Toyota 2ZZ-GE intake cam wear - bad oil or bad filter?

OVERKILL

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I mean you did have 130,000 miles on it already. Don't most high performances engines (BMW) **** the bed at like 70k? Lol. I don't think this was a gradual wear issue. Seems like it happened overnight. I have a vintage car and peruse the forums. They say you have to at least put high zinc oil in after a rebuild until the engine breaks in. So after a cam swap for example.
There is a lot of confusion in the flat tappet scene because once FT's went out the window and were replaced by roller sticks the quality went downhill rapidly. Heck, GM had quite a period even when they were popular where the lobes were improperly hardened and you were bound to lose some, and that's on a very mild OE broomstick cam.

So, people started blaming the reduction in ZDDP, dumping wizards in their oil...etc all kinds of stuff. The reality is that "back in the day" oils didn't have insanely high ZDDP levels like many like to think they did. Yes, with the introduction of API SM, phosphorous was restricted, however, oils that it was not restricted on, like the Euro oils that don't care about the API approval, don't have 1,400ppm of phosphorous, they have around 1,000-1,100ppm, even though it could be much, MUCH higher if the blenders wanted.

Several years back now, a buddy of mine and I did some upgrades on an SBC of his dad's. One of those upgrades was the fitment of a very wild profiled Lunati Voodoo camshaft, which had ramps that were much more aggressive than what you'd normally see with an FT stick. We used lots of assembly lube and broke it in per the instructions, using Kendall 15W-40, which is what was run in it (think there was some Esso 15W-40 used at some point there too) for several years until we put together a new roller motor for it (and upgraded it to fuel injection). When that very aggressive stick was pulled, the cam and lifters looked fantastic, despite never seeing anything other than some inexpensive diesel oil.

Formulation is a balancing act and I think it's quite telling that in applications like full-SAPS Euro oils where phosphorous isn't restricted, they aren't shooting for the moon. Many of these applications are cam-over-bucket (sliding follower) which makes them very similar to the OP's. Some of them, like Mercedes AMG, Porsche, BMW M, have pretty aggressive camshaft profiles too and the approvals have strict wear limits.
 
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I removed the valve cover to replace the gasket on my Toyota 2ZZ-GE VVTL-i engine and got a nasty surprise. The high cams on the intake camshaft are wiped. All the low cams on the intake and all the cams on the exhaust camshaft are fine - totally smooth to touch. The car is a daily driver, 40/60 hwy/city.

I had inspected the intake camshaft about 40,000 miles ago and it was OK. Very little wear, barely noticeable. Nothing like now. Wondering what could've caused this. Here's my oil change history since I last inspected it, most recent first:

OilFilterMiles on oil and filter
Shell Gas Truck 5W-30CarQuest R84145 (made by Wix? looks the same)6,956
Mobil 1 5W-30CarQuest R84145 (made by Wix? looks the same)8,106
Pennzoil Ultra Platinum 5W-30Wix 571456,570
QS Ultimate Synth 5W-30Purolator L144779,388
Mobil 1 5W-30Purolator One PL144779,332

Apart from the obvious high cam wear, there is also evidence of some sludging (??) in the lower left corner of the picture. They're spongy black particles, not typical sludge. Perhaps a Purolator media tear 4-5 oil changes ago? Or is one of the oils on the list worse than others? Every used oil I drained from the engine was still transparent with honey-like color, except the SGT after the very last oil change which was very dark, almost black after less than 7K miles.

I have a new intake camshaft and rockers on order from Toyota. I'd like to hear your thoughts on what to do to prevent this from happening again. Would zinc additives help? I think I will start by shortening oil change interval to 6K and avoiding Shell Gas Truck oil. Thanks.

View attachment 80405

FYI, the 2ZZ-GE VVTL-i is a high-output engine (180HP from 1.8L, 8600 rpm redline) made by Yamaha for Toyota. It has variable valve timing and lift (VVTL-i), which is similar to Honda's VTEC technology in principle. The engine was used in Toyota Celica GTS/Matrix XRS/Corolla XRS, Lotus Elise and Pontiac Vibe GT.
I prefer to change out the oil every 6months.
 
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ProbeGT

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Do you autocross? As suggested I think maybe an oil starvation issue?
No, this car never saw the inside of an autocross course. I am aware of the baffle-less oil pan design on the 2ZZ. That said, engines that experience oil starvation due to the oil sloshing to one side at high rpm typically end up with terminal damage like oil pump explosion or spun bearings.
Yes, with the introduction of API SM, phosphorous was restricted, however, oils that it was not restricted on, like the Euro oils that don't care about the API approval, don't have 1,400ppm of phosphorous, they have around 1,000-1,100ppm, even though it could be much, MUCH higher if the blenders wanted.
Perhaps 1,100ppm is a sweet spot for good anti-wear properties and long catalyst life. Euro oils certainly look superior to API oils. Going forward I will always choose Euro-spec oil when possible. During the recent WM/Pennzoil deal, I got 10qts PP Euro 0W-40 (1,020ppm zinc) and not the 645ppm PP API stuff.
 
