How To Set Camshaft And Crankshaft Timing?

As car engines are made of a lot of moving parts, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. But if you experience the engine running rough, having bumps, or not running all, there is a good chance the camshaft and crankshaft timing is not in sync.

to sync or set camshaft and crankshaft timing, first you should look timing mark on the chain/belt and the sprockets. Then all that remains is to line them up. This is the general idea because each type of engine has its procedure.

I have included everything you need to know on how to set camshaft and crankshaft timing. Once you reach the end you will have a complete idea of what you are dealing with.

How To Set Camshaft And Crankshaft Timing?

How Do You Set A Camshaft And Crankshaft Timing?

So, how to adjust camshaft timing? You may face two types of scenarios when facing this problem. There are marking on the sprockets and the chain.

If that is the case, then you can easily sync them up. You can check this link for more details. All you have to do is to line up the mark.

But you have to be careful when lining up the as most engines nowadays are inference engines. That means the space is shared between the pistons and valves.

So, if the pistons impact the valve, it might bend them. So, it is critical to follow instructions for your specific engine. This is how to set camshaft and crankshaft timing when there is marked on the engine.

Some engines don’t bear any markings. Setting up these engines is a bit tricky. I have discussed this in the next section. If you are confident enough, then you can try it yourself, otherwise, get help from the professionals.

How Do You Set A Cam Timing Without Marks?

In case there is no visible mark then follow the steps mentioned below. And, be ready to get your hands dirty.

1. Find the top dead center for the crank. If you are not familiar, here is how to find it. Mark the engine block and flat wrench.

2. After changing the head gasket, assemble the head bolts and top.

3. Calculate the angles for the intake shaft and exhaust cam rest. It will be different for different engines. Once you set them at the proper angle, the camshaft and crank will be in sync. Be careful that valves don’t hit pistons when they move.

4. Now you have to assemble the belt and then the tensioner. Make adjusts if needed.

5. Do a clearance check. Spin a few turns and see if the cams are in the same positions you calculated in step 3.

6. If the crank is ahead, you can remove tensioners and advance the cam a bit.

This is how to set camshaft and crankshaft timing if there are no marks.

Engine Camshaft Timing Synchronization

The camshaft and crankshaft must always be in the same relative position to each other. The position is usually determined by the manufacturer.

This synchronization is relevant because their relative position dictates the fuel and air ratio. That is why camshaft timing adjustment is so important.

Once the timing is off, at best you will get below-average performance from the engine. At worst, the engine might not start at all. The timing is vital for the engine to use the fuel efficiently.

Another thing is, it also dictates how the engine sounds to a large extent. If you are an enthusiast who wants the best sound, then the best sounding cam chevy 350 could be an option.

Crankshaft And The Camshaft Timing Chart

Crankshaft And The Camshaft Timing Chart

How To Check Cam Timing

Checking is not only a bit hard but also you will need specialized tools. The required tools are a dial indicator, a degree wheel, a heavy wire for the timing pointer, and a degree wheel.

Once you have the instruments at hand, let’s get going.

1. Find the top dead center. Then, place the dial indicator on the right side of the block deck. Get the piston number 1 to the top dead center.

2. Turn the crankshaft counterclockwise until the indicator is below the TDC (top dead center) and take point. Then continue turning the crankshaft past TDC about 90 degrees.

3. Slowly rotate the crankshaft backward counterclockwise until it goes to the previous position. Note the point.

4. Average the reading of step 2 and step 3. Rotate the degree wheel so the pointer falls on average. And you will have perfectly dialed the TDC.

5. install intake lifter in the lifter bore, then make sure the tip is on the edge of the lifter.

6. Line up the dial indicator in a way so that it is linear to the lifter. Now you rotate the engine and observe the lifter.

7. Keep rotating the crankshaft until the lifter goes to the highest position. Set the dial to zero.

8. Continue rotating until the lifter is below the point of maximum travel. Take note of the degree wheel. Rotate the crank again until the lifter goes below the maximum travel on the closing cam lobe.

9. Make an average of the two readings taken at step 8. Now compare the reading with the manufacturer’s document. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What rpm do you set the timing at?

The point is to get the mechanical advance fully engaged. Which happens around 3000-3500 rpm.

2. What happens if the cam timing is off?

Your car might not run at all. Or, you will notice the engine running rough when the cam timing is off.

3. Why do the crankshaft gear and camshaft gear need to be aligned correctly?

It is important to have those to aligned because it affects the efficiency of the engine.

4. What happens if your timing is too advanced?

Having too advanced timing will cause the engine to overheat. It happens so because the air and fuel mixture ignites too early.

5. How do I reset my engine timing?

You can reset the engine timing by turning the distributor housing in one direction or the other.

6. How do you tell if the timing is off on an engine?

Most of the time when the timing is off, the check engine light turns on. Scan that code with an OBD2 scanner and check the result. A ticking noise from the engine could also be the cue if the timing is off.


Even a few degree flaws in the lobes can alter performance significantly. It will be a far easier experience to align the camshaft and crankshaft if they are marked. In case they are not marked in your engine, I would recommend taking help from professionals.

About Jeremy

Hello! My name is Jeremy Bloomberg. I have been passionate about carpentry and DIY. Over the years, my passion slowly turned into expertise and wider knowledge about electronics. I’ve been involved in numerous projects, both professional and personal. I want to share all I have learned with you. Welcome!

Follow me: Facebook, Twitter