The whole roller cam and lifters thing - Vintage Mustang Forums
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post #1 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-07-2019, 01:38 AM Thread Starter
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The whole roller cam and lifters thing

I have been researching and reading everything I can find on rollers and I have found a lot of discussion regarding the needle bearings not being hardened properly, not being virtually the same exact size and the lack of adequate oiling to the needle bearings and shafts. The needle bearings get hot. Traditionally they have depended on splash to oil them and this is often not adequate and particularly in an engine that is run hard.


Consequently, the major companies making rollers are putting oiling passages in the lifters to feed the needle bearings, shafts and rollers. In severe duty cases the needle bearings are not used at all. They install bronze bushings and also the oiling channels. I found a lot of broken link bars in retrofit stuff but it appears that the lifter failing has been the cause of the link bar failures. Once the link bar fails the lifter roller won't stay straight on the cam lobe and then you are likely looking at a catastrophic failure including fracturing the block and spewing needle bearings all down around the crank and rods. Below is a new style Isky bushed solid roller lifter with the bushing oil channel. The newer needle bearing rollers have a similar type oiling channel.



I found a tech article by a cam manufacturer that said they could detect the difference in friction between flat tappets and rollers on a spintron but on an engine dyno it was undetectable. Therefore, they are saying friction or lack of is not the reason rollers perform better. It is all in the cam lobe profile that makes it perform better. The down side of that has been that particularly with hydraulic rollers the extremely fast ramp speed has disrupted the lifter from pumping so you loose the top end rpms. Flat tappet builders went to anti-pump up lifters or semi-solid lifters to address this. Hydraulic rollers went to short travel to deal with it.



The question then becomes how much better is a roller cam. I found a 396 engine dyno test that did a flat tappet cam and a hydraulic roller of virtually identical grind and it got them 30 engine horsepower on a 396.



On my little 331 that might get 15 to 20 perhaps(just guessing based on my cubes and cam). I have to then determine if the added expense of a spider and bones kit, hydraulic roller lifters, new push rods and a hydraulic roller cam are worth the 20 flywheel horsepower. I can get a 244 @50, .576 lift hydraulic roller cam that is comparable to my solid flat tappet cam and it uses my same valve springs so I wouldn't have to pull the heads out to have them re-worked and new springs installed. They are already set up with new springs. My heads are limited presently to less than .600 lift. Is it even worth all the effort and cost to do a roller for less than .600 lift? Beats me.



So we get all the way back to the question of why the vehicle manufacturers moved to rollers to begin with. In a word, it was zinc. Technically, 3 words, lack of zinc. The EPA or whoever it was decided the zinc had to come out. Although technically the rollers don't have to have zinc, I found several reports that said they would benefit from it.


A myth I discovered is you don't have to break in a roller cam. This argument is used all the time for conversion to a roller cam and it is NOT TRUE. I found break in procedures for roller set ups including stressing the use of break in oils and the break in procedures are fairly similar to engines with flat tappet cams. The break in process is running in the whole engine and is concerned with a lot more than just the cam and lifters. However, even roller cams and lifters require a break in process according to the people that sell these things.


Roller lifters are also generally harder on the lifter bores and one cam manufacturer described solid rollers as valve jack hammers. Something in a higher lift solid roller with several hunded pound valve springs is seriously slamming the valves shut. Then you have to start looking at your valves and what kind of seats you need to run and how long will those last. This doesn't really sound like a good thing but the solid roller designers are working on all kinds of ways to lighten up the solid roller. Obviously, getting rid of the link bar is part of that because it adds significant weight to the thing.


I don't think the issues with roller set ups are the cams but I could be wrong. Every failure report I found was due to the roller lifter coming apart. So, I'm faced with the fundamental question, who makes decent hydraulic roller lifters and do I really want to convert.


Questions and comments are welcome. If I have read some misinformation in all of the reading I've been doing I will be glad to get better information.


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post #2 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-07-2019, 06:37 AM
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Virtually all the roller lifter failures you read and hear about are solid rollers, not Hydraulic.
The Hydraulic mechanism keeps the lifter at zero lash all the time and it does not get hammered like a solid roller.
I run a hydraulic roller on the street because I have wiped a flat tappet cam and it cost me big bucks.
Everything is a compromise, and a Hyd roller on a street car is a good choice in most cases. I run the old Crane Link Bar type lifters on a Comp Austempered Iron core. Been working for years....
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post #3 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-07-2019, 07:23 AM
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I can find tons of information on the internet “proving” the earth is flat, so does that mean it is? The internet is a fun place.
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post #4 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-07-2019, 08:49 AM
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Interesting timing on this since I am thinking about my winter project being to convert my 1969 351W to a roller motor. Was going to do that in conjunction with some head work. Am I hearing it may not be worth it?

