What is tire camber?
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When talking about your alignment, you may hear terms like camber, caster, or toe. These are all angles that are built into your suspension that affect the way that your vehicle drives, handles, and how the tires wear. Over time each of these angles will change from normal wear and tear. They can also change from hitting objects in the road or from modifying your vehicle. Camber is one of the main angles that will cause your vehicle to pull while driving and can cause excessive tire wear.
Camber is the tilt of the tire. When you look at the front or rear tires on your car, you may notice that the tire has a tilt in or out, or it may be straight up and down. If the tire sits perfectly vertical, that is known as zero camber. If the top of the tire tilts out, or away from the vehicle, that is known as positive camber. If the tire tilts inward, or towards the vehicle, that is known as negative camber. Most vehicles will be set at or near zero camber. This all depends on the design of the suspension. If the tire is negative, or tilted inward, more than it should be, the tire will wear excessively on the inside shoulder of the tread. If the tire is excessively positive, or tilted outward, it will wear fast on the outer shoulder of the tire. Camber can also cause your vehicle to pull. Because it is the tilt of the tire, if one side is tilted more than the other, or if they are tilted in opposite directions, then your vehicle will want to pull.
Over time your camber will change on your vehicle. The most common cause is normal wear and tear which will cause subtle changes in the camber angle. Anytime there is a big change in your camber angle, it is due to a part that has failed or a part that has come loose. If this is the case, the suspension needs to be fully inspected to identify any problems. Modifying your suspension will also cause some serious changes in your camber angle. Whether the vehicle is lifted to raise it off of the ground, or lowered closer to the ground, it will change the camber. Most of the time it will change it drastically causing some serious tire wear issues.
The camber can be adjusted on many vehicles. Most rear wheel drive vehicles will have camber adjustments on the front suspension. It is not as common in front wheel drive cars. If the camber angle is not within specifications, it will need to be adjusted. This may require that the suspension components be moved to adjust the camber, or you may need some parts replaced. If some of the suspension components are worn out then those will need to be replaced first before an alignment can be done. If the suspension is fine then you may need aftermarket camber kits installed to get the camber within specifications. Once the suspension is repaired or determined to be fine, the vehicle will need to be aligned. This should only be done with a computerized alignment machine.
Though there are several alignment angles built in to your suspension, camber is one that needs an in-depth look. Not only will it cause tire wear and vehicle pulling, it also gives a good indication as to the health of the suspension of your vehicle. Unfortunately camber cannot be properly adjusted or inspected without an alignment machine, but getting it checked twice a year can keep you from having any serious issues or unexpected tire replacements.
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