How to Install a Cam in a Small Block Chevy

by Francis Walsh

If your old, small block Chevy is not performing like it used to and you want it to produce more power, you can install a cam -- if you're an experienced mechanic -- because it produces the best power gains and the cost is relatively low. Improved throttle response is what most owners recognize first, followed by fuel economy and better drivability.

Remove both valve covers using a wrench to loosen and remove the valve cover retaining bolts. Loosen the rocker arm adjustment nuts at the top of each rocker arm with a wrench so the rocker arm assembly is loose, but do not remove the nut completely.

Loosen the intake manifold bolts and pull the intake manifold free from the top of the motor. Clean the edges of the engine around the intake manifold and the valve covers where old gasket remains on the surface of the engine.

Remove all the valve push rods connecting each rocker arm to an engine lifter. Remove the lifters from the bottom of the intake manifold opening and store in oil off to the side.

Remove the timing chain cover located at the very front of the motor. The shaft of the fan extends out of the timing chain cover and it can be used to locate this equipment. Loosen all the bolts and pull the cover off the engine. Clean away old gasket material from the engine surface.

Pull the crankshaft gear off the crankshaft. Use a gear puller to drive the center bolt of the tool into the top of the crankshaft which will pull the gear off the end of the shaft. Collect the gear and the timing chain off the top gear when the bottom gear is free to be removed.

Grab the top gear with both hands and pull the camshaft out of the engine slowly. Make sure not to bang the end of the camshaft inside the engine to prevent damaging the camshaft or the camshaft bearing at the end, middle and front of the engine.

Pull the camshaft gear off the camshaft and tap it onto the end of a replacement camshaft with a mallet. Grab the new camshaft by the gear and lubricate all the lobes and the journals of the camshaft with camshaft lubricant.

Hold on to the camshaft gear and insert the opposite end into the front of the engine until the camshaft sits within the three cam bearings. Wrap the camshaft gear with a timing chain that is wrapped around the crankshaft gear. Place the crankshaft gear over the end of the crankshaft and tap into place with a mallet.

Replace the timing chain cover with a new gasket. Tighten it down with its bolts and a wrench. Insert lifters into the bottom of the intake and place the push rod in place. Tighten the rocker arm adjustment nut until the rod has tension and then tighten the nut 270 degrees clockwise.

Repeat the lifter and push rod installation until all are installed. Replace the intake manifold with a new gasket and secure it to the top of the motor with intake bolts and a wrench.

Attach the valve covers to the motor using the valve cover bolts and a wrench. Refill the engine with lubrication and test the installation by running the engine.

Tip

  • check Remove covers carefully. Loosen all the fasteners before removing one completely. Installation is the reverse. Tighten all the nuts or bolts until snug and then return to each one to tighten completely.

Warning

  • close Incorrect camshaft size will adversely affect the performance of an engine.

Items you will need

About the Author

Francis Walsh has been working as a freelance writer since 2003. He has contributed to websites such as Shave, Autogeek and Torque & Chromeas, as well as provided content for private clients. Walsh has worked as a performance part-packer and classic car show promoter, now serving as crew chief for Nitrousfitz Racing.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera engine image by goce risteski from Fotolia.com