(Updated on October 14, 2020)
What is Camber?
When the word “camber” is used in relation to automobiles, it refers to the angle of a vehicle’s wheels and their vertical position as they sit on the surface of the ground or road.
If the wheels have a negative camber, it means the tops of the front wheels are inclining to the side toward the center of the vehicle’s frame. If the wheels have a positive camber, it means the tops of the front wheels are inclining toward the outside and away from the center of the chassis.
The importance of the camber angle has to do with how stable it makes the vehicle on the road, particularly when making turns around corners. The general consensus is that a positive camber is good for keeping a recreational vehicle stable, while a negative camber is better for allowing high-performance vehicles to turn corners faster and more accurately.
You use degrees to measure the camber angle when figuring out the distance that the wheels will incline from the vertical axis.
Positive Camber Effects
When your front wheels have a positive camber, they are inclining outward. This creates more stability because it will cause the vehicle to pull to each side. You will see positive camber angles often on recreational and agricultural vehicles, such as tractors.
The benefit of positive camber on these vehicles is that you don’t need to use much effort when steering them. Also, if you’re normally driving on uneven roads or surfaces, then you will want the added stability that positive cambers provide.
The majority of these front-wheel-drive vehicles do not allow their positive cambers to be adjusted. This won’t matter to most vehicle owners because they only care about having a comfortable driving experience.
The only time it may be a problem is if you have an accident and you need to replace the specific components of your wheels with ones which have the proper angle needed to recreate the positive camber effect. Otherwise, most drivers will want to have a positive camber on their front wheels.
See Also: Symptoms of a Bad Wheel Alignment
Negative Camber Effects
When your front wheels have a negative camber, they are inclining inward. The benefit of this angle is for making turns around corners because the wheels and tires are positioned better for this purpose.
The bottoms of the tires are also making less contact with the ground and there is less pressure put on them. This allows the turns to happen much more smoothly.
If your tires and wheels were to be perfectly aligned with the vertical axis and have no camber angle at all, then cornering would cause the contact patches of the front tires to lift from the ground. This would not create a smooth turning experience for the driver.
That is why people with high-performance vehicles which corner frequently will want to have negative cambers on their front wheels.
If your vehicle allows you to adjust the camber of your two front wheels, then be sure to refer to the owner’s manual so that you know the proper number of degrees to tilt your wheels at. You’ll also want to know how to perform the job if you’re doing all the work yourself.
However, it is highly recommended that you let a professional to do the cambering work if you’ve never done it before. One wrong miscalculation on the camber of the front tires and it could cause problems while you’re driving.
It is important that you understand the purpose of why you’re adjusting the camber in the first place. Camber angle adjustments are not meant for normal everyday vehicles that you see on the main roads and highways. They are meant for unusual vehicles like tractors, airplanes, race cars, and things like that.