I've never pulled a head on a vehicle but there is a first time for everything. If I pulled the head, how would I know if the cam is worn or not? We are talking about .03" on one lobe. How do you measure something round to that kind of tolerance? Also, how do you know I have the updated VLOM? Is it by the year/model? Thanks for your input here. I'm facing a big decision on this vehicle and I can use all the insight I can get.
Thanks for all the insight. Is it possible to pull the lifters for the #3 cylinder without removing the head just to inspect the rollers? I've also got a borescope to run down the bore and at least examine the cam lobes. This would be something I think I would attempt myself if it could be done without removing the head as you mentioned previously. I see conflicting opinions on the forums about whether this is even possible on the LS engines. Most posts say you have to remove the head but a few videos I've seen show lifters being removed and replaced through the bore with a special tool. These videos were not for the motor I have as far as I could tell.The 2012 model year came with updated VLOM and AFM lifters. I believe they actually started shipping them in mid-2011. Maybe the shop always replaces all lifters, the VLOM, etc. when they find a problem lifter. Given your problem wasn't a collapsed AFM lifter, it would appear your VLOM and AFM lifters (V4 mode) are working fine. I just found it odd they would feel the need to replace it.
You aren't going to have .030" of "normal wear" on a cam lobe. That is more than half the lift of the whole lobe, so it is going to be a kind of binary thing. Either the cam lobe is going to look normal (looking down at it, after the head, lifters and trays are removed), or it is going to looked all scored and damaged. Frankly you will probably know when the problematic lifter is removed. If the roller looks fine and normal, the cam will almost certainly look the same.
We have had a couple of members in recent weeks find lifters where the roller was damaged and the cam obviously as well (the roller rolls on the cam lobe). One was a guy where one of his lifters roller had seized and did a job on the cam lobe. He too had lost lift and found the problem with a misfire on that cylinder. He had to replace the cam and lifter (decided to do them all). More recently we have a very experienced member who had replaced his lifters and cam and had a bad lifter tray cause his lifter to turn, causing it to damage both the roller and cam lobe. Again he is replacing the cam and lifters (along with the bad trays).
In your case, you don't know yet. I believe in guys fixing their own cars, but unless you have a fair amount of mechanical experience, what your journey of discovery might entail could be more than maybe a guy who changes his own oil might want to bite off. If you had a real gear head friend you could entice to come over and lend a hand, then I would probably say go for it, because even the full job as described by the shop isn't outside the skill level of one and a half gear heads. The difference in price would be a lot. The parts to do everything the shop said they would do would likely come in about $1500, so that and enough beer to keep your friend coming back probably gets it done. If you two found just a bad lifter, under $500 would likely get you back on the road with all new lifters on that banks side.
For a guy who has never pulled a head, my advice would be to keep looking for a good (and reasonable) shop. You know enough now to know what the minimum and maximum the job might entail.
BTW, all of the above is just one guy on the internet's opinion.