Engine timing is a very crucial step in your car’s combustion process. Imagine this… The intake valves open to allow air and fuel to enter the combustion chamber to be burnt. All the while, exhaust valves then open to enable fumes and by-products from that explosive cycle to escape out of the engine. It’ll then repeat again, opening and closing with absolute precision. At least, until P0016 shows up.
So, what happens when that engine timing is thrown out of whack? What happens when the timing’s so bad, that the engine is no longer firing in unison. Intake and exhaust valves, all randomly working without any rhythm. At the very least, your car will suffer some serious performance penalties. Even worse, and if you don’t get that P0016 code fixed, poor timing could lead to catastrophic damage.
So, what does that P0016 diagnostics trouble code mean, then? Technically speaking, it’s defined as ‘Crankshaft Position – Camshaft Position Correlation (Bank 1 Sensor A)’. There’s a lot to unpack there, so let’s try to explain each component. Firstly, it references two separate parts of an engine, which is your ‘crankshaft position sensor‘ and the ‘camshaft position sensor‘, both of which manage engine timing.
Respectively, they monitor, analyze, and oversee the speed and positioning of both the crankshaft as well as the camshaft, accordingly. To summarise quickly, the crankshaft rotates (at the bottom of the engine) as combustion occurs, creating usable power that’s then sent to the wheels. Meanwhile, your camshaft also rotates (at the top of the engine), whose lobes control the intake and exhaust valves.
Both the crankshaft and camshaft need to work in close synchrony, hence the term ‘correlation’ as a part of the definition for P0016. In other words, the rotations of the camshaft and crankshaft have to be in a set motion, not merely rotating out of their own free will. In general, most car engines follow a 1:2 ratio. Whereby, 1 rotation of the crankshaft is done for every 2 rotations of the camshaft.
Without it, the reciprocating (or, up and down) motion of the pistons (managed by the crankshaft) is no longer lined up and operating in tandem with the opening and closing of both intake and exhaust valves (managed by the camshaft). As a result, the entire engine timing is now thrown off balance, as it’ll begin to have an impact. Both on your car’s driveability, as well as the well-being of the engine.
Crankshaft Position Camshaft Position Correlation Bank 1 Sensor A
The rest of the definition covers the precise location of the fault in question. Primarily, a P0016 error code has been triggered by either the crankshaft or camshaft position sensor in the engine’s ‘Bank 1’. This is where all of your odd-numbered cylinders are found. To put it another way, the side (or, bank) of the engine where you’ll find cylinders 1, 3, 5, 7, and so on. This is termed as ‘Bank 1’ of an engine.
Then, we have ‘Sensor A’, which is needed as most engines have numerous sensors working alongside each other. ‘Sensor A’ tells you that one of the sensors (the other being labeled ‘Sensor B”) has gone awry. Altogether, a P0016 error code is here to tell you that your engine timing is no longer within its original design. It could be that the timing has jumped ahead of the queue, or has since slowed down.
All of this is continuously monitored by your car’s PCM (or, ‘powertrain control module‘). Both the sensors consist of a reluctor, tone, and ring that is routed through a magnetic sensor. Subsequently, inducing a voltage that could allow the PCM (or, ECU or ECM) to gauge the position of both the camshaft and crankshaft. If the PCM determines that either crankshaft or camshaft isn’t in line, P0016 appears.
In short, a P0016 error code is your car’s way of telling you that the engine timing might be off. It’s a look at how the camshaft position sensor’s readings aren’t correctly matched (i.e. ‘correlating’) with the crankshaft position sensor. All in all, the lack of proper engine timing will affect how your car is performing and driving. In addition, causing significant internal wear and damage to the engine.
What’s Caused A P0016 Error Code To Appear?
Among the most common causes for the appearance of P0016 include:
1. Timing Belt/Chain-Related Causes
- Timing chain or belt (either one responsible for synchronizing the timing between the crankshaft and camshaft) jumped a teeth. This is akin to it skipping a beat, which ultimately forces the camshaft or crankshaft timing to be out of sync. Alternatively, it’s also possible that the crankshaft or camshaft slipped a reluctor ring each, equally causing them to lose synchronization.
