VCT stands for variable camshaft timing that plays a major role in determining the oil pressure. Ford is the biggest manufacturer of VCT solenoid. Engine performance and efficiency can be improved by using this technology.
Besides improving fuel economy, the variable camshaft timing can also reduce emissions. It increases the miles per gallon ratio over traditional vehicles that use fixed, or stationary, camshafts.
In this article, we are going to tell you everything that you should know before you decide on changing your VCT solenoid.
VCT Solenoid System Components
A VCT solenoid allows oil pressure to enter the camshaft phaser, which controls the timing of the camshafts through the PCM. It is essentially a spool valve controlled by an electronic circuit.
Based on the spool valve’s position, oil pressure is allowed to retard camshaft timing or go into the phaser to advance. This is controlled by the PCM via pulse width modulation and is referred to as PWM. Multiple timing changes can be made by changing the PCM several times per second.
Damage to the parts and low oil pressure can slow the mechanical and hydraulic process once the VCT solenoids are energized. The phasers are held in an advanced position with oil flowing into the advance side when in the default off position.
In a phaser, a chain joins an outer component with a sprocket. And a banjo bolt attaches the inner component with the camshaft. The center vane assembly controls the direction that the inside unit turns towards the outside unit.
Through a banjo bolt, oil is pumped directly from the camshaft center to the phaser. A supply of oil is actually directed from the block. This supply is directed through the camshaft front bearing, into the camshaft, and then finally from the camshaft into the phaser.
Design Of The Phaser
This phaser design features two main pins. It is an inner component of the phaser unit that has a stationary locating pin. In this way, the camshaft cannot move independently from the phaser inner component without this piece of equipment.
The second, which is inside the phaser unit, is an internal locking pin that prevents unintended movement. As soon as the engine is started, the camshaft sprocket will not rotate independently of the sprocket. When needed, the VCT solenoid applies oil pressure to the pin, thereby releasing the phaser so VCT can begin operating.
VCT Solenoid: How Does The VCT Valve Work?
Before the working process can begin, there are a number of enabling conditions that must be met. You must have a normal engine oil temperature and engine speed above 800RPM for the system to be active. Otherwise, it will not be active and will default to the full advance position at idle.
Magnetic cam position sensors are located on the phaser front. A return spring is built into this part of the phaser. And it rotates directly with the camshaft, so the engine always knows how the timing is affected by the VCT. The return spring assists the phaser to return to the default full advanced position if it is disassembled.
Variable valve is a system that is unique to each automotive manufacturer. The variable valve timing system depends on a solenoid to control the oil flow as it is engaged. In general, the system activates when the engine is under severe stress, for instance, when there is a large load on it.
The vehicle may accelerate more quickly when traveling on a hill. It’ll also work when carrying additional weight or when accelerated by applying the throttle. The variable valve timing oil is sent to lubricate the gear assembly and chain of the variable valve timing. VCT gears are lubricated with oil when the VCT solenoid is activated.
Common Failures In VCT Solenoid
When the camshaft sprocket is not being used, the locking pins easily fail and allow the cog to rotate separately from the chain. When oil pressure is insufficient to hold the phaser, the camshaft battles against the valve spring force, causing it to jump around at low RPMs. The rattle is caused by this.
A timing tensioner, chain, or guide that is overloaded by too many forces can break. The phaser goes back and forth too quickly, forcing oil backward into the camshaft and front camshaft bearing.
This process can cause phaser failure twice and can damage the camshaft fatally if debris gets stuck. Additionally, the phaser’s roll pins that hold the cam position pickups can fail, leading to the failure of this component.
It is possible for the spring to force through the sensor end of the roll pins are damaged, displacing the cam sensor pickups. Additionally, an oil contamination issue or a problem with the VCT solenoids could exist. There are often leaks at the center of the oil pump of these engines, which causes the system’s pressure to fall. It is possible for a VCT system to fail when the oil pump cannot maintain 26 psi of pressure at a very hot idle. It can also happen if the sump screen of the oil pump becomes clogged.
What Are The Causes Of A VCT Solenoid Malfunctioning?
VCT switches and solenoids are most commonly malfunctioning as a result of improper maintenance. The sludge present in dirty oil can block the screen on the solenoid, resulting in its failure. In addition, VCT will not function properly if the engine oil level is low.
Several other problems may occur, from extending to the failure of the entire engine, when variable valve timing is broken or worn out. You can reduce the chances of severe situations occurring by being aware of few warning signs.
There are several symptoms that you’d notice if the VCT solenoid is malfunctioning.
Check Engine Light Flashes
Check engine light appears as the first red flag. The Engine Control Unit on today’s cars monitors all components of the engine as part of its control. The ECU has a special way of storing a trouble code when a part is faulty so that a mechanic can use a scan tool to determine where the problem is.
