Crankshaft Vs Camshaft: Fully Compared

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You might have heard about the crankshaft and camshaft – you may have even had one of them worked on in your car, but you really don’t know the difference between these two crucial components of your car’s engine.

Well, the crankshaft converts “cranks” when you start the car to rotary motion, which moves the camshaft and other engine components.

While the functions of the crankshaft and camshaft are different, both components must work in conformity – connected by the timing chain – for an engine to run smoothly.

This crankshaft vs camshaft comparison article goes in-depth to explain the similarities and differences between the crankshaft and camshaft.

What is Crankshaft and How Does It Work?

Put simply, the crankshaft is a mechanical component of automobile engines that converts the vertical movements of the pistons into rotatory motion required to move other parts of the engine and, in turn, move the car’s wheels.

In other words, the crankshaft is the component that triggers virtually all other components of the car when you crank/start the engine.

The crankshaft connects to the pistons through “connecting rods,” also called piston rods. So, the crankshaft works with respect to the upward and downward movements of the pistons. Also, the crankshaft is built into the engine block of every vehicle; it is one of the most important components of any engine.

What is Camshaft and How Does It Work?

Similar to the crankshaft, a camshaft is a “shaft” with pointed cams designed to convert rotatory motion – from the crankshaft – into reciprocating motion. Camshafts are very important in piston engines; the function of the camshaft is to precisely open and close the intake and exhaust valves during combustion.

The camshaft is connected to the crankshaft using a timing chain; so, when the piston moves the connecting rods and triggers the crankshaft to rotate, the rotation of the crankshaft moves the timing chain, which in turn, moves the camshaft; as the camshaft moves, it raises and lowers the engine’s intake and exhaust valves simultaneously.

Well, all these happen in split seconds and repeat for as long as the car is in motion.

There are two major types of camshafts used in modern vehicles; the classification is based on the placement of the camshaft in correspondence to the valves it operates. The two camshaft classifications are SOHC – Single Overhead Camshafts and DOHC – Dual Overhead Camshafts.

Crankshaft Vs Camshaft: Comparison

Power SourcePiston/Connecting rodsTiming chain
FunctionConvert linear motor to rotary motionOpen and close the intake/exhaust valves
Construction MaterialAluminum steelCast iron
PositionUsually below the cylinderUsually above the cylinder

The camshaft won’t work if the crankshaft doesn’t rotate the timing chain. At the same time, the camshaft is designed – and expected – to timely open and close the intake/exhaust valves for combustion to occur as expected so that the engine runs as smoothly as designed.

If the camshaft delays a second in opening or closing the intake valves, the engine may misfire, and you may experience some other unusual signs.

But then, the camshaft would never delay in its functions except if the timing chain is broken and not rotating in synchronicity with the crankshaft or the crankshaft has failed.

Any problem with the crankshaft can subsequently affect the timing chain and camshaft, which could lead to a critical breakdown of the engine – and your car may not start until everything is fixed back.

See Also: What Causes a Crankshaft Seal to Leak?

Frequently Asked Questions

Does The Camshaft Turn The Crankshaft?

No. the camshaft doesn’t turn the crankshaft; instead, it is the other way around – the crankshaft turns the crankshaft. The camshaft is usually installed above the crankshaft and is bounded to the crankshaft using a timing chain; as the crankshaft rotates, it turns the timing chain, which in turn rotates the camshaft.

What Is The Relation Between Crankshaft And Camshaft?

The camshaft cannot work if the crankshaft isn’t working; the camshaft bonds with the crankshaft using a chain – timing chain. Both the crankshaft and camshaft must rotate in uniformity for combustion to occur, and the engine gets powered to move the car.

Does A Car Have A Crankshaft And Camshaft?

Every piston engine vehicle features a camshaft and crankshaft as part of the components that make up the engine block. A crankshaft and camshaft is very much needed for combustion to occur in ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles. If one of these components fails, the engine won’t work, and the vehicle won’t drive.


The crankshaft vs. camshaft comparison is quite an easy one; the crankshaft moves the camshaft by turning the link – timing chain – and the camshaft opens and closes the intake and exhaust valves.

These two components must work in synchronicity to open the respective valves in accurate timing. Crankshaft failure can subsequently lead to camshaft failure; in the same way, timing chain failure can affect these two components.

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