What Is Camber on a Car?

What Is Camber

What is camber on a car?

The angle of car wheels measured about a vertical axis when seen from the front or back is known as the camber.

The wheel's tilt is determined by camber; this can be outward away from the car's central line (positive camber) or inwards towards it (negative camber).

Camber plays a crucial role in the handling and performance of a vehicle, affecting factors such as grip, stability, and tire wear.

Vehicle suspension system engineers consider this significant factor while designing and configuring the car.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the mechanics of camber and explore its impact on vehicle dynamics.

What Is Camber on a Car?

When viewed from the front of the vehicle, the tire and wheel assembly's inward and outer tilt is known as camber.

For every vehicle they make, each manufacturer specifies a specific camber alignment, which can be either positive, negative, or zero.

Types of Camber

Camber is a critical aspect of vehicle design that affects various performance parameters, including handling, stability, and tire wear.

Three forms of camber are accessible: positive, negative, and neutral. Each has unique features and impacts on a car's functioning.

1. Positive camber

Positive camber is when the top of the wheel tilts outwards from the vehicle's centerline.

This type of camber is rarely seen on modern cars, as it typically results in poor handling and stability, particularly during cornering.

Positive camber can cause a vehicle to feel unstable and twitchy, leading to excessive tire wear on the outer edges of the tires.

2. Negative camber

The wheel's upper portion in negative camber angles inward towards the car's midline.

Negative camber is more common on modern vehicles, particularly performance-oriented cars, as it can improve handling and grip during cornering.

By tilting the top of the wheel inward, the negative camber increases the tire's contact patch with the road, which improves traction and stability.

However, negative camber can also lead to excessive tire wear on the inner edges of the tires if not properly managed.

3. Zero camber

As the name suggests, zero camber is a situation where the wheel is perfectly vertical, with no inward or outward tilt.

This type of camber is most commonly on passenger cars and other vehicles that prioritize ride comfort and tire longevity over performance.

Zero camber provides a stable and predictable ride, but it may sacrifice some handling performance compared to negative camber.

Camber Effects on Tire Wear

Different types of tire abrasion can result from camber, including interior and exterior wear, cupping, and feathering.

1. Interior and exterior wear

Inner and outer tire wear is the most common type associated with camber.

When excessive negative camber is present on a car, the wheel's top portion leans inwards towards the middle, causing the tire's inner edge to wear down faster than the outer edge.

When a vehicle has excessive positive camber, the wheel leans outwards, causing the outer edge of the tire to experience more abrasion than the inner edge.

Inspecting the tire's tread pattern allows one to distinguish between inner and outer tire wear; the side with less tread depth is evident.

2. Cupping

Cupping is another type of tire wear associated with camber. Cupping occurs when the tire's tread wears unevenly in a scalloped or cup-shaped pattern.

It is typically caused by excessive negative camber or worn suspension components, causing the tire to bounce and create high spots in the tread.

Cupping may create rough, loud rides and flat areas that reduce traction and tire longevity.

3. Feathering

Feathering is another type of tire wear associated with camber. Feathering occurs when the tread wears in a sawtooth pattern along the tire's edges.

It is typically caused by excessive toe-in or toe-out settings, where the wheels are not aligned properly, causing the tires to scrub against the road.

Feathering can result in a noisy ride, poor handling, and decreased tire longevity.

Camber Adjustment

Many options are available to modify camber, such as camber kits, camber plates, and camber bolts, each having its pros and cons.

1. Camber kits

Camber kits are special suspension components that adjust camber angles on vehicles with non-adjustable or limited adjustability suspension systems.

These kits include adjustable control arms or bolts that allow for fine-tuning of the camber angle to optimize handling, performance, and tire wear.

Camber kits are commonly used on modified vehicles, such as race cars or lowered street cars, where the suspension geometry has been altered to improve handling and performance.

2. Camber plates

Camber plates are another method for adjusting camber, primarily used on vehicles with strut-type suspension systems.

