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Camshaft Design and Theory


The “brain” of the engine
Controls valvetrain operation
Rotates at ½ crankshaft speed
Along with the crankshaft it determines
firing order
• Along with the induction and exhaust
systems it determines the useful rpm range
of the engine

Camshaft Design


Max lift or nose
Opening clearance ramp
Closing clearance ramp
Base circle
Exhaust opening timing figure
Exhaust closing timing figure
Intake opening timing figure
Intake closing timing figure
Intake to exhaust lobe separation

Camshaft Measurements

Lobe separation angle
Valve overlap
Intake valve opening (IVO)
Intake valve closing (IVC)
Exhaust valve opening (EVO)
Exhaust valve closing (EVC)

• Lobe lift is the distance the lifter moves in
one direction
• Lobe lift is the difference in measurement
between the nose of the lobe and the base
circle of the lobe
• Valve lift is what most people are taking
about when they refer to lift and is simply
lobe lift multiplied by the rocker arm ratio

• Increasing the lift opens the valve further. This

reduces the restriction to airflow at the valve and
allows air to flow more freely into the cylinder.
• At some point the valve can be opened to a point at
which the port is the valve is no longer the greatest
restriction to airflow, and at that point opening the
valve further will not increase airflow.
• The distance a valve can be opened is limited by
duration, rocker arm ratio, lifter design, camshaft
design and valve to piston clearance.

• Duration is the length of time (measured in
degrees of crankshaft rotation) that the
valve remains open
• The point at which a valve is considered
“open” will be given along with the
duration figure (i.e. .004”, .006”, .050”)
• Example (240 degrees @ .050)

• At higher engine speeds the valve opens
and shuts in a shorter amount of time. This
limits how completely the cylinder can be
• Longer duration camshafts hold the valve
open longer, increasing the amount of time
the cylinder has to fill.

Duration Vs. Time
• At 2000 RPM a camshaft with 200 degrees of intake

valve duration, the intake valve is open for 0.0166
• At 6500 RPM the valve is only open for .005128
• If we substituted a camshaft with 245 degrees of
duration this time would increase to .0204 seconds/cycle
@ 2000RPM and .00628 seconds/cycle at 6500RPM
• This is a 22% increase in time available to fill the

Lobe Separation Angle
• Lobe separation angle (LSA) is

the number of degrees
separating the point of peak
exhaust lift and peak intake lift.
• Lobe separation angle directly
impacts the amount of valve
• Because of this, production
vehicles usually employ a wide
LSA to reduce valve overlap
and increase idle quality.

Valve Overlap
• Valve overlap is the time in which both the intake and exhaust

valves are open.
Valve overlap is affected by LSA and duration.
Valve overlap is used because of the principle of exhaust
scavenging (the exiting exhaust gases help “pull” in the fresh
intake charge, especially at higher rpm when fill time is
At low RPM when intake port speed is low, a long valve
overlap period will cause reversion into the intake port (the
cylinder pressure exceeds the force of the air in the intake port
and exhaust gasses are forced into the intake port).
This causes the lumpy idle associated with big camshafts.

Intake Valve Closing
• Most critical valve opening/closing point
• To early of an IVC and the cylinder may not have
time to fill completely
• To late of an IVC and the cylinder pressure will
overcome the inertia of the incoming airflow and
revert flow back into the intake port
• This causes a serious disruption to flow and
destroys any pressure waving tuning

Exhaust Valve Opening
• 2nd most critical valve opening/closing event
• Determines the balance between power event

efficiency and exhaust pumping losses
• To early of an exhaust opening will reduce the
amount of energy converted from cylinder
pressure to mechanical force on the piston
• To late of an EVO will cause an increase in the
amount of power needed to expel the burned
exhaust gases from the cylinder

Exhaust Valve Closing
• Along with IVO it is the least critical valve timing
• Along with IVO it determines the amount of valve
overlap and exhaust scavenging
• Too early of an EVC will not allow the exhaust
gas to be fully purged from the cylinder
• Too late of an EVC will allow fresh air/fuel mix to
be purged into the exhaust system

Intake Valve Opening
• Along with EVC it is the least critical valve timing
• Along with EVC it determines the amount of
valve overlap and exhaust scavenging
• Too early of an IVO will allow exhaust gas
reversion into the intake ports causing major flow
disruption and intake charge dilution
• Too late of an IVO will limit the time available for
the cylinder to completely fill

Cam Phase Graph

Cam Card