Is it OK to drive a car without the camshaft?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have an '85 Buick Somerset Regal, and I was told that my camshaft has to be replaced at a cost of $1,000. Is it OK to drive the car without replacing the camshaft, or is it dangerous? That's a lot of money to pay. Thank you.

TOM: Don't worry about it, Elaine. We've discovered that these Somerset Regals will run just fine without camshafts. They're just dealer-installed options anyway.

RAY: Actually, Elaine, $1,000 IS a lot of money to spend--especially on an '85 Regal. And if I were you, I wouldn't spend it.

TOM: The camshaft's job is to make the valves open. When it starts to wear out, the valves don't open all the way. Then gasoline can't get into the cylinders, and the exhaust gasses can't get out. Eventually, the valves won't open at all, and the car will stop running. It's not dangerous, but it will cause the car to go slower and slower over time, and may also in?crease the emissions.

RAY: So I'd just drive it until you either fail your emissions test, or until loaded cement trucks start passing you as you're driving up hills. At that point, drive the car to a junkyard, and use your thousand bucks (plus the twenty you get for the Regal) as a down payment on a new car.

TOM: Even if you really love this car, Elaine, I still wouldn't spend $1,000 for a camshaft replacement. Most of that money is the labor cost of taking the engine out and taking it apart. And if you're going to spend that kind of money on labor, you might as well have the whole engine rebuilt. I'd rather see you spend $1,500-$2,000 and get a completely rebuilt engine than spend $1,000 and get nothing but the shaft--so to speak. Good luck, Elaine.

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