How to Identify an Unknown Camshaft? 3 Easy Methods!

To choose a perfect camshaft might be a challenging task. As you are not a mechanical engineer, it might get confusing. Also, every camshaft won’t work for your vehicle as each of them varies in shape, size, and characteristics.

So, how to identify an unknown camshaft?

To identify the ideal camshaft for your vehicle you can go with any of the three methods. First, you can identify by the look or appearance. Identifying by numbers is the second way. Lastly, you can also identify through analog systems.

Now, let’s dig in deep to know more about these three methods to identify an unknown camshaft.

Keep reading!

Identifying Unknown Camshafts : 3 Methods!

Camshaft Identifying

There are several kinds of camshafts. And you cannot identify all by only one method. The types of camshaft and methods of identifying them are described in brief here-  

Identifying by the Look or Appearance

You can easily identify some camshafts by their appearance. Looking at their shape and size you can tell which one is which.

The two most popular ones are flat-tapped and roller camshafts. The other ones are SOHC, DOHC, pushrods, solid lifters, and hydraulic lifters. 

Let’s get to know more about them which will help you to identify them more easily.


A flat-tapped camshaft is not literally flat. Rather it has a slight crown and a taper which is machined in the lobe. This type is very popular for its efficiency and effectiveness. 

They are cheaper than the roller one. However, they are not reusable. 


Rollers are very good for reducing friction and improving power efficiency. This camshaft has a wheel. The wheel is supported by an axle. It also has a needle bearing and a lifter body. 

The lifter body is attached to the wheel. It holds the camshaft.

Unlike flat-tapped, roller camshafts are reusable. 


SOHC  are also known as Single Overhead Cam. When you attach four or six cylinders through the valves, the number of cams is one. It is a SOHC. 

SOHC are not durable for higher speed. So, they are definitely not the right ones for your racing car. 


DOHC is Double Overhead Cams. When the number of cylinders are doubled like eight, the number of cams are also doubled. They are Double Overhead Cams. 

They can support higher speed and increased power. 


They are also overhead cams. They are very durable for increased speed and power. Pushrods look like rock arm that has a very small diameter. 

Solid Lifter

Solid Lifters are more like a C-shaped snap ring. They make sounds because of the small pieces in between the pushrod and lobe. Solid lifters also need maintenance regularly. 

Hydraulic Lifter

This type of camshaft has an appearance like a spring plunger machine with a hollow cylinder shape.

The spring helps to reduce friction and to lift the body. A great benefit of hydraulic lifters is that it needs no maintenance. 

Identifying by Numbers

You can identify camshafts by their nine-digit ID number. The number is usually located in the center of the camshafts. Which is in between the lobes.

The numbers help you to identify them according to their features or characteristics. 

The camshafts which you can identify through numbers are: 

Grind Number

Among the three types, the grind numbers have an easy description of a camshaft. For example, a camshaft has a number like 2893H02. 

Here, the first three numbers indicate the average duration of the lobes. The fourth letter after the digits is H. It means that the cam has a hydraulic lifter. If there was an S, it would mean a solid lifter.

Lastly, the last two digits 02 indicate the measurement of the lobe separation angle. This means the lobe has a slope of 102 degrees. It indicated that the camshaft is an average performance camit. 

Model Prefix

In a camshaft number, the first portion is the Model Prefix. It tells you which car you are using. As a result, it is easy to identify the ideal camshaft for your car.

Exhaust Number

With the 9 digit camshaft ID number, there is also another number like 266/286. This is the exhaust number of the camshaft. This is an important measuring type number that can also be calculated automatically. 

Apart from the ID number and exhaust number, there will be different other numbers. They will be mostly around the lobes. Ignore them because they are useless in identifying the camshaft. 

Identifying through Analog Systems

You can also use an analog system to identify your camshaft. This system is most used when there’s no access to a meter indicator or a degree roller.

Here you take some diameter measurements. Then compare them to the database or catalog. 

The database or catalogs contains measurements.

To measure,  first go with measuring the bearing. Then learn what size nuts and bolts fit the cam.

Now, measure the diameter of the support shaft. Also, measure the length of the shaft from one end to another.

Using your measurement data, calculate the lift range. Then finally compare the loft range to catalogs or databases. You’ll be able to determine the model of the camshaft easily. 

If you’re still not able to identify the camshaft, you can always take professional mechanic help.

Read More-

  1. How to Tell If You Have a G80 Differential? [Answered]
  2. How To Inflate Air Suspension On Lincoln Town Car
  3. How to Clean Quad Plastics [3 Step Guideline]


Where is the camshaft located?

Camshaft is a part of your engine. It is located at the top end of your engine. It is very important for your engine to make it run smoothly. 

What does a bad camshaft sound like?

You can easily identify a bad camshaft when your engine won’t run smoothly. A bad camshaft includes continuous popping and backfiring. There might be some ticking noise from the upper engine. This happens when the lobes are worn out. 

Can a camshaft increase power?

Yes, a camshaft contributes greatly in increasing the power of your engine. So, make sure to use the right one for your engine to get the best result out of it.


Hopefully, it is now clear to you how to identify an unknown camshaft. A good camshaft is important for the better performance of your engine. For a high-speed car, you can just choose one randomly. 

Wish you all the best with choosing your next camshaft!

That’s all for today! Stay Safe.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *