How To Clean A Variable Valve Timing Solenoid (Solved!)


A variable valve timing solenoid is responsible for the distribution of oil in the engine based on the timing. Over time, these things can get clogged especially if you don’t change your oil frequently.

The variable valve timing solenoid can get sludge and debris that will prevent it from opening and closing properly. This will result in the engine not getting enough oil on time.

Also, you might experience performance issues with your vehicle from ticking and pinging noises, sluggish idle, bad fuel economy, as well as a check engine light. This is all because the variable valve timing solenoid is not distributing lubricant properly.

Many car owners decide to change their variable valve timing solenoid. However, before you change the VVT solenoid, you can try and clean it.

In this article, I am going over how to clean a variable valve timing solenoid at home.

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What Does Variable Valve Timing Solenoid Do?

What Does Variable Valve Timing Solenoid Do

Variable valve timing solenoid is in charge of lubricating the camshaft by providing a steady flow of pressurized oil going through the passages on the sonar head and into the camshaft. Based on the engine load, the vehicle computer will either allow the oil to pass through the solenoid into the camshaft and advance the timing or slow the timing by not allowing the pressurized oil to move any further.

Modern vehicles work by using the pressurized oil that’s already running through the engine in combination with solenoids to run pressurized oil to the camshaft and adjusting the timing.

Most modern vehicles use uses oil pressure to activate the variable cams in them. If the oil pressure is too low and doesn’t get up to the top of the cams, it can often trigger error codes and make the car run poorly.

The passages on the variable valve timing solenoid are small. Not changing your engine oil on time may lead to the VVT solenoid becoming filled with gunk. Sometimes just really dirty oil will clog up the system that runs the variable valve timing. So, a lot of times you can try changing the oil and filter to see if that fixes the issue.

However, even though many car owners immediately replace their VVT solenoids with brand new ones, I suggest you first try and clean them and see if that is going to fix the problem.

How To Clean A Variable Valve Timing Solenoid

The reason why I like to use a mass airflow sensor cleaner is that it is not too corrosive to be used on something like a variable valve timing solenoid.

1. Required materials

How To Clean A Variable Valve Timing Solenoid
  • Mass airflow sensor cleaner
  • 10mm socket
  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles

2. Locate the variable valve timing solenoid

How To Clean A Variable Valve Timing Solenoid

The variable valve timing solenoid is usually located around the valve cover. It could be on top of the valve, behind the valve, or on the front side of the valve area.

You can also check the owner’s manual and see the exact location of the VVT solenoid. Make sure that the engine is not hot while you work on it to avoid burning your hands.

3. Disconnect and remove the VVT solenoid

How To Clean A Variable Valve Timing Solenoid

In order to disconnect the variable valve timing solenoid, you need to detach the electrical harness connection simply by pulling it off.

Then, you will find a bolt holding the solenoid in place. Usually, the size of the bold holding the VVT solenoid is 10mm. However, the size might vary depending on your car’s make and model.

Grab the appropriate socket and remove the bolt. Then, loosen the solenoid by turning it left and right and then pull it out. The VVT solenoid might be a little bit hard to be removed because of a rubber seal that is preventing oil to leak out.

4. Spray it down with mass airflow sensor cleaner

How To Clean A Variable Valve Timing Solenoid (Solved!)

With your gloves and safety goggles on, grab the variable valve timing solenoid and wipe it with a clean towel. Then, spray the solenoid down with the mass airflow sensor.

Make sure that you spray the cleaner in all of the holes. Repeat spraying until there is no gunk or dirt coming out. In order to really clean the solenoid well, you will have to connect it to a battery and make it open and close.

So, grab two alligator clip test leads and attach them to the electrical connection of the variable valve timing solenoid. Make sure that the positive and negative are not touching. Then, connect the other end of the alligator clips to a car battery to make the solenoid open and close.

5. Let the VVT solenoid dry

Once the variable valve timing solenoid has been cleaned and wiped, you need to let it dry before installing it. The mass airflow sensor cleaner cleans out pretty quickly. However, if you used WD40 or a valve cleaner, you might have to wait a little bit longer.

6. Test the variable valve timing solenoid

After cleaning and drying the variable valve timing solenoid, you should perform a test. You can either manually move it or verify that the solenoid is moving freely. Or, you can test it using two alligator clips and a battery.

7. Reinstall the variable valve timing solenoid

How To Clean A Variable Valve Timing Solenoid (Solved!)

After you verified that the variable valve timing solenoid is working properly, you need to reinstall it. Put the solenoid back in place and reinstall the bolt. Then, reattach the electrical harness.

8. Delete any error codes

How To Clean A Variable Valve Timing Solenoid

A dirty or faulty variable valve timing solenoid can give out many error codes and a check engine light. So, after you are done with the cleaning and you have verified that the VVT solenoid works fine, it is time to connect your vehicle to a diagnostic tool and delete the error codes. If you don’t have a diagnostic tool, you can order one on amazon.com.

In Conclusion

If the variable valve timing solenoid is bad on your vehicle, follow the step-by-step guide provided above and try to see if cleaning the VVT solenoid will solve your problem.

However, if after you cleaned the solenoid, the vehicle is still running poorly, it’s best if you go ahead and replace the solenoid with a new one.

Car Care Hacks

Hi there. I am a certified Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanic since 2018 and a car detailer for 10 years.

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