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P0012 – Meaning, Causes, Symptoms, & Fixes

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What Does Code P0012 Mean?

  • P0012 definition: Intake Camshaft Position Timing- Over-Retarded (Bank 1)
  • Issue Severity: SEVERE – Stop driving immediately
  • Repair Urgency: Fix this code immediately (same day if possible) to avoid internal engine damage
  • Diagnosis: It is important to complete the entire diagnostic process when diagnosing the P0012 code. This DTC is triggered by a number of internal engine issues from dirty, low or sludged oil to incorrect camshaft timing.

The variable valve timing system increases fuel economy and engine performance by regulating when the intake and exhaust valves are opened and closed. The camshaft(s) is(are) adjusted by the ECM through the use of an oil control valve(s) (OCV) also called variable valve timing control solenoid valves. The P0012 code is set when the ECM detects the camshaft timing for the intake camshaft on bank 1 is more retarded than what it has been set to be.

P0012 Causes

  • Engine oil is too low*
  • Dirty/sludged engine oil*
  • Low oil pressure
  • Malfunctioning camshaft timing
  • Short in intake timing control/oil control circuit
  • Faulty intake valve timing control solenoid
  • Faulty oil control valve (OCV)

*most common

P0012 Symptoms

  • Check Engine Light
  • Rough engine performance
  • Other codes such as misfire codes (P0300-P0308)
  • Rattling/Knocking from engine
  • Engine stalling
  • Lowered fuel economy

How Do I Fix Code P0012?

With a P0012 code, the first step is to get it properly diagnosed to figure out what is causing the malfunction in the camshaft’s timing. Using the live data function of the FIXD sensor and app allows you to read and analyze engine data to properly diagnose a P0012 code.

If the oil level is good and the sensors are all reading correctly, the issue is likely with the camshaft or the engine’s timing, which are repairs not suited for beginner DIYers. If you’re not comfortable further diagnosing this issue at home, we recommend finding a RepairPal-certified shop to pinpoint the problem and give an accurate estimate for repairs. 

These shops can not only help you figure out what’s going wrong before you waste time and money on the wrong parts, but they also offer a minimum 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty and stand behind all their estimates with guaranteed fair pricing.

> Find a RepairPal Certified Shop Near You

How Much Does It Cost to Fix Code P0012?

If you take your car to a shop for diagnosis, most shops will start with an hour of “diag time” (the time spent in labor diagnosing your specific issue). Depending on the shop’s labor rate, this typically costs somewhere between $75-$150. Many, if not most, shops will apply this diagnosis fee to any required repairs if you have them perform the repairs for you. From there, a shop will be able to give you an accurate estimate for repairs to fix your P0012 code.

  • Possible Repair Costs for P0012

    When it comes to making repairs associated with the P0012 code, one or more of the below repairs may be needed to solve the underlying issue. For each possible repair, the estimated cost of repair includes the cost of the relevant parts and the cost of labor required to make the repair. 

    • Oil Change $20-$60
    • Oil Control Valve/Variable Valve Timing Control Solenoid $300-$400
    • Engine $3000-$4000

    DIY Steps to Diagnose Code P0012

    If you’d like to try to fix code P0012 at home without throwing money at parts, you’ll want to follow the steps below for proper diagnosis. Complete diagnosis may require some specialized equipment beyond what the FIXD Sensor can provide, but the biggest challenge for this repair is that internal engine issues could be the root cause of this code. As such, this diagnosis and repair should not be attempted by beginner DIYers. 

DIY difficulty level: Expert

This repair should not be attempted by beginner DIYers.

Tools/parts needed (our top picks from Amazon):

  • FIXD
  • Basic hand tools
  • Engine oil pressure gauge
  • Fused jumper wire
STEP 1: USE FIXD TO ENSURE NO OTHER ENGINE CODES ARE PRESENT.

Scan your vehicle to verify P0012 is the only code present. If other codes are present, they must be addressed first.

STEP 2: CHECK ENGINE OIL LEVEL AND CONDIITON. 

Check the engine oil level and condition. The oil should be a light tan color, translucent, and somewhat runny. If the oil is black or if it’s consistency is slimy or sludgy, you should perform an oil change. If the oil level is low, adjust to spec and test drive to see if the concern is resolved. 

STEP 3: CHECK FOR ENGINE SLUDGE.

If the oil appears sludgy, remove the oil cap and/or the valve cover and inspect the valve train for sludge. If there is sludge, there is a good chance the engine will need to be replaced due to sludge blocking the oil passages to the Oil Control Valve(s).

STEP 4: INSPECT INTAKE CAMSHAFT OIL CONTROL VALVE.

If there isn’t any sludge, consider checking the Bank 1 Intake Camshaft Oil Control Valve for proper function. You can do this by removing the Oil Control valve and supplying power and ground to the solenoid quickly using a pair of fused jumper wires. (Do not leave power applied for more than a second or two) If the valve is functioning properly, it should click, and you may even be able to see the valve move based on the design of your specific valve. If it doesn’t click or move, replace the tested oil control valve and test drive to see if the concern is resolved. 

STEP 5: CHECK OIL PRESSURE.

If all the above are good, check the engine oil pressure. Perform this test when the concern is happening and the engine is at operating temperature. If the engine does not have enough oil pressure, there could be a problem with the oil pump, oil pressure regulator, or even the engine itself. If there is good oil pressure, the engine may have jumped timing and will have to be diagnosed by a shop and/or have the engine replaced.

STEP 6: CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL.

If at this point the vehicle is still setting the same code, you may have a more serious problem with your car’s catalyst system, and you should bring the vehicle to a certified shop to have further diagnostic work performed.  

Common P0012 diagnosis mistakes

Prematurely replacing any component when the issue can be resolved by changing the oil and filter and adjusting the oil level to the correct level per your vehicle’s manufacturers specifications.

Still Need Help Fixing Code P0012?

If you’ve followed the steps above and are still experiencing issues with the catalyst system and code P0012, please contact the FIXD Mechanic Hotline if you’re a FIXD Premium subscriber or find a RepairPal certified shop near you to get the right repairs at a fair price.

Jeffrey-Ross

Lifelong automotive enthusiast with a soft spot for offroading. Wrencher turned writer, but I still love to tinker on just about anything with an engine. Dream car: tie between a ‘71 Hemi ‘Cuda and a ’91 GMC Syclone. #GirlDad #SaveTheManuals

We’re here to help you simplify car care and save, so this post may contain affiliate links to help you do just that. If you click on a link and take action, we may earn a commission. However, the analysis and opinions expressed are our own.

About the Author

Jeffrey N. Ross

Jeffrey N. Ross

Lifelong automotive enthusiast with a soft spot for offroading. Wrencher turned writer, but I still love to tinker on just about anything with an engine. Dream car: tie between a ‘71 Hemi ‘Cuda and a '91 GMC Syclone. #GirlDad #SaveTheManuals

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