Cam bearings are low-maintenance parts, but that does not mean that they never go bad, so here is everything you need to know about them and their lifespan.
How Long Do Cam Bearings Last?
Under ideal conditions, cam bearings would last forever. However, this is not the case. Cam bearings are made of lead and copper, weakening under certain conditions. If your cam bearings are properly maintained and lubricated with a steady flow of clean oil, they can last anywhere between eight and twelve years.
But, if the engine oil is dirty and inadequate, these bearings will wear out faster than they should. You will start experiencing engine problems that will cost you thousands of dollars to fix. The following are the various reasons why cam bearings go bad:
- Metal-on-metal contact due to unsteady engine oil supply.
- Excessive heat, especially if the oil is not cooling the engine effectively.
- Drying out because of leaking engine oil, clogs, or poor circulation.
- Exposure to dirty engine oil scratches the bearings and other engine components.
- Corrosion caused by contaminated engine oil.
How Do I Know If My Cam Bearings Are Bad?
When you raise your vehicle to a fast idle (about 5-600rpms) and the oil pressure reads below normal when the oil is warm, it indicates faulty cam bearings. Bad cam bearings are renowned for causing low oil pressure readings.
According to aa1car, excessive cam bearings of at least 0.01 inches in diameter can result in at least a 20% drop in engine oil pressure.
This can easily affect the engine’s lubrication and cause other components to wear out prematurely.
The best solution to this problem is to reduce the excessive clearance by replacing the worn-out cam bearings with new ones.
What Happens When Cam Bearings Go Bad?
If you do not replace bad cam bearings in good time, they will cause extensive damage to other engine components. The following are the main symptoms of faulty cam bearings:
Illuminated check engine light
Your vehicle’s check engine light usually appears on the dashboard when the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) detects an issue that could increase emissions. Since many things may trigger the check engine light, you need to use an OBD scan tool to verify where the problem is exactly coming from.
Poor engine performance
If you ignore bad cam bearings for too long, your engine will start performing poorly. The main indicators of reduced engine performance include misfiring, difficulty starting, and irregular acceleration.
Poor engine performance usually occurs when the engine is not getting adequate air and fuel to run effectively. This is a very serious problem that you should not ignore.
If your vehicle’s engine is misfiring, pull over and turn off the ignition. You should only restart the vehicle once an experienced mechanic has inspected it and fixed the problem.
Bad fuel economy
Once the cam bearings have gone bad, your vehicle will lose power frequently and consume more fuel. If your car is experiencing poor acceleration, it will lose its fuel efficiency, thus forcing you to fill the gas tank more often than usual. In the long run, this will cost you a lot of money.
Additionally, as your vehicle consumes fuel inefficiently, it will produce more emissions which is bad for the environment. If you notice that your vehicle’s fuel efficiency has started dropping, get the cam bearings inspected. If they have gone bad, replace them with new ones before driving again.
Strange tapping and clicking sounds
If you hear strange tapping and clicking noises coming from your vehicle’s camshaft, the bearings have gone bad. These sounds come up due to low oil pressure caused by worn-out cam bearings and cylinder heads.
However, identifying the primary source of these sounds is challenging since they are usually intermittent. Once you start hearing these sounds, consider having your vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic to verify the exact cause of the problem.
Visible signs of damage
If the cam bearings are completely worn-out, they inflict extensive damage to the camshaft and other engine components. When you lift the cam cover, you will see visible wear and tear on the camshaft. You need to replace the worn-out cam bearings with new ones as soon as possible before you inflict more damage on the engine.
Can I Drive With a Bad Cam Bearing? Is It Dangerous?
Cam bearings support the shaft and enable it to rotate freely inside the engine. Once cam bearings go bad, there will be a heat and pressure spike inside the engine. The change will force the engine to seize immediately, causing a significant drop in the oil pressure. Thus, I don’t suggest driving with a bad cam bearing.
Ensure that you tend to this problem as the situation could worsen.
You will only be able to drive your vehicle for approximately 50 miles before it suffers a complete engine failure. It is dangerous to drive with bad cam bearings, especially if you are in the middle of traffic. Driving with bad cam bearings will only increase the damage to your vehicle’s engine.
If the engine fails unexpectedly, you can cause a serious accident that will endanger the lives of other road users. If you notice that your vehicle’s cam bearings have gone bad, turn off the engine and let an experienced and skilled mechanic fix the problem.
Can I Repair It or Do I Need to Replace It?
If the cam bearings have suffered minimal wear and tear, it is financially practical to repair them. However, if the cam bearings have suffered extensive damage, you should replace them with new ones. This way, they can serve you for longer, and you will protect your engine from more damage.
These days, cam bearings are made of aluminum alloy. It is a much stronger material than copper and lead. Additionally, aluminum-based cam bearings are more resistant to high temperatures, which makes them last longer.
How Much Does It Cost to Fix Cam Bearings?
A good mechanic will charge you about $50 and above to install new cam bearings in your vehicle. This is a great deal considering that a high-quality cam-bearing installation tool costs upwards of $300.