The ODB2 code P0010 indicates that there is likely to be an issue the timing of the mechanical variable valve in your car. The current performance and emissions regulations mean that most cars have systems installed to increase the valve lift in the engine when certain conditions occur, largely based on the performance of the vehicle and the current engine load.

P0010 is a generic code, and as a result it’s often displayed alongside other codes. Most commonly, these codes are P0011, P0012, P0020, P0021 and P0022, however it’s not limited to these 5.

When the code is returned is highlights that an issue was discovered with the engine control module (ECM) picking up a difference in mechanical timing between the bank 1 camshaft and the crankshaft. The error is detected most commonly at higher speeds as the ECM tries to adjust the valve lift to compensate for the higher RPMs.

Common Symptoms

The sensors in the ECM are used to find the position of the camshafts and the crankshaft. It uses the data from these sensors to control valve lift, ignition and fuel timing as the car is running. If it detects an issue, the Check Engine Light will come on and engine performance may be affected.

Common symptoms include:

  • Poor engine performance at high RPMs
  • Lower fuel economy
  • Engine idle quality will be reduced
  • The care may fail an emissions inspection

Possible Causes

There can be several causes for the P0010 code to be displayed:

  • Errors with the camshaft or crankshaft sensors
  • Engine timing is not in sync
  • Timing components may be damaged or worn
  • Sludge in the engine from the oil
  • Damage to the wiring
  • Issues with the ECM or the ECM software

What To Check

The first thing to do is to clear the code from the ECM to see if it returns, otherwise it may be an intermittent fault.

One of the most common reasons for this code is engine sludge, which is caused by a lack of regular oil changes. Most mechanics will remove the solenoid indicated by the error and will inspect the screen for sludge. A test probe will often be used to manually activate it.

If, after resetting the code, the fault is found to be intermittent then the mechanic will typically inspect the solenoid and the wiring to look for any possible problems. If nothing is found, the vehicle may need to be driven more to reproduce the error and determine the root cause.

If the fault returns straight away, a scan tool will be used to determine the exact cause of the error code. Additional diagnosis may involve:

  • Road testing while monitoring the data
  • Using a digital voltage scope with various attachments
  • Using an advanced scan tool to determine the ECM data values
  • Investigating the timing components and actuator

Replacing the timing sprocket or actuator is a common misconception about the best way to resolve the P0010 error code. While it may solve the problem in the short term, proper investigation and diagnosis of the root cause of the error is the only way of ensuring the fix is effective. Failing to do so could leave the owner with a large bill, only for the code to return shortly afterwards.

The code can also often be cleared through a simple oil flush and cleaning the actuator solenoid. As with many auto repair issues the simplest solution is often the most effective one. The key is to perform a thorough diagnosis before replacing expensive components.

How To Fix It

The best ways of repairing a P0010 code are:

  • Verify the error using a professional scan tool
  • Check the code against the resources for the make and model of the car
  • Determine if there are any other related codes being returned
  • Clear the codes to see which return
  • Perform a visual inspection of the relevant components
  • Use a digital voltage scope to check the wiring from the solenoid
  • Check the timing marks on the camshaft and the camshaft to see if they align
  • Replace any faulty components found during testing

Additional Tips

The timing between the camshaft and crankshaft is essential when it comes to the engine running smoothly and efficiently. The P0010 error usually indicates that the timing is off at higher RPM’s, which causes the ECM to try and make adjustments to the valve. There can also be an issue with the solenoid itself in many cases.

On higher mileage cars the issue is often related to the aforementioned engine sludge or a clogged solenoid filter, although the solenoid itself can be faulty in some cases. For lower mileage cars, it is normally an issue with the ECM software if the car has been well-maintained.