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Installing a Performance Camshaft

Installing a camshaft is a routine repair that many tuners and mechanics enjoy. It’s less work if you have a hoist, but the lack of a hoist will not prevent you from performing this repair. You can replace the cam with the engine in the car by removing the radiator, grille and brackets to provide access. Let’s start:

• Drain the coolant. Remove the radiator fan shroud and accessory drive belts. With the coolant drained, disconnect the radiator hoses from the water pump and remove the radiator. As you unbolt each piece, use boxes or plastic bags to store them, adding notes to identify where they go.

• Remove the alternator, power steering pump and A/C accessory brackets attached to the water pump. Remove the water pump and crankshaft pulleys, and any components attached to the timing cover. With the timing chain, camshaft and crankshaft sprockets exposed, locate the timing marks. Rotate the engine until the marks are aligned, at which point the number one piston should be at top dead center (TDC). When installing the new cam, these marks must be aligned or engine damage may occur. Remove the harmonic balancer with a balancer removal tool if needed before taking off the timing cover.

• Remove the valve covers and loosen the rocker arms or shafts, and remove the push rods. Remove the distributor, intake manifold, carburetor and camshaft lifters. At the front of the engine, remove the camshaft timing gear sprocket bolts, then slip the sprocket off and remove the timing chain. Unless your engine has under 10,000 miles, remember to replace the timing chain as a stretched chain affects cam and ignition timing. Re-install the cam sprocket and carefully slide the camshaft forward and out of the engine block.

• Apply assembly lube to the distributor gear, cam lobes and bearing journals. Insert the cam in the block. Once the cam is almost all in, install the cam timing sprocket to the nose of the cam and use it for support. Rotate the cam so its timing mark is at 6 o’clock and rotate the crankshaft so its mark is at 12. Remove the cam sprocket and install the timing chain, ensuring that the timing marks remain. Apply lube to the base of the cam lifters (new lifters must be installed with any new camshaft) and reinstall them in their bores.

• Reinstall the components in reverse order with new gaskets and seals. Scrape old gaskets from all mating surfaces, and install a new front seal in the timing cover. Tighten all bolts and fasteners to the specs. Once reassembled, you’re almost ready to start the engine.

• Change the oil, make sure the coolant is full, and follow the instructions for starting. With flat tappet cams, the engine must be run at 2,500–3,000 RPM for 20-30 minutes to break it in. Don’t let it idle even if it needs to be shut off. After the break-in period, change the engine oil and filter.

Following these steps will extend the life of your engine and ensure it delivers maximum performance.

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