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post #5 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-07-2019, 09:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue68Coupe View Post
Interesting timing on this since I am thinking about my winter project being to convert my 1969 351W to a roller motor. Was going to do that in conjunction with some head work. Am I hearing it may not be worth it?
Considering oil with Zinc in it is more expensive than that without...I would say the added cost over the life of a car would need to be added in...30HP and less expensive oil seems worth it to me...its not like SBFs have a reputation for unreliability if they have a roller cam, if anything the newer SBFs tend to last longer...though I wont say it has anything to do with the roller cam
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post #6 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-07-2019, 09:41 AM
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I've heard that a solid roller engine shouldn't be run at idle for extended periods because they will transmit the shock from taking up the valve clearance to the cam and other parts of the valve train. But then most people that use a solid roller wouldn't run their engines for 50K miles before a tear down for inspection either.

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post #7 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-07-2019, 09:47 AM
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Thanks @macstang for the research and topic. One day (not today) Iíll rebuild my 390 and I will dig out this thread. If I had a SB Iíd simply get a late model roller block (either 5.0 or 351w) as the foundation for a new engine, but thatís not an option for me.
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post #8 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-07-2019, 11:51 AM
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macstang,

Your research is taking MUCH information out of context. Hydraulic rollers ( as Jim Sams pointed out) RARELY fail. 5.0 Mustangs had them in '85 through the end of production. They were incorporated to reduce friction and free up some power. Take a look at the mileage on a '98-2000 Explorer. WELL over 150,000 and many over 200,000. ALL with factory hydraulic roller lifters. Hydraulic roller cam profiles are FAR less aggressive than solid rollers AND they don't use as much spring pressure. I have run solid roller cams for 50 years and have had some lifter failures for sure. Some were indeed soft needles but that was 45 years ago but that company hasn't had the problem since. Others were "victims" of lack of adequate valve spring pressure or ridiculous cam profiles. What causes solid roller lifter failure ( regardless of brand) is the "hammering" from valve lash and the extreme ( in some cases 500 psi SEAT pressure) being used today. SOLID roller lifters are NOT a "high mileage" design. Those that choose to run solid rollers "on the highway" are taking their chances .I have seen Isky's bushed lifters fail too in some of these extreme situations. Many high end engine builders are going to much larger diameter lifters in order to get larger roller "wheels" and more bearing surface/ larger pins to solve the problem. Most of the information you posted like roller lifters being hard on lifter bores pertains to solid rollers on a specific block and head design , not necessarily a small block Ford with an inline valve head.
I don't know what company said that a roller cam needs to be broken in that is simply NOT true. There is NO reason to use a high zinc break in oil on ANY roller cam. In the past "TV" shows used to rub moly lube on roller cams ( like a flat tappet) which could actually cause the roller wheel to "skid" as in not turn initially and "flat spot" the roller wheel. Now the "TV" shows install them dry or squirt some engine oil on them.Mine go in dry with oil on the cam journals only and assembly lube on the gear only.
Randy
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post #9 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-07-2019, 11:54 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue68Coupe View Post
Interesting timing on this since I am thinking about my winter project being to convert my 1969 351W to a roller motor. Was going to do that in conjunction with some head work. Am I hearing it may not be worth it?

It probably varies depending on every which different person's situation. My set up is still pretty much old school. I'm still running a carb and iron heads although the iron heads run decent after I have ported them 3 times. They won't ever run with the Trick Flow or AFR, Brodix, Kaase,,,,whoever's aluminium heads but then I haven't justified buying those either. I haven't justified converting to somebody's throttle body injection and thus far haven't justified converting from a solid flat cam to a roller of some variation. If I already had all the other stuff I might be able to justify the roller conversion easier. If I did all of this stuff I would then have to start considering the breaking point of my 1993 5.0 stock block perhaps and so I need a Dart or somebody's block for all that stuff to go on or in?


I have no plans to spray the engine or run some other kind of boost either. I don't drag race it any more since there is no where close enough to justify dragging it over to run it. I don't care a whole lot for dyno numbers either. I did put in the stroker kit but that was simple economics compared to a forged 289 bottom end. I haven't decided yet if it is worth it in my situation.



If I do, I am going to look really carefully at the roller lifters. I neglected to mention that some of these roller lifter designs tend to go up geometrically in price from around 200 to 400 bucks to 800 or 900 to 1400 bucks and more depending on how far you want to go. The mechanical rollers tend to be the most expensive though. I forgot to mention Jesel. They appear to be out on the leading edge of roller lifter design with some of these others like Isky and Crower and also Comp cams. They all have batches of lifters that run in the thousand dollar range which I would equate to more capability, more durability which will generally mean more cost. I haven't found any database of how many units each of these companies has out in the world and what percentage of failures they have had. That probably doesn't exist anywhere regular people can get to.


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post #10 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-07-2019, 12:08 PM
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How are you gonna claim "full roller" if you run flat tappets! GEEZE
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post #11 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-07-2019, 12:26 PM
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When I changed my cam due to my distributor gear issue, I did not think about changing to a hydraulic roller until after I had purchased my replacement cam. I was running short on time for show season and just wanted to plug back in what I already had to make it work.

After, I did wonder what would be needed to make the change, or if should I have made the change? I know the dog-bone lifters would be needed. New, shorter pushrods, so I would have to measure and order them. And there is the new cam, which profile to choose. Would my existing roller tip rockers and valve springs work, or would they to need to be changed out.

Then, as mentioned, how much gain do you actually get in the end? Performance vs build price vs down the road cost? Mine is not a daily driver, not a race car, and not a full time show car. If I were building the engine over from scratch, I think I might be more apt to use a hydraulic roller cam over the flat tappet.

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post #12 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-07-2019, 01:31 PM
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Engine Masters did a nice little video on flat tappet vs. roller. You can run a much more aggressive cam with a roller setup and still maintain nice street manners. It also reduces friction. To me, for the cost, it seems like a no brainer.

Hydraulic roller lifters and roller cams are the bees knees. From my limited experience, I've really only seen lifter link bars wiped out and cams eaten when the lifter bore was bad to begin with or they were revved to the moon and valves floated and all kinds of other gnarly stuff went sideways. For most applications they run nicely and are the preferred way to go. Roller rockers are also good. Roller tips in roller rockers? Not exactly necessary.

I was always more worried about ruining a cam lobe with flat tappets when they didn't break in properly...
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post #13 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-07-2019, 01:40 PM
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macstang,
You are correct about the Jesel lifters being expensive . Mine are "link bar" style and have the black "DLC" coating on them. They were $2,000 new. I got them from a Nascar truck team with less than 500 racing miles on them for $200.teams "normally cycle them out at 1,200 miles but this engine dropped a valve and was parted out.
I like to use "retro fit , link bar" style hydraulic roller lifters in non roller blocks. They are easier ( drop in) to use and no special cam is needed or block work. Remember hydraulic rollers "act" like a regular hydraulic cam with ten degrees MORE duration , so look on the short duration side . my 408W is a '95 roller block and i use the Ford X cam. It is allot of cam for a daily driver.
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post #14 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-12-2019, 07:30 AM
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Just read an article in Hot Rod about this:


https://www.hotrod.com/articles/quic...oller-lifters/


I think its important to note that the roller lifter failures they discuss are related to hard core racing, not everyday driving.
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post #15 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-12-2019, 09:08 AM
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Engine Masters did a nice little video on flat tappet vs. roller. You can run a much more aggressive cam with a roller setup and still maintain nice street manners. It also reduces friction. To me, for the cost, it seems like a no brainer.
I saw the same episode and took away a completely different message. What I thought they demonstrated was running SOLID lifters on a HYDRAULIC cam. All the lifters they used were roller lifters. The idea was the solid roller lifters were more precise, didn't have bleed down issues and they were more reliable. Strangely,they didn't mention anything about lubrication at idle.

And it's not true that roller lifters reduce friction. A film of oil is very slick.

Nothing against roller cams. Shoot, I suffered a wiped lobe on my Cleveland a few months ago so running a roller cam would have prevented that.

I have also done a lot of research. Yeah, there's a lot of "Flat Earth" information on the Internet. But there's also a lot of good information. Like when talking to people, we must consider the source.

My take is, for a street car, there is no performance advantage to running a roller cam over a flat tappet cam. You run a roller cam for ease of break-in, no-worry oil, no worry about wiped lobes and the ability to swap out the cams and lifters into other engines. Those are good reasons, but any claims about reduced friction and better performance are just hype. If you're winding an engine to 8,000 RPM regularly, yeah, a roller cam can improve performance. Not many street cars are doing that.

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