Degreeing the cam using the opening and closing at .050” lift is much more accurate.
The problem with the centerline method is it has you finding the theoretical centerline of the intake and/or exhaust lobe. It makes the assumption that the lobe you are checking is symmetrical, with its opening side being the exact same shape as the closing side of the lobe. Most modern cam lobes are asymmetrical, with the opening side of the lobe being much more aggressive and the closing side being more gentle.

Therefore, when you attempt to locate the middle (or centerline) of the asymmetrical lobe there is an automatic error. It could be as little as 2° or as much as 6° depending on the actual lobe design. Since the opening and closing at .050” lift method is not affected by the lobe design, it is more accurate to degree this way. This method will also verify your actual duration figures. To understand cam timing specifications, you must first understand the difference between intake and exhaust centerline and lobe centerline (which should be more understandably stated as lobe separation). Lobe centerline (or separation) is the distance in cam degrees between the maximum lift point (centerline) of the intake lobe and the maximum lift point (centerline) of the exhaust lobe.

This separation is ground in the cam and can’t be changed unless the cam is reground. Intake and exhaust centerline relates to the phasing (timing) of the cam to the crankshaft.

To locate the intake or exhaust centerline you must find maximum lift of that lobe. As in finding TDC, you must begin by using an arbitrary figure, such as thousandths of an inch instead of degrees, say .050”.  With the dial indicator on the intake lifter, rotate the engine in the normal direction until you reach maximum lift. This is where the dial indicator changes direction. At this point set the dial indicator at zero.

Back the engine up until the dial indicator reads .100”.  Turn the engine back in the normal direction of rotation until the dial indicator reads .050”. At this point, record the degree number that the pointer is on.

Continue to rotate in the normal direction of rotation until the dial indicator goes past zero to .050” on the other side of maximum lift. Record the degree number that the pointer is on. Add the two degree numbers together and divide by two.

That number will be the location of the maximum lift point of the intake lobe in relation to the
crankshaft. As you can see, this method does not tell you anything about the cam, or how accurately it is made.

A detailed proceedure from Lunati Cams for SYMETRICAL cam lobes ONLY

     The following is the method of degreeing a cam which Lunati Cams recommends. The first step in
     degreeing a cam is to obtain a few items which should be a part of every serious engine builders
     tool chest. These items are:

     1. A large Degree Wheel

     2. A 1" Dial Indicator & Magnetic Base Stand,

     3. A steel Deck Strap Kit

     All of the above are available as LUNATI CAMS DEGREE WHEEL KIT, PART NO. 80001

     We suggest that the engine be torn down to expose the tappets. A more precise degree reading will
     result if it is taken from the tappet area rather than from the valve retainers. To accomplish this
     one has to disassemble the engine to expose this area. Rocker arm geometry can alter the readings
     on your cam. Valve springs can deflect the cam enough to give false readings. Rocker arm
     mounting studs that are not consistently straight will greatly alter your cam readings. We suggest
     that all these components be bypassed to insure a true reading.

     To begin the actual degreeing procedure, the degree wheel should be secured to the crankshaft;
     preferable the front end. A pointer of some type such as a piece of wire should be secured to the
     front of the engine. The engine should be capable of turning in either direction. Rotate the
     crankshaft until the number one piston is at approximate Top Dead Center and align the pointer
     with TDC on the degree wheel.

     The next step is to find true Top Dead Center (TDC). One method of doing this is to secure a flat
     strap (1 1/2 x 1) that will bridge the bore (with the heads removed). Drill and tap a 3/8" hole in the
     center strap and insert a bolt so it will protrude down into the bore about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. The bolt
     will contact the piston, thus stopping the piston movement. A steel Deck Strap Kit is included in
     the Lunati Degree Wheel Kit, or is available separately (part number 80013). At this point you
     should mark the degree wheel. Now rotate the engine in the opposite direction until the piston
     stops. Make another mark on the degree wheel. If the degree wheel is properly located, there will
     be an equal number of degrees on both sides of the mark. If an unequal number of degrees exists,
     the degree wheel will have to be relocated. For example, if you come up with 34 deg. on one side
     and 30 deg. on the other side, the wheel will have to be moved 2 deg. to compensate for the
     misalignment. After the wheel has been relocated, the same amount of degrees should exist on
     both sides of the markings.

     If the heads are on the engine, another method of finding TDC is necessary. This method uses an
     old, discarded sparkplug. Remove the porcelain and use a tap, 3/8" 24NF, to cut threads through
     the plug. Insert a Bolt so that it will protrude through the plug approximately one inch. Remove
     rocker arms and pushrods so valves will not be bent. Repeat same operation as with the first

     The next step is to install your new camshaft and line up the stock timing marks. Use a mechanical
     lifter for flat tappet grinds and a roller tappet if the cam is a roller grind. The indicator must be
     positioned securely above the lifter. The stem from the dial indicator should be aligned with the
     lifter as close as possible. Misalignment will cause an improper reading. Install the lifter in the lifter
     bore of the number one intake. Now that the dial indicator is secured to the block in line with lifter
     travel, rotate the engine at least two revolutions. Make sure the dial indicator is working freely and
     the lifter is not sticking or binding in the bore.

     Rotate the engine clockwise until maximum lift is reached. Zero the dial indicator and continue in
     clockwise rotation until a .050 reading is reached. Mark the degree wheel at this time. Rotate the
     engine counterclockwise until maximum lift is reached again. Continue counter clockwise rotation
     until a reading of .070 is indicated. Now rotate the engine clockwise until the .050 is indicated on
     the dial indicator. This operation will take up any slack that exist in the timing chain and gears.
     Halfway between these two marks is the center on the intake lobe. An example of this might be
     153" on one side of the approximate centerline and 63 deg. on the other side. By adding these two
     figures you get a sum of 216 deg. This number halved gives 108 deg. This is your lobe center. If
     your cam is ground on 108 deg. lobe center line, then the cam is installed at split overlap or straight
     up. If the number is smaller such as 106 deg., then the cam is two degrees advanced. If the lobe
     center comes up as 110 deg., then the cam is two degrees retarded. Adjustments should be made
     with the use of degree bushings, offset keyways or a compensating crankgear.

     Once you learn this method of degreeing a cam, you won't use any other method. This is the most
     accurate method of installing a cam. Good Luck!

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