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Performance Camshafts explained – Modifying your car

12 June 2010 23 Comments

Before we get into the whole Performance camshaft story, it is important to understand how your camshaft works and its purpose.
What is the camshaft? What does it do? And, how can it be modified? It is really simple when thinking about it logically!
The camshaft is located at the top of the engine and looks like a metal bar with egg shaped lobes on it.  The shape and size of the lobe determines the amount of time that the head valves are open and how much they are open. The lobes push close the valves in the head and allow the engine’s cylinders to suck in air/fuel through the intake manifold and expel exhaust gases.

Ultimately you want the intake valve opened as long as possible and want to delay the exhaust valve opening until the piston has started to enter the blow phase. Timing is critical. If the intake is not open for long enough or the exhaust valves open early, much of the power from the engine will be gone.

An average family car will typically have a cam duration of 250 degrees or lower. As a general rule of thumb up to 265 degrees gives a good balance of extra power and maintains smooth running and is most suited to a standard engine. In other words, it won’t sound like a Harley Davidson at idle.

So now that we have the basics out of the way, lets have a look at Performance Camshafts.

A performance camshaft can make or break your performance increase for your engine. Picking the wrong cam will do more performance harm than good. Sure, racing cams sound cool when chatting to your friends about having one, but in the wrong car, you will likely suffer performance loss and drive-ability issues that will make your car sluggish on the streets!

In order to buy the right camshaft for your car’s engine you need to know and write down a few specs. Write down your car’s engine size, compression ratio and axle ratio. Next, you need to think what your car is going to be used for. Will you just be using her as a street car? Will she be used for towing caravans and trailers and so on? Or will she be used as a full blown race car? You need to really think about this seriously.
Don’t say your planning to use the car as a race car when you drive it to work everyday. If you are building the car, plan out all these specs and how the car will be used ahead of time so you will know what camshaft to select when it comes time to splash out your money for the performance camshaft.

Performance camshafts can come in almost any degree you require. But here are a few common cam degrees that you will hear in any day to day conversation; 270,272 and 276 are considered “Street cams”,
288 and 298 degree cams are considered to be “Racing cams” and are used on cars that need to rev a lot higher than your average street car.

Performance camshaft manufacturers like STK enterprises can offer you great advice when you are ready to buy a cam. We would advise to speak to a trusted cam manufacturer about the performance you require from a cam. Remember all modifications go hand in hand. You can’t expect peak performance from your new camshaft if you still have a standard exhaust system or you haven’t had your head ported or
polished.

So now that you have spoken to the professionals about which cam best suits your car’s setup, it’s time to go and buy your performance camshaft! We suggest that you opt for a billet cam, I’ll quickly explain to you what a billet is. A billet is a very durable piece of metal that they grind down to make camshafts out of!
We suggest that you invest in buying a camshaft made out of billet steel, they do tend to cost a bit more than other machined cams, but they are definitely well worth the extra money! Also, it would be advisable to invest in an adjustable camshaft gear, this will benefit you at a later stage when you start to tune your car more often! What an adjustable cam gear does is, it lets the tuner/garage fine tune your engine to get the optimum performance out of your cylinder head.


23 Comments »

  • yammy said:

    Hi i have a gti 1.8 8v what cam must i use i jst want the car to pickup fast i got a 288h degree cam bt car dnt wane idel and my motjie gne kill me because she cnt drive like that please help

    [Reply]

  • Car Tuning said:

    Installing a racing cams is not as easy as 1,2,3. One major disadvantage of having a racing cams is that it will consume more fuel but it will definitely increase speed and torque. If you’re not into drag racing, it is not advisable. There are many ways you can improve youre car’s performance without sacrificing gas mileage. Cold air intake system is one of them.

    [Reply]

  • neil said:

    well after reading all the info, i need some advice please.
    ive got a nissan sentra 1998, 200sti. motor just been done and but wana gey back into drags.. guess its gona cost me for my late decision, looking for a cam. has a uni chip. 57mm exhaust, viper branch. and had to have a 20thou rebor.
    please advize on achieving more perfomance.

