Products suited to this guided test*
  • Back-pinning Probe Set

  • *At Pico we are always looking to improve our products. The tool used in this guided test may have been superseded and the product above is our latest version used to diagnose the fault documented in this case study.

Variable camshaft timing control solenoid

The purpose of this test is to evaluate the operation of a variable camshaft timing control solenoid based on the switching voltage and duty control during engine run conditions.

How to perform the test

View connection guidance notes.

  1. Use manufacturer data to identify the control solenoid switched earth circuit.
  2. Connect PicoScope Channel A. to the control solenoid switched earth circuit.
  3. Minimize the help page. You will see that PicoScope has displayed an example waveform and is preset to capture your waveform.
  4. Start the scope to see live data.
  5. Start and run the engine, increase and decrease engine rpm for around 10 seconds.
  6. With your waveform on screen stop the scope.
  7. Turn off the engine.
  8. Use the Waveform Buffer, Zoom and Measurements tools to examine your waveform.


The solenoid has two terminals, both may have supply voltage at ignition on.

The switching frequency is dependent on engine system variations at the time of testing, temperature, RPM etc. The switching frequency and duration will also vary with different vehicle manufacturers.

Example waveform

Waveform notes

The Variable Camshaft Timing (VCT) solenoid is an actuator. It is commonly supplied with an ignition live (15 V) and a duty cycled ground provided by the engine management control unit. It has a duty cycle control from the engine management control unit.

Waveform Library

Go to the drop-down menu bar at the lower left corner of the Waveform Library window and select, Variable Camshaft Timing VCT solenoid voltage.

Further guidance

The use of VCT has become widespread throughout the automotive industry as the technology becomes cheaper and more manufacturers take advantage.

Variable camshaft timing is used to increase engine torque in the low engine speed range and to increase power in the high engine speed range. The use of VCT means that we may control the closing and opening times of inlet and exhaust valves. As a result VCT may also be used in place of an EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valve.

Should you suspect a fault with the signal, test the wiring from the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) to the VCT actuator.

Ensure that the PCM has good power supplies and grounds where required or specified.


This help topic is subject to changes without notification. The information within is carefully checked and considered to be correct. This information is an example of our investigations and findings and is not a definitive procedure. Pico Technology accepts no responsibility for inaccuracies. Each vehicle may be different and require unique test settings.

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Guided test: Variable camshaft timing control solenoid