After the code is generated, the specific zone warning will illuminate on the dashboard to inform the driver. VCT solenoids commonly fail to operate, causing the Check Engine Light to illuminate.
Despite the fact that different automakers use different codes, one thing remains the same. To make sure that the car is in good working condition, an ASE Certified mechanic should be contacted. For the mechanic to identify the common source of the issue, the code should also be downloaded through the correct diagnostic tool.
Manufacturers assign individual codes related to Variable Valve Timing solenoids. If the mechanic has all the necessary information, he can begin tackling the specific problem.
Dirty Engine Oil
In addition, dirty engines may indicate a problem with the oil. Most people know that it is a cause rather than a symptom. The VCT solenoid, however, is perfectly functional if the engine oil is clean. The passageway between the solenoid and VCT gear and chain is clogged up when the engine oil is clogged with debris.
The VCT solenoid, the gear drive, and the VCT chain will be protected when the engine oil is changed on time.
As a result, it is vital to ensure the engine oil is changed as recommended by the manufacturer. Low oil levels can harm the timing components and the VCT solenoid, these problems can develop.
Engine oil protects and keeps moving parts safe from tearing down by lubricating them. It also reduces friction and frictional wear on them. Lubrication helps to protect the internal engine parts from overheating. It also saves the engine from friction and rubbing against each other when operating.
Engine oil is essential for preventing metal-on-metal contact from damaging your engine. Without it, metal-on-metal contact would cause extensive and expensive engine damage very quickly.
It is also necessary for your vehicle to have engine oil to ensure that overheated components are cool. Coolant system components, such as radiators and pumps, provide most of the cooling that is required.
Rusty Engine Idle
Rough engine idle is also a symptom of a malfunctioning VCT solenoid. When you drive uphill or at higher RPMs, you will usually notice that the engine’s VCT system turns on. There’s a possibility that extra engine oil will have to be added to VCT gears when the solenoid isn’t working.
Furthermore, the currents fluctuate during the activation of the system, which causes an uneven idle to result. If it isn’t repaired quickly, it may result in premature wear of additional components of the engine. As soon as possible, you should call a mechanic to inspect your engine if it is making a rough idle.
You’ll find your car vibrating a lot with bouncing and shaking sensation in the vehicle if there’s a rough engine idle. This bouncing and shaking symptom could be more or less severe in different vehicles, but what’s common is that it can be identified by both passengers and drivers.
In most common cases, a vehicle with a working engine idle will have an RPM of 1000 revolutions at a constant rate. If it gets too low or goes too high, your vehicle has a rough engine idle that needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
Fuel Economy Declines
One more symptom is the reduction of fuel economy. Since variable valve timing optimizes the engine performance, it’s vital for reducing fuel consumption and maximizing engine output.
In the event of a malfunction of the VCT solenoid system, the intake and exhaust valves may close at the incorrect times. Despite this, it results in dramatic reductions in fuel economy.
It is important to contact a certified mechanic as soon as possible if you notice any of the signs or symptoms listed above. A problem can usually be fixed without causing further internal engine damage if you find it at the beginning of the symptoms. When you observe any of these symptoms, contact a local professional mechanic as soon as possible.
Why VCT Solenoids Should Be Replaced
You might have trouble if the solenoid has been working poorly for a while after you’ve replaced it. A further repair may be required if that leads to further damage. It will usually be enough to replace the solenoid without too many complications, though.
Having the VCT solenoid repaired can significantly improve your driving experience. Vibrations or engine misfires or a significant change in power while driving shouldn’t occur when the engine’s idling. Furthermore, you will prevent the engine from wearing out excessively and make the car much safer for driving.
Replacement Of VCT Solenoids
While the solenoid is malfunctioning in some vehicles, you can still drive them. In most cases, there is no harm in driving your car for a bit longer, even if it runs rough or won’t start. It’s okay to wait until the car is running smoothly again before you have repairs done. The solenoid may even stop the car from starting in some cars, though.
But, there will come a time when the solenoid has to be replaced, and you can look for early warning signs that it is about to cease working. If the check engine light is illuminated and leaks are present around the solenoid, the vehicle may malfunction. The solenoid may operate as if it were always at its highest setting. It can cause an engine misfire, excessive vibrations during idle, and unexpected disruptions in the engine’s performance.
Replacing an old VCT solenoid with a new one is not a brain-melting process. A convenient location makes it easy to reach. It also won’t require much movement to hit it.
Putting the new one in its place will require you to simply remove the old one. Test-driving your car will be possible once you have installed the new part in its place. This is an important step to ensure that the job was performed correctly.
