Quick Tech: Why You Should Use A Solid Roller Cam And Lifters

The valvetrain of your engine is where you can unlock some serious hidden horsepower, depending on what your goals are. The type of camshaft and lifter combination you go with will have an impact on how far you can push your engine. A solid roller setup is the way to go if you want to make plenty of reliable horsepower.

Lifters sit inside an engine and follow the lobe profile of a camshaft, and their movements are what open and close the valves. A roller lifter has a wheel on the bottom that rides on the camshaft, and this wheel provides the advantage of reducing friction, wear, and allows for aggressive camshaft profiles to be used. These lifters are a solid piece of metal, where a hydraulic lifter has a moveable piston inside the lifter that works with a cushion of engine oil.

The solid lifters aren’t limited to a certain RPM level like most hydraulic lifters since they don’t have any moving parts. Jack McInnis from Erson Cams explains why this is an advantage.

“At higher RPM levels, solid lifters won’t pump up or collapse because they have no internal moving parts, so they deliver more performance and throttle response. The lack of a hydraulic cushioning effect allows finer control of valve events, especially when adjusted to tight lash settings of 0.010-0.012-inches. Solid lifters are generally going to be lighter in weight than hydraulics, as well, further helping things at high RPM. When the valvetrain is operating at 8,000 RPM or more, there is little room for error, and solid lifters are the preferred choice.”

A solid roller valvetrain might not be the best choice for a vehicle that’s driven a lot on the street, but they don’t work well when exposed to low RPM operation for extended amounts of time. Solid roller setups are also very noisy and need regular maintenance to prevent issues. So, if you’re good with checking lash often and being on the lookout for lubrication issues, a solid roller valvetrain can be used in a street/strip car.

According to McInnis, there are other things to be aware of if you’re going to use a solid roller valvetrain in your vehicle’s engine.

“Roller cams will require higher valve spring pressures. The increased spring load serves to keep the lifter wheel in contact with the cam lobe, which is important not only for valve events but also to prevent impact damage to the lifters. If the lifter’s roller wheel is launched off the nose of the cam, when it crashes back down it will ultimately damage the needle bearings in the roller. Inadequate spring pressure is a leading cause of failure, so it is important to select an appropriate valve spring with roller cams.”

A solid roller valvetrain is great for engines that need to maximize horsepower. You will need to make sure you follow a strict maintenance program to keep the valvetrain happy and catch any potential problems early. If you want to learn more about solid roller valvetrain setups, check out the Erson Cams website right here.

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About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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