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Camshaft Repair Cost

Camshaft replacement kit, VW

In most of today's vehicles, the engine has one or two camshafts, depending on its design. In either case, the camshaft is one of the most integral parts of the engine's mechanical design. In overhead valve engines (the most common with today's fuel injection), the camshafts will be over the top of either side of the engine, directly above the cylinders.

A camshaft consists of a thick steel rod onto which cams (egg-shaped bumps) are either milled or attached. These are offset from one another so that as the shaft turns, the cams press down on valves at alternate intervals, according to the engine's timing.

When a camshaft goes bad, it usually begins producing a "ticking" sound as something grinds or bumps into things it shouldn't. The most common reason for a camshaft to go bad, outside of materials defect, is improper lubrication.

Thus, when a camshaft gets replaced, the mechanic should find the underlying cause for the shaft's failure. Most likely it will be in the engine oil delivery, return, or in the oil itself. If oil is not changed often enough (at proper intervals) or is contaminated with other substances (water, engine coolant), it can cause undue wear on the camshaft. Extreme age can also be a reason for camshaft failure.

To replace a camshaft, most garages will charge around $800 on most vehicles with overhead cams. Although the shafts themselves are relatively easy to get to, doing so requires disassembly of the engine's timing components (belt, pulleys), which is labor intensive. Advanced home mechanics can do it themselves for the cost of parts, which will include seals and the shaft itself - about $200-$300 depending on the vehicle.