Overhead camshaft

Overhead camshaft
A cylinder head sliced in Fifths shows two overhead camshafts—one above each of the two valves.

Overhead cam (OHC) valvetrain configurations place the engine camshaft within the cylinder heads, above the combustion chambers, and drive the valves or lifters in a more direct manner compared to overhead valves (OHV) and pushrods. Compared to OHV pushrod (or I-Head) systems with the same number of valves the reciprocating components of the OHC system are fewer and have a lower total mass. Though the system that drives the cams may become more complex, most engine manufacturers easily accept that added complexity in trade for better engine performance and greater design flexibility. Another performance advantage is gained as a result of the better optimized port configurations made possible with overhead camshaft designs. With no intrusive pushrods the overhead camshaft cylinder head design can use straighter ports of more advantageous crossection and length.

The OHC system can be driven using the same methods as an OHV system, which include using a rubber/kevlar toothed timing belt, chain, or in less common cases, gears.

In conjunction with multiple (3, 4 or 5) valves per cylinder, many OHC engines today employ variable valve timing to improve efficiency and power. OHC also inherently allows for greater engine speeds over comparable cam-in-block designs, as a result of having lower valvetrain mass.

There are two overhead camshaft layouts: single overhead camshaft ("SOHC"), and double (or dual) overhead camshaft ("DOHC").


Single overhead camshaft

A single overhead camshaft cylinder head from a 1987 Honda CRX Si.

Single overhead camshaft (SOHC) is a design in which one camshaft is placed within the cylinder head. In an inline engine this means there is one camshaft in the head, while in a V engine or a horizontally-opposed engine (boxer; flat engine) there are two camshafts: one per cylinder bank.

The SOHC design has less reciprocating mass than a comparable pushrod design. This allows for higher engine speeds, which in turn will increase power output for a given torque. The cam operates the valves directly or through a rocker arm, as opposed to overhead valve pushrod engines which have tappets, long pushrods, and rocker arms to transfer the movement of the lobes on the camshaft in the engine block to the valves in the cylinder head.

In the early era of the liquid-cooled aircraft engine field, single overhead cam format engines were in existence during the First World War, for both the Allies and the Central Powers. The Hispano-Suiza 8 V8 engine, designed by Marc Birkigt in the Allied camp, and the series of Mercedes inline-6 aviation engines, culminating in the Mercedes D.III for the German Empire, both used rotary shaft-driven single overhead camshaft valve drive systems, and were among the most prominent aviation powerplants of the First World War era. The late-war Liberty L-12 V12 configuration American aviation engine also used the general Mercedes D-series single overhead camshaft design, based primarily on the later D.IIIa's drive system from rocker box to valvestem.

SOHC designs offer reduced complexity compared to pushrod designs when used for multi-valve heads in which each cylinder has more than two valves. An example of an SOHC design using shim and bucket valve adjustment was the engine installed in the Hillman Imp (4 cylinder, 8 valve); a small, early 1960s 2-door saloon car with a rear mounted alloy engine based on the Coventry Climax FWMA race engines. Exhaust and inlet manifolds were both on the same side of the engine block (thus not a crossflow cylinder head design). This did, however, offer excellent access to the spark plugs.

In the early 1980s, Toyota and Volkswagen also used a directly actuated, SOHC parallel valve configuration with two valves for each cylinder. The Toyota system used hydraulic tappets while the Volkswagen system used bucket tappets with shims for valve lash adjustment. Of all valvetrain systems, this is the least complex configuration possible.

Double overhead camshaft

Overhead view of Suzuki GS550 head showing dual camshafts and drive sprockets.

A double overhead camshaft (also known as dual overhead camshaft) valve-train layout is characterized by two camshafts located within the cylinder head, one operating the intake valves and one operating the exhaust valves. Some engines have more than one bank of cylinder heads (ie: V6, V8 where 2 cylinder banks meet to form a 'V') and these have two camshafts in total, but they remain SOHC, unless each side has two camshafts. The term "twin cam" is imprecise, but will normally refer to a DOHC engine. Some manufacturers still managed to use a SOHC in 4-valve layouts. Honda, for instance, with the later half of the D16 family, utilizes the 4-valve per cylinder, SOHC layout to reduce overall costs. Also not all DOHC engines are multivalve engines—DOHC was common in two valve per cylinder heads for decades before multivalve heads appeared. Today, however, DOHC is synonymous with multi-valve heads since almost all DOHC engines have between three and five valves per cylinder.[1]


