Are you considering installing a high lift cam in your vehicle? This modification can enhance your engine’s performance, but it also comes with its own set of pros and cons.
As a seasoned mechanic with over a decade of experience, I’ve seen firsthand how a high lift cam can impact an engine’s performance.
In this article, I’ll share with you the benefits and drawbacks of installing a high lift cam, so you can make an informed decision on whether or not it’s right for your vehicle.
High Lift Cam Pros And Cons
Pros of high lift cam
The high lift cam has gained popularity for its ability to boost performance.
In this article, we’ll dive into the pros of high lift cam and why it’s worth considering for your engine upgrade.
Increased Valve Lift
One of the primary advantages of a high lift cam is increased valve lift.
This means that the intake and exhaust valves open farther than they would with a stock camshaft.
The increased valve lift allows more air and fuel to enter the combustion chamber and more exhaust gases to exit, resulting in improved engine breathing and increased power output.
Improved Throttle Response
Another benefit of high lift camshafts is improved throttle response.
By using a high lift cam, the engine is capable of achieving its maximum power output at a lower RPM level.
This leads to an enhanced response time of the engine when the accelerator pedal is pressed down.
This is especially noticeable in stop-and-go traffic or when driving in hilly terrain.
Enhanced Engine Sound
A high lift camshaft can also give your engine a more aggressive sound.
The increased valve lift allows for a more pronounced exhaust note, giving your vehicle a throaty growl that is sure to turn heads.
This can be especially appealing for those who want their vehicle to sound as impressive as it looks.
Better Fuel Economy
Contrary to popular belief, a high lift camshaft can actually improve fuel economy.
By increasing the valve lift, the engine can achieve better combustion efficiency, which can result in improved fuel economy.
The engine’s exceptional ability to extract a larger amount of energy from each droplet of fuel permits a reduction in fuel consumption, while maintaining the same power output.
This is due to the engine’s efficient utilization of energy within the fuel.
By extracting more energy, the engine reduces the amount of fuel necessary to generate the equivalent amount of power.
Increased power and torque:
High lift cams allow for more air and fuel to enter the combustion chamber, resulting in increased power and torque.
Better fuel efficiency:
By increasing the air and fuel mixture that enters the combustion chamber, high lift cams can improve fuel efficiency.
Cons of high lift cam
There are also some potential drawbacks to using a high lift cam that should be considered before making this modification.
Reduced low-end power:
One of the main drawbacks of using a high lift cam is that it can reduce low-end power.
The cause of reduced torque at lower revolutions per minute (RPMs) can be attributed to the camshaft’s prolonged duration of keeping the valves open.
This design leads to a longer valve overlap, resulting in a decreased amount of torque output during lower RPMs.
While a high lift cam can increase horsepower at higher RPMs, it may not be ideal for daily driving or vehicles that require more low-end power.
Increased valvetrain wear:
Another potential issue with using a high lift cam is that it can increase valvetrain wear.
The increased lift and duration can put additional stress on the valves, lifters, and other components, which can lead to premature wear and failure.
The issue may exacerbate, particularly when the engine undergoes inadequate maintenance or incorrect installation of the camshaft.
Changes to idle quality:
A high lift cam can also cause changes to idle quality.
The increased lift and duration can result in a rougher idle, which can be more difficult to tune and may require additional modifications to the engine’s fuel and ignition systems.
This can also make the vehicle less suitable for daily driving or city use, as the rough idle can be annoying and potentially damaging to the engine if left unaddressed.
More difficult to install:
Finally, it’s worth noting that installing a high lift cam can be more difficult than installing a stock camshaft.
This is because the installation requires additional modifications to the valvetrain and timing system, which can be time-consuming and require a higher degree of expertise.
This can increase the cost of the modification and make it less appealing for those who are not experienced mechanics.
Potential engine damage:
The increased valve lift can put additional stress on the valvetrain components, potentially causing damage or failure.
Increased wear on valvetrain components:
The increased stress on the valvetrain components can also cause increased wear and tear, which may lead to premature failure.
