Ford F150 Cam Phaser – Symptoms and How to Replace

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Due to modern innovations, most cars are equipped with VVT or Variable Valve Timing Technology. The heart of all VVTs is the camshaft phaser. So, when the camshaft phaser is going bad, the VVT of a vehicle will not function well. In this article, I’ll discuss Ford F150 Cam Phaser – Symptoms and How to Replace.

Most camshaft phasers, including the Ford F-150, are designed to lock into position at base idle. However, when a phaser starts to fail, it will not be able to lock into place. This will result in a knocking or a rattling sound coming from the engine’s top end. This noise will be very noticeable when the engine is idling and hot.

You can still drive your Ford F-150 even if its camshaft phaser is malfunctioning. However, you are risking severe damage to the solenoids, the electronic control unit of your car, and, ultimately, the engine itself. Massive repair costs will burden you if something wrong happens to them. It is best to have the cam phaser checked or replaced than all the other more critical and expensive engine parts.

Read on to learn more about the Ford F-150 cam phaser, its malfunctioning symptoms, and how to replace it.

Ford F150 Cam Phaser Overview

Ford F150 Cam Phaser

A Cam Phaser Is a Central Part of a VVT Engine

You can only see why it is essential that you know the symptoms of a failing cam phaser if you understand its primary function and how these symptoms relate to it. The cam phaser, or camshaft actuator, is the central part of a VVT engine.

A Malfunctioning Cam Phaser No Longer Locks Into Place

Most cam phasers are made to lock into position at base idle. However, it will no longer lock into place when the phaser malfunctions.

This results in an F-150 cam phaser rattle or knocking sound coming out of the engine’s top end. The noise becomes more pronounced when the engine is idling or is already hot.

Can Cause Damage to the Car’s Solenoids and More

This issue will not cause your engine to stop running. So, you can still drive your car. However, if you do, you risk causing more damage to the solenoids, your vehicle’s ECU, and, eventually, the engine itself.

Have a Mechanic Check the Engine

It is best to have your engine checked so the mechanic can see the condition of the cam phaser. If it’s gone bad already, then it has to be replaced.

That won’t cost you too much, instead of paying for massive repair expenses if the engine fails or the ECU and other critical parts of your car go bad.

Watch Out for an Issue Connected to the Camshaft

If the cam phaser of your Ford F150 starts to fail, it will throw a code. It may not be specific to the cam phaser, but it may be an issue connected to the camshaft. A competent car mechanic will be able to identify the particular problem by using an OBD II scanner.

This is just one F-150 cam phaser issue that can come up with Ford F150s and other late-model vehicles using VVT technology. This technology can improve the engine’s performance, make it more fuel efficient, and reduce its emissions if all conditions are correct.

However, if the actuator, or the cam phaser malfunctions, all these things will go haywire since it is the heart of the VVT. That’s how important the role of a Ford F150 cam phaser is.

What Is a Cam Phaser

Computer-operated Sprocket That Controls the Camshaft Operation

The Ford F150 belongs to the Ford F-Series, which Ford Motor Co. has been manufacturing and marketing since 1948. It is the most popular of Ford’s F-Series and is now in its 14th generation.

One of the most critical components of the Ford F150 is the cam phaser. It is a computer-operated sprocket connected to the camshaft that controls its operation. 

Adjusts the Camshaft Position in Relation to the Camshaft

Its function can be described as cam phasing, the simplest form of VVT. What it does is adjust the camshaft position about the crankshaft. By changing the position of the camshaft, the cam phaser effectively advances or delays the opening and closing of the valves.

Controls the Valve Timing

So, the function of the cam phaser is to vary the positions of the camshaft to change the engine’s valve timing.

The cam phaser controls the valve timing by managing the opening and closing of the valves while the engine is running. It is attached to the cam sprocket and positions the camshaft about the crankshaft, which is also operated by a computer-controlled servo.

Less Valve Overlapping Means the More Efficient Engines

The engine of the Ford F150 uses the cam phasers (if there is more than one cam phaser) to change their position about each other. In so doing, the computer is used to reduce or increase the overlapping valves and the length of time both valves are open simultaneously.

With less valve overlapping, the efficiency of the engine increases. This leads to a higher rpm horsepower.

