3.2 Valve Timing Issue (Phaser VVT) - Alfa Romeo Forum
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(Post Link) post #1 of 33 Old 2 Weeks Ago Thread Starter
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Hmmm 3.2 Valve Timing Issue (Phaser VVT)

Ok so this is proving to stump a lot of Alfa specialists... Maybe someone can shed some light.

I have a 159 with the 3.2 JTS engine and have an issue with the variable valve timing (VVT) not working.

When the engine is cold the VVT does not work, meaning under load the valve timing does not change and the engine lacks power. Once the engine oil temp gets up to operating temp it works fine and engine has full power across the rev/load range.

This happens 100% of the time - doesn't work cold, works hot.

The ECU shows a P0016 error (Phaser exhaust sync error bank 1/sensor A). It is always this code that comes up. I have had occasionally a P0105 error but I think that is a result of the camshafts not working properly. I no longer am getting the P0105 though, just the P0016.

Something very interesting is that when the car is almost at full operating temperature and the VVT is working it will sometimes stop working. When this happens, while I am driving, I put the car in neutral and let the engine idle for 6 or more seconds and then put it in gear and continue driving - the VVT will then start working again – every time.

The problem started 6 months ago and it does it 100% of the time when cold – VVT does not work. In the beginning it would start working when the oil reached 70degrees C but now the oil temp pretty much has to be full operating temp (around 100 degrees) before it works consistently. Currently car has 130,000 kms / 80,000 miles.

In the beginning I thought it was an oil issue as one oil change I left the oil in for 15k miles instead of the normal 6k miles. So I had all the four solenoids removed and cleaned. The mechanic said they looked clean and seemed in good working order. Although it still may be a possibility one is faulty. I was using a 5w-40 fully synthetic oil, now I am using 0w40 fully synthetic (and I stick with the proper PAO/Esther oils). Since this issue I have also been doing an oil flush with the oil changes, but the problem has not abated.

Another thing I read is that there is a locking pin that stops the VVT working on start up. This is because there is no oil pressure and the locking pins stop the cams from moving uncontrollably at start-up. Once the oil pressure is up the pins release and the VVT works. It almost feels like this pin is getting stuck (at least on one or more cams) – but that is my layman’s guess.

I have contacted a number of Alfa specialists here in Australia and even quite a few in the UK - none have heard of this kind of issue. Some suspected a stretched chain but realized that it likely would be an issue at all temps not just cold. Edward at Edward labinjoh has been quite helpful and has seemed the most knowledgeable on the subject but he's still looking into it.

Any ideas/thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
Cheers,
Richard.

Rick
159 3.2 JTS Ti Q4 6Spd Manual 2008
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Does the P0016 error clear when the engine is hot, and stay off?
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From limited experience on a volvo VVT system and some theory (only): higher oil temperature means less pressure, and so does lower (idle) speed. This suggests that higher oil pressure is locking either a VVT actuator or its solenoid. Could you swap solenoids around and see if the fault follows a solenoid – P0017/8/9?
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Nice to swap sensors as well first.
Otherwise 3 chains, 3 tensioners, 6 saddles, some sprockets, pack of different gaskets, etc. My goodness...
Sure parts budget is about 2k in GM pricelist. Alfa one could be hardly imagined. And labour cost add on of course. Please accept my condolence...
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The dreaded P0016...
At least it is on the 4 cylinder engine where it always means the cam chain.
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Does the P0016 error clear when the engine is hot, and stay off?
No. If I reset it comes back on after a couple of starts and stays on.
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From limited experience on a volvo VVT system and some theory (only): higher oil temperature means less pressure, and so does lower (idle) speed. This suggests that higher oil pressure is locking either a VVT actuator or its solenoid. Could you swap solenoids around and see if the fault follows a solenoid – P0017/8/9?
Good observation. So it could be that the locking pin in one (or more) variator is remaining locked after startup. It's only supposed to lock the cam position during no oil pressure as the engine starts then it's designed to release. So it could be one variator's pin is needing too much pressure to release it. This was my best guess. I wonder how easy it is to replace variators?? To do the cam chains on this engine its a full engine out job, was trying to see what I could do without replacing everything related and doing the full job.
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Good observation. So it could be that the locking pin in one (or more) variator is remaining locked after startup. It's only supposed to lock the cam position during no oil pressure as the engine starts then it's designed to release. So it could be one variator's pin is needing too much pressure to release it. This was my best guess. I wonder how easy it is to replace variators?? To do the cam chains on this engine its a full engine out job, was trying to see what I could do without replacing everything related and doing the full job.
High oil pressure at start-up should help release the locking pin so the logic is the wrong way around really. Also, once released why would the pin relock during warm-up; unless you have oil starvation to that cam. But that does not fit with six seconds at idle correcting the locking. It might be the actuator itself locking but...