DOHC straight-8 in a 1933 Bugatti Type 59 Grand Prix racer

Among the early pioneers of DOHC were Isotta Fraschini's Giustino Cattaneo, Austro-Daimler's Ferdinand Porsche Stephen Tomczak (in the Prinz Heinrich), and W. O. Bentley (in 1919); Sunbeam built small numbers of racing models between 1921 and 1923 and introduced one of the world's first production twin cams in 1924 - the Sunbeam 3 litre Super Sports, an example of which came 2nd at LeMans in 1925.[2] The first DOHC engines were either two- or four-valve per cylinder racing car designs from companies like Fiat (1912), Peugeot Grand Prix (1913, 4 valve), Alfa Romeo Grand Prix (1914, 4 valve)[3] and 6C (1928), Maserati Tipo 26 (1926), Bugatti Type 51 (1931).

When DOHC technology was introduced in mainstream vehicles, it was common for it to be heavily advertised. While used at first in limited production and sports cars such as the 1925 Sunbeam 3 litre, Alfa Romeo is one of the twin cam's greatest proponents. 6C Sport, the first Alfa Romeo road car using a DOHC engine, was introduced in 1928. Ever since this, it has been a trademark of all Alfa Romeo engines.[3]

Fiat was one of the first car companies to use a belt-driven DOHC engines across their complete product line, in the mid-1960s.[citation needed], Jaguar's XK6 DOHC engine was displayed in the Jaguar XK120 at the London Motor Show in 1948 and used across the entire Jaguar range through the late 1940s, 1950 and 1960s. By the late 1970s, Toyota was the best seller of DOHC engines.[citation needed]

More than two overhead camshafts are not known to have been tried in a production engine. However MotoCzysz has designed a motorcycle engine with a triple overhead camshaft configuration with the intake ports descending through the head to two central intake ports between two outside exhaust camshafts actuating one of two exhaust valve per cylinder each.[4]

Cutaway view of a Napier Lion showing the double overhead camshaft arrangement

In inline piston aero engines, DOHCs have been used for many engines. The 1917 Napier Lion, for example, had them.

See also


  1. ^ Tan, Paul. "SOHC vs DOHC Valvetrains: A Comparison". Paultan.org. http://paultan.org/archives/2005/06/22/sohc-vs-dohc-valvetrains/. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  2. ^ Georgano, G. N. Cars: Early and Vintage, 1886-1930. (London: Grange-Universal, 1985).
  3. ^ a b Kevin Clemens. "An Echo of the PastThe history and evolution of twin-cam engines". europeancarweb.com. http://www.europeancarweb.com/features/0209ec_twin_cam_analysis/index.html. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  4. ^ "Motoczysz triple cam engine". Motoczysz.com. 2006-08-25. http://www.motoczysz.com/rss_news_view.php?id=66. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • overhead camshaft — (OHC) The camshaft that activates the valves is mounted above the head and driven by a long timing chain or cam chain. In contrast, a pushrod engine has the camshaft below the cylinders so that thin rods (pushrods) are moved by the camshaft and… …   Dictionary of automotive terms

  • overhead camshaft — a camshaft in an automotive engine that is located in the cylinder head over the engine block rather than in the block. Abbr.: OHC [1910 15] * * * …   Universalium

  • overhead camshaft — The camshaft of an aircraft reciprocating engine, located above the cylinder head, which operates the valves directly without the aid of the push rods …   Aviation dictionary

  • overhead camshaft — /oʊvəhɛd ˈkæmʃaft/ (say ohvuhhed kamshahft) noun a camshaft in an internal combustion engine which lies across the top of the cylinders and operates directly on to valve stems or rocker arms, rather than on to pushrods …  

  • overhead camshaft — a camshaft in an automotive engine that is located in the cylinder head over the engine block rather than in the block. Abbr.: OHC [1910 15] …   Useful english dictionary

  • Dual Overhead Camshaft — Schnitt durch einen Zylinderkopf, oben die beiden obenliegenden Nockenwellen Direkt arbeitende OHC Nockenwelle. Links Auslass , rechts Einlassventil …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • single-overhead camshaft — (SOHC) An engine with a single overhead camshaft to operate both intake and exhaust valves. See overhead cam …   Dictionary of automotive terms

  • single overhead camshaft — (SOHC) The camshaft is located between the valves and is driven by a chain or belt from the crankshaft; the valves are normally opened by short rocker arms. See overhead cam …   Dictionary of automotive terms

  • double overhead camshaft — Auto. a pair of overhead camshafts, one to operate the intake valves and the other to operate the exhaust valves. Abbr.: DOHC * * * …   Universalium

  • double overhead camshaft — See double overhead cam …   Dictionary of automotive terms

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