Dutson - Family - Cars & Racing - 1999 WS6

Cam Install

June 30, 2001


Got a call from my friend Brian a few weeks ago. Recently he had installed a new cam in his 1998 6-speed Formula. It is a Competition Cams (CC) billet cam with 218/224 duration at .50 lift, .528/.535 max lift and 114 lobe separation angle. He wanted to upgrade to a more agressive cam, stage II heads, LS6 intake and Z06 clutch. So, he offered to sell me his cam, complete with CC 981 high tension springs and CC 754 Titanium 62S alloy retainers. PLUS, he offered to help me install it. It was an offer too good to refuse. :)

We decided to do the install Saturday, June 30, starting at 10:00AM. Brian estimated 5 hours to complete the job.

I would need to purchase a set of CC 7955 5/16" Chrome Moly pushrods. He offered to pick these up for me from Internet Racers Supply. Also, I would need to buy a new harmonic balancer bolt (Pontiac dealer), coolant (Dexcool), engine oil (Mobile 1 5W30), brake cleaner and threadlocker (Loctite red). These items were obtained three days before the install.

I arrived at Brian's house a little after 10:00AM. He was in the driveway and ready to start. First we drained the radiator and hooked up two electric fans to cool the motor. Then he explained the procedure we would be following.


01. cool engine using fans (at least 30 minutes)
02. drain radiator
03. remove air box and MAF assembly up to the throttle body
04. remove radiator fans
05. remove radiator
06. disconnect AIR tubes
07. remove coil packs
08. remove valve covers
09. remove plugs and wires
10. remove heater hoses to firewall
11. remove/replace springs and retainers (compressed air in spark plug holes)
12. remove/replace stock with chromemoly pushrods
13. remove belts
14. remove harmonic balancer
15. remove water pump
16. remove timing cover
17. remove cam sprocket
18. remove cam retainer plate
19. remove cam

To install, we would reverse the above steps.

Seemed simple enough, so why does it take 5 hours? Well, it could be done much quicker if half of the LS1 motor were not tucked in under the dash. It gets mighty tight under there for someone like me with fat hands (XXL glove size).


Here you can see why it takes so long for this job.

(click photo for larger image)

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3

photo 4

We had removed everything down to the springs (step 11) in photo 1.

In photo 2, Brian is removing the heater hoses at the firewall.

The next shot shows new springs and retainers installed on driver side head. The retainers are titanium, about 30 percent lighter than stock units.

Photo 4 shows the passenger side rocker arm assembly and stock pushrods sitting inside the valve cover. The coil packs and plugs are just above. You can see the boots of three of the plug wires above and to the left.

photo 5

photo 6

photo 7

photo 8

Photo 5 shows the new cam in the box. To the right of the box are the 4 plug wires for the passenger side. Below are fluids, including 2 gallons of Dexcool, 5 quarts of Mobile 1 oil and 2 cans of brake cleaner.

The next shot shows rockers, valve cover, pushrods, coil packs and plug wires for the driver side.

Photo 7 shows the remaining springs and titanium retainers to be installed on the passenger side.

In the last shot, Brian is just beginning to replace the passenger side springs. Note the blue air hose running to the motor across the fender apron. Just above the hose is channel lock pliers, the spring compressor and small 3/8 ratchet with socket. Magnet on long handle hanging from hood was used to fetch valve retainer keepers for each spring, as well as fishing out tools/bolts/etc dropped into small places. ;)

photo 9

photo 10

photo 11

photo 12

While Brian finished up the passenger side, I walked around to get some views of the car inside the garage.

In the last shot, Brian is just finishing up with the springs on the number 8 (rear) cylinder. He offered to do all 16, but I decided it was time for me to try my hand. This turned out to be a bad decision for my hand's sake.

photo 13

photo 14

Photo 13 graphically shows cut marks on my left hand. This was the result of removing the air hose from the number 8 cylinder.