High-lift cam options
There are several options when it comes to high lift cams. These include:
Hydraulic lifters are self-adjusting and require less maintenance than solid lifters. They are a good option for street-driven vehicles.
Solid lifters are more durable and provide better high-rpm performance than hydraulic lifters.
However, they require more maintenance and are louder.
Roller lifters offer the best of both worlds. They are durable and provide excellent high-rpm performance, but they also require less maintenance than solid lifters.
High lift cam considerations
The material used in constructing the camshaft affects its durability, strength, and weight.
The most common materials used for high lift cams are steel and billet.
Steel camshafts offer an economical and sturdy option, whereas billet camshafts provide a pricier yet robust alternative.
In cases where the engine is expected to operate at high RPMs or with the nitrous application, a billet camshaft is an optimal preference for its sturdiness and durability.
The camshaft profile is one of the most critical factors when selecting a high lift cam. It determines the valve lift, duration, and timing of the camshaft.
A high lift cam with a more aggressive profile will produce more power but may require additional modifications, such as upgraded valve springs, rocker arms, and pushrods.
It’s essential to choose a camshaft profile that matches your engine’s power goals, as well as the rest of the engine’s components.
Lobe Separation Angle
The lobe separation angle (LSA) is the angle between the intake and exhaust lobes of the camshaft.
A wider LSA results in a smoother idle and better low-end torque, while a narrower LSA produces more top-end power but can result in a rougher idle.
High lift camshaft price ranges between a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the materials, profile, and manufacturer.
It’s essential to set a budget and determine the performance gains you want to achieve before selecting a camshaft.
Investing in a high-quality camshaft can significantly improve your engine’s performance, but it’s crucial to balance performance gains with cost.
Not all engines are compatible with high lift cams, so it is essential to check your engine specifications before making a purchase.
High lift cams are designed for high-performance driving, so they may not be the best option for daily drivers or vehicles used for towing.
High lift cams can be expensive, so it is important to consider your budget before making a purchase.
If you plan on making future modifications to your engine, it is important to consider how a high lift cam will affect those modifications.
What Are The Benefits Of Installing A High Lift Cam In My Engine?
Installing a high lift cam can increase the horsepower and torque of your engine.
It can also improve throttle response and engine sound.
Additionally, a high lift cam can increase the engine’s overall performance, making it more powerful and responsive.
What Are The Downsides Of Installing A High Lift Cam?
One downside of installing a high lift cam is that it can reduce low-end power and torque.
It can also cause the engine to idle roughly or stall. Additionally, a high lift cam may require other modifications to the engine, such as upgraded valve springs, which can increase the cost of installation.
Can I Install A High Lift Cam Myself, Or Do I Need A Professional?
Installing a high lift cam is a complex process and should be done by a professional mechanic or engine builder.
The process involves removing the old camshaft, installing the new camshaft, adjusting the valve lash, and possibly modifying other engine components.
Additionally, tuning the engine to work with the new camshaft requires specialized equipment and knowledge.
How Do I Choose The Right High Lift Cam For My Engine?
Choosing the right high lift cam depends on several factors, including the engine’s displacement, compression ratio, and intended use.
A professional engine builder or camshaft manufacturer can recommend the right camshaft for your engine based on these factors and other considerations, such as the engine’s intended RPM range and fuel delivery system.
How Does A High Lift Cam Affect Fuel Economy?
Installing a high lift cam can negatively affect fuel economy, as it increases the amount of fuel and air entering the engine.
This can cause the engine to use more fuel at idle and low speeds.
However, fuel economy may improve at high speeds, as the engine is able to generate more power with the increased airflow.
High lift cams can significantly improve an engine’s performance when used correctly.
They offer increased power and torque, improved throttle response, enhanced engine sound, and better fuel efficiency.
However, they also have some drawbacks, including reduced low-end power, potential engine damage, increased wear on valvetrain components, and higher installation costs.
Before installing a high lift cam, it is essential to consider engine compatibility, driving habits, budget