The solenoids aren't very powerful and have to handle 60 odd psi, if you're lucky it's just one of them locking up. Also, I imagine they are a lot easier to swap than the actuators.

Swapping the sensors might be easier still(?), I can't see why 6 seconds at idle would fix them but anything is possible, so worth doing before you start dismantling the engine.
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Why is oil pressure at start up is high ???... Just because of increase from zero pressure to conventional idling one. No. There exist much higher pressure engine working regimes to engage solenoids.
Moreover solenoid is el.+mech. devise means that particular failure code would be triggered directly for each from four solenoids.
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Why is oil pressure at start up is high ???... Just because of increase from zero pressure to conventional idling one. No. There exist much higher pressure engine working regimes to engage solenoids.
Moreover solenoid is el.+mech. devise means that particular failure code would be triggered directly for each from four solenoids.
Just because the oil is cold; but it could be a pressure and temperature effect.

.Temperature will have a direct effect on the solenoids, expanding the casing and freeing off the piston

Temperature could also be affecting 'your' sensor(s) of course....

The ecu will know if the solenoid coil is faulty and set a code. It's theoretically possible for it to work out whether the piston has actually moved, from the inductance of the coil, but this would require extra hardware in the ecu and I doubt that they do it; so you won't get a 'stuck piston' code.

This is all theory though. If you want to get technical about it you need to set up a two channel oscilloscope to display the crank and affected cam sensor. You can then see the phase relationship between the two and, hopefully, work out what is going wrong. It might be easier to swap solenoids/sensors though, as a starting point.
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Oil is cold of course at first start but how really far. I could hardly believe temperature oil impact from sump down to up at solenoids.
And it is Australia. Sure it is 25"C++ now. Anyway it is clear what to do now. Let us hope for miracle.
What bloody stuff are chains made of now ???...
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Thanks everyone, all comments are very welcome. It's a weird one. Just the fact that under certain conditions it works fine and not at others makes me think it's less likely a chain.

Oh and the code that is triggered is a "result" (or symptom) of the problem not the actual problem. So the code is saying that one cam is out of phase - meaning it has noticed that one cam is not varying it's timing the way the ECU is expecting. So it's the symptom or result that it is reporting not the specific item that is causing it...

I've attached a printout of the fault code for my vehicle.

Happy New Year :-D
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Alfa Fault Code P0016 .PDF (138.6 KB, 14 views)
File Type: pdf P0016 OBD-II Trouble Code_ Camshaft Position A - Camshaft Position Correlation (Bank 1) _ YourMe.pdf (68.4 KB, 17 views)
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Last edited by crimson96; 2 Weeks Ago at 02:44.
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Originally Posted by BuonGiorno View Post
Oil is cold of course at first start but how really far. I could hardly believe temperature oil impact from sump down to up at solenoids.
And it is Australia. Sure it is 25"C++ now. Anyway it is clear what to do now. Let us hope for miracle.
What bloody stuff are chains made of now ???...
I know - it is strange... That's why I am looking for help from the fine people on this forum
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Just because the oil is cold; but it could be a pressure and temperature effect.

