VW and Audi TDI camshaft wear: camshaft, lifter, and bearing inspection and replacement - PD engine

difficulty: 3/5
back to 1000q: 2004-2005 VW Passat TDI "how to" index
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back to 1000q: 2005.5-2006 VW Jetta TDI DIY list


Here are DIY instructions on how to replace a camshaft with worn lobes on your PD pumpe duse TDI engine in Jetta TDI, Golf, New Beetle, or Passat TDI.  You also have to repair bad or broken lifters during this replacement procedure.

A common problem in VW and Audi TDI with pumpe duse TDI engines (PD) are worn camshaft lobes, lifters (camshaft followers), and bearings.  If you have a 2004-2005 VW Passat TDI (BHW), 2004-2005 Jetta (BEW), 2004-2006 Golf, New Beetle (BEW), 2005.5-2006 Jetta (BRM), or V10 Touareg TDI, you have a PD engine.  Pumpe duse technology was also found in other markets with other engines years before and after being available in North America.  It's unknown if the V10 Touareg has this problem since there were so few sold and it uses a completely different cylinder head design than the 4 cylinder engines.  Unit injector (generic name for pumpe duse) technology is also used on non VW/Audi diesel engines.

The major difference between pumpe duse VW/Audi TDI engines and other TDI engines is the unit fuel injectors which are actuated by the camshaft.  Because there's limited space on the cylinder head, pumpe duse engines sacrificed valve lobe width to fit the extra lobe for the fuel injector rockers.  See 1000q: direct injection and pumpe duse for more details.

While many PD engines do not have any cam wear, some get wear on a single lobe and some get multiple worn lobes.  VW recommends engine oil VW spec 505.01 for pumpe duse engines but if was only an engine oil problem it doesn't explain why there isn't always even wear across all lobes.  See 1000q: PD engine oils for a list.  5w-40 oil should provide more protection than 5w-30.

The exact reason for excess wear is unknown but contributing factors could be manufacturing defects, poor design, thin engine oil, insufficient oiling at the bearing, incorrect specification oil used, or other factors.  Some believe that even using the recommended specification engine oil won't help because of low zinc phosphorous in modern engine oils.  ZDDP engine oil additive would add zinc but shorten catalytic converter life.  It's unknown if this makes a significant difference over the long term.  Regardless of the exact cause, the fact is that by the time this problem causes symptoms the car is usually out of warranty.  If the car is under warranty, this is definitely something that should be covered.

Editorial speculation: It appears that #1 and 4 intake lobes are more likely to wear first.  Franko6 has a theory that that the factory torque spec on the rocker bolts is too high.  The rockers don't go all the way to the end of the cap and when combined with other factors such as insufficient oiling, slight warping could be a contributing factor to camshaft lobe wear.  This is just a guess and I am not a professional mechanic or engineer - it also doesn't explain why only some engines get wear.  There are modifications to the bearing cap that will increase oiling and might reduce wear (not just because of more lubrication but because oil takes away heat) but it hasn't been tested over the long term.  Bearing caps are matched to the head and are not interchangeable.  There are also the option of performance camshafts from KermaTDI linked in the parts section. Feel free to post in the myturbodiesel forum for more details.  Any non factory modification or torque spec is done at your own risk!

VW installed a mix of black nitrided hardened lifters and chrome non nitrided lifters across model years.  VW probably recognized there was a problem and changed the lifters.  Some engines have half black and half chrome lifters because they tried to cheap out.  All replacement lifters should be black.  The PD cylinder heads share many parts but the BEW engine has a shorter lobe and shorter duration vs. the BRM and BHW.  This means decreased contact time, a better oil film, and in theory, less chance of camshaft wear. 

The self-adjusting hydraulic lifter has ports to keep it filled with engine oil and a "button" that the valve stem presses on.  Below is a cutaway showing the internal springs.

A basic inspection requires the valve cover to be removed and the camshaft rotated to examine the lobes and lifters.  This should tell you right away if there is lobe wear.  The difficulty of removing the valve cover is only 1/5.  A through inspection requires the timing belt to be removed (which is why the difficulty is rated 3/5) so that the camshaft can be removed to inspect the camshaft bearings.  If you have a pumpe duse engine and are planning to do the timing belt soon, I suggest doing a basic camshaft inspection beforehand so that all parts are ready and there's no extra car down time.

If you find that you do have any camshaft wear, take many pictures documenting the wear.  Keep all your receipts and try to see if VW customer care will work with you to cover the repair cost.  Even if they don't, I still suggest that you keep all records.

Parts (click links to compare current prices)
The only special tools needed other than the standard timing belt tools, triple square bits, and torque wrench are the camshaft pulley counterholder T10051 and camshaft pulley puller T10052.  My regular peg counterhold tool (not the metalnerd sprocket counterholder) wouldn't fit because of the raised center 18mm bolt.  The lifters, bearings, and oil seal/gasket are all the same.  The difference between the kits are the camshaft.  The part numbers are written in 2 formats for ease of searching.

