Is "engine valve adjustment" a necessary maintenance item?


Hello all, I have a 2003 Toyota Corolla. When I took my car in last month for my 90K service, the dealer told me that I need to do an “engine valve adjustment” at 90K, and they were gonna charge me $300 for that. I declined the service at that time, but I’m wondering whether this is actually something that I should do. Please advice!


Look in your owner’s manual maintenance schedule. If it isn’t there, it isn’t necessary.

  • mountainbike


I may be wrong, but I don’t believe your toyota has adjustable valves. OTOH, my 82 does require a valve adjustment every 15K miles.


A FEW modern cars still use “solid lifters” that require periodic adjustment. Most use hydraulic lifters which never need adjusting. YOU do the research to determine what type of valve lifters you have. If they DO need to be adjusted, that’s more like a $150 job on a 4-cyl car. If shims are used to accomplish the adjustment, that’s another story and dealer service will be necessary, as they are the only ones with the shims…

Toyota usually assigns their engines a type code. Like 2C-4, 22RE, something like that. Find your engine code (look for an underhood sticker that gives engine type) and Google “2C-4 valve adjustment” (or whatever the code is) and see what pops up…


I used to have a '70s car for which the owner’s manual specified “adjust valve lash” at certain intervals. I haven’t owned a car since that called for this maintenance.

Check your owner’s manual. If it says nothing about valve adjustment you may disregard the dealership’s advice – and the dealership!


[b]If you look on the emission sticker under the hood, along with the sparkplug gap and timing specs, you’ll also see the valve lash clearance specs if the valves in your engine require periodic adjustment.

But to tell you the truth, out of all the vehicles I owned that did require periodic valve lash adjustment, I never touched them unless the valve train began to make noise.



If there isn’t a problem with valve clatter, the greater wisdom is to leave’em alone. $300 could just be the tip of the icyberg. The manufacturer’s schedule is every 60,000 miles; but, it’s easy to make a schedule. According to the Haynes manual, if the valve clearance is out of specifications, replace the valve lifter ($$ each?). But a valve lifter doesn’t wear by itself; the camshaft wears, also. So, a “valve adjustment” could end up requiring new camshafts, and new sets of valve lifters, and a new wallet. +++ This is truly one of those instances where the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t break it”, seems most valid.


Ha, My repair manual which I purchased from Toyota on mY 92 Camry said to have the valves adjusted at 60,000. well, the dealer tech says no, only if they hear a problem. So I sit in on the phone call to Toyota with the service manager and tech. Guess what, corporate says the manual is wrong, do not touch the valves unless they hear a lot of clatter. Go figure. Most of the time it is the other way around, dealer trying to sell you something.


My 1995 Civic required that check every 30k.

It was only performed for “free” at 90k and 180k when I changed the timing belt. The Honda mechanics stated if you here lots of click/clacks then get it checked otherwise they really ignore it.

Personally I would ignore that maintenance item.


I agree with what most all are saying. If it is not loud. Don’t worry about it. I just checked the valve clearance on my 96 Acord with a VTEC engine and they were right in spec. the car has 160K on it and I have have never done it since I owned the car for the past 60k miles. I don’t know what the previous owner had done.

My 84 Subaru required checking every 30K, which I did do. I think I found a few valves out of spec by .001 the first time I did it. For the next 150k miles they did not fall out of spec.

This is obvious to most here, but, I would add that changing the oil reguarly will contribute to less engine wear and a lower probability of needing a valve adjustment.

And $300 is a rip off. Shame on that dealer.


Personally I would ignore that maintenance item.

The problem is that mechanical valve clearance tends to decrease, not increase, with mileage. The result is that they will not “clatter” they will tend to get tighter. If you ignore this long enough, the hot clearance will disappear, resulting in the valves not fully seating. In addition to reduced compression, this will eventually burn the valves. The advice about “clatter” is really applicable to engines with hydraulic lifters.

