Degreeing a Camshaft - a Comprehensive Guide

Degreeing a Camshaft – a Comprehensive Guide

Degreeing a camshaft is an important part of any engine build. It is the process of adjusting the camshaft so that it opens and closes the valves correctly. Degreeing a camshaft can help to increase performance, reliability, and efficiency. While degreeing a camshaft may seem like an intimidating task, with the right tools and knowledge it can be done relatively easily and quickly. The following guide provides detailed instructions on how to degree a camshaft properly.

What Is Camshaft Degreeing?

Camshaft degreeing is the process of measuring and adjusting the valve timing by checking how far ahead or behind its specified position (or “degree”) a camshaft lobe is relative to its crankshaft counterpart, referred to as “the centerline” or “the base circle” of that lobe. For an engine to run optimally, each cylinder must open and close its valves at exactly the right time in relation to when its piston gets to the top dead center (TDC) on its firing stroke; otherwise, power output will suffer, and fuel economy will decrease. By degreeing a camshaft properly, this synchronization between piston and valve motion can be accomplished for maximum efficiency.

Reasons for Degreeing a Camshaft

Degreeing a Camshaft - a Comprehensive GuideThere are several reasons why a camshaft should be degreed. First and foremost, it ensures that the valve timing is spot on, which translates into better performance and fuel economy. Additionally, degreeing the camshaft can help identify any issues that might be causing problems with power output or engine smoothness such as excessive valve overlap or an incorrect lobe profile. Finally, it can also help diagnose any mechanical problems in the engine such as worn components or incorrect clearances between parts.

Tools Needed for Degreeing a Camshaft

Before beginning the process of degreeing a camshaft, you’ll need to gather all the necessary tools and components:

  • Dial Indicator – This will be used to measure how far ahead or behind its specified position (degree) a cam lobe is relative to its crankshaft counterpart.

  • Camshaft Degree Wheel – This is used to mark the exact degrees on either side of TDC so that accurate measurements can be taken.

  • Harmonic Balancer Lock Tool – This helps lock down the harmonic balancer in place so that it does not rotate.

  • Camshaft Degree Set – This is a complete set of cam degree wheels, dial indicators, and other components needed for degreeing a camshaft.

Step-by-step Guide for Degreeing a Camshaft

Degreeing a camshaft is a straightforward process, although it does require some precise measurements and careful handling. Step-by-step directions for degreeing a camshaft are as follows:

  1. Secure the harmonic balancer using the harmonic balancer lock tool. This will prevent it from rotating while you work on the camshaft.

  2. Install the degree wheel onto the crankshaft and attach the dial indicator to one of its lobes. Make sure that you are using an accurate degree wheel, as any errors here will be compounded throughout the process.

  3. Rotate the engine until its piston reaches TDC on its firing stroke and note where it is relative to your starting position (the zero-degree mark). This will be your centerline or base circle for all subsequent measurements taken during this process.

  4. With each lobe, measure how far ahead or behind its specified position (or “degree”) it is relative to this centerline or base circle.

  5. Once all these measurements have been taken, adjust as necessary so that each lobe is in its correct position relative to this centerline or base circle.

  6. Finally, reinstall and torque down the harmonic balancer and you’re done!


Camshaft degreeing is a straightforward process that can yield significant performance and fuel economy gains. It should be part of any engine maintenance program, as cam timing accuracy is essential for optimal operation. With the right tools and some careful measurements, you can degree your camshaft correctly and ensure your engine runs at its peak potential for years to come.

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