OEM VW camshaft kit parts:
 BEW engine camshaft VW# 038 109 101 r (038109101r)
 BRM engine camshaft VW# 038 109 101 ah (038109101ah)
 BHW engine camshaft VW# 038 109 101 af (038109101af)
8x lifters (INA brand are OEM sourced equivalent, INA 420 0209 10 are black lifters): VW# 038 109 309 c (038109309c)
10x camshaft bearings: VW# 038 103 673 b glb (038103673bglb)
1x camshaft oil seal: VW# 026 103 085 (026103085)
1x tandem pump gasket: VW# 038 145 215 (026103085)

always replace bolts:
10x camshaft bearing cap bolts: VW# 038 103 714
8x fuel injector rocker bolts: VW# 038 103 714 a

(optional, not suggested unless the rollers are damaged)
fuel injector rocker levers (2 per engine): VW# 038 109 527 af

(optional performance camshafts) - These genuine Colt cams are made from custom billets from Germany. They are made of harder material than the oem VW camshafts and are not reground camshafts. The links below are to Kermatdi, the exclusive US distributor of Colt camshafts and include a 300,000 mile warranty.
Stage 2 Colt camshaft for BEW/BHW
Stage 2 Colt camshaft for BRM
Stage 3 Colt camshaft (has higher lift than stage 2, contact kermatdi for details)

10mm socket or T30 torx bolts for the valve cover
5, 6mm allen head bit
8, 10 mm triple square bits
-Note - triple square bits may also be called 12 point, XZN, or "serrated wrench" for 12 point metric socket head screws.  You can find them at Autozone or NAPA.  The Napa part numbers are: 8mm - SER2304 - $4.99, 10mm - SER2305 - $5.49
hylomar gasket maker
torque wrench (required!)
engine specific timing belt tools, see the timing belt writeup specific to your engine for details (linked below in the procedure)

I also rent these 2 tools below as a courtesy service for forum members, see this page for details: myturbodiesel tool rental
camshaft pulley counterholder VW# T10051 (can be purchased from snap-on VW dealer tools)
camshaft pulley puller for tapered camshafts VW# T10052 (from snap-on VW dealer tools)

Someone made a DIY counterhold tool out of some scrap metal bedposts (click to enlarge)

Repair procedure to replace camshaft on PD VW Jetta TDI engine, New Beetle, Golf, or Passat

Basic inspection

If you find the tips on this page helpful, please use the donation button at the top so that I can continue to keep publishing great articles for free. The Bentley service manual is about $80 and doesn't even mention most of the tips here. This page has color photos, more detail, and videos. This page has saved many people from unnecessary repair and I hope you find it helpful as well. Thank you in advance!

Remove the engine cover.  For 2004-2005 VW Passat TDI, remove the 3x 10mm nuts holding it down.  All other pumpe duse cars, just pull the engine cover up to remove it - they have ball-socket snaps that hold it down.  You can retrofit snap sockets to the Passat engine cover, see 1000q: pumpe duse cover mod (for a Jetta but same idea).

Remove the upper timing belt cover.  It's held by 2 spring clips.  Clean the area around the valve cover.  On the 2004 - 2006 VW Jetta, Golf, and New beetle TDI you have to remove some intake piping to remove the timing belt cover and get access to the camshaft sprocket.  See 10000: BEW engine timing belt if you have a 2004-2005 Jetta or 2004-2006 Golf/New Beetle.  See 1000q: BRM engine timing belt for more tips and details on a 2005.5-2006 VW Jetta TDI.

Clean the valve cover and the area around it.  You don't want oil/dirt/sand falling into the engine.  Wipe down all tools before using them on the exposed cylinder head.

Below is the 2005.5-2006 VW Jetta TDI BRM engine.  There are some T30 torx bolts around the perimeter of the valve cover (yellow arrows below).  Carefully move the fuel lines away when removing the valve cover.  The 2004-2006 BEW engine is similar but uses 10mm bolts to hold the valve cover.

Also remove the vent tube (white arrow above and below, pinch the plastic clip to release) and rubber line (yellow box below).  Move the wire under the "throttle" intake flap aside.

The trick to removing the valve cover is that you can't do it at TDC and you can't axially twist the valve cover during removal.  Either of these will cause the side at the timing belt to get caught on the camshaft sensor tabs on the camshaft pulley (green arrows below) or the tandem pump.  If the camshaft side is catching, rotate the camshaft sprocket (with timing belt on) so that the tabs on the camshaft pulley are out of the way.  These tabs are highlighted in a "removal possible" position below.  If the tab is at the 2 o'clock position the valve cover will catch on it.  Pull the valve cover up and slightly towards you during removal.

Optional on Passat but not suggested: if you are planning on removing the intake manifold for cleaning, remove it before the valve cover to get a little more clearance.  See 1000q: intake EGR removal for more details if you have a Passat.  Removal is tight but once you know to rotate the camshaft to clear the tabs on the camshaft pulley it's easy to remove the cover.

You can now see the camshaft, lifters, rockers, and injectors (all single camshaft 4 cylinder PD engines similar)

Manually turn over the engine to rotate the camshaft.  If you're in the process of changing the timing belt you can turn it from the camshaft or crankshaft sprocket. If not, turn it from the 19mm 12 point crankshaft main bolt to avoid unncessarily stressing the timing belt tensioner. You could also turn it from the camshaft sprocket if you turn it OPPOSITE engine rotation (counterclockwise).

