Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Variable Valve Timing (VVT) Solenoid

vvt solenoid

Bad or Failing Variable Valve Timing (VVT) Solenoid Inspection

by a top-rated mechanic at your home or office

In the early to mid-1960's, American automotive giants Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors ruled the streets and drag strips across the land. With every new car produced, the "Big Three" learned more about engine performance and how to squeeze every ounce of horsepower out of their engines by manually adjusting valve lash and ignition timing. One of the biggest breakthroughs was the development of variable valve timing (VVT), a new system that utilized advanced (for the time) electronic technology to apply variable electronic signals from the ignition system by way of a variable valve timing solenoid. Today, a VVT system can be found in virtually all production vehicles sold throughout the United States.

Each automotive manufacturer has their own unique VVT system, but most of them rely on a fully functional variable valve timing solenoid to control the flow of oil to the VVT system as it is engaged. This system typically activates when there is a significant load against the engine. Some examples of this include while a vehicle is carrying additional weight, traveling up hills, or when acceleration is expedited through throttle control. When the VVT solenoid activates, oil is sent to lubricate the variable valve timing chain and gear assembly. If the VVT solenoid fails or is blocked, the lack of proper lubrication can cause the timing chain and gear to prematurely wear or break entirely.

There are several other problems that may occur when a VVT solenoid is wearing out or has broken that may extend to complete engine failure. In order to reduce the potential of these serious situations occurring, listed below are a few warning signs to be aware of that might indicate a problem with the VVT solenoid. Here are a few symptoms of a worn out or broken VVT solenoid.

HAVE SYMPTOMS OF CAR TROUBLE?
Get an $80 diagnostic
by a top-rated mechanic at your home or office.

Get a quote · Book an Appointment · Our expert mechanics come to you.

1. Check Engine Light comes on

Since today's modern cars are controlled by an Engine Control Unit (ECU), virtually all individual components are monitored by the ECU. When one part is beginning to fail, the ECU will store a specific trouble code that will let a mechanic using a scan tool know that a problem exists. Once the code has been generated, it will signal the driver by illuminating a specific zone warning. The most common light to illuminate when a VVT solenoid is failing is the Check Engine Light.

Due to the fact that every automotive manufacturer has different codes they utilize, it's critical for a car owner to contact a local ASE Certified mechanic to inspect the car, download the code through the correct diagnostic tool and determine the precise source of the problem. In fact, there are literally dozens of individual codes for VVT solenoid issues for every automotive manufacturer. Once the mechanic has this initial information, they can begin to resolve the specific issue.

2. Engine oil is dirty

This is more of a cause as opposed to a symptom. The VVT solenoid works best when the engine oil is clean, free of debris, or has lost some of its lubricity or viscosity. When the engine oil becomes clogged with debris, dirt or other foreign particles, it tends to clog up the passageway from the solenoid to the VVT chain and gear. If your engine oil has not been changed out on schedule, it could damage the VVT solenoid, the VVT chain, and the gear drive.

To avoid this situation, make sure to have your engine oil changed as recommended by the vehicle manufacture. Low oil levels can also cause problems with the VVT solenoid and other timing system components.

HAVE SYMPTOMS OF CAR TROUBLE?
Get your car fixed at your home or office.

Get a quote · Book an Appointment · Our expert mechanics come to you.

3. Rough engine idle

Typically the VVT system does not activate until the engine is at higher RPM or is introduced to load bearing situations like driving uphill. However, if the VVT solenoid is malfunctioning, it is possible that it will introduce additional engine oil to the VVT gears. This can cause the engine to idle rough, specifically the engine RPM to fluctuate as the system is activated. If not checked quickly, it can cause additional engine components to wear prematurely. If your engine idle is rough, make sure to have a certified mechanic inspect this as soon as possible.

4. Decrease in fuel economy

The purpose of variable valve timing is to ensure that the valves open and close at the right time to maximize engine performance and reduce fuel consumption. When the VVT solenoid is malfunctioning, the entire system can be compromised, which may result in intake and exhaust valves opening and closing at the wrong time. This typically causes the fuel economy to drastically reduce.

If you recognize any of the above warning signs of a bad or failing variable valve timing solenoid, contact a local ASE certified mechanic from YourMechanic. They can inspect your vehicle, replace the variable valve timing solenoid if needed, and keep your car or truck running strong.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Still not sure about your car's issue?
Diagnose your car
What kind of issue are you experiencing?
Brakes are squeaking
Car is not starting
Car is overheating
Car is shaking (vibrating)
Fluids are leaking
Heating and A/C
Smoke or steam is coming out of the car
Warning light is on
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...
Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in Idaho
The state of Idaho offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch in the...
Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in New Mexico
The state of New Mexico offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch...


Related questions

Q: Water pump blew, found there was no oil despite having it changed a month ago. Can no oil cause a water pump to blow?

The oil works hand in hand with the cooling system to keep the engine cool. If the engine has no oil, there will be more friction inside the engine. This will cause moving parts to wear very quickly and then...

Q: Connect battery up to car, car then tries to start by its self without key in ignition. What can be problem

Hello, thanks for writing in about your Oldsmobile Aurora. A bad starter solenoid could make the starter run, but would not activate the ignition switch, so the engine could crank but not run on its own. I would recommend testing...

Q: How do I use the Instantaneous Fuel Economy setting?

The driver information center (DIC) provides a large amount of information to the driver. At any time, you can select what information you would like the DIC to display. To select the Instantaneous Fuel Economy setting, press the Menu button...