Bad Cam Phaser Symptoms

ford f150 cam phaser symptoms

If you own a Ford F150, you need to be concerned about the issue of a bad cam phaser. Some of the Ford F-150 cam phaser problem years include the year models from 2004 to 2010 (with 5.6-liter engines) and 2009 to 2010 (with 4.6-liter engines).

Perhaps, Ford has issued a Ford F-150 cam phaser recall for this particular F150s. As the cam phasers of these Ford F150s start to fail, the following symptoms will begin to manifest:

1. Poor Engine Performance

When the cam phaser fails, it will prevent the valve timing from delaying or advancing as required. This will result in poor engine performance, such as poor acceleration, hard starting, and rough running.

Reduced engine power is one of the most noticeable Ford F-150 cam phaser symptoms. Even if you are not stepping hard on the gas, you will notice a significant engine power loss.

You will notice this power loss when trying to overtake the highway. This is dangerous because you don’t know if you are already overestimating your engine’s power.

You will also notice that the engine is running rough, especially when it is idling. The level of this symptom will increase as the cam phaser continues to deteriorate. 

2. Check Engine Light

The Ford F150 engine is monitored and controlled by the ECU. It monitors the position of the camshaft through some sensors.

If this computer control unit detects a deviation of the camshafts from its expected position because of a bad cam phaser, it will trigger the Check Engine light on your Ford F150. Then it will store a diagnostic trouble code in the computer’s memory.

3. Knocking and Rattling Noise

When the cam phaser starts to fail, it will not be able to lock into place. When this happens, you will hear knocking or rattling sounds from the engine’s top. The noise will become louder when the engine is hot or idling.

4. Poor Fuel Economy

If you notice that you are experiencing a decrease in gas mileage, it may be caused by a faulty cam phaser.

If you add that to decreased engine power and performance, more likely than not, you are experiencing an F-150 cam phaser issue. Other problems can cause this issue, but it is good to check the condition of the cam phaser.

5. Throttle Surge

Throttle surge is when you notice that your Ford F150 is speeding up and then slowing down even while your foot on the gas pedal is steady. You will also see the tachometer on your dash going from 1,000 rpm to 2,000 rpm while you are not stepping hard on the accelerator.

These are issues that are caused by a failing camshaft, which is, of course, controlled by the cam phaser.

6. Clicking Noise from the Engine

If you hear a loud clicking noise from the engine of your Ford F150, it could be caused by a cam phaser issue. This usually happens because the oil pressure is low. The pressure is low because of the wear and tear in the cam sprocket, which is located at the head of the cylinder.

How to Fix Cam Phaser Issue

If you have isolated the problem and it turned out that the cam phaser causes it, you have only one solution: take your Ford F150 to a Ford service center or dealer and replace the cam phaser.

This is a very technical problem that only those with the tools, skills, and experience can solve. If you have all these things to fix the cam phaser issue, why not do it yourself? You can save a lot of money by doing a DIY. Otherwise, this job is better left to the professionals.

Again, what year did F150 have cam phaser problems? The F-150s are the most popular vehicles with cam phaser issues. It started with a 2004 F-150 (5.4L engine) until 2011, when its engine is replaced with a 5.0L engine.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace Cam Phaser?

The cost of replacing a cam phaser depends on several factors. This is why you need to assess the exact problem of the cam phaser and why it went bad. The mechanic will ask you about the issues you are experiencing before they can recommend the correct type of solution.

You see, at the dealership, the Ford F-150 cam phaser replacement cost can range from $1,000 to $2,500. If you inform the mechanic what the symptoms are, this will affect the actual price you have to pay.

At any rate, the year model and the make of your Ford F150 will also have a bearing on the actual cost of cam phaser replacement. It is not cheap to replace a cam phaser. So the better informed the mechanic is, the more accurate their assessment of the cost of repair or replacement.

Causes of a Failing Cam Phaser

ford f150 cam phaser replacement cost

To save money, you need to know why cam phasers go bad. In this way, you will be able to avoid the causes of why they fail. What are the reasons why cam phasers fail?

1. Sludge and Debris

Suppose there’s so much sludge and debris circulating inside the engine. In that case, engine oil flow will be hindered, leading to the deterioration of the inside parts of the engine, including the cam phaser.

