03 Jetta Camshaft wear

super1

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2010
Location
NY
TDI
none
I’m about to do a timing belt on 03
Jetta with 200K & looking at camshaft wear & I see what looks like flat spots but when I run my finger over it feels normal
All was running good before
So wondering if I should change it?
Thoughts?
 

Vince Waldon

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Apr 25, 2009
Location
Edmonton AB Canada
TDI
2001 ALH Jetta, 2003 ALH Wagon, 2005 BEW Wagon
Probably a more accurate finger test is to feel for sharp edges on the sides of the lobes.

The lobes have a factory chamfer, so if you can feel sharpness on the edges the cam has worn the chamfer away and there's a cam/lifters/seal replacement in your future.

Worn ALH cams are not that common... have only had to do one so far and the car had 400k miles on it... but it does happen. Luckily the cams are pretty inexpensive, and yup, a great time to do them is during a timing belt change for sure.
 

Gothmolly

Veteran Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2005
Location
Providence, RI
TDI
2002 Golf
Seems like something that would degrade so slowly over time, there's no point in replacing it. If the car is that old, it's going to have low power and quirks anyway.
 

STDOUBT

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2007
Location
Portland, effing Oregon
TDI
tres jettas
So wondering if I should change it?
Thoughts?
Hi-res photos would be nice.
Also carefully wiping the oil off the lifters to check for the "bow-tie" pattern.
You could also use the tip of a zip tie (or such) to "feel" through the oil for anything other than smooth-as-glass.
 

JETaah

Vendor , w/Business number
Joined
Jan 18, 2001
Location
mi 48836
TDI
96 B4V, 2005 BEW Beetle, 2005 Jetta Wagon
It would be a good idea to look at the lifters for a “bow tie” pattern which would indicate that the lifter is no longer rotating as the cam lobe strokes it.
In any case you would replace cam and lifters.
 
Last edited:

wonneber

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Oct 12, 2011
Location
Monroe, NY, USA
TDI
2014 Jetta Sportwagon,2003 Jetta 261K Sold but not forgotten
I’m about to do a timing belt on 03
Jetta with 200K & looking at camshaft wear & I see what looks like flat spots but when I run my finger over it feels normal
All was running good before
So wondering if I should change it?
Thoughts?
If it was mine and the tests listed above were OK I wouldn't.
If there was any doubt about it I would.
You also have to evaluate your budget and how long you want to keep the car.
I sold my 03 JSW at 390K miles with the original cam and lifters.
I also did fairly routine maintenance and proper fluids.
 

U4ick

Veteran Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2014
Location
texas
TDI
2003 jetta tdi
It would be a good idea to look at the lifters for a “bow tie” pattern which would indicate that the lifter is no longer rotating as the cam lobe strokes it.
In any case you would replace cam and lifters.
O.K. So... I,m about to put a used motor with 230,000 miles on it into an 03 Jetta. Donor car had a bad A/T and from looking at it not really consistent good maintenance. What I do know....engine rotates fine and is in perfect time. I pulled the valve cover, popped off the cam gear and removed the the camshaft to look for any spider-webbing. No spider-webbing but a very clear and apparent hour glass figure on cylinders #1 and #2. Upon removing the oil pan I found no metal but from scraping the goo from the bottom of the pan I'm gonna say the P.O. was not too concerned with oil change intervals. I know the cam and lifters should probably be replaced but then on the other hand I'm thinking about just putting a belt kit on it and running it a while, checking compression, monitoring oil consumption, and if I get a really good warm and fuzzy feeling about the motor, going back and putting a new cam and lifters in it. What do you think?
 

Zak99b5

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2021
Location
Albany NY
TDI
2003 Jetta TDI
I'd replace cam and lifters now while it's apart. No better time, since you have to do most of a timing belt job to replace the cam & lifters in any case. Since you didn't find any metals, I'd just do a couple short oil changes with some SeaFoam in the crank case to flush out any sludge (though that would probably have to wait until cam break-in?) then run good oil in it.
 

jokila

Vendor
Joined
Dec 3, 2004
Location
Houston, Texas
TDI
2003 Jetta GLS, Manual
I’m about to do a timing belt on 03
Jetta with 200K & looking at camshaft wear & I see what looks like flat spots but when I run my finger over it feels normal
All was running good before
So wondering if I should change it?
Thoughts?
Without a pic or two it seems you are asking a question that would require a lot of guessing.
 

GTiTDi

TDIClub Enthusiast, Macht Schnell! Vendor , w/Busi
Joined
Oct 18, 2010
Location
3 Spruce st Wareham, gateway to Cape Cod Massachus
TDI
'91 GTI CJAA swap,'02 Jetta wagon ALH swap, '03 GTI 1.8T rally car, '03 Sprinter 3500
I have had to replace more than a few ALH cams over the years due to excessive wear of the lobes and followers. I have seen 250K ALHs wipe out cam followers until the top breaks off and whips around the plastic baffle. I have seen them wear to the point of dropping the valve. Replacement camshaft and 8 followers is A LOT cheaper than a new cylinder head. I have noticed the 2002-03 engines need cams more than the early ones. YMMV.
 
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