What Is Camber?
Camber, or camber angle, is the tilt of the car wheels relative to the vertical direction of the car. It’s how much the top of the wheel leans towards or away from the car. It is an important part of tire alignment, along with caster and toe.
Types of Camber Angle
There are three types of camber:
A negative camber is when the tops of the tires tilt inward towards the vehicle. A little negative camber is mandatory in high-performance vehicles for better cornering stability and grip, as it allows for a larger contact patch with the road during aggressive maneuvers.
Positive camber occurs when the tops of the tires tilt outward away from the vehicle. It’s less common in modern passenger vehicles but can be beneficial for off-road vehicles by improving stability on uneven surfaces.
Zero camber means the tires are perfectly perpendicular to the road surface, with no inward or outward tilt. This setup is commonly used in standard passenger vehicles to ensure even tire wear and optimal tire performance.
What Causes Camber Misalignment?
Various factors can cause camber misalignment in vehicles such as:
- Worn or Damaged Suspension Components: Components like ball joints, wheel bearings, and bushings can wear out or have damage, affecting camber alignment.
- Bent or Broken Suspension Parts: Parts such as control arms, struts, or spindles. If they are bent or broken, can lead to improper camber angles.
- Improperly Adjusted Suspension: Incorrect adjustments during servicing can cause camber misalignment.
- Collision or Impact Damage: Accidents or impacts, like hitting a curb, can bend or shift suspension components, affecting the camber.
- Spring Sagging or Failure: Worn-out or broken springs can alter the vehicle’s ride height, which in turn affects camber alignment.
How Camber Angle Affects Wear and Tear
The camber angle of a vehicle’s wheels significantly influences tire wear. With negative camber, the tire’s inside edge wears quickly most of the vehicle’s weight is on the inner side of the tire.
Conversely, a positive camber will cause the outside edge of the tire to wear down faster. Zero camber aims to distribute the vehicle’s weight evenly across the entire tread, promoting uniform wear.
However, improper camber settings, whether negative or positive, can lead to premature tire wear and may affect overall tire life and performance.
How Camber Angle Affects Handling
Camber angle affects handling by influencing the tire contact patch with the road. Negative camber, with the tops of the tires leaning inward, increases the contact area during cornering, which enhances grip and improves handling stability in turns.
However, if the camber is too negative, it can reduce the contact patch during straight-line driving, compromising traction and stability. Finding the right camber balance is key to optimizing a vehicle’s handling performance for various driving conditions.
How to Adjust Your Car’s Camber Angle?
Adjusting a car’s camber angle involves changes to the suspension system and should be done by a professional or an experienced individual to ensure proper alignment and vehicle safety.
Adjusting the camber angle in a vehicle involves a few different methods, depending on the type of suspension system and the available adjustment features:
1. Adjusting Camber with a Level
- Prepare the Vehicle: Park on a level surface, engage the parking brake, lift the vehicle, and secure it with jack stands.
- Measure the Current Camber Angle: Attach a level to the wheel to determine the current camber angle.
- Adjust the Camber: Loosen the bolts on the upper and lower control arms. Move the top of the tire inward for more negative camber, or outward for more positive camber.
- Re-check and Secure: After adjusting, reattach the level to check the angle. Once satisfied, tighten the control arm bolts to secure the adjustment.
2. Adjusting Camber with Camber Bolts
- Lift and Measure: Lift the vehicle as above and measure the current camber.
- Loosen the Camber Bolt: Located on the lower control arm or MacPherson strut. Loosen it slightly.
- Adjust the Camber: Rotate the camber bolt. The eccentric on the bolt changes the strut assembly’s position, altering the camber angle.
3. Adjusting Camber Without Camber Bolts
- Install a Camber Kit: This often requires professional installation and may include new control arms, bushings, and brackets.
- Follow Kit Instructions: Adjust the camber as directed by the kit manufacturer.
4. Using Camber Plates
- Replace Strut Top Mounts: With adjustable ones.
- Lean Coilovers: Towards or away from the vehicle to adjust the camber.
- Install and Adjust: Lift the car, loose components, and replace the top mount with camber plates. Adjust the camber using an Allen wrench.
How Much Camber Do You Need?
The amount of camber needed for a vehicle depends on its intended use and the manufacturer’s specifications. For everyday street driving, a slight negative camber is beneficial for balancing tire wear with good handling.
Performance vehicles, such as those used in racing or spirited driving, may require a more pronounced negative camber for enhanced cornering ability. Off-road vehicles need a slightly positive camber for better stability.
Ultimately, the camber setting should be determined based on a combination of the vehicle’s design, the type of driving it’s subjected to, and the desired balance between tire wear and handling performance. It’s crucial to follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations and adjust as necessary for specific driving conditions.