2. Damaged Sprocket

If the sprocket or the teeth of the gear is damaged, the cam phaser will also get damaged.

3. Low Oil Pressure

The cam phaser will get enough power at regular intervals if there is enough oil pressure. However, if the oil pressure gets lower than required, the cam phaser will not be able to do its work.

Another effect of low oil pressure is the wearing out of the inner parts of the cam phaser. This will lead to poor engine performance.

4. Not Following the Oil Change Schedule

It is essential to follow the recommended oil change schedule of your Ford F150. The cam phaser, being a critical part of the VVT of the engine, should be lubricated all the time adequately. Poor lubrication, resulting from not changing the oil as required, is the culprit of bad cam phasers.

5. Poor Oil Viscosity

Using an incorrect grade of motor oil leads to poor oil viscosity inside the engine. The correct grade of motor oil will reduce the friction between metals inside the engine and help enhance its performance.

But if you use a different oil grade than recommended, you will not get the correct viscosity that guarantees that there will always be enough oil pressure inside the engine.

6. ECU Issues

The ECU of your Ford F150 can lose control of the cam phaser. When that happens, the cam phaser won’t be able to do its job. How can the ECU lose control? It can lose control if it is suffering from an internal issue.

Recommended Cam Phaser Replacements

If ever your mechanic recommends a camshaft replacement for your Ford F150, here are some products that you can consider:

AA IGNITION Variable Camshaft Timing Cam Phaser Kit

Click here to view it on Amazon.

This product is a cam phaser kit that is designed to replace specific camshafts of Ford F150 models. The AA IGNITION Variable Camshaft Timing Cam Phaser Kit includes cam phaser sprockets, two phaser bolts, and two VCT solenoids with seals. This kit also comes with a lifetime warranty.

5.4 Timing Chain Kit, Variable Cam Phaser Kit

Click here to see it on Amazon.

This timing kit can also fit your Ford F150. So, you can consider it if you need to replace your failing cam phaser.

Please check the cam phaser part number that it can replace before placing your order. The 5.4 Timing Chain Kit, Variable Cam Phaser Kit, comes with a 12-month warranty.

Frequently Asked Questions

Perhaps you have a Ford F150 that is experiencing some problems with its engine. Maybe you are unsure if it is connected with the engine’s cam phaser. If you read the answers to the most often asked questions about this topic, you may be able to assess if it’s the cam phaser that causes the issue:

What Are the Signs That Show My Cam Phaser Is Malfunctioning?

Here are some of the symptoms of a bad cam phaser:

  • Poor engine performance
  • Check engine light
  • Knocking and rattling noise
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Throttle surge
  • Clicking noise from the engine

What Are the Causes of Cam Phaser Failure?

There are several causes why cam phasers fail. They include the following:

  • Sludge and debris circulating inside the engine
  • Damaged sprocket
  • Low oil pressure
  • Ignoring the schedule of an oil change
  • Poor oil viscosity
  • Problems of the ECU

Can I Drive My Ford F150 with Bad Cam Phasers?

Yes, you can still drive your truck with bad cam phrases. But you risk damaging the solenoids, the ECU, and, ultimately, the engine. It is better to fix the cam phaser issue now because it is much cheaper than fixing a severely damaged engine.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Cam Phaser?

On average, when performed by your trusted mechanic, replacing a defective cam phaser will cost between $800 and $2,500. It will be higher if you ask a Ford dealer to do it.

The actual cost will depend on the severity of the problem, the make and model year of your Ford F150, and the mechanic’s or Ford dealer’s charge rate.

In Closing: Symptoms of Bad Ford F-150 and How to Replace

The camshaft phaser of the Ford F-150 is designed to lock into position at base idle. But when this phaser is failing, it won’t be able to lock into place.

If that happens, you will hear a rattling or knocking sound from the engine’s top end. You will notice this noise more when the engine is hot and idling.

If you need to, you can still drive your Ford F-150 even if its camshaft phaser fails. However, it may result in more severe damage to the solenoids, your car’s ECU, and, ultimately, the engine itself.

It is better to fix the camshaft phaser than to repair or replace your engine’s more critical and expensive parts.