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VW TDI PD camshaft repair

June 9, 2011

I did a camshaft and lifter replacement on a PD TDI last week. The PD engines have a characteristic tendency towards premature valvetrain wear, due to flaws in design and materials. At ~88k miles, this car was in the early stages of camshaft failure. This was a preemptive replacement of camshaft, lifters, and cam bearings with updated parts before the problem got bad enough to affect the car’s driveability or damage other engine components.

The patient: a 2004 Jetta Wagon, engine code BEW.

Mostly disassembled. Valvetrain must be taken apart one-half crank revolution *before* (or after) #1 TDC so that the tandem pump drive slot in the back of the cam is vertical, allowing the cam to be lifted out without removing the tandem pump.

Parts removed from engine.

Closer view. Not pictured is the cam, which had significant wear on the exhaust lobes of #2 and #4 cylinders, with corresponding wear patterns evident on the surfaces of those lifters. The lower cam bearings were also worn to a severe degree, as is characteristic of the PD design.

Head with new reversed lower cam bearing shells and updated black nitrided-finish lifters installed.

Cam bearing caps with modified upper bearing shells installed for improved oil flow.

New cam lubed for installation and set into place. The valve lobes on the PD cam are unusually skinny to make room for the wide injector lobes. The thin valve lobes and resulting high psi forces between the lobes and lifters are a main factor in the PD design’s problems with premature cam and lifter wear.

Cam torqued down w/new hardware, timing gear and belt installed, engine set back to TDC and timed.

Injector rockers installed and injector lash adjusted.

Cam torsion set, buttoned up and running smooth.

From → TDI

  1. Great posts and GREAT pictures George! You explain everything very well. I work on generators where the engine can be accessed from almost any angle (most of the time) so as soon as I look under the hood of a vehicle I wonder how anyone can possibly work around everything in such cramped quarters!!

  2. I need some Vadis help!

  3. Alister permalink

    Hi. Have you come across wear on cars with the upgraded black lifters fitted?

    • I have not had one put enough miles on after a cam and lifter job to expect any visible wear on the new parts so have not had the justification to open one up and look. My belief is that using the updated lifters and a well-made new cam should extend the life of the valvetrain significantly, probably enough to last the remainder of the life of the car assuming correct oil is used… But due to the basic physical traits of the design and the insufficient friction areas over which valvetrain and injector forces are distributed — along with an arguably flawed top-end oiling path — I doubt if the updated components could eliminate the process of excessively rapid valvetrain wear entirely, relative to engines (such as VAG’s pre-PD OHC diesels) that use a more conventional valvetrain design.

      • Alister permalink

        Ok thanks for your input. I am from the UK with the high output 150 HP PD ARL engine which seems to suffer more than the lower output engines with cam wear. I have replaced my cam assembly with an Estas steel camshaft and INA black lifters approx 12K miles ago. I replaced this a long while before any damage occurred as I am a mechanic by trade and had a look under the cover one oil change and noticed some minor wear. I may take a look again at some point and update this blog, if I may, and let you guys know how things look. Thanks again.

  4. Car permalink

    Have you ever noticed this on a Golf TDI 1.9 PD 100hp? Also would it be possible to fit just the upgraded black lifters and if so would this help slow down any cam wear?

    • What motor are you dealing with? It is a common issue on all the PD motors, worst on the 100hp 1.9 BRM but it shows up frequently on the 1.9 BEW 100hp and the 2.0 BHW 134hp units as well.

      If the cam has already begun to wear then doing just lifters would only be a temporary band-aid… very often the cams get sharp edges on the edges of the lobes as they wear down, which will eat up lifters no matter if they are the new black type. If your cam is in perfect condition with no wear at all on it yet then putting in the black lifters and a set of bearings might extend its life, but it is a big job and won’t save you any money in the long run…. you would be doing all the work of the whole cam job but putting a questionable part back in. If things are looking good in there so far then probably better off just continuing to be diligent about oil quality, stick with a good brand of 505.01-spec 5W40, and keep driving and checking it every couple years. If it begins to wear out you can do the whole job at that point. Not much point in doing it before it is worn, or doing it halfway, IMO.



  5. It was both. However, this was the only one of these that I did this way, and I’m not convinced the modifications are worth the extra trouble. The owner of this car wanted to try this based on a recommendation, but my preferred approach is to replace with OE components.

  6. Linda welsh permalink

    Any leads on VW covering the cost of repair, I am original owner, have only used specified oil and have kept up with all maintenance with private mechanic after warranty went out.

  7. jnc7608 permalink

    Hello, I am not a mechanic, but I have had this problem with my 2004 Jetta TDI at 130,000 miles. Now I have 170,000 miles, and I think I’m noticing the same symptoms as I had before the first lifter replacement — sluggish acceleration and multiple cranks to start…. That will likely develop into the loss of a cylinder and smoke belching out of the exhaust.

    Is there any way to contact you to discuss repair — or if repair is worth it? If the lifters keep getting damaged is something wrong with the engine?

    Please let me know how I can contact you for some help.


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