The type of valvetrain arrangement in which the engine’s camshaft(s) is in its cylinder head(s). When the camshaft(s) is placed close to the valves, the valvetrain components can be stiffer and lighter, allowing the valves to open and close more rapidly and the engine to run at higher rpm. In a single-overhead-cam (SOHC) layout, one camshaft actuates all of the valves in a cylinder head. In a double-overhead-camshaft (DOHC) layout, one camshaft actuates the intake valves, and one camshaft operates the exhaust valves.
Overhead camshaft (OHC) valvetrain configurations place the camshaft within the cylinder heads, above the combustion chambers, and drive the valves or lifters directly instead of using pushrods. When compared directly with cam-in-block (or OHV) systems with the same number of valves, the reciprocating components of the OHC system are fewer and in total will have less mass. Though the structures that support the system may become more complex, most engine manufacturers easily accept the added complexity in trade for better engine performance and greater design flexibility. The OHC system can be driven using the same methods as an OHV system, these methods may include using a timing belt, chain, or in less common cases, gears.
Many OHC engines today employ Variable Valve Timing and multiple valves to improve efficiency and power. OHC also inherently allows for greater engine speeds over comparable cam-in-block designs.