Symptoms of Cam Phaser Failure: What Should You Do?

The symptoms of cam phaser failure include the ECU (Engine Control Unit) and VCT (Variable Control Timing) getting destroyed, which eventually affects your engine timing and causes irritation. A recent NHTSA study found that 15 percent of all auto-braking system accidents resulted from defective phasers.

Symptoms of Cam Phaser Failure

Your car’s engine will eventually suffer harm if you don’t replace or fix worn-out cam phasers. This article offers advice on the severity of the situation, the sources of phaser troubles, how to identify them, and how to fix or replace cam phasers.

What Occurs When a Cam Phaser Malfunctions?

When a cam phaser malfunctions, what occurs is that your car’s VCT system won’t function properly as a result of the destroyed solenoids. A cam phaser resembles a sprocket, which is run and managed by your car’s PCM (Powertrain Control Module).

It is also known as a camshaft actuator or camshaft phaser, which helps change the camshaft phase relative to the crankshaft, changing the valve timing. So when your cam phasers affect your VCT system, the damaged VCT system eventually results in the intake and exhaust valves being out of phase, which leads to ignition timing issues.

As a result, you’ll find it challenging to start your car or stop it if you’re driving. If a cam phaser issue has arisen in your pickup or vehicle, you will hear grating noises or clatter. The camshaft valve timing may make an obnoxious knocking or harsh drumming noise.

The ignition timing drift is the main cause of the unpleasant phaser noise. A lubrication issue may be the cause of the increased cam noise. If the issue is ignored, you may have to deal with increasingly serious problems and, in the end, engine damage.

What Are the Possible Symptoms of a Defective Bad Cam Phaser?

The possible symptoms of a defective bad cam phaser are high fuel consumption, loss of engine power, check engine indicator, low performance, rough running, and throttle surge.

Defective Bad Cam Phaser

Your cam phaser has likely failed if you suffer more than one of the symptoms listed below.

Increased Use of Fuel

Your car’s performance will decline, and it will also start to use more fuel. These two symptoms typically coexist because greater fuel consumption can be brought on by a variety of issues on its own.

Engine Power Loss

This is another sign of a bad cam phaser that is most obvious. Even if you don’t push your car very hard, you’ll still notice a big difference in how it handles.

The loss of force is evident when you try to pass someone or go forward after a toll booth on a highway. The problem is not only unpleasant, but it also runs the risk of making you overestimate the vehicle’s present power.

Check Engine Notification

The check engine light turning on indicates cam phaser problems that is easy to identify.

Checking Engine Notification

You will receive a specific error code linked to the cam phasers; it could be a generic engine fault code or a code related to the symptoms, such as rough running, depending on how your vehicle detects the issue and how it happens.

Low Performance

Reduced performance is included in the loss of power symptom, but sometimes it could be more evident that the engine is not running at 100 percent. The difference in performance can be felt when you step on the gas.

For various car brands, like a bad ford cam phaser, the response from the engine may be slower, and the car will feel sluggish. In some cases, the car will even enter the “limp” mode, which drastically cuts the power output to prevent damage to the engine.

Uneven Running

The engine won’t operate as efficiently if the cam phaser is defective, which could result in additional noise and vibration, especially when idle. The symptom will worsen as the cam phaser deteriorates, leading to frequent engine stalling and knocking noises.

Turn-Off Surge

The pedal surge and valve braking caused by contact with the pistons are problems with the camshaft. However, cam phasers may also be involved. As there is no manual clutch to separate the engine from the wheels in an automatic, throttle surge is a particularly challenging problem.

Can Faulty Cam Phasers Harm an Engine?

Yes, faulty cam phasers can harm an engine, causing the car to malfunction. Roughly 35 percent of all engine failures are brought on by the cam phasers failing. Your vehicle’s electronic control unit will try to keep the engine running when it notices that your cam phasers are failing.

Faulty Cam Phasers in Car


Thanks to the ECU, your automobile will enter a limp or safe mode, which stops the engine from spinning higher than a set rpm. Additionally, a low rpm results in reduced engine power, which ultimately reduces the risk of engine damage.

The ECU will also generate a code and activate the “check engine light” feature. Additionally, the cam enters default mode, preventing the phasers from coming into contact with the pistons and connecting rods. As a result, you will lose power as you crank the engine to accelerate.

