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A Comprehensive Guide on Your Car’s Camshaft Position Actuator Solenoid

Camshaft position actuator solenoid

In order to bring more power and fuel economy out of an engine while still maintaining strict emission standards, you’ll need a good cam position actuator solenoid. This is what carmakers use to adjust the engine timing even when in motion. So what would you do if your camshaft actuator has aged over time and isn’t holding up so well?

As replacing it wouldn’t be your confident answer, you may have a different view after reading this article. Starting off by identifying which of the two valves you need to replace, you’re off to a good start in solving your camshaft position actuator solenoid problem. Throughout this process, it’s also good to know how the components operate as it provides you a wider understanding.

Let’s go straight into the different trouble codes that will help you identify your engine problem. Fortunately, there are improved parts and the repairs are quite easy.

Read also related articles: Crankshaft pulley removal, and Common Hemi problems.

What is the camshaft actuator solenoid?

Usually seen in the front of each vehicle cylinder head, a camshaft actuator solenoid is installed to control the oil flow into the camshaft actuator. This is used in adjusting the valve timing and overlap on the fly by changing the rotation of the camshaft.

These solenoids provide better engine performance and fuel economy by possibly lowering emissions and decommissioning exhaust gas recirculation valves by controlling both the exhaust and intake camshafts. Solenoids are in a halt when an engine is off and immediately after it has started, at least for ordinary designs.

It only takes motion once the oil pressure builds, with the powertrain control module adjusting the camshaft timing via the actuator solenoid, depending on factors like engine speed, throttle position, manifold pressure, engine load, barometric pressure, and the position of the crankshaft.

An evolution from fixed-valve timing

VVT-i engineEngines have evolved from having a fixed valve timing to one that can be altered. This is through an engine with VVT, long improved with the traditional ones. With this new alteration, you’ll get improved performance, increased fuel economy, or even better, both.

Fixed valve timing

During traditional times, a camshaft and valve’s timing were solely dependent on the position of the camshaft gear when the belt of an engine or its timing chain was installed. The valve overlap, in which both the intake and exhaust valves are open in any given cylinder, can only be controlled through the design of the camshaft.

Unless you revise the camshaft itself, adjusting the valve overlap can never be a possibility, hence being named as fixed-valve timing. This is very different from the valve lash, a clearance between the rocker arm and pushrod on push-rod style engines.

Variable valve timing

The VVT system has two main components, namely camshaft actuators or phasers, and VVT solenoids, also known as camshaft position actuator solenoid valves. With this system, the camshaft only advances and retracts through the VVT solenoid, which controls the oil flow to the actuator.

The car’s primary computer, known as the powertrain control module or PCM, is the sole controller of the solenoid operation. If a problem arises with the camshaft actuator solenoid or with the circuit, the P0013 code will get logged.

Camshaft actuator solenoid valve codes

The PCM sends a trouble code when there’s a problem, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the solenoid failed to do its purpose. There can be instances wherein gunk buildup can block oil flow into the actuator, this can happen if you don’t change oil regularly. As the camshaft won’t work as it’s intended to, the PCM detects it and sends a trouble code.

Common codes and what they mean

Labeled as valve A by General Motors, the intake side actuator has a gray connector top. When this part fails, the code P0010 will be sent, informing that there’s a Bank one circuit malfunction. Setting the code P0011 actuator A for advancing the timing is also possible.

If you see the P0013 code light up, this refers to problems with valve B, or the camshaft position actuator solenoid, which has a black connector top. This is a detection of a circuit malfunction on the exhaust side. For advancing the camshaft timing with the actuator valve, you can also set the code P0014.

The P0013 code

P0013 Diagnostic Trouble Code Problem Code MeaningThe Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) P0013 refers to a Bank one Exhaust B Camshaft Position Actuator circuit malfunction. Related to the Variable Valve Timing or VV, this is a generic OBD-II code regarding its components.

Signs and symptoms

A P0013 is definitely a headache for you and your engine. Once these symptoms show on your camshaft position actuator solenoid valve control circuit, ignoring these wouldn’t be the best choice.

  • Issues with starting your engine
  • Poor engine mileage
  • Performance issues (stalling, rough running, etc)
  • Rattling noise and other unusual sounds

Common causes

Just like in any other problem, tracking down the cause will help you solve it, and with the P0013 trouble code, it might be quite challenging when you’re doing it alone. If you’re not that confident in your DIY automotive skills, it’s better to consult your trusted mechanic. Otherwise, you can examine your engine and find out what’s causing the ruckus.

Possible causes of the P0013 code may differ depending on the model of your car, as manufacturers may have other substitutes for the P0013 code. Nonetheless, here are the common causes of a P0013 code or an exhaust camshaft position actuator solenoid valve control circuit problem:

  • Bad oil control valve/ VVT solenoid
  • Issues with the control circuit of the solenoid
  • Problems with your PCM

Troubleshooting and repair

In normal circumstances, breaking out the voltmeter and performing tests before replacing an output computer sensor should be your first step, but these components frequently fail so opting to install new parts will save most of your time.

Getting the right parts for your vehicle’s year, make and model is the main factor to look out for. Additionally, looking for the right engine size and which camshaft position actuator solenoid valve you’re replacing is vital too. In most cases, replacing both the solenoids at the same time would save your time as both the exhaust and intake solenoids commonly fail together.

While you only get a P0110 code, replacing the exhaust cam position actuator solenoid valve will be a great save as the chances of it also failing is in high probability. You’ll also have no problems buying the right one due to replacing both at the same time.

Step-by-step procedure on replacing the cam actuator valve

actuator valve

As far as other videos replacing the camshaft position actuator solenoid valves are concerning, some mechanics still skip a few easy steps that we recommend looking out for.

  1. Begin with removing the intake manifold cover by disconnecting the mass airflow sensor to successfully set the cover aside.
  2. With the cover gone, both of the actuators located in the valley of the valve cover are within clear view. This area usually collects a huge amount of dirt and sand particles.
  3. Use compressed air to remove the dirt, dust, and other debris out of the valley before removing the sensors.

NOTE: Contrary to what other mechanics do, you shouldn’t skip this step as prevention from getting grit on your camshaft area. The stuff used for cleaning computer keyboards can also be a great dupe.

  1. In disconnecting the electrical connector from each camshaft position actuator solenoid, the easiest way is to pull up on the lock tab to be able to push on the release button, then wiggle the connector free from the actuator.
  2. This locking tab has a different color, making it easy to distinguish. To lift the tab up and release the lock, you can use a small pick to help you.

A vital piece of information to remember is the plastic connectors require very delicate care as they are more than a decade old and are very brittle. Breaking the connector would definitely take a toll on the time and ease of this repairing procedure.

Final tips

Various Youtube mechanic tutorial videos use air tools or cordless screwdrivers in removing and reinstalling the bolts, but as they look cool and fast, using hand tools would still be the best choice for this procedure.

Few problems can arise with using power tools, for instance as steel bolts are screwed into a soft aluminum threaded area, using such tools can easily strip or pull the threads out, which will add a hefty amount of time to your previously fast and easy procedure.

Another thing to remember is that the torque of the retaining bolt comes in at only 89 inch-pounds according to the service manual, so be careful not to crush this bolt beyond designation as the threads are made from soft aluminum material.

Contrary to what other people do, lubricating the O-ring of the replacement part with some engine oil should be a better choice as this provides more nicking resistance for it easily slides into place. Most people just take the camshaft position actuator solenoid out of the box and immediately slide it into position, making things harder in the long run.