issues or defects the car might have had.

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