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Camshaft: Regulating Valve Openings

Understanding how an engine operates in the various and interlocking procedures of intake, compression, and exhaust is truly daunting. Making it even a harder task is the fact that the engine alone is made up of several parts, many of which few people can hardly understand as to the nature of their operation. One of these parts that many often ignore but play a very critical role is the camshaft. The camshaft is very vital because it opens and closes the valves through its own rotational mechanism, allowing fuel and air to enter as well as fumes to be expelled.

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The Crucial Role Played by the Camshaft

The camshaft does not operate by itself, as much of the components in an internal combustion engine do. As a matter of fact, the camshaft works in accordance with the crankshaft and the timing of their rotation is very critical. Because the valves have to be opened and closed at critical moments in order to control the flow of air and fuel as well as exhaust gasses, both the camshaft and the crankshaft must be closed and opened at the appropriate and exact moment during the stroke of a piston. This is why the camshaft has to be connected to the crankshaft in order to assure that the two are in sync in as afar as their operation goes. There are two ways through which the camshaft is connected to the crankshaft:

  • The most common way of connecting these two parts is through gear mechanisms that help the camshaft duplicate the movements initiated by the crankshaft. This system of connecting the two is considered as the direct procedure.
  • Another way of connecting the crankshaft and the camshaft is through a timing belt. Also known as the timing chain, the term originates from the fact that a particular length of the chain triggers a corresponding rotation on both parts, resulting to conformity of their rotation.

Maintenance of Camshafts

Because of the nature of its function, the camshaft is subjected to immense tension. One of the most common problems that camshafts encounter is that it is subjected to constant friction with the valves or camshaft followers. Because of this, most camshafts manufactured today have their surfaces hardened in order to make them more resistant to friction. However, this does not eliminate or at least reduce the friction and tension that the camshaft is subjected to. As a result, any of the following methods are employed to ensure a longer life for the camshaft:

  • Through heavy duty lubricant motor oils. Because the pressure and friction that the camshaft is subjected to consumes power produced by the engines during idle situations, engine oils are very important. This is why car manufacturers are adamant about regularly changing motor oils in order to provide protection to the camshaft.
  • Even with motor oils, friction is still bound to be present. This situation calls for radical changes and one of these is using rotary engines that do not use pistons or valves. Such engines are already in use in some variants of sports cars.

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