Diesel Diagnosis: Camshaft Failure Causes

Is It Camshaft Lobe Wear Or Damage?

We all know how important camshafts are to the function of your diesel engine, and when they fail it can spell big trouble. Whether you have a flat tappet or a roller camshaft, you're at risk for one of the most common causes of camshaft issues: lobe wear or damage.

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Did You Know Even .001 Inch Of Wear On A Camshaft Is A Problem? 

Yes, just .001 of an inch of wear on the lobes can negatively impact your valve timing by as much as 3 degrees.  

This wear leads to a loss of horsepower and fuel economy, among other problems.  And that's not even considering the impact of more extensive damage caused by mechanical interference or other serious issues. 

If you notice wear or damage on your camshaft, it's important to locate the causes of the problem before installing your new cam. 

If you don't, you run the risk of ruining the new camshaft as well and costing yourself even more money.

So What Might Be Causing These Issues?

We're taking you through some of the most common causes of camshaft lobe damage.

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Here are 4 signs To Look For camshaft lobe damage: 

1. Look For Pitting on the Camshaft

In many cases, pitting on the lobes is due to normal part wear from many hours of operation. Even so, it's important to identify and replace the camshaft before it fails completely or causes damage to other components due to improper operation.

In other instances, the pitting might be caused by debris in the components. Make sure that everything is clean when the camshaft is installed, and that the oil passageways are clear and free of dirt or other particles. 

This is vital to a proper install, as dirt and debris can cause major issues for the camshaft and bearings.

The images below show pitting on the camshaft lobes.

Example of pitting on diesel engine camshaft lobe damage


Pitting on a diesel engine camshaft highway and heavy parts

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2. Is There A Lack of Lubrication? 

Proper lubrication is vital to maintain normal camshaft operation. When there is a lack of lubrication, whether due to blocked oil passages or too much clearance space, you'll begin to notice wear patterns. 

Increased friction from the rotating camshaft can cause these wear patterns. If left unaddressed, you run the risk of ruining your bearings or even breaking the cam cap because of the high amount of friction and heat.

The two main places you should ensure are properly lubricated are between the pin and roller and between the lobe and roller. This will help reduce friction, in turn reducing the amount of wear on the components.


Not sure if you need a new camshaft?

Check out our post on whether it's time to replace your camshaft see the video below or call us at 844-304-7688. 

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3. Damage From The Lifter/Followers?

It is possible to have lobe damage caused by an improperly functioning lifter. You'll most likely notice gouging on the lobes, as well as damage on the lifter itself. 

This can be caused by a lifter being out of position and striking the lobe, weak valve spring pressure, lack of oil pressure, or stressful operating conditions like overspeeding.

4. The Camshaft May Have Been Installed Incorrectly

There are other types of damage a camshaft or its associated parts can incur besides just lobe wear. Many of these result from improper install techniques. 

To prevent install-related damage, ensure your camshaft is properly positioned and placed. Read our install guide for more information. 

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Need A New Camshaft For Your Diesel Engine? 

We have a large selection of camshafts in stock and ready to ship to you. Most new camshafts can be in your hands in 2 days. Here is a video overview of of the HHP Camshaft Buying guide with Rob: 


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