As the camshaft rotates, inspect all the lobes for scratches and worn tips.  The injector rocker lobes (the ones in the middle) don't seem to wear much.  This is probably because they use roller bearings.  The valve lobes (the narrow ones) seem to wear on the tips and grind down the lifters.  For unknown reasons, I've seen more worn exhaust lobes which start on #1 and #4.  Others have gotten worn intake lobes.  Some cars have 1 worn lobe with the others perfect and other cars have all worn lobes.

Each lobe has a chamfered edge - this means that the edges are machined with an angle instead of a sharp 90o angle.  If the tip lost its chamfered edge, the edges will feel sharp and you can see the loss of the smooth chamfered edge.  If this is the case, the lifter tops  are probably chewed up.  It's hard to tell how bad it is without wiping the oil off the lifters to see them.

Pictures of bad PD pumpe duse TDI engine camshaft lobe and lifter wear

Below is a camshaft with minor wear on 1 lobe (injector rocker levers removed for illustration) - it has a copper colored streaking wear area on the backside of the lobe.  If it's not bad, slowly rotate the camshaft and polish the copper off.  The bearing is worn but it's probably still usable.

Below are closeups of normal lobe tips with smooth, even chamfered edges.

Here is a brand new VW Jetta TDI camshaft lobe.

Here is a PD camshaft lobe with 180,000 miles on it.  It still looks perfectly usable.

Here is a bad lobe (#4) from the same camshaft with 180k.  It has a worn tip (the light colored dots on the tip) with sharp edges where the chamfer is worn away.  Check both sides of the lobe tip because they can wear on one side more than the other.  A worn tip can be felt and seen by running a clean finger over the lobe tip and edges.  When a lobe is noticeably worn it may affect how fast and long the valves stay open and may cause idle problems.  Once the surface is worn away it will continue to wear.

You will also be able to see the lifters.  (You should normally store hydraulic lifters face down).  Each lobe contacts the lifter slightly off center.  This causes the lifter to rotate when the camshaft touches it.  Visible scratches on the contact surface of the lifters is normal but they should all be polished smooth and flat to the touch.  A round star or butterfly pattern of fine visible scratches is normal because it means the lifter is rotating properly.  Pictures can make scratches appear more prominent so as a rule of thumb, your fingernail should not catch on any of the scratches.  Gouging scratches are not normal.  If the contact surface is caved in or dished, this indicates lifter wear.  They must be replaced before damage occurs.  This is normally caused by worn camshaft lobes.

If your lifters look like the one below with the dished face, the camshaft, bearings, and lifters must be replaced.  Replacement requires camshaft removal, see below for further details.  If your lifters have minor wear replace them as soon as practical.  In other words, the car is still drivable but order the parts now and repair it when you have the chance.  Replacing only the lifter or camshaft will cause the new one to wear into the old one and cause wear on both parts.

Below left is a replacement blackened lifter.  Middle and right are the same worn lifter from different angles.  The black was worn away except on the edges because a lobe with a sharp tip was starting to beat up the lifter.  The surface of this lifter was still flat and the car was still perfectly drivable but it was changed to prevent further wear.  If it continues to wear it will eat a hole into the face of the lifter.  Once the top of the lifter is cracked or dished, it could break and send small metal chunks all over the cylinder head or cause severe engine damage.

Here is an example of a totally destroyed lifter.  If you have this amount of wear do not drive the car until it's been repaired.  The lobes were also badly worn.  It was detected because the car was lumping.  While poor running can be from a variety of causes, in this case it was from badly worn cams/lifters.  Here is a video from mittzlepick of that car running.   

Below is another video from GR40RCapri whose #3 exhaust lobe was worn down to the plunger like the above pic.

If your camshaft lobes and lifters appear to be good, my suggestion is to not do further inspection of the bearings.  It's not worth it to remove the timing belt and camshaft to inspect the bearings.  If you suspect bearing wear, switch to a heavier weight oil like 5w-40 and wait until further repair is needed.

Through inspection of camshaft or TDI engine camshaft replacement

Place the engine to TDC.  For the VW Passat, see 1000q: Passat TDI timing belt part 1.  For the 2005.5-2006 mk5 VW Jetta TDI, see 1000q; BRM timing belt removal.  For the 2004-2006 mk4 VW Jetta, Golf, or New Beetle TDI with BEW engine, see 1000q: BEW timing belt removal.  I suggest doing camshaft replacement before timing belt replacement on the BEW/BRM engines because timing belt replacement requires engine mount removal.  You don't want the dirty engine support bar dropping dust into the exposed cylinder head and taking up room above the engine and where you need it most.  The engine is also more secure with the mount attached.

Lock the sprockets....

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This article is continued in this post in the resources forum.

Advanced technique and BHW engine only tandem pump trick...

Order removal to avoid warping....

Caution on using the bolts included with some kits...

Torque specs...

Proper break in....

If you have any more questions about damaged camshaft lobes, lifters, followers, or heads, please ask in the forums or google search the site: