When is it Too Late to Change a Camshaft?

Many of us have changed camshafts before, usually with a hydraulic flat tappet model, although factory roller cams have made buying a roller cam affordable if you reuse your factory lifters. But, what can you do if you already have the camshaft installed, the heads on and the entire front of the engine back on also and you need to make a change? That happened to me on Project El Camino. It was mostly all together, and I was talking to my cam guy at Comp, David in the Marketing Department, when he told me that I would need to use additives every time I changed the oil in the motor I was building. The reason? All of a sudden “Big Brother” had outlawed zinc in oil and that really pissed me off.

I had called him about running a very tight fitting windage tray and scrapper in the oil pan. I was worried it wouldn’t get enough oil mist to the lifters because of these oil control measures and then added to the problem was the new oil formulations. We both felt it could be a problem. Without zinc in the oil a great lubrication additive was lost. I asked him if there was any alternative?

He thought for a moment and said; “Actually there is. As long as the lifters haven’t been used, ship me back the hydraulic lifters and I’ll send you a set of solids that actually pressure feed the camshaft using a small hole in the bottom of each lifter. This will eliminate any problems with the camshaft and just set the intake valves clearance at 0.002” and the exhausts at 0.004”." I asked him what would happen to the camshaft with solids. Would it still perform well? Was it even possible to run solids on a hydraulic cam? It is not only possible, but it works great. (Do not try the opposite, to run hydraulic lifters on a solid cam, it will kill all the lobes.)

Now, is that “kool” or what? I’ve been running the engine this way for 2 years now and it runs like stink. Great. How often do I need to adjust them? About once a year, usually before I take it on the road after its long cold winter nap. (I do roll it over a couple of times a month throughout the winter on the key.)

Keep this in mind if you are worried about lubrication on your cam lobes or you simply, like me, do not want to spend the money on additives for the life of the engine, try this fix if your cam is hydraulic. Plus, direct lubrication makes it almost impossible to wipe out cam lobes unless you never change your oil. And, if you do that, you deserve wiped out cam lobes to match the wiped out lobes in your brain. Right? (These words were said in jest only.)


This photo of the El Camino’s engine doesn’t really give any hint that it is capable of delivering over 400 HP.