- Worn-out timing belt (or, perhaps a damaged timing chain), such as showing signs of stretching or damage. If your timing belt isn’t able to maintain a solid connection and keep the timing steady between the camshaft and crankshaft, a P0016 error code is one plausible outcome.
2. Camshaft/Crankshaft-Related Causes
- Faulty or worn-out camshaft phaser (which adjusts the positioning of the camshaft in relation to the crankshaft, operated by a computer). If the phaser isn’t working right, it’ll cause the camshaft to run out of alignment, and be desynced from the crankshaft’s rotation.
- Crankshaft and/or camshaft position sensors themselves are bad or malfunctioning. Or, the wiring and connectors leading to and from their circuitry have been compromised. Either way, those sensors are necessary to keep a lookout for the positioning and rotation of both the crankshaft and camshaft.
- Variable valve timing (VVT) faults, most likely with the solenoids or actuators. Without them, the VVT system wouldn’t be able to adjust and tweak the timing of the camshafts appropriately when needed.
3. Oil-Related Causes
- Using the wrong viscosity of motor oil, as this ultimately flows to the aforementioned phaser. Using a motor oil with the wrong viscosity that wasn’t made to be compatible with your engine would affect its flow to the phaser. With minimal oil lubricating it, the phaser wouldn’t be able to work right. This also applies to situations where there’s too little oil in the engine.
- Oil control valves are clogged or restricted, likely due to debris or sludge build-up. This is applicable for those cars that feature variable valve timing (VVT) technology. The latter is a feature in some cars that enables them to vary the engine timing. However, this would only work if there are sufficient levels of oil pressure to actuate the variation in timing. Otherwise, your engine timing wouldn’t be synced.
What Are The Symptoms Of A P0016 Error Code?
As for the tell-tale signs that you might experience when a P0016 engine timing error comes around, you’ll have to look very closely. The most obvious symptom is the appearance of a check engine light. As your ECU logs and saves a P0016 diagnostics code in its memory to alert you, it’ll prompt the check engine light to illuminate. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time noticing most of the other symptoms.
Among those that you might spot are:
- Poor and sluggish performance, regardless of the speed. With bad engine timing, your engine won’t be able to produce power as smoothly, efficiently, or as potently as before. The acceleration would be especially lethargic, and there’s a noticeable lag when you’re hard on the gas pedal. Elsewhere, you might spot how rough the engine is performing, as well as stalling or jerking while you’re driving.
- Even while the engine is idling or you’re driving along at slower speeds, you might notice how shaky and rough the engine is running. Without proper engine timing, your powertrain’s balance and poise are compromised. As ignition occurs at the wrong moments during the combustion cycle, your car will shake, rattle, shudder, and vibrate. You may also encounter difficulties with cranking up.
- Poor fuel economy is something that’ll take time to manifest, but you may notice eventually. Once again, an engine with incorrect ignition timing isn’t able to combust fuel as efficiently. In other words, it might ignite the fuel too soon or too late in its cycle. Therefore, your engine will either have to burn more fuel to get going. Or, you’ll find a lot of that fuel is wasted, and go unburnt.
How Can You Further Diagnose A P0016 Error Code?
If you’ve already identified that your car is experiencing a P0016 error code that’s messing up with its engine timing, the next step would be a thorough diagnosis. These will help to confirm whether or not this issue is legitimately present, or if it’s perhaps a false positive. Moreover, even a simple diagnosis would help is isolate what’s broken and what’s not, which will help expedite any repairs to be made.
Here are some simple steps that’ll guide you towards diagnosing (and potentially troubleshooting) a P0016 error code, concerning the timing between your crankshaft and camshaft…
Step 1: Use An OBDII Diagnostics Tool
Since you’ve already identified a P0016 error code, bring out your OBD scanner tool once more. First, try clearing out that P0016 error code and resetting all other trouble codes. There’s a possibility that it may have come up as a false positive. Once you’re done with that, go out for a short test drive.
