The camshafts on the GSA

or Why does the engine sound like a machine gun?

The camshafts (yes, there are actually two on the GSA engines. Because the cylinders are mounted horisontally opposed two and two, there are two cylinder heads and consequently two camshafts) have a tendancy to wear down for different reasons, with the result that the engine starts making a more-or-less loud clattering noise. Sometimes it's difficult to hear the sound unless you're inside the car - it then sounds like deep repeated banging somewhere at the front of the car.

Many people have tried selling GSA's with more or less worn-out cams with arguments like That's what all Citroëns sound like or It's only the valves that need adjusting. Don't you believe it! It's the cams and their associated rocker arms that need replacing and the job can cost quite a bit both in parts and time. The alternative is simply to endure the sound. The engine won't care; it runs nicely anyway - even if it's banging away nicely it can run for thousands of miles without increased fuel consumption or other problems.

Reasons for camshaft wear

The camshafts are supposed to open the valves, and anyone whose tried to compress a valve spring in a dismantled engine knows that it's no easy task. One can make cams and rockers in a strong or reinforced material, but you still need ample lubrication for the parts to last. Camshafts wearing down is thus a result of bad lubrication, and what does that depend on?, Well...

The 1300cc GSA engines are usually more sensitive than the older 1220cc engines used in the GS. One theory is that the material in the cams has been replaced with something softer, and cheaper, but it could also be one of the above reasons. At about the same time as the GSA engines were launched, the 5-speed gearbox appeared, and there is a temptation to use the 5:th gear at too low speeds. The oil change intervals have also (due to improvements in engine oil technology) been increased from 5000 km on the GS to 7500 km on the GSA. This results in smaller margins, especially when using cheap oil or skipping a few oil changes.

So...what can you do about it?

Once the chattering has begun you can't improve the situation without renovating the engine, but you can try to stop things from getting worse. There are a few preventive measures that can be taken:

My own guidelines

I'm definitely no expert at this subject, I just want to keep my car rolling as long as possible. My own personal guidelines are described in the following.

...and the result? Well, my car had a slight ticking on the right-hand side of the engine when I bought it, which could be the camshaft, or something else. After having driven over 25000 km I can't say that the sound has become much worse, even though it's difficult to make an objective comparison over such a long time. Also, the engine sound tends to vary with the seasons - when it's warmer engines tend to make more clatter.

Finally...if anyone has any comments, other points of view, or hints or tips, don't hesitate to drop me an email!

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