Is it possible to use lightly used lifters on a different slightly used cam?
Here's my thought.
I want to replace my current "stock" camshaft with my mild rv cam that was run for about 20 miles. So it's already been broken in. But my lifters only have about 2,000 miles on them. They aren't worn at all yet.
As long as there aren't any wear patterns on the lifters I can't see why there would be any reason not to reuse them.
Or is this one of those things that is completely unacceptable under all circumstances?
The big question is this: are you putting them back in the same holes? That is the most critical thing as "flat" lifters sit slightly off- center to the lobes so they spin.
From what you describe, you should be fine if they go back in the same holes. Otherwise, you are asking for trouble. Remember that the lifters are broken in in the first 30 minutes not the first 2000 miles. And here's the thing- the amount each hole is offset to the lobes varies from hole to hole. So reguardless of the cam- the lifter is going to start it's wear pattern in a very specific area on the bottom of the lifter. Putting it back in the same hole guarantees that it will continue with that pattern. Putting it in a different hole is like the difference between driving in ruts or driving in and out of them.
So even if the cam is worn slightly differently- it's like driving slightly on the side of the rut. So -balance all that and consider the time and cost of replacing lifters and possibly the cam against the cost of new lifters........
Yes it's really just a wear thing. If they aren't worn funny there won't be a problem. Technically, they shouldn't be wearing at all anyway. They wear and then they start wearing the cam. That's when the problems start.