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Nitriding flat-tappet camshafts?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Fat Hack, Dec 10, 2008.

  1. Fat Hack
    Joined: Nov 30, 2002
    Posts: 7,709

    Fat Hack
    from Detroit

    A few months ago, I noticed a full-page ad from Comp Cams advertising their new "Pro Plasma" Nitiriding service for all flat-tappet camshafts. The text in the ad indicates that it's a process which both hardens the cam lobes and increases their lubricative qualities (makes them more slippery, in effect). It's touted as the answer to running flat-tappet camshafts with today's low zinc content motor oils. Supposedly, using one of their cams treated in this fashion, along with their improved lifter design is said to eliminate (or greatly reduce) the chances of premature cam failure with modern motor oils.

    Sounded cool to me, and the video on their web site seemed to sell it with conviction as well. Comp Cams has never been my favorite cam company, but I thought I'd order one of their cams for an 'exotic' application (small block Chevy!!) and run it in the next project to see how it works out.

    According to Comp Cams, the Nitriding service is available on ANY camshaft that they offer for an additional fee of 'about' a hundred dollars. Kind of steep, yes...but I figure it might balance out if you don't need to worry about buying specific oils or EOS-type additives for every future oil change.

    However, the story changed when I placed the order. After much confusion, they stated that they will CUSTOM GRIND a cam to any spec ALREADY IN THEIR CATALOG, and THEN apply the Nitriding process to it! This came out to about $275 for a mild SBC hydraulic cam! (Cam lifters!). I'm all for spending a bit more to get a quality product, but that was a bit TOO outrageous, if you ask me!

    I'm told that Isky now offers a similar process, and that it only adds about $70 to the cost of any currently available camshaft. MUCH more reasonable, but they only offer single pattern grinds from what I saw listed. (Ha Ha...a Dump Truck cam that lasts forever is still a Dump Truck cam afterall!!!;):D)

    Anyone here have any experience with this new concept? (I know Nitriding engine components isn't new, I've seen it done to crankshafts for years, but it seems to be something new in the aftermarket cam realm!) Is it hype or a good idea? Better off to just buy the Edelbrock roller cam conversion kit for older small block Chevys and be done with it?

    Time may find Comp Cams getting a handle on this 'new' idea of theirs and offering the product off-the-shelf at reasonable rates...but I'm a bit reluctant to be the 'guinea pig' for $275+!
  2. burl
    Joined: Nov 28, 2007
    Posts: 739

    from Minnesota

    We use gas and salt bath nitriding for other aplications on tooling that we build.It builds the surface to around 90 rc and does help alot with lubricity.Our cost to have this done seems quite a bit cheaper than what they are charging.Usually its just a lot charge plus so much per pound.We use an shop out of Iowa that has doen this for a long time.Burl
  3. It's been done for years to cams used in classes that mandate a flat-tappet camshaft & require high over-the-nose pressures. Even today I think it's overkill for mild-to-moderate street engines. Hydraulic rollers are certainly a viable option, especially for the SBC, and might be a better alternative cost-wise.

    So far as street hydraulics go, I'd prefer to use a quality set of lifters, possibly EDMs depending on the application... remove inner springs or use reduced-ratio rocker arms if the engine at the recommended rpm for the recommended time, generally 2000-2500 rpm for 20-30 minutes...and use Brad Penn break-in oil along with break-in lube...or the lube along with GM's EOS & a regular conventional oil (non-synthetic)...

    ...and then use the Comp 159 or Crane Super Lube additives with conventional oil to get the zinc compounds after break-in.

    Alternate oils:
    Rotella T, as of the beginning of 2007, meets the API CJ-4 standards which went into effect, and as a result lowered its zinc content from about 1400 ppm to 1200 ppm. Mobil's Delvac 1300 Super meets those standards also, but I have not been able to confirm its zinc content later than 2006. Brad Penn regular oil, and Valvoline racing oil, have about 1200 ppm of zinc as well and are available in alternate viscosities if needed.

    I would debate the "single pattern=dump truck application" with you...they have their place. Not for every engine, but, they have their place. It depends a great deal upon the capability of the cylinder head being used. :D
  4. Huh? could not find this word in the dictionary, could you elaborate?

    I see what you are saying about the other parts of the engine and wear. I have talked to a friend of mine that runs a very large engine rebuilding/machine shop and he says they have not seen undue wear on other parts. Theory being that the pressures aren't anywhere near as extreme as on the cam lobes.

  5. Fat Hack
    Joined: Nov 30, 2002
    Posts: 7,709

    Fat Hack
    from Detroit

    Thanks for the additional info, Homespun! I had heard that Rotella had lowered it's Zinc content recently, but didn't know the specifics. I still have some of the 'old' Rotella that I bought years ago...figure on using it till it's gone and then worry about it!

    The nitriding process might be a good deal once Comp Cams gets a handle on it and can deliver off-the-shelf cams with the nitriding already applied for a *reasonable* cost in the future. I just figured that investing $275 in a cam, plus another $75 or so for lifters was a bit excessive...and drifting towards hydraulic roller cam territory.