They are typically installed on the top of the strut assembly and allow for precise camber adjustment by altering the angle at which the strut attaches to the chassis.

Camber plates are often used with aftermarket coil over suspension systems to provide a complete suspension upgrade package.

3. Camber bolts

Camber bolts are a more straightforward method for adjusting camber. They are commonly on vehicles with McPherson strut suspension systems.

Camber bolts are specially for bolts with off-center washers that allow for slight adjustments to the camber angle by rotating the bolt in the strut mount.

They are a cost-effective and straightforward method for adjusting camber, but they typically offer limited adjustability compared to camber kits or camber plates.

Camber and Suspension Design

Several suspension systems are commonly used in vehicle design, each with unique characteristics and camber adjustment capabilities.

MacPherson strut suspension

The MacPherson strut suspension system is one of the modern vehicles' most common suspension designs. These suspensions are simple and cost-effective, making them a popular choice for many automakers.

However, MacPherson strut suspensions typically offer limited camber adjustment capabilities, as the camber angle is determined mainly by the geometry of the suspension components.

Double wishbone suspension

The double wishbone suspension system is another popular design in many high-performance and luxury vehicles.

These suspensions offer excellent handling and ride quality by independently controlling wheel movement and camber angle.

Double wishbone suspensions typically feature adjustable upper and lower control arms, allowing precise camber adjustment to optimize handling, performance, and tire wear.

Multi-link suspensions

Multi-link suspensions are a more complex suspension design used in many high-performance and sports cars.

These suspensions typically offer the most significant range of camber adjustment capabilities, as they feature multiple control arms that are adjustable independently to fine-tune the camber angle.

Multi-link suspensions provide excellent handling and ride quality by providing a high degree of control over wheel movement and camber angle.

Still, they can be more complex and costly to design and manufacture.

Camber Effects on Handling

The camber's angle, which is the angle at which the tire connects to the road, impacts traction, maneuverability, and stability.

Positive camber, or an outward tilt of the tire, can reduce grip and cornering ability by decreasing the tire's contact patch with the road surface.

Unequal tire deterioration often results from a positive camber, as the outer edge of the tire might degrade more quickly than the inner edge.

Negative camber, or an inward tilt of the tire, can increase grip and cornering ability by increasing the tire's contact patch with the road surface.

Negative camber can also improve stability by providing a more stable contact patch during high-speed cornering.

Uneven tire wear can also be because of too much negative camber.

Excessive negative camber can also lead to increased tire wear and reduced grip during straight-line driving, as the tire is not making complete contact with the road surface.

Properly balanced camber settings can improve handling and performance by optimizing grip, cornering ability, and stability.

By selecting the appropriate camber settings for their vehicle and driving style, car owners can fine-tune their vehicle's handling characteristics to meet their needs.

Camber and Racing: Camber Settings for Different Racing Conditions and the Role of Camber in Racing Performance

Camber is an essential aspect of racing performance, as it can significantly impact handling, cornering ability, and tire wear in high-speed driving situations.

Different racing conditions necessitate different camber configurations, and fine-tuning camber may be the deciding factor between victory and defeat.

1. Speed

Camber settings are adjusted negatively to bolster grip and cornering for high-speed racing, such as on a racetrack.

Negative camber helps to keep the tire's contact patch with the road surface during high-speed cornering, improving handling and reducing the risk of loss of control.

In low-speed competitive scenarios like off-road or drag racing, one may deploy positive camber settings to enhance straight-line steadiness and diminish the likelihood of tire wear.

It is essential to fine-tune camber settings for different racing conditions to optimize performance and reduce the risk of tire wear.

Camber settings can be adjusted by changing the suspension geometry, using camber kits or plates, or installing camber bolts.

2. Tire wear

Camber also plays a significant role in racing performance by affecting tire wear. Improper camber settings can lead to uneven tire wear, reducing grip and performance and increasing the risk of tire failure.

Properly balanced camber settings can improve overall racing performance by optimizing grip, cornering ability, and tire wear.