Q: Should I change the camber of my wheels?

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Should I change the camber of my wheels?

Suspension systems and the angles of wheels are engineered to work together for optimal performance and to minimize tire wear. It has become increasingly popular among the “tuner” scene to achieve the look of maxed camber, as the wheels visually lean inward. Changing any one portion of the system will require all of the math to be re-done, as it will have an effect on the other angles, and throw either performance and/or tire wear out the window.

The camber angle of a tire has to do with the tires deviation from vertical or upright when viewed from the front or rear. A tire seemingly leaning inward toward the vehicle has more negative camber, while a tire leaning outward or away from the vehicle has more positive camber. The camber angle is measured in degrees, positive or negative, from vertical. A perfectly upright tire would be measured at 0 degrees of camber. 0 degrees of camber puts the entire footprint of the tire tread into contact with the road at the same time allowing the “best grip” during straight-line acceleration. The camber angle is measured while the vehicle is at rest, but may change when the wheels are turned.

When the wheels are turned for cornering, the outside wheel tends to achieve a more positive angle and the inside, more negative. Negative camber places the top of the wheel at an angle leaning in toward the vehicle centerline.The angle of the outside wheel is more important as the vehicle weight is transferred to the outside during cornering. Safely increasing the negative camber on a vehicle may enhance performance during tight cornering as the negative camber allows the tire to lean and “dig” into the road surface, but at the cost of potentially reduced straight-line acceleration and braking performance.

If the camber angle is too extreme, the majority of the tire wear will occur along one edge of the tire or the other and greatly shorten the life of the tire. This is true because the leaning tire places the load on one side rather than across the entire footprint. The same goes for the opposite side of the spectrum as well. Increasing positive camber beyond 0 degrees may have a positive effect on steering effort, but reduce cornering capabilities of the vehicle and increase tire wear. A vehicle with tires adjusted to extreme positive or negative camber angles will destroy tires at an alarming rate and experiences a drop in braking performance as well and is therefore considered unsafe.

The fact is, a proper camber adjustment is hard to see with the naked eye and one must consider taking the vehicle to an automotive tire shop and having the alignment specifications checked. If the angles have fallen out of specification, they must be adjusted to maintain optimum tire wear and performance. Deviation from these specifications is attainable through the use of aftermarket suspension components, but one accepts all risks included when applying them.

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