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Summary
  • Camber is the inward or outward tilt of the wheels from the true vertical as seen from the vehicle’s front or rear.
  • Negative camber means the top part of the vehicle’s front wheels are tilting inward (towards the center of