What Factors Lead to the Failure of a Cam Phaser?

The factors that lead to the failure of a cam phaser are low oil pressure, eroded timing chain, ECU issues, sludge and grime, low-quality lubricant, faulty gear wheels, infrequent oil replacement, and several other engine problems. So, if you notice any of these, your cam phaser might go bad soon.

ECU Issues

The ECU or pick-up in your car ensures that the cams operate at their best. Therefore, they will begin to fail once the electrical control unit cannot manage the cam phasers.

Grime and Sludge

The phasers will stop working if there is sludge or filth in the engine lubrication system, which will stop the oil from flowing smoothly.

Inconsistent Oil Change

Refill the oil regularly to ensure that the phasers continue to operate effectively. Always use high-quality engine oil and ensure the lubricating system is well-cleaned.

Faulty Gear Wheels

If the sprocket or gear wheels get worn and exhausted, there is a strong probability that the camshaft-phasers may malfunction.

Faulty Gear Wheels

Low Oil Pressure

Cam phasers need to be powered at the proper time, which calls for enough pressure. Cam phaser damage could develop over time due to inadequate or insufficient lubrication pressure. You risk harming your phasers if you use dirty oil or the oil pump malfunctions.

Due to inadequate oil pressure, metal camshaft-phasers are susceptible to internal wear and strain. Therefore, another factor contributing to cam phaser failure over time is engine oil not operating at its best.

Low-Quality Lubricant

Because the car engine runs at such high temperatures, you must use premium oil to reduce cam phaser wear. An appropriate degree of viscosity is ensured by high-quality oil, which in turn ensures sufficient pressure. If you use poor oil, the cam phasers work will be reduced, respond slowly, or stop working altogether.

How Can Future Cam Phaser Failure Be Prevented?

Future cam phaser failure can be prevented if the VCT solenoids are routinely cleaned or replaced. You should also occasionally change the filter and ensure you use an advanced engine. Car oil is also essential, so you need to ensure you change the oil frequently.

How to Spot a Failing Cam Phaser?

To spot a failing cam phaser, start by using a scanning tool to detect the issue. This scan tool provides relevant OBD2 codes that help identify the problem. These codes also give you access to pertinent data to help you identify the real issue.

Spot a Failing Cam Phaser

Then use an oil pressure gauge to check and confirm the viscosity and pressure of the engine oil. The hydraulic channels’ filter screens and solenoids are inspected in the third step. Verify that the electrical components and wiring are in good working order.

How to Get Rid of Cam Phaser Noise?

To get rid of cam phaser noise, put on safety gloves to remove cam noise and block the back tires with a wooden blocker. Next, use a carjacking to lift the pickup or vehicle. To remove the drain stopper and loosen it, you’ll need a 14mm ratchet wrench.

Remember to use an oil pan to catch any leaking oil, and give the oil eight to 10 minutes to thoroughly drain. Reach the oil pipe bolt, remove the filthy oil with a clean, dry towel, and use a dab of oil to attach a new oil filter. Lift and maintain the hood that covers the engine in place, then take the carjack and wooden blocks out of it. Pour the eco-friendly motor oil now, being cautious not to add any additives; wait for roughly five to 10 minutes and check the oil level using a dipstick.

Close the engine’s cap and hood after carefully cleaning the engine’s surface and turn on the engine and let it idle for a while to warm up the motor effectively. Check to see if your car is making bothersome noises; if so, move on to the next step. Perform the oil treatment process once again, then restart the engine and let it run for a while. You need screwdrivers, safety gloves, bar breakers, and vice grips.


This article has explained the possible things that could go wrong when your cam phaser goes bad.

Here’s a summary of the article.

  • The damaged solenoids from a malfunctioning cam phaser prevent the VCT system in your car from operating as it should.
  • Your car’s PCM (Powertrain Control Module) controls and operates a cam phaser, which resembles a sprocket.
  • The likely symptoms of a defective cam phaser are high fuel consumption, loss of engine power, check engine light, low performance, rough running, and throttle surge.
  • Cam phaser failure might cause engine damage. A faulty cam phaser will cause your car’s engine to malfunction. Camshaft phaser failures cause the most, accounting for around 35 percent of all engine failures.

There are several ways that cam phaser issues can make themselves known. It’s crucial to check the ECU for error codes and determine the cause whenever these symptoms manifest.

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