How to Identify Unknown Camshafts: 3 Methods (With Detailed Instructions)

The camshaft is an important part not only for cars but also for other machinery. In addition to helping certain parts of the vehicle run smoothly, it also helps to adjust the valves for precise exhaust emissions.

Unless you have specialized technical knowledge, you may have difficulty finding a new camshaft for your engine. Do not worry! Through the following article, we will provide you some tips to choose the best one. So how to identify unknown camshafts? Let’s get into the details!

3 Methods to Identify Unknown Camshafts

There are three common ways to identify unknown camshafts; These include:

  • Identify by the appearance
  • Identify by numbers
  • Get help from a professional mechanic

Just stick to these three methods, and you can identify an unknown camshaft without wasting time.

1. Identify by the appearance

  • Roller

In most cases, this type of cam comes with a wheel, a needle bearing, an axle support the wheel, and a lifter body. The roller cam can reduce friction to provide more power. In addition, it is reusable.

  • Flat tappet 

In fact, this type of cam is not flat. Instead, it has a slight crown on the face, and the lobe is machined with a slight taper.

The flat tappet cam is very popular because of the performance it brings. This type of cam is also usually cheaper than roller cam. The only problem is that this cam is not reusable.

  • SOHC

SOHC comes with only one camshaft per cylinder bank. 

  • DOHC

The dual overhead cam (DOHC) has two cam rods. Since there are two camshafts, DOHC can offer more torque than SOHC.

They are also prevalent because they allow you to get more power output from the engine. In addition, these cams have better fuel efficiency than SOHC.

  • Pushrods

Its appearance is quite similar to a rock arm which has a small diameter. The advantages of this cam are lower cost, higher low-end torque, and more compact size.

  • Solid lifter

The solid lifter looks like a ‘C’ shaped snap ring. It is noisier and requires maintenance.

  • Hydraulic lifter

The hydraulic lifter looks like a spring-plunger-based machine; It has a cylindrical shape.  In general, it is quieter and requires no maintenance.

2. Identify by numbers

You can identify the camshaft by the ID number. This number is usually located in the center of the cam between the lobes. Through these numbers, it is possible to know the featured functions as well as the compatibility of the model.

  • Model prefix:

It is the first part of the camshaft number, and it describes what type of vehicle you are using. Thanks to the model prefix, you will determine which cam is suitable for your car.

  • Grind number:

It is true to say that this number is significant in identifying the camshaft.

For example, your cam has the ID numbers like 272H10. The number “272” indicates the average duration time of the lobes that is 272 degrees. The letter “H” indicates your cam is the hydraulic lifter. The number “10” tells you the lobe separation angle of 110.

  • Exhaust Number:

Sometimes the average duration time comes with another number, like 266/289; It is the Exhaust number. 

Note: Most camshafts have numbers that appear on the body apart from the lobes. They can be stamped numbers, casting numbers, and more. But, whatever they are, they are not crucial in identifying the camshaft. So, don’t pay attention to these useless numbers.

3. Get help from a professional mechanic

If you are unwilling to identify an unknown camshaft yourself, get help from a professional mechanic or anyone with experience. 

In fact, there are many types of camshafts available in the market, and it is wise to get help from someone knowledgeable about them. In most cases, you will get help at no charge.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What does the camshaft’s ID number look like?

You can find these ID numbers in the center of the cam between the lobes. These numbers usually include eight or nine digits. Through these numbers, it is possible to know the specific functions and the compatibility of the camshafts.

2. What is the difference between a crankshaft and a camshaft?

A crankshaft converts “cranks”  to rotational motion, while a camshaft uses egg-shaped “cams” to open and close engine valves.

3. Where is the camshaft located?

The camshaft is located in the “top end” of an engine. It has an essential role in allowing air and fuel to enter the combustion chamber and expel the gas after they burn.

4. Can a cam increase horsepower?

Yes, it contributes to the increase in horsepower.

However, you must ensure that you choose the right cam to get the best possible results. There are many camshafts available in the market. If you make a mistake, you might just waste your money getting a bad result. So it is best to discuss with someone familiar with what you are trying to accomplish. 

5. Flat Tappet Cams vs. Roller Cams: Which is better?

  • Friction

As we know, sliding friction is higher than rolling friction. That means a roller cam takes less horsepower to turn, and it does not wear out quickly.

  • Performance

Roller cams typically allow more airflow to pass the valve and give more power.

  • Cost

Roller cams are usually more expensive than flat tappet cams. However, roller cams are reusable, while flat tappet cams are not.

6. What does a bad camshaft sound like?

Signs of a bad camshaft include frequent backfiring and popping. Besides, if your camshaft lobes are worn, you may hear ticking and tapping noises from the upper engine.

You can drive with a bad camshaft sensor. However,  the performance of the engine will not be good, and fuel consumption may increase markedly.

Bottom Lines

Hopefully, this article contains valuable information for you. Choosing the right camshaft is very important because it affects the performance of the engine. Therefore, please share this article with those who do not know how to identify an unknown camshaft.

Thank you for reading!

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