    Ha Ha...the "Dump Truck" crack is sort-of an old joke of mine! I think single pattern cams are okay for race motors, normally run on open headers with decent heads and what-not...but for street applications, with mufflers, stock head castings and such, a dual pattern cam makes WAY more sense, and does a better job. As for dump trucks...any old cam that'll knock the valves open enough to allow the engine to run will do the trick why not save a few pennies and run a single pattern! :D
  6. I talked to them this year about a custom grind I wanted for ,my / 6 I asked about nitriding because I wanted it. VW guys have been doing it for awhile. they quoted $95 extra so the price was within $ of what you said. I asked myself. Is it worth 95 extra to insure I dont have premee wear due to a soft core, weak oils etc. The answer is an Absolute YES!!!!!!!
    Roller is a good alternative f you can do it and in you case you can but for me with a 6 Cyl Mopar I do not have a roller cam option easily available . I am more than willing to spend the extra so i dont have to do the job twice. It is more than just no zinc. it is a lot of things starting with no one is making decent lifters anymore. The companies who made them for us here in North Am have no demand for flat tappets as all production cars are now roller. So while some one in the middle of nowhere learns how we are stuck with the problems. This is a bigger subject than even this but I guess that is enough for now.
  7. Fat Hack
    Joined: Nov 30, 2002
    Posts: 7,709

    Fat Hack
    from Detroit

    Dolmetsch, they told me $95 at first, in addition to the $110 cam price...but then came back and said that they'd have to start with a blank and do a "custom" grind on it (with specs supposedly available already!) and charge me as if I was ordering a custom cam, and then having it nitrided. So, the price went from about $205 to $275. Not a big jump, but we're talking about a mild cam for a small block Chevy here! Figure in a set of lifters and you got about $350 invested, which seemed a little steep to me.

    The whole "No, we gotta 'custom grind' that cam for you" thing was the real put-off...when it was a very tame hydraulic cam for a common SBC! Nothing oddball or exotic!

    For another where roller cams aren't easy to come by, the price would not be an issue, but that much loot for a cam lifter set in a super mild SBC seems...wrong! :D
  8. 283nova
    Joined: Jun 5, 2008
    Posts: 222

    from spokane,wa

    i just use valvoine vr1 has alot of zinc in every quart and at 389 its comparable pricing.

    althought it would be interesting to see how well that process actually works against its claims. heck maybe try the isky deal.

    shell/penzoil/quaker state are all one which is sad penzoil had to taint rotella to.
  9. 29nash
    Joined: Nov 6, 2008
    Posts: 4,544

    from colorado

    It's a dichotomy, I may be OT, but it's my understanding that to nitride iron compound/alloy, the process starts with the recipe. What I believe, and it apperas they don't know or won't explain to the customer is the reason they have to machine a new camshaft from a new billet if it's to be nitrided is for that reason.

    I read and tried to digest the following and Putting it in my own words, it says, ("After a camshaft has been machined(the first time) and hardened, reversing the process (doing it over), it is not in the cards to retreat a pretreated camshaft effectively.")
    Transformation controlled steels are strengthened by martensitic transformation and by precipitation hardening. Martensite arises by means of a quenching treatment following the austenizing, while the precipitation hardening is effected by a heat treatment of the quenched martensite. Transformation controlled steels are therefore usually first austenized, quenched, and following after this, heat treated at medium temperatures. The respective structure formation is influenced by the action of the alloying elements and the heat treatment parameters on the transformation temperatures M<SUB>S</SUB>, M<SUB>f</SUB> and A<SUB>cl.</SUB> M<SUB>s</SUB> is the temperature at which the transformation from austenite to martensite begins during quenching; M<SUB>f</SUB> is the temperature at which the transformation of the austenite to martensite during quenching is ended, and A<SUB>cl</SUB> is the temperature at which austenite formation begins during heating up.

    The M<SUB>S</SUB> temperature of the martensitically hardenable steels is sufficiently high because a large part of the austenite present during austenizing can be converted into martensite by normal cooling to room temperature. The M<SUB>S</SUB> temperature is furthermore affected by the grain size and the dissolved substitution elements, which facilitate precipitation hardening. The coarser the grain and the higher the proportion of dissolved alloying elements, the lower is the M<SUB>S</SUB> temperature.

    The residual austenite after a complete austenizing followed by cooling treatment is transformable. If substitution elements are precipitated during a tempering treatment, the M<SUB>S</SUB> temperature of the residual austenite can increase again such that this is converted into martensite again in the following annealing treatment. To be distinguished from residual austenite is the tempering austenite which remains behind after a partial austenizing, accordingly annealing in the ferrite-austenite two-phase region and subsequent cooling treatment.

    For an optimized combination of precipitation hardenability and grain size limitation, two kinds of alloying elements are added in conventional transformation controlled martensitic steels: Nb and C for precipitation hardenability, though primarily for grain size limitation.....

    <SCRIPT src=""></SCRIPT><SCRIPT src=""></SCRIPT><SCRIPT>window.google_render_ad();</SCRIPT><SCRIPT>window.google_render_ad();</SCRIPT>
    Also see;
  10. I think it's a fancy word for a green tea enema....:eek:
  11. jambottle
    Joined: Apr 11, 2003
    Posts: 559


    a little off topic ;but what is the best way to recondition used johnson adjustible lifter for a flathead?
  12. 73RR
    Joined: Jan 29, 2007
    Posts: 6,552


    Chris Nielson Cams in Utah used to reface lifters, can't say for certain about today.

    thegreek likes this.

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