If you love track racing and race vehicles that can run on banked racetracks, you may wonder why some of the vehicles have wheels that tilt in. Or, you may be a racer considering trying the cambered wheels for a better effect. Perhaps the tires on your passenger vehicle sit at an angle and you’ve been wondering why. Regardless of your vehicle’s stance, or customization, this article will tell you all about cambered wheels, the pros and cons, and what it would take to change your wheels to cambered.
Wheel alignments are designed to reduce the wear and tear on the tires and to make sure the vehicle drives straight along a level surface. The wheel alignment affects the handling on your car and the overall quality of the ride. When the alignment is off, it affects the tire wear, the tracking, and the steering.
What are Cambered Wheels?
The camber is the way that the tire is tilted from the front view of the vehicle. Camber can also be described as an angle on which the tire and wheel can lie relative to the road. The camber angle is the measure of the difference between the surface of the road and the vertical, perpendicular alignment of the wheel so that they are all parallel to each other. The camber angle measure can be as small as 0 degrees. Zero camber generates the most uniform wear of the tires over time. However, the performance is reduced during cornering.
The most appropriate camber settings depend on the type of vehicle and what it is used for. The position of the wheel is determined by the size of the rims, wheel spacers, or offset. The vehicle stance is measured by the suspension height and tire and wheel fitment in the fender arches. When the camber is not the same for all of the tires, you will feel a pulling when you drive.
When the top edge of the tire and wheel are tilted in toward the center of the vehicle, the tire and wheel exhibit negative camber. This typically occurs when your vehicle’s suspension is trying to compensate for the induced roll that occurs when the tire’s contact area with the road has decreased. When the top edge of the tire points outward, away from the center of the vehicle, the camber is positive. When the vehicle is stationary, the tire and wheel retain the static camber angle. When the vehicle is cornering, the tire and wheel naturally will roll onto the outer shoulder, which means it keeps the contact patch on the road to allow more grip and cornering speed.
The negative camber counteracts this natural tendency. The tire and wheel are tilted intentionally to counteract the cornering forces. While the vehicle is cornering, the contact patch is decreased due to the body roll. This effect is counteracted to achieve the highest amount of tire that actually makes contact with the road during cornering by adjusting the camber settings. However, some front-wheel drive vehicles have camber that cannot be adjusted.
Many drivers believe that the static negative camber provides higher performance than standard wheel positions. When the vehicle is cornering and the tire and wheel are rolling over and gaining positive camber from the body roll, the static negative camber can correct the effect of the lateral load and the leaning on the tire and wheel. The correction should result in a tire and wheel that is almost perfectly upright with the most desirable contact patch.
When the tire and wheel has too much negative camber, the vehicle tends to tramline with excessive sensitivity to the road crown. The excess negative camber puts an extra strain on the tires, which means the tire will wear out prematurely.
People who drive passenger vehicles only to commute should have only the necessary minimum amount of negative camber. The amount of suitable negative camber depends on the type of suspension your vehicle has, your driving style, and the environment or conditions the car will be driven in. If the vehicle has MacPherson struts, more static negative camber is required due to only a moderate gain of camber when under compression. A vehicle with control arms that are unequal or with multi-link suspension requires less negative camber, This is because these vehicles are engineered for faster, progressive rates of negative camber gain when cornering. Positive camber is ideal for off-the-road vehicles such as tractors as it reduces the amount of steering that is required.
Caster is the angle of the steering pivot when you turn the steering wheel on a pivot which is attached to the suspension system. Like the camber, the caster angle is also measured in degrees; however, it is observed from the side of the vehicle. The caster is positive when the top of the tire is leaning toward the back of the vehicle. The caster is negative when the top of the tire is leaning toward the front of the vehicle. When the caster is off, the straight line tracking becomes problematic. Unlike the camber angle, the caster is not adjustable and has almost no effect on the tire wear. Prior to 1975, most vehicles had negative caster specifications.
Steering Axis Inclination (SAI) and Camber
Power steering is a common automotive feature which uses the hydraulic pump to pressurize power steering fluid. The power steering improved the steering ratio and the required effort was offset. This means that less effort was required to turn the steering wheel. Steering axis inclination (SAI), or king pin inclination (KPI), is the measure of the steering pivot line from the view of the front of the vehicle. When the SAI and the camber angle are added together, they form an included angle which causes a slight lift when you turn away from traveling straight ahead. The weight of car is used to drive the steering wheel back to the center position after the turn.
How to Fix Negative Camber
When you travel at high speeds, your tires must rotate at a faster rate. Therefore, driving faster exploits many opportunities for problems in the suspension system. The tire with inappropriate alignment or excessive camber or caster angle will lose its shape or the tire thread may separate. Tires that need balancing because the suspension system is not properly angled will cause problems.