Should the check engine light illuminate once again and the same P0016 error code is detected, then you’ve now confirmed that this problem is indeed present. At this point, it’s a good idea for you to study and identify if there are any other error codes present. If so, what do these error codes entail?
It’s certainly plausible that you’ll find an accompanying error code that immediately identified a fault that may have brought up the P0016 error code as a consequence. In particular, pay close attention to any other camshaft or crankshaft-related diagnostics trouble codes, as well as the engine timing.
If you’ve found other error codes (especially revolving around the crankshaft and camshaft position sensors), then try fixing those ones first. Should the issue not be resolved then, you can come back to P0016, and proceed with further diagnosis to isolate the underlying root causes for a repair.
Step 2: Read Through Freeze-Frame Data
While you still have your OBD reader, try to capture freeze-frame data (these are basically snapshots of certain moments during its diagnosis process) of the camshaft and crankshaft. Is there a pattern or clear sign of what might’ve caused a P0016 engine timing error code to appear in the first place?
Moreover, analyze the conditions at which the P0016 error code first came about. Understand more about how your car was running, its temperatures, engine load, and so on. That’ll give you a better idea of which component(s) might be at fault, and expedite the process of fixing and resolving it later.
Step 3: Make A Visual Inspection
If you’ve not found a clear answer through your car’s onboard diagnostics (OBD), you can try making a visual inspection around the engine. Here’s a quick list of what you should check to ascertain what might’ve prompted a P0016 error to appear, in the first place:
- Look at the redactor ring, placed near the gearing that connects the timing belt (or chain) together. Make sure the redactor ring isn’t damaged, loose, or if it’s gone out of alignment.
- Check all the wiring and connectors (i.e. corrosion, fraying, loose connections, burning, etc.) that lead to and from the crankshaft and camshaft positions sensors.
- Inspect the timing belt to make sure that it’s not overly worn-out, or has been skipping gears. On top of that, ensure that the timing belt’s alignment is secured.
- Next, you could inspect both the crankshaft and camshaft position sensors, respectively. See if they’re loose or show signs of visible damage. They might also get clogged up after some time. For that, you could easily clean them with a spray of mass airflow (MAF) cleaning solutions.
- When you’re done there, head over to the oil reservoir. Compare the viscosity of the oil you’ve used, and the one that’s been recommended by the manufacturer. Should you be using the wrong oil, you’ll need to perform an extensive oil change and oil filter replacement.
Step 4: Checking The Electrics And Electrical Supply
Even if the crankshaft and camshaft position sensors are fine, faulty wiring would nevertheless bring out a P0016 error code. Here are a few tricks that you can do to test the condition of the crankshaft and camshaft position sensors:
- First, grab yourself a digital multimeter.
- While you’re there, make sure that the ignition key is turned to the ON position. But, without actually having the engine cranked up at this moment.
- Carefully remove both the crankshaft and camshaft position sensors, although this may take a bit of time and patience. Try to find a service manual for your car to make this a bit easier.
- Now, take the black lead of the multimeter, and attach that to a ground connection. For example, connecting it to the negative battery terminal. Meanwhile, the red (positive) lead should be contacted against every single wire and pin on the aforementioned sensor.
- Here, you should see a voltage reading of around 1.5V on one of the wires. If not, this means that the sensor isn’t getting the right amount of voltage required to continue running. This likely points us towards there being a problem with the electrics.
Once you’re done, you can continue by testing the electrics of the crankshaft and camshaft sensors. Have your multimeter on hand, and set it to AC Voltage. Next up:
- Attach and contact the leads of the recalibrated multimeter onto the pins that surround the camshaft and crankshaft sensor.
- Have a buddy with you, and let them crank the engine and give it some revs.
- As your engine revs, you should see there is a pulse in the voltage reading for both sensors.
