Combustion characteristics of a homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) engine were investigated with regard to the residual gas, i.e. internal exhaust gas recirculation (IEGR), by changing the intake and exhaust maximum opening points (MOP) and the exhaust cam lifts. Three different exhaust camshafts were used and had 2.5 mm, 4.0 mm and 8.4 mm exhaust valve lift. In-cylinder gas was sampled at the intake valve immediately before ignition to measure the IEGR rate. The heat release, fuel conversion efficiency and combustion efficiency were calculated using the in-cylinder pressure and composition of exhaust gases to examine the combustion features of the HCCI engine. The negative valve overlap (NVO) was increased as exhaust valve lift was reduced. Longer NVO made an increased IEGR through exhaust gas trapping. The IEGR rate was increased as the exhaust valve timing advanced while it was affected more by exhaust valve timing than by intake valve timing. Combustion phase was advanced by lower exhaust valve lift and early exhaust and intake MOP. It was because of higher amount of IEGR gas and effective compression ratio. The fuel conversion efficiency with higher exhaust valve lift was higher than that with lower exhaust valve lift. The late exhaust and intake MOP made the fuel conversion efficiency improve. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.