If your check engine light is illuminated and you notice your engine is suffering from poor idling or struggling to start properly, there may be an issue with its camshaft position or angle. Check the problem with your scanner—if it registers a P0012 code, read this guide to learn more about what it means and how to resolve it.
What Does the P0012 Code Mean?
Diagnostic trouble code (DTC) P0012 stands for “Intake (A) Camshaft Position Timing – Over-Retarded (Bank 1).” The code indicates that your car’s computer (also called the powertrain control module or PCM) has detected a difference in the desired camshaft position angle and the actual camshaft position angle. More specifically, the condition is set when the PCM detects that the camshaft has remained in a retarded position or that the camshaft timing on Bank 1 is above the maximum retard value.
Note: Although code P0012 is a generic code specified by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the code’s definition may vary depending on the vehicle manufacturer.
The camshaft angle is only adjustable on engines that have a technology called variable valve timing (VVT).
While valve timing is fixed in a conventional engine, it can be adjusted on demand by configuring the camshaft specifications in a VVT system. This can enhance fuel economy, increase power, and reduce tailpipe emissions.
Most VVT systems utilize oil control solenoids and camshaft actuators to configure valve timing. The car’s computer manages the oil control solenoids. The solenoids direct oil flow to the camshaft actuators, which are located on each sprocket or VVT-equipped camshaft drive gear.
The “A” in the P0012 code refers to the intake camshaft in an inline or straight overhead camshaft engine. On the other hand, it refers to the intake camshaft on Bank 1 if the engine functions on a V configuration.
“Bank 1” in the code refers to the side of the engine where the number one cylinder is located. Take note this applies to engines that employ a boxer or V configuration.
What are the Possible Causes of the P0012 Code?
What causes a P0012 code? The likely reasons that prompted the PCM to log this specific trouble code include:
- Bad or failing camshaft variable timing solenoid
- Bad or failing variable valve timing actuator
- Low engine oil levels
- Contaminated engine oil
- Engine follows the wrong timing
- Engine oil is incompatible with the manufacturer’s requirement for the engine
- Worn timing chain
- Failed timing chain guide or tensioner
What are the Common Symptoms of the P0012 Code?
Warning signs that you have a P0012 code on your hands include:
- Illuminated or blinking Check Engine Light
- Engine struggles to start properly
- Engine suffers from poor idling
- Engine experiences stalling
- Decreased fuel efficiency
- Rattling noise from the engine
If your scanner reads a code P0012 and your car displays at least one of these issues, bring your vehicle to your mechanic as soon as possible.
How to Diagnose the P0012 Code
There are many problems that can trigger the P0012 code, from a failing camshaft variable timing solenoid to a worn timing chain. This can make an accurate diagnosis difficult, especially if you’re not an automotive specialist. Let an expert handle the task if you’re not certain with your car repair skills.
On the other hand, if you feel confident in your automotive know-how, watch these helpful video references to get an idea of how to diagnose a p0012:
How to Fix the P0012 Code
Many OBD-II trouble codes share symptoms and causes, but there is no single way to fix them. The solution typically varies depending on the issue’s underlying cause as well as the vehicle’s make and model.
For instance, a P0012 on a 2005 Ford F-150 can be resolved by topping up the engine oil, if that’s what’s triggering the issue. Switching out the timing chain or replacing the engine assembly are also confirmed fixes for this specific code on a Ford.
If you are not confident with your automotive knowledge and DIY skills, it’s best to leave the task to a professional. Otherwise, you can find the exact repair yourself by using online auto repair resources and guides and by consulting your owner’s manual before attempting to fix the trouble code to ensure that your solution is appropriate to your vehicle’s make and model.
You may also invest in an ALLDATA single-vehicle subscription, which will be useful in dealing with not only with the P0012 code but any other issue that you may encounter in the future.