Variable Valve

Variable Valve Technology: Improving Engine Performance & Emissions Control

Vehicle electronics specialist CAMBIARE explores the nitty-gritty of Variable Valve Technology.

Some vehicle manufacturers now incorporate variable valve systems to maximise performance, economy and emission control. These systems comprise of Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and Variable Valve Lift (VVL).

Understanding The Mechanism

The valves in an engine operated by a camshaft, open and close to allow:

1. Intake of fresh fuel/air mixture into the engine
2. Ejection of combusted gas from the engine into the exhaust

With a lot of engines, these actions occur at fixed specific intervals of the engine stroke. The valves open and close at the same point in relation to the crankshaft position throughout the complete RPM range of an engine. This can have limitations in emissions control, performance and efficiency as the optimum valve timing at low engine RPM will differ from that at high engine RPM.

Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and Variable Valve Lift (VVL) are both systems used in engines to vary the timing and duration of the opening and closing of the valves in relation to the crankshaft position.

Simply put, the valve events can be suited to engine speeds and loads. Keeping up pace with modern vehicle technology, Cambiare has been continually bringing in new parts to the aftermarket. Recent additions to the vehicle electronics’ range are a short, specialist range of sensors and solenoids to assist in the operation of variable valves.

Variable Valve Timing (VVT)

This system can vary when the valves open and close but does not influence the duration. This is achieved by numerous methods, most commonly by cam phasing, where the valve timing is adjusted by changing the position of the driven cam pulley on the camshaft.

Maximum Power Required

When maximum power is required by the engine, opening the exhaust valve later helps release the burnt exhaust gas completely from the cylinder. This creates a longer valve overlap, where exhaust gas leaving the cylinder helps draw fresh air in. In doing this, more oxygen rich air enters the engine, ready for the next compression stroke.

Maximum Power Not Required

When maximum power is not required, opening the exhaust valve earlier only partially empties the cylinder. This leaves the oxygen deprived gas in the combustion chamber, thus reducing combustion temperature and in turn reducing fuel consumption & emission of harmful NOx gases. Furthermore, this increases the torque & smoothness of the vehicle.

Variable Valve Lift (VVL)

This system varies the duration of the valve opening, allowing it to stay open for longer under certain conditions. Although VVL systems operate slightly differently to VVT systems, both systems are used to achieve the same emissions control and engine performance benefits.

This is done in a number of different ways, dependent on the specific system. While some systems will engage a higher lifting camshaft lobe that runs on its own follower that lifts both the valves further; other systems may use a different shaped cam lobe to hold the valves open longer. These can be shifted along the camshaft by engaging solenoids when required.

Common Faults

Common issues with variable valve systems can be down to contamination of the oil needed for the operation of dephaser pulleys and wear and tear of the components. Oil galleries within the pulleys and actuators can get blocked up with sludge or debris. As the actuators and position sensors on both VVT and VVL systems are electronically controlled, wiring faults can also occur.

Rely on Cambiare

Cambiare’s specialist range of sensors and solenoid encompasses both VVL and VVT technology; with just 4 part numbers covering more than 700,000 vehicles on the UK roads, there are plans to bring more parts into range in the coming months.


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