The camber angle for a vehicle refers specifically to the placement of its wheels. It is the angle that occurs between the vertical axis when viewed from either the front or the rear. It is useful in the design of the car’s steering and suspension.
Whether a camber is positive or negative depends on the angle that it takes. If the top of the wheel is further out than the bottom of it, making it be tilted away from the axle, then this is referred to as a positive camber. When the bottom of the wheel is further out than the top of it, then this is what is called a negative camber.
If the wheel appears to be vertical from the top and the bottom, then this is called a neutral camber.
There are several pros and cons to consider if you are thinking about giving your vehicle a negative camber when this design element is not part of its initial design. Here are the crucial points to review.
List of the Pros of a Negative Camber
1. A negative camber can improve the handling of the vehicle.
When a vehicle comes equipped with a negative camber, then it will have improved handling because the tire is kept perpendicular to the road as the vehicle moves along. This design makes it possible to keep the entire contact patch evenly loaded. Without this angle, the tire would load on the outer portion of it, which would produce less grip when trying to steer in potentially difficult situations.
2. A negative camber can reduce wheel vibrations.
If you have your wheels and tires perfectly aligned with the vertical axis for your vehicle, then any cornering activities that you would take would cause contact patches of your front to lift off the ground. This action would reduce the smoothness of each turn, which could create a vibration effect that is similar to what a driver experiences when their brakes are on the verge of failure. It is an impact that is created with such severity in some vehicles that some drivers could begin to feel play in their steering wheel because of it.
It is this reason that most high-performance vehicles which race on tracks create a negative camber for the front wheels.
3. A negative camber allows you to corner with additional speed.
If you are an aggressive driver, then a negative camber of 1° or less can help you corner with greater efficiency without encountering the straight-away issues that a more severe angle might encounter. You will have more grip coming into and going out of each corner, allowing you to take a faster approach without sacrificing stability. When you approach each curve or corner in an appropriate manner, it is possible to prolong the life of your tires because you won’t be placing all the pressure on one specific spot.
List of the Cons of a Negative Camber
1. A negative camber reduces straight-line acceleration and braking
If you have a negative camber on your vehicle, then your cornering will have much more control. What won’t be present with this setup is a maximized process of straight-line acceleration or braking. Your vehicle will need to work harder to get up to speed because of the angle of the tires. You must have a healthy balance on a standard car to maximize your performance in this area. For that reason, most donors should avoid having a negative camber above 3°.
2. A negative camber will create premature levels of wear and tear.
Although you will receive more traction and stability using a negative camber, you are also going to be running through your tires with greater frequency. This angle creates more contact space with the road, which means you’re going to lose additional grip over time, especially during the cornering process. That means the life of your tires is impacted in a negative way. Depending on what your driving habits are, you might see up to a 20% reduction in performance because of this setup.
3. A negative camber can make it easier for the wheels to break loose.
If you decide to run a negative camber for your rear wheels, then it becomes easier for the tires to break loose from your regular driving habits. This disadvantage is in addition to the premature wear and tear that can happen on some makes and models. You must remember that any amount of camber (including drivers who prefer to take a positive angle instead) creates an issue were there will be more inner tire wear.
4. A negative camber creates less stability in straight-line driving.
The purpose of having a negative camber, either on the front, back, or both, is to give you more stability when driving on a circuit which features frequent turning. When you drive on the straightaway during a race, or along a stretch of highway in your personal vehicle, then you will notice much more instability during these times. It only takes 1° of negative camber on a street vehicle to create this disadvantage.
5. A negative camber can place less tire space on the roadway than is off of it.
If you decide to run a vehicle with a severe negative camber, then he will not be able to take advantage of the entire width of the wheel. There will be more of the tire off of the road on straight portions then there would be on it. Adding a couple inches could increase the handling of the vehicle, but it may also impact how the tires interact with the frame of your vehicle. Many of today’s passenger vehicles are designed to work with a neutral camber in their framing. If you were to go tour the negative camber, then your tires could potentially rub. This event would create a higher potential for damage.
6. A negative camber could potentially lock your steering.
If you don’t encounter the rubbing issue with your tires when using an adverse amount of negative camber, then there is still the risk that you could lock your steering on some vehicles. The severe angle that this setup creates can cause the tires to impact the frame of the car when making a sharp corner.
That means you will have fewer options available to you if there is an emergency turn you would need to make, whether you race or are driving your vehicle to work. Although you may need to reach a negative camber of 5° to create this disadvantage, some vehicles experience it with less than 2° of tilt.
7. A negative camber will give you less traction during wet conditions.
When you choose to run with a negative camber, then you are making the assumption that the streets or track will be dry. Placing this setup on the front of a vehicle will cause you to lose almost all of your front-end traction. If you have a rear-wheel drive car, then having it on the rear can produce a similar result.
That’s why you will normally see a negative camber operating in climates that are typically hot and dry. The cornering will improve in these conditions without worrying about a gentle sprinkle coming your way.
8. A negative camber can cause your brakes to lock too.
If you are operating a negative camber, then the angle can cause the brakes to lock up on some vehicle setups. That is due to the process required to initiate a stopping routine. The change in angle can prevent the car from performing as it should by locking (or failing to engage) your braking mechanism as it should. The only way to avoid this disadvantage is to play around with different setups to see where your sweet spot happens to be. That process will help you to discover which options work the best for your vehicle.
9. A negative camber can prevent you from driving in off-road situations.
When an off-road vehicle, such as a 4×4 or a tractor, are looking at the issue of camber, then they usually choose a positive option. That is because the design allows them to have control with a lower steering effort. The shift in angle makes it easier for the vehicles to handle rough terrain. If you went with a negative camber in this situation, then it would require more work and tire wear to achieve similar results.
10. A negative camber can create issues with camber thrust.
When you create a negative camber on your vehicle, then what you are doing is creating an environment where both tires will be pushing negatively against each other because of the angle created. That design works well when you have both tires on the surface of the road and they have the grip necessary to maintain traction. When you lose that issue because one tire loses traction, then the force of the vehicle is thrust toward the wheels with no traction. If you’re not careful, this issue could cause drivers to over-correct to an extent where the car might no longer be able to stay on the roadway.
11. A negative camber can cause the tires to stick out from the vehicle’s profile.
If you are running a severe negative camber on your vehicle, then it will change the width of your car because the tires will stick out further than normal. Although this disadvantage is relatively minor for the average driver, it could become problematic on wider vehicles that are driving in lanes that are below average in width. Some lanes might be 8 feet wide when you’re driving on a lower classification road.
The pros and cons of negative camber depend more on what your vehicle set up happens to be then what the results are when you use this set up. There will be a definitive improvement in your cornering capabilities when you choose this option. It will come at the expense of stability when driving them over straight roadways. That is why many vehicle owners choose to take a small degree of negative camber because it will create a slight balance adjustment without encountering severe disadvantages.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.