Your vehicle's wheel alignment consists of three essential angles that make up your wheel geometry: caster, camber, and toe. When you take your car to a shop for a wheel alignment, the report you receive will provide some information on the original value of each of these angles and the post-alignment value. Most alignment shops attempt to return a car to its factory specifications for each aspect.
While this approach makes sense in most cases, factory specifications are not necessarily desirable for modified cars. In some cases, returning to factory specifications may not even possible. If you've modified your vehicle with aftermarket suspension components, then keep reading to learn how this can affect one of the most crucial elements of your wheel alignment: camber.
The technical definitions of each alignment angle may be difficult to understand at first blush, but camber angle is relatively simple to spot in practice. Your wheel's camber is the amount that the wheel "tilts" inward or outward from the side of the car. If a vehicle has negative camber, the bottom of the wheel tilts away. With positive camber, the bottom of the wheel tilts inward.
Although it may seem counterintuitive to picture your wheels angled inward or outward, it is more common than you may realize. If you look at Formula One cars or any other high-performance racing vehicles, you will almost certainly notice some amount of negative camber. On unmodified street cars, the camber angle is often neutral or too subtle to spot with the naked eye easily.
Camber and Suspension Modifications
If you install a suspension-lowering kit on your car, then you will inevitably alter the geometry of the wheels. Camber changes can often be dramatic when lowering a vehicle, and installing springs that lower a car by an inch or more can potentially cause several degrees of negative camber. Cars with extreme drops may have a very noticeable negative camber.
High amounts of camber alter the geometry of the tire's contact patch, leading to uneven wear. In the case of negative camber, the inside edge of the tire will likely wear more quickly than the outer edge. This uneven wear can affect vehicle handling or even quickly ruin expensive tires. Wear can be especially extreme when combined with changes to the other alignment angles.
Correcting Camber Problems
Some amount of positive or negative camber may be desirable for performance or appearance reasons, but you should not ignore unintended changes to wheel geometry. If you've added lowering springs to your car, always consider having a professional alignment performed to ensure that your vehicle's performance and tire wear characteristics remain intact.
To learn more, contact a resource like D Wells Automotive Service.