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Code P0012 (Symptoms, Causes and How to Do It)


When you’re driving down the road, the last thing you want to see on your vehicle’s dashboard is a check engine light. But at some point, it has to happen.

But when you finally take your heart out of your throat and back into your chest and read the code, you still have to know what that means. So what exactly is a P0012 diagnostic trouble code? Should you be worried?

We’ll break down everything you need to know here. But, spoiler alert, you probably shouldn’t drive your vehicle until you get it repaired.

What does code P0012 mean?

P0012 OBD-II Trouble Code Description

Camshaft Position “A”: Delayed Timing

Ok, so what exactly is an “A” camshaft position over-deceleration code? It’s all a bit complicated, but it has to do with engine timing. Everything about your engine runs like a symphony, but with a P0012 code, it seems like your crank is a little behind.

When this happens, the beautiful orchestra that drives you becomes out of sync. The intake and exhaust valves begin to open at the wrong time (albeit slightly at the wrong time), which negatively affects the performance of your engine and can damage various components.

If you don’t know what all this means, that’s okay, but know that you need to fix it as soon as possible.

Related DTCs: P0010, P0011, P0013, P0014

Code P0012 Symptoms

hesitation when accelerating

If you’re investigating a P0012 code, chances are you have more than just a check engine light. Two other possible reasons include:

  • Reduced engine performance
  • Higher fuel consumption

When your engine’s timing is off, even if it’s a fraction of a second apart, engine performance is almost always affected.

You may notice that your car does not have the same acceleration ability as before, or it may have difficulty reaching higher speeds.

Not only that, but you’ll probably make more trips to the gas station. When timing are off, you don’t get the performance you want, which means you have to go the extra mile to get what you expect.

While this can make your car faster, it also uses more fuel to do so. The longer it takes to fix the problem, the more you will have to spend, even if it doesn’t cause any additional damage.

Causes of code P0012

bad engine oil in the car

If you are experiencing a P0012 code, there are several possible causes. Some of the most common reasons include:

  • Low engine oil level
  • bad engine oil
  • old motor oil
  • Elapsed time zone
  • Broken variable camshaft timing solenoid
  • Defective variable valve timing actuator

First of all, you may have the wrong engine oil, weak engine oil, or extremely old engine oil. This is a best-case scenario, but there is no guarantee that changing the oil will solve your problem.

Sometimes oil, or lack of oil, will slow components and cause slight deceleration, and other times it will damage components and cause the camshaft to slow down.

Another possible cause is an expired time zone. As a time zone ages, it can stretch, which can mess up the timing a bit. If your vehicle has a timing chain, this should not be a problem.

Two other possible problems that could cause your P0012 code are a failed variable camshaft timing solenoid or a failed variable valve timing actuator. Although both problems are rare, they can occur, especially with high mileage vehicles.

Is code P0012 serious?

Reducing engine performance and increasing fuel consumption don’t seem that important, right? So can you keep driving with the P0012 code until you save money for repairs, or do you need to take it to the shop right away?

Well, when it comes to engine codes, there aren’t many options as serious as P0012. We won’t tell you that your engine will blow up as soon as you pull out of the driveway, but depending on how late you arrive, it could damage your engine on the first trip out of the house.

And one thing we can tell you is that if you ignore the condition long enough, it will cause more damage. For this reason, we recommend that you fix it as soon as possible.

How to fix

While it’s nice to say you’re going to fix the problem, it can become overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, when it comes to a P0012 code, there’s not much you can do unless you’re already very mechanically inclined.

We recommend changing the oil and filter before performing any other tasks, but this is only a likely solution. However, if there is already the wrong oil or the oil is much older than it should be, this may solve the problem.

But if you’re tracking oil changes, that’s unlikely to help, and a mechanic will have to drain all the oil to make any necessary repairs.

If it’s not the oil, it may be a more serious problem, such as a worn timing belt, solenoid failure, or actuator failure. None of these tasks are easy, so if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s best to take your vehicle to a mechanic for repairs.

Expect to spend between $500 and $1,250 on repairs. It’s a steep price, but the longer you drive, the more likely you are to sustain more damage and need more expensive repairs.



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