If you have an engine with a required valve adjustment interval, have the maintenance performed as recommended. Believe it or not, the folks who established the maintenance schedule sometimes knew what they were doing. What happened to all the “read the manual” advice that’s usually on this forum?


The last vehicle we owned that you could adjust the valves was my wifes 87 Accord. I adjusted them once at about 70k miles…And ONE valve needed slight adjusting. I checked them again at about 150k and they were fine. I checked them again at about 250k miles and this time two needed adjusting.


Someone ask, “Did anyone (of the responders) read the manual?”. YES, I did. It (the Haynes manual) says that the valve clearance is adjusted (when exceeding specifications) by replacing the valve lifter(s) with one of a selected length. That $300 service fee would only be a beginning of the cost.


OK, so you have it checked for $300. If it’s out of spec you do whatever it takes to fix it, or you make a decision to ignore it. If you don’t like the $300 estimate, find an independent shop that will do it cheaper.

I’m not trying to be harsh, but I don’t really understand “don’t ask, don’t tell” auto maintenance. If you’ve decided the car is no longer worth maintaining, why would you bring it to the dealer for a 90K service?


You don’t have to have this service performed, but don’t cry later if the engine runs bad, valves are burned, or the cam lobes are going flat.

Noise, or lack of, is no way to determine valve lash. Quiet lifters could mean tight valves, which means burned ones.
Clattering valve lifters means too much lash, which can trash cam lobes, lifters, or cam followers.

Lash should be checked every 30k miles IMHO. It’s done as an insurance policy to verify that a problem does not exist.
An engine that is overheated can have an affect on valve adjustment. Excess heat means valve stem stretch, which means tight valves, and so on.

Solid lifter lash checks are part of the cost of driving. Ignore it at your own risk.
(For what it’s worth, I had to replace not one, but BOTH cylinder heads on a near new Subaru once because the original purchaser chose to ignore the follow-up valve lash check. Not only did the valves burn, but the valve seats burnt bad enough that the heads were trashed.
And this car had a whopping 7k miles on it).


Yeah, what he said.


The questioner’s car has a 1.8L, 4 cylinder, variable timing, double overhead cam engine. The camshafts are direct acting on the mechanical valves lifters. There are NO valve stems. Valve clearance adjustment is made by removing the camshaft(s) and replacing the valve lifter(s) ($12.50 ea. on the Web) selected for length. There are 16 valve lifters. The dealers price for the valve lifters? Who knows? The people who come here are not the people who can pay for “doing (paying) whatever it takes” to have a (questionably necessary) service performed. Those kind of people wouldn’t even HAVE “such an old car” anyway! AND, they don’t come HERE seeking advice! [I know, there’s always SOMEONE who would want to claim that distinction.]


We are talking about an “old” 2003 car, and I assume the OP is interested in maintaining it correctly (or he wouldn’t be taking it to dealer for a 90K service). Personally, I would not characterize valve adjustments as “questionably necessary” service. Yes, maintaining a car is expensive, and after 90K miles it is not unreasonable to expect to pay several $100 for maintenance items. Are you recommending that he skips the service because he might have to pay for some $12.50 parts, plus labor? I would not advise the OP to blow this off, maybe he should shop around for a better price.

OK, I’ll claim that distinction: I’m here, I drive a 25 year old vehicle (several actually), and I can certainly pay for “doing whatever it takes.” Not everyone who can afford a new car feels a need to buy one every couple of years.


As far as I know, every valve in any cylinder head has a STEM; the only difference is what is banging into those stems; rocker arm, cam follower, lash adjuster, or whatever.
The only exception I’m aware of would be a 2-cycle with rotary or reed valves.

Generally the exhaust valves are the problem children. More heat, age, and the constant banging of the valve on the seat means more stem stretch, which means a tighter valve, which then leads to burning if the lash hits zero.


Somebody should tell Toyota about hydraulic valve lifters. They have been around since the 1930s. Change lifters to adjust valve lash? I can hardly believe it. Hey Toyota, you could at least have used replaceable shims!