Look closely in photo 14 and you will see blood from my hand on the lower rear side of the head.

photo 15

photo 16

photo 17

In photo 15 I have just started inserting the air hose in cylinder number 7.

After quite a struggle, the hose was finally threaded. Photo 17 shows the quick disconnect end of the hose just below my eye, as the last turns were completed.

After this, I hooked up the air and made several attempts to install the spring compressor. While I'm certain I could have eventually gotten the hang of using this tool, I reluctantly gave it back to Brian in the interest of saving time. I will get proficient at the next cam install, whenever that is. <wink>

photo 18

Brian begins the delicate procedure to remove the cam. You can see the end of the cam flush with the engine block if you follow a line from Brian's arm down to the area outlined by the orange o-ring gasket for the timing cover. Look closely and you will see one of the sprocket bolts is threaded in to use as a handle. Just below is the timing chain nestled in the crankcase behind the oil pump. That's right, the oil pump on the LS1 is mounted in front of the motor, surrounding and driven directly by the crankshaft.

photo 19

photo 20

photo 21

photo 22

In this final sequence of photos, Brian completely removes the stock cam. In photo 19, the cam is spun several times in each direction to raise the lifters. The lifters stay in the raised position, held by friction against plastic sleeves in the valley. If these sleeves were not there, or the lifters had to be replaced, the intake manifold, valley plate, headers and heads would have to be removed. This would make the job much more time-consuming.

Photo 20 shows the first lobe coming out of the block. At this point the cam journals are out of the cam bearings and the cam must be held very straight to ensure the lifters are not bumped and possibly allowed to slip down out of the sleeves. Brian continued to spin the cam until the journals were again aligned with the next cam bearing.

In photo 21, the back 2 journals are lined up with the front two cam bearings. The cam is spun again to ensure lifters are still up.

Finally, in photo 22, the cam is completely out.


There are no photos of the reassembly process.

After the stock cam was removed, Brian took out the new cam and cleaned it using brake cleaner. Then he coated it with fresh Mobile 1 5W30 oil. It went in using essentially the same procedure as before, except in reverse.

The next step was to line up the dots on the cam and crankshaft sprockets. The original bolt holding the harmonic balancer was rethreaded into the crankshaft. Then I used a 3/4 drive breaker bar and socket to turn the motor while Brian observed the dot on the sprocket. It was set at zero degrees. Then he installed the cam sprocket using only one bolt and rotated the cam sprocket dot to 180 degrees, matching the crankshaft dot. Now the cam sprocket was removed, being careful not to rotate the cam, and the cam retainer plate was reinstalled, using red threadlocker on the bolts. Then the cam sprocket was reinstalled with timing chain, again using threadlocker on the bolts.

We replaced the timing cover and water pump, then took a lunch break. We went to a nearby Burger King for food. On the way we stopped at Sears Hardware. Brian didn't have a torque wrench to tighten the rocker arm assemblies, so I treated him to a new 1/2 inch drive "click" type Craftsman. :)

After the break, we finished the job. At some point another friend, Robert Beggs, came by. Gosh, I should have asked him to get some more photos.

The harmonic balancer was reinstalled. Brian used his air hammer to push it on far enough to put in a new bolt. Then the 1/2 inch drive air impact was used to pull it the rest of the way. Finally, the bolt was torqued to a "lot" of foot-pounds (300?) using the 3/4 inch breaker bar.

When all parts were back on, I put about a gallon of coolant in the radiator and cranked the engine. As the engine warmed up we went to the back to listen to the exhaust. Sounds pretty fine to me. :)

Robert put about another half gallon of coolant in the radiator and replaced the cap. I shut off the ignition and Brian hooked up the HPP3 Power Programmer. He set the parameters and we went inside to wait for the reprogramming to be completed.

After a couple of glasses of cold water, we went back outside and found the program was done. Brian and I took a test drive. My initial impressions? WOW! This motor is making some serious power. I am still trying to wipe the smile off my face. <BSEG>

MUCHO THANKS to Brian. Thanks also to Robert for stopping by to assist.