Before you install the spark plugs, drop in the distributor, plumb the carburetor, and fire then engine; making sure the valvetrain is in complete harmony with the harmony with the rotating assembly should be the first priority. It’s a crucial step, too, since engine output is directly affected by the camshaft’s control over the valvetrain.
Camshafts are specifically designed from the manufacturer to open and close the valves at precise times during the rotation of the crankshaft, allowing the correct amount of air/ fuel in, and exhaust out. Verifying the camshaft’s position in relation to the crankshaft will not only prevent the valves from hitting, but also ensure that your build makes peak power as it was designed.
While degreeing a camshaft isn’t absolutely necessary for the average street build, the purpose of this practice is to correct the errors and tolerances in the machining processes of the engine. It also corrects any variances the timing chain, or for race builds, a beltdrive would create. To make up for these inaccuracies and to degree the camshaft correctly, we’ll need to measure 0.050 inch on both sides of the camshaft lobe to find our camshaft centerline. It’s the simplest method and doesn’t require any special tools, but it does require a small amount of arithmetic.
For seasoned builders, degreeing a camshaft has become second nature, and in some cases, only takes them a couple minutes to complete. For the rookie wrenchers, tackling the job alone can be an intimidating process. Don’t worry; we’ve illustrated how to degree a camshaft in the following pages to help make the job a little less stressful. In the end, degreeing a camshaft is well worth the extra time and will yield your build with great results and peace of mind, too.