- ¼” ratchet
- ¼” extensions – 3” and 6”
- Extensions – 3” and 6”
- ¼” sockets – metric and standard
- Sockets – metric and standard
- Box of rags
- Bungee cords – 12”
- Channel-lock pliers – 10” or 12”
- Dielectric grease – optional
- Lithium grease – assembling lube
- Needle nose pliers
- Pry bar – 18” long
- Pick set – long set
- Service manual – torque specifications
- Telescoping magnet
- VCT solenoid
Why You Should Replace VCT Solenoid
The VCT solenoid is located in the cylinder head and is responsible for a great deal of a car’s performance. For those who don’t know, the oil pressure sensor determines the flow of oil inside the car, according to engine speed and load. In addition to improving performance, a fully functional solenoid will also increase fuel economy.
Furthermore, this solenoid is also referred to by a specific term: VVT (Variable Valve Timing). So, shop for part quantities without getting confused by terms. Despite their differing meanings, both are equivalent. There is no doubt that most people don’t know about this car part because they may only encounter it in the case of it failing to function properly.
The only way to determine the exact cause of the VCT solenoid problem involves a formal diagnostic procedure. In addition to being relatively inexpensive and easily replaceable, the VCT solenoid is also one of the least complex car parts.
The use of VCT has become more widespread within the automotive industry. It’s commonly used to increase torque at low engine speeds. When we use VCT when the inlet and exhaust valves are closed and opened, we can control their timing. Therefore, a VCT can also be used as an alternative to an EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valve for optimal performance.
Testing the wiring from the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) to the VCT actuator should be done if you suspect a problem with the signal. Power, ground, and any other specific facilities that may be required for the PCM should be provided.
So that’s what we have for you. Ford invented this technology known as variable camshaft timing or VCT solenoid for improving automobiles. A lubricant is sent to the gear assembly of the VCT once the solenoid is activated.
Keep note of when the timing gear or chain wears out early due to the failure or blocking of the VCT solenoid. It means that the hub or chain will break completely. As one of the most significant achievements, variable valve timing was developed. Through the use of a variable valve timing solenoid, this new system sends various signals via advanced electronic technology.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does Replacing A VCT Solenoid Cost A Lot?
The cost of replacing the device will range between $75 and $400. Considering what other vital parts of a car typically cost, this is a pretty cheap repair. Because of this, repairing it as soon as you discover it is a wise choice.
Anyhow, a cost split might be necessary at some point. A price range of $25 to $150 will be charged for labor for the replacement. Depending on the part, you can expect to spend from $50 to $250. How much a particular part costs you is determined by the model and make of your vehicle.
Consequently, repairing the unit is fairly simple. Occasionally, though! It might be necessary to carry out more repairs in some cases. It is possible that further damage to your car has been done if you have been driving with a defective solenoid.
2. Can You Replace The Solenoid By Yourself?
If you are an amateur mechanic, you may be able to perform this replacement yourself, since it is a very simple procedure. To change it out successfully, it is not even necessary for you to be skilled or knowledgeable in car repair. You should only worry about diagnosing the problem correctly. And if you have any doubts about the issues you are encountering, you should seek the advice of a mechanic.
Comparing the labor costs of your mechanic with those of another mechanic can also save you money. Consider shopping around for a mechanic instead of going directly to the first one you come across.
3. Does A Faulty VCT Solenoid Cause Misfires?
Yes, a faulty VCT solenoid can cause misfires in your engine. It’s prevalent when your car is carrying extra weight, climbing hills, or applying quick throttle pressure for instant acceleration. Electrical issues with the switch are often to blame for this problem rather than the switch itself.
4. Can You Drive With A Faulty VCT Solenoid?
Although the VCT solenoid issue can prevent you from driving for too long, you can drive. There will come a time when it will cause major engine problems.
Therefore, you shouldn’t wait too long before you address a bad solenoid. By trying to save twice or three times as much, you might end up spending more than you had planned.
5. Can You Drive With An Unplugged Solenoid?
Taking the solenoid out of the VCT means that the truck can no longer advance or retard its timing as a result of the unplugged solenoid.
Running the truck for a period of time without them plugged in should not pose an issue at idle. Definitely do not unplug the solenoids and go for a drive or rev the engine without first consulting your dealer.
6. Are VCT Solenoids Cleanable?
A micro screen filter is found within the VCT solenoid housing.
VCT solenoid must be removed and visually inspected (varnished, sludge, debris). Soaking the cloth in a solvent is the best way to clean it if it appears dirty. Another one will have to be purchased if this fails to work.
7. Can VCT Solenoids Cause A No-start If They Fail?
If the solenoid fails, there will be a problem starting because the current gets interrupted. Possibly, the contacts have become burnt or corroded. A malfunctioning VCT solenoid may cause damage to the timing chain and gears if improper lubrication is not done.
These tools have been tried and tested by our team, they are ideal for fixing your car at home.