.Temperature will have a direct effect on the solenoids, expanding the casing and freeing off the piston

Temperature could also be affecting 'your' sensor(s) of course....

The ecu will know if the solenoid coil is faulty and set a code. It's theoretically possible for it to work out whether the piston has actually moved, from the inductance of the coil, but this would require extra hardware in the ecu and I doubt that they do it; so you won't get a 'stuck piston' code.

This is all theory though. If you want to get technical about it you need to set up a two channel oscilloscope to display the crank and affected cam sensor. You can then see the phase relationship between the two and, hopefully, work out what is going wrong. It might be easier to swap solenoids/sensors though, as a starting point.
I'm wondering if replacing the four solenoids and the four variators will solve it. But it's likely overkill as it seems only one of these 8 items is the culprit.
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Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that there are three chains in the 3.2l V6 engine. 1 chain for each bank of the V and a balance shaft chain. So lets say the timing chain for the rear bank is a little bit more stretched than the front one - to the point where it is throwing up the error. Temperature affects tolerances and oil viscosity... I wouldn't discount a chain, especially when the error code points at it. It's tempting to overthink a symptom when the cure is an injection of money!
One bit of information missing from your description is how many kms/miles since the chains and slippers were replaced.
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Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that there are three chains in the 3.2l V6 engine. 1 chain for each bank of the V and a balance shaft chain. So lets say the timing chain for the rear bank is a little bit more stretched than the front one - to the point where it is throwing up the error. Temperature affects tolerances and oil viscosity... I wouldn't discount a chain, especially when the error code points at it. It's tempting to overthink a symptom when the cure is an injection of money!
One bit of information missing from your description is how many kms/miles since the chains and slippers were replaced.
Correct - 3 chains.
As I mentioned - 130,000kms / 85,000m - never touched the cams/chains etc.

Sure it's fair enough to throw money at it and just replace everything - chains, variators, solenoids, sensors etc. But it if is just one particular item, then I'd rather do that.

It doesn't make a lot of sense that one of the three chains is stretched. Wouldn't they pretty much wear together. The main thing is that it works "on and off" meaning sometimes it will just stop working, and if the oil is hot, I can simply put it in neutral for more than 6 seconds, then it will work. This is unlikely to be a chain - it's more likely a variator, solenoid or sensor from what I can gather.

Regardless all the suggestions and ideas are very helpful.
Thank you.
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I'm wondering if replacing the four solenoids and the four variators will solve it. But it's likely overkill as it seems only one of these 8 items is the culprit.
The voices of experience are saying it's the chains, and I can't argue with that because I don't know the engine, and I think Heavend has a good point; but if the bill for changing them was mine I would want proof first.

I wouldn't buy new parts yet, you are likely just adding to the final bill.

If you can swap solenoids yourself it's free and if the problem moves with a solenoid you only need replace that one. If the problem does not move with a solenoid you have eliminated them, but still don't know where the problem is. Ditto with the sensors.

I've just had a look at Multiecuscan for your engine and it will provide:
The solenoid control signal %.
The desired advance degrees.
The actual advance degrees. For each cam.

If you could plot those for the affected cam and catch the point where the VVT stops working the data before that point should show the problem. Interpreting what you see may not be easy however. Could you take the plot to an Alfa independent? Or post it here and we can have a go.

An oscilloscope has the advantage of showing the actual signals, so you can see faults in them, but it is harder to use and interpret.

In general I think that if you can see the VVT working without any obvious sticking or jumping then you may have to accept that it's the chains stretching. How much work is involved in uncovering a cam sprocket? Presumably the chain condition can be assessed by lifting a link on the sprocket, as you do on a bike.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Heavend View Post
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that there are three chains in the 3.2l V6 engine. 1 chain for each bank of the V and a balance shaft chain. So lets say the timing chain for the rear bank is a little bit more stretched than the front one - to the point where it is throwing up the error. Temperature affects tolerances and oil viscosity... I wouldn't discount a chain, especially when the error code points at it. It's tempting to overthink a symptom when the cure is an injection of money!
One bit of information missing from your description is how many kms/miles since the chains and slippers were replaced.
There is a primary chain which comes off the crankshaft and drives two further gears situated higher up the block. Each of these driven gears in turn drives one cylinder head. So you have primary timing chain, front bank cam chain and rear bank cam chain. Each cam chain has a tensioner and two slipper pads. The lower chain has a tensioner and three slipper pads. One slipper pad on each chain is directly attached to the tensioner. There aren't any balance shafts - thats the 2.2 JTS.