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I don't remember if the 1zz has the windage tray like the 2zz. So, its bolted to the engine(2zz) or part of the pan(1zz). No need for the pan but it wouldn't hurt. So, not really a flaw. Would prefer an aluminum pan with trap doors and and and....

Euro 0w40's are great oils. I too like a slug of z/p/s and viscosity with all my engines. I don't care for catalyst life. Cats are easier to replace than engines.
 
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It's absolutely an oiling issue, beyond any reasonable doubt. I did extensive research on this. I held the camshafts, rockers and slipper pads in my hands. I did all the repairs.

The intake and exhaust cams are NOT equal. Intake cam has much tighter clearances (per specs) and thus is subject to higher spring pressures, higher boundary layer pressures and higher shear forces. I've documented the valve clearance specs with screenshots of the service manual in post #38. One member was shocked at how tight the specs are, even compared to other high performance engines.

All 4 cam lobes and slipper pads were equally wiped on intake side, regardless of the measured valve clearances on the respective cylinder, which did vary greatly. If the clearances were at fault, I would see more severe wear on the cylinders that were far out-of-spec, but no.

Some manufacturers claim they have magic mixes of anti-wear additives, but what anti-wear additive is on par with ZDDP? Apparently, none:
  • New cars come with high ZDDP oil from the factory
  • Racing oils contain high levels of ZDDP
  • The entire community of flat-tappet engine owners/rebuilders swear by ZDDP to prevent wiped camshafts.
If there was something better or even close, it would be out there, documented. But it's crickets.

Would my intake camshaft be in perfect shape had the engine always had high ZDDP oil in it? Who knows. Would it show less wear? Definitely.
BTW, the car is a daily driver again and runs great with the new intake camshaft. That said, I find myself engaging "LIFT" far less often than I used to and when I do, I feel guilty (for a few minutes, anyway).
You can talk in bold to make yourself feel like you have a handle on something you don't, but an oil doesn't magically work in one part of the engine and NOT in the others. As others have suggested, if you were to do the intelligent thing and have your head checked out by a reputable machine shop, there are some good indications that either your valve seats are being hammered, or your intake valve stems are stretching and will, at some point, snap. An absolutely easy way for you to see what the issue is is to measure the intake cam clearance at every OCI, while using newer oils that exceed the original engine's spec requirements.

If the tolerances continue to change and the rockers show wear after you've sprinkled in your favorite unicorn tears, what's your story going to be then?
 

ProbeGT

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oil doesn't magically work in one part of the engine and NOT in the others.
Nonsense. The exact opposite of your statement is true. Oil can do its job in low stress areas (rollers on cams at low RPM) but not in high stress/high pressure areas (slipper pads on cams at high RPM).

I already did the right thing. I replaced the bad camshaft and pads, adjusted the valves and switched to better, thicker oils with high ZDDP. This is as far as I'm willing to go. This is not a hypercar. It's a daily driver with $128K miles now, worth a couple of thousand.

I found no other sign of abnormal wear in the engine. For as long as the engine continues to run smooth and the valve cover doesn't leak, I'm not taking it off again.
 
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Feb 26, 2022
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I removed the valve cover to replace the gasket on my Toyota 2ZZ-GE VVTL-i engine and got a nasty surprise. The high cams on the intake camshaft are wiped. All the low cams on the intake and all the cams on the exhaust camshaft are fine - totally smooth to touch. The car is a daily driver, 40/60 hwy/city.

I had inspected the intake camshaft about 40,000 miles ago and it was OK. Very little wear, barely noticeable. Nothing like now. Wondering what could've caused this. Here's my oil change history since I last inspected it, most recent first:

OilFilterMiles on oil and filter
Shell Gas Truck 5W-30CarQuest R84145 (made by Wix? looks the same)6,956
Mobil 1 5W-30CarQuest R84145 (made by Wix? looks the same)8,106
Pennzoil Ultra Platinum 5W-30Wix 571456,570
QS Ultimate Synth 5W-30Purolator L144779,388
Mobil 1 5W-30Purolator One PL144779,332

Apart from the obvious high cam wear, there is also evidence of some sludging (??) in the lower left corner of the picture. They're spongy black particles, not typical sludge. Perhaps a Purolator media tear 4-5 oil changes ago? Or is one of the oils on the list worse than others? Every used oil I drained from the engine was still transparent with honey-like color, except the SGT after the very last oil change which was very dark, almost black after less than 7K miles.

I have a new intake camshaft and rockers on order from Toyota. I'd like to hear your thoughts on what to do to prevent this from happening again. Would zinc additives help? I think I will start by shortening oil change interval to 6K and avoiding Shell Gas Truck oil. Thanks.

View attachment 80405

FYI, the 2ZZ-GE VVTL-i is a high-output engine (180HP from 1.8L, 8600 rpm redline) made by Yamaha for Toyota. It has variable valve timing and lift (VVTL-i), which is similar to Honda's VTEC technology in principle. The engine was used in Toyota Celica GTS/Matrix XRS/Corolla XRS, Lotus Elise and Pontiac Vibe GT.
Can you perform a water pressure test on your oil supply lines found in your valve cover? Some found that cam wipe was due to the sprays not pointing in the correct direction.
 

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