The P0011 code is present on cars with variable camshaft timing, also known as variable valve timing. In cars with these features an actuator solenoid is used to control how much oil goes to the solenoid.
Based on the amount of oil getting to the solenoid, the actuator then adjust the angle of the camshaft. The solenoid is generally controlled via pulse width modification (PWM) to provide the correct amount of oil that will place the camshaft in the position requested by the engine controller.
Symptoms of Variable Camshaft Timing Problems
The first indication of a problem will be the illumination of the malfunction indicator lamp (MIL). Other symptoms are likely to be less noticeable unless you have been paying very close attention to your car. The change could result in a change in the noise of the engine as well as a possible increase in fuel consumption.
The engine controller sets the camshaft position to a certain position, so any deviation from that position will result in some sort of change in performance, however it may not be noticeable to the common driver.
Possible P0011 Causes
Since the position is modified based on solenoid that allows more or less oil to the actuator for the desired position to be reached, one common cause for this is low or dirty engine oil.
Another potential cause could be a faulty actuator solenoid. Solenoids are generally driven by providing electrical current that can overcome spring force to open. Any damage to this opening mechanism could cause a failure.
Another possible cause would be based on electrical failures of the actuator solenoid, however if there is an electrical fault it is likely that the manufacturer will also have other electrical faults present.
Solutions You Should Try First
The first step in repairing this failure would be to review the scan tool information for any accompanying failure code. An electrical failure code also present with P0011 may provide a better indicator of the true root cause.
The next step would be to check the engine oil level. It is also a good idea to consider when the last oil change occurred. If you are getting close to the due date or you have concerns about the last oil change, go ahead and change the oil again.
While changing dirty oil is a good idea, changing the oil itself may not be enough to resolve the issue. Buildup of dirty oil on the actuator can occur that may not fix the issue automatically.
After changing oil, I would clear the failure code and see if the issue repeats. If so, remove the actuator and examine for any type of buildup that can be cleaned. If cleaning is possible, do that and test again. If there is not buildup noted, it is likely worth changing the actuator and testing again.
Variable camshaft timing is a nice feature that when used correctly can create a significant improvement in the performance of your car, but any time an extra feature is added, there is a new possibility of failure.
Follow the steps described here to assist in troubleshooting. As always, do not perform any procedures that you are not comfortable doing. If the issue is still present, visit your local shop for further help in resolving the issue.