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Correct - 3 chains.
As I mentioned - 130,000kms / 85,000m - never touched the cams/chains etc.

Sure it's fair enough to throw money at it and just replace everything - chains, variators, solenoids, sensors etc. But it if is just one particular item, then I'd rather do that.

It doesn't make a lot of sense that one of the three chains is stretched. Wouldn't they pretty much wear together. The main thing is that it works "on and off" meaning sometimes it will just stop working, and if the oil is hot, I can simply put it in neutral for more than 6 seconds, then it will work. This is unlikely to be a chain - it's more likely a variator, solenoid or sensor from what I can gather.

Regardless all the suggestions and ideas are very helpful.
Thank you.
I've done a couple of these chain changes in the last few months and on both cars the primary chain was stretched significantly, but not all the cam chains were stretched. I think on one of the cars, one chain was still tensioned, but the tensioner was 'out' quite a bit more than on the new chain.

I would want to take the chain casing off and physically check the chains before spending money on solenoids or phase variators. I reckon they're all fine, you just have a stretched chain somewhere. After 85k miles its not unexpected.

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No. If I reset it comes back on after a couple of starts and stays on.
If you plug in the diagnostics with the car fully up to temperature and the engine still running, will the fault code clear with the engine running?
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If you plug in the diagnostics with the car fully up to temperature and the engine still running, will the fault code clear with the engine running?
The code clears, but reappears quickly, although the check engine light takes some time before it will come on (several starts).
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The voices of experience are saying it's the chains, and I can't argue with that because I don't know the engine, and I think Heavend has a good point; but if the bill for changing them was mine I would want proof first.

I wouldn't buy new parts yet, you are likely just adding to the final bill.

If you can swap solenoids yourself it's free and if the problem moves with a solenoid you only need replace that one. If the problem does not move with a solenoid you have eliminated them, but still don't know where the problem is. Ditto with the sensors.

I've just had a look at Multiecuscan for your engine and it will provide:
The solenoid control signal %.
The desired advance degrees.
The actual advance degrees. For each cam.

If you could plot those for the affected cam and catch the point where the VVT stops working the data before that point should show the problem. Interpreting what you see may not be easy however. Could you take the plot to an Alfa independent? Or post it here and we can have a go.

An oscilloscope has the advantage of showing the actual signals, so you can see faults in them, but it is harder to use and interpret.

In general I think that if you can see the VVT working without any obvious sticking or jumping then you may have to accept that it's the chains stretching. How much work is involved in uncovering a cam sprocket? Presumably the chain condition can be assessed by lifting a link on the sprocket, as you do on a bike.
I actually didn't realize you could do that. I did a few short runs and recorded some parameters. I've attached them below. Let me know if I did the right thing, or if I should do something different.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf FESExp_1701101636_Alfa Romeo 159 3_2 V6 24V_File1.pdf (71.5 KB, 9 views)
File Type: txt FESLog_1701101637_Alfa Romeo 159 3.2 V6 24V.txt (14.4 KB, 2 views)
File Type: pdf FESExp_1701101811_Alfa Romeo 159 3_2 V6 24V_File1.pdf (75.5 KB, 2 views)
File Type: txt FESLog_1701101812_Alfa Romeo 159 3.2 V6 24V.txt (16.2 KB, 2 views)
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The code clears, but reappears quickly, although the check engine light takes some time before it will come on (several starts).
Have you tried moving any of the cam position sensors about to see if the code changes?
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