When your tires have too much negative camber, they begin to wear at a faster rate. Here are a few steps that should be taken if your tires have too much negative camber:
Replace the bushings – There is a rubber, cylindrical bushing inside the steering coupling with an axis that is designed to be as close as possible to perpendicular to the steering system axis of rotation. That rubber bushing is designed to reduce friction and vibration in the mechanical joints. does wear over time, often losing its elasticity. The rubber may give way all together. This allows excessive movement to occur in the suspension.
Do a visual inspection of your vehicle. If you see unusual tire wear, try to match the camber settings of wheels opposite to each other. Make sure the negative camber settings are the same. Look for worn bushings. Grab onto the components of the suspension and try to move them around. If you hear a rattling noise, the bushings need to be replaced.
Replacing the bushing is pretty simple in most makes and models. To replace the rubber bushings, follow these steps:
1. Gather your materials. You will need gloves, protective eyewear, socket and extension, a car jack, a large wrench, a hammer, and a hydraulic press.
2. Put on the safety gear: the gloves and goggle.
3. Remove the wheel.
4. Find the ball joint and use the large wrench to release it. The ball joint is probably connected to the control arm. Release the cotter pin and loosen the ball joint nut with the wrench.
5. Strike the spindle with a hammer to release the taper fit.
6. Use the wrench to loosen and completely release the sway bar.
7. Use the wrench to loosen the control mounting bolts and remove them.
8. Pull the lower control arm to remove it.
9. Mark the spot of the orientation of the rubber bushing.
10. Remove the bushing with a hydraulic press or a threaded press.
11. Strike the old bushing with the hammer to remove it. Push any excess rubber out of the socket.
12. Insert the new bushing in the control arm.
13. Secure the bushing with a hydraulic press.
14. Reinstall the control arm. Slide it back into the mounts.
15. Replace the bolts.
16. Tighten the ball joint.
17. Reinstall the sway bar link and the nut. Tighten the mounting bolt.
18. Replace the nut using the socket and extension. Then, replace the cotter pin in the holes that are aligned by the ball joint.
19. Replace the wheel.
Adjust the camber – When the angles are wrong, causing tire wear and effecting the fuel efficiency, among other things, it’s time to readjust those camber angles. There are a few ways to adjust the camber when your tires call for it. Here are the steps to follow for one way to adjust the camber:
1. Gather your materials. You will need a camber gauge (view on Amazon), 1/32 inch metal shims, and a car jack.
2. Drive your car to a safe place with a flat surface.
3. Park the car with wheels pointing completely forward.
4. Remove any hubs or protrusions from the wheel.
5. Install the camber gauge. Adjust the three arms in order to situate the bubble gauge in the center of the hub.
6. Check the measurement on the bubble gauge. Verify the measurement with the manufacturer specs of what the camber adjustment should be.
7. If you need to make a camber adjustment, jack the car, remove the tire and set it aside.
8. Loosen the upper control arm at the point where it meets the shock tower.
9. Insert a metal shim for every ½ degree of camber.
10. Retighten the upper control arm.
11. Replace the tire.
12. Check the camber again with the camber gauge.
13. Repeat this process with the tire on the opposite side of the one you just adjusted.
Maintain Your Wheels – Most vehicle owners understand that a vehicle must be inspected and serviced from time to time, as referred to as routine maintenance. For those who don’t, the likelihood of problems that cause cambered wheels is extremely high. If the vehicle is not inspected routinely, small problems can escalate to major problems that are much more expensive to fix. This is also true for vehicles which sit for long periods of time.
If you want to avoid wheel problems or other issues and save $100s of dollars that you’ll spend at the auto repair shop, you’ll need to service your vehicle often – you can use our mechanic-rated Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual to do this. It’s basically what mechanics use to go through your vehicle to check if there are any problems that need fixing. As soon as they notice the most minor problem, they’ll ask you to fork out some money even though it’s a problem you can fix yourself in minutes – the manual will teach you how to maintain your vehicle every few thousand miles and it’ll teach you how to fix minor problems that mechanics will ask you to pay for; saving you money in the long run.
A lot of our readers have the Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual printed on their garage wall and 92% of them haven’t visited the auto repair shop in the last year because they know what to do to avoid problems. All it takes is giving your vehicle a little attention every few thousand miles and you’ll never spend money at the workshop again.
Go to a car repair shop – This is always a great idea for those who are not mechanically inclined or when you are not certain what the problem is with your car. Go to the auto repair shop and get an alignment. Most of these alignments are camber, caster, and toe. The tire alignment will reset the camber in the front and rear suspension. The technician can even readjust the suspension back to the factory settings using certain tools. Get that camber angles right and drive safe.