    [Reply]

    Yammy Reply:

    ok i installed the cold air intack so what next and thanks alot for the advice it helped alot

    [Reply]

  • shameem said:

    hi guys i hav a palio 1.6 16v i wud like 2 knw if i can install a 276 cam if so wot other tings sud i change 2 make the cam work on the car? thanx alot wil b w8 4 an answer

    [Reply]

    Blair Reply:

    Hi Shameem. installing a camshaft into any car is possible. all you need to worry about is the management/ECU to work accordingly to your timing as the camshaft will be now letting more air in and more exhaust gasses out. check to see if Uni-Q make a piggyback system for your car. have you got a branch and free flow on your car yet?

    [Reply]

    shameem Reply:

    i have installed a free flow dis past weekend bt with out a branch do i need the branch?

    [Reply]

  • Blair (author) said:

    the branch is very important, its like smoking you wouldnt buy a box of ciggerettes and not buy a lighter to light them with. a branch is a must have!
    make sure its a 4 into 2 into 1
    what a cam will now do is get the exhaust gasses out of ur cylinders more effectively.

    [Reply]

  • shameem said:

    ok thanx hey bt hwmuch xtra power cn i xpect from the cam coz i wud lyk the car to b more powerful in my 5th gear coz its lacking power derz no etra kick in

    [Reply]

    Blair Reply:

    yo could be looking at anything from 5kw up wards depending. 5th gear wont get better but ull find your other gears will have a whole bunch more rev.

    [Reply]

  • Jahiro said:

    well after reading the information posted i understand a little more about camshafts . only im still not shure what type of cam i should get for my 350 small block 1979 chevy truck. What would you recomend me pleas reply back ! Thank You!!

    [Reply]

  • ASH O MAC said:

    Am driving a opel corsa 1.4 2006 I want to put a racing Cam but want to use my car for daily uses

    [Reply]

  • al cool said:

    i have a 1.8 microbus,with a factory fitted jetta engine.the problem is ,when loaded with about 10 to 14 passengers,it becomes extremely slugish.on the otherhand,downhill,she flies like a 747 down a taxiway.more power is needed,please advice and also include a rough estimate(ie,finance)

    [Reply]

  • Adam said:

    Hi

    I need some advice with regards to what perfomance cam i can use for my car for more mid range to high end torque /acceleration.

    I own a Opel Corsa B 1.6IS – 1999 Model
    with a freeflow Cowly 50mm stainless exhaust + freeflow system fitted

    And the pistons are bored .50mm over size.

    Everything is standard as far as my knowledge goes.

    Please advise, i would appreciate it.

    Thanks

    [Reply]

  • wilmon said:

    Hi iv got a 20L8v mk3 golf, I would like to get me a cam for extra power and that along the way street drags. But still wana use my car everyday for normal uses, what’s highest you think I can go in cam degree.

    [Reply]

  • shiraaz said:

    Hi I got a golf 2 18 8 valve gti I want more power I got a 276 bilet cam branch free flow but I put a. resignaitor with my free flow so plz advice on how to make it faster and what I got to do and morales how much would it cost I would really appreciate it

    [Reply]

  • kurt said:

    Hi, probably think i will be wasting my time, but i have got a chev aveo 1.5 ’05 model; looking to put in a cam, what advice can you give me on size?

    [Reply]

  • soka said:

    i am using corsa 1.6is 2000 model,wch cam must i buy decree wise for extra kw

    [Reply]

  • Bill said:

    Hi, can an existing cam be modified/machined to enable it to deliver better performance? If yes, are there shops in the Pta/Joburg area that do this? Thanks

    [Reply]

  • deon said:

    Hi I have opel kadett 1.6is currently I have a cowley branch free flow system I need some power with a nice sound consider to port and gasflow can you give me advice on what specs should I cut my cam and any other modifications but still whant to use it as daily car many thanks hope hearing from you soon I stay in somerset west so guys close to me who can do the job

    [Reply]

  • Farhaan said:

    Hi,

    I’m driving a Kia Rio 2013 model and I want to know what all should I be getting in order to give it an extra punch.

    Thanks

    [Reply]

  • Matthews said:

    Matthews here I have yaris 1,3 n I wana improve performance even if is not much which performance products must I go for

    [Reply]

  • dayne said:

    hi i have a ford kent cam shaft and at the end of the shaft there is some numbers stamped on it(c60 at top and below that it has in 362) and what do they mean

    [Reply]

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