- If that pulse isn’t visible, then you can conclude that this sensor is broken.
Final Thoughts On P0016 Error Code
Well, that’s a good place to round off our look at a P0016 error code, concerning the desynced engine timing between the camshaft and crankshaft. In all, a myriad of problems or faulty components may have caused your engine’s timing to be out of sync. It could be a sensor-related fault, or it might need you to replace the timing belt. Regardless, P0016 is one issue that you shouldn’t delay in repairing.
At first, it might appear as though it’s a mere annoyance as far as performance and fuel economy are concerned. Over time, however, a mistimed engine could lead to significant internal scarring, as well as catastrophic engine damage. You could easily seize up the engine by ignoring to fix P0016, which would cost you thousands to repair alone. In contrast, fixing a P0016 is relatively cheap:
|P0016 Error Code, Parts Replacement Cost|
|Timing Belt||$500 to $1,000|
|Timing Chain||$500 to $1,500|
|Variable Valve Timing Solenoid||$300 to $400|
|Reluctor Ring||$200 to $600|
|Engine Oil And Filter Replacement||$20 to $60|
|Camshaft Position Sensor||$100 to $250|
|Crankshaft Position Sensor||$100 to $300|
|Camshaft Phaser||$800 to $2,500|
Frequently Asked Questions On P0016
Here are some of the most popular frequently asked questions around a P0016 error code in your car…
What Is Code P0016
In diagnostics terms, P0016 is defined as “Crankshaft Position – Camshaft Position Correlation (Bank 1 Sensor A)”. In essence, this means that the rotation, positioning, and movement of the camshaft and crankshaft are no longer in sync. Thus, throwing your car’s perfectly configured engine timing out of balance. Bad engine timing, if not fixed soon, can lead to extensive internal engine damage.
How To Fix Code P0016
For the most part, a P0016 engine timing issue is attributed to worn-out timing belts. This is the most likely cause of the problem, so you’ll have to undertake a replacement of the timing belt (or chain) to solve a P0016 issue. Otherwise, it might be down to a bad variable valve timing solenoid. Or, perhaps the camshaft and crankshaft position sensors are faulty, too. But start with the belt/chain first.
Camshaft Position Sensor Bank 1
‘Bank 1’ refers to the side of the engine with odd numbers in its cylinder designation. Therefore, Bank 1 is where you’ll find your cylinders numbering 1, 3, 5, 7, and so on. Its exact location, and which bank is 1 or 2 will be dependent on your car. You’ll have to refer to your owner’s or service manual to learn how to distinguish between Bank 1 and 2. If you have an inline engine, Bank 1 is towards the front.
P0016 Code But Car Runs Fine
So, you’ve detected a P0016 trouble code regarding the engine timing, but your car still runs perfectly fine? There are two possibilities for this. First, that error code might be a false alarm. You can reset the error codes, and see if it resurfaces again. If it continues to stick around, then the symptoms may not yet have taken effect. It’s a good idea to head down to a mechanic before it gets any worse.
Unfortunately, several Chevy models have been impacted by P0016 or similar error codes that relate to their engine timing. Among those nameplates to have been affected include the Equinox, Traverse, Malibu, Camaro, Impala, Captiva, and more. These primarily appear on their V6 models, and it turns out that there’s a flaw with their timing chains. A service and realignment should help to fix that.
Dodge is another large automaker with a significant number of complaints concerning a P0016 trouble code. This issue affects their Ram trucks, alongside several other models like the Journey, Neon, and more. Unfortunately, owners have yet to identify a single point of failure that caused this problem. In many cases, it’s a hit and miss… Replace the cam sensor, crank sensor, or maybe the timing belt.
Volkswagen has had troubles with P0016 errors before, encompassing a wide variety of engines as well as models. The most popular model to be affected by this was the Passat, among others. So far, owners have had differing experiences with resolving this issue. Although, it seems as though a misaligned timing belt and a faulty crankshaft position sensor are the key culprits behind this.
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