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P0011 Code – What Does It Mean & How To Fix It

This is one of the most frequent OBD2 trouble codes. Read the full article below to know what it means, how to fix it, and what other codes may show related to it.

Definition

Intake Camshaft Position Timing - Over-Retarded (Bank 2)

Meaning

Fair warning, the P0011 OBD-II trouble code indicates a fairly serious problem if it’s not just a one-off error.  This trouble code stores when the engine control module (ECM) determines the Bank 1 Intake Camshaft is in a more advanced position than the ECM intended it to be.

This condition can occur during the advancing or retarding of the camshaft timing. In simple terms, the ECM is indicating the timing on your vehicle’s intake camshaft is out of alignment.

Causes

There are several reasons your vehicle ECM will store this trouble code. Here’s what to check first:

  • Camshaft and crankshaft sensors indicate the camshaft is more advanced beyond the timing sent beyond the ECM. This could mean a fault in the wiring, connectors, or sensors and not actually an issue with the intake camshaft’s position or timing.
  • Intake camshaft is physically too advanced when the ECM has commanded the camshaft to retard to a lower timing level. In other words, the code is accurate and the cause is mechanical and not electrical.
  • Oil control solenoid on the Bank 1 camshaft may be stuck or clogged.
  • The engine oil viscosity is too high, resulting in a clogged mechanism from lack of oil flow to and from the camshaft phasers (the actual timing control mechanism).
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  • Camshaft phasers are stuck in the advanced position.

Symptoms

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on the cause), this issue will be readily apparent before you even pull trouble codes. Here are some typical symptoms:

  • Your vehicle ECM will turn on the Check Engine Light and attempt to return the camshaft to its starting position.
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  • Your vehicle’s engine may have a hard start condition if the camshaft is stuck in an advanced or retarded position.
  • Your fuel economy will drop significantly since misaligned camshafts prevent efficient engine operation.
  • Running rough, hesitation on acceleration and stalling are all potential issues depending on camshaft positions and timing misalignment.
  • Your vehicle will fail most emissions tests.

Diagnosis

Timing issues are best left to professionals, but if you are a die-hard DIY when it comes to your vehicle, here’s a troubleshooting process to follow:

  • As with any ECM trouble code, always make a visual inspection of any and all electrical connectors, wiring and valves issues for the camshaft oil control valve on the Cank 1 intake camshaft. It’s not always the reason you see a trouble code, but it happens far more than most people think. If it’s not a simple issue like this, you may want to schedule an appointment with your local repair shop to get it checked out.
  • If you haven’t changed the oil in a while or you use different viscosities during different seasons, do an oil change so you’ve got clean oil and a clean filter installed.
  • Scan and document all trouble codes stored in the ECM and check your freeze-frame data to verify when the code was first set.
  • Clear the OBD-II fault codes and retest the vehicle to see if the P0011 code recurs.
  • If the P0011 does recur, check manufacturer maintenance manuals and known issue documents online. There may also be a firmware or software update for your ECM that corrects the issue. There are also vehicle specific procedures for diagnostics to follow for many trouble codes to pinpoint the root cause.
  • If you can’t find the root cause on your own or the problem comes back, take your vehicle in for service right away. Timing issues can cause engine damage if left unrepaired.

Common mistakes

  • Always do a visual inspection for common problems like checking all electrical connectors, wiring harnesses and sensors. Skipping this step is the number one reason many DIY auto mechanics needlessly spend time and money replacing or repairing parts.
  • Don’t skip the oil change, and make sure you have the manufacturer recommended oil viscosity in your engine.
  • Always test and retest for trouble codes. Sometimes they are a one-time anomaly.
  • Follow manufacturer pinpoint diagnosis protocols step-by-step. Skipping steps may lead to replacing perfectly functional (and expensive) parts needlessly.
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  • Don’t assume a sensor replacement will resolve the issue unless the troubleshooting process and manufacturer recommendations indicate a sensor replacement is warranted. If there is a timing issue and you just replace the sensor, you are risking potential engine damage and further systemic problems.

How serious is this?

As stated above, this is a serious trouble code. Running an engine for an extended time period can damage engine valves and cause other problems that are expensive to repair.

What repairs can fix the code?

  • Resetting the fault codes and performing a road test (best case scenario)
  • Completing an oil and filter change using the manufacturer recommended oil viscosity.
  • Repair/replace wiring and connectors on the oil control valve for your vehicle’s Bank 1 camshaft sensor (quick and fairly inexpensive fix)
  • Replacing the camshaft oil control valve for Bank 1 intake camshaft (somewhat costly in time and money)
  • Checking the timing chain alignment for jumped timing problems (work intensive, but not necessarily expensive)

Related codes

None listed.

Conclusion

Seeing P0011 should be an automatic trip to the shop for most drivers. It’s a complex issue that requires a thorough knowledge of engine timing and experience in resolving this type of problem.

Skipping steps or missing important details could lead to expensive repairs, and leaving the issue to resolve itself could result in a breakdown or significant engine damage. Do yourself a favor and take your vehicle in right away, so an expert can look at it. This is not an easy fix no matter how you look at it. Even if it is just a wiring or connector issue, it is best to be certain.