Q: The car's front wheels are poking in (positive camber) is that bad?

asked by on October 28, 2016

The front wheels on my car have toe in or positive camber. It isnt a crazy amount but if you look it is noticeable. Is that bad on a front wheel drive car?

My car has 174000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

Camber refers to the amount, if any, that the top of the wheel/tire assembly is tilted in (or out) relative to an imaginary perfectly vertical position for the tire/wheel. So if you are looking at the side of your car at the front tire/wheel and the TOP of the tire/wheel is tilted in, that is toward the centerline of the car, you have negative camber.

If, however, the top of the tire/wheel tilts out toward you as you are viewing the tire/wheel, you have positive camber. If the tire/wheel assembly are perfectly vertical relative to the ground, you have "zero" camber. Your car was designed with a tiny bit of negative camber, which is typical, because negative camber promotes vehicle stability on turns.

The amount is measured in fractions of a degree (a little bit makes a big difference and the tolerances are small which explains why alignments have to be done very carefully). With regard to "camber" the thing to keep in mind is if camber on one front tire/wheel varies too much from camber on the other front tire/wheel, the car will tend to pull, or wander to the side with more "positive" camber.

So whatever camber is selected when an alignment is done, it is important that the value on both sides of the car be kept nearly the "same". Unless camber is way, way off it is unimportant insofar as wear on the tires.

Toe is completely (entirely) unrelated to camber and unlike camber if the toe is off significantly on your car you can prematurely wear out the tires not to mention use lots of extra gasoline as the front tires are literally dragged down the road. "Toe" simply refers to the amount (measured in "inches", "millimeters", or degrees) that the front tires are pointed inward or outward, as you stand in front of the car looking at the grille/hood dead on. If the front of the tires are pointed "inward", you have toe-in. If the tires are pointed out (splayed), you have "toe-out". If the tires/wheels are set such that they are EXACTLY parallel to each other, you have zero toe. Again, we are talking about very tiny amounts. In the case of toe, you might have .060 inches toe in (that’s 60/1000 of an inch split across each side, so an even smaller amount if you are just looking at one tire).

As noted, camber is not usually a big deal unless it is varies from side to side in which case the car will fight you at the steering wheel. The toe adjustment, however, MUST be within the factory specified "range" if you are to get reasonable service out of the tires and also get the best possible gas mileage from the car. If toe is off, basically the tires not only "scrub" the road as you move forward but that scrubbing necessarily causes the engine to work harder than it needs to and thus uses excess fuel. In extreme cases, a bad toe adjustment will also prematurely wear out suspension parts. If you need further assistance, a certified professional from YourMechanic can come to your car’s location to inspect the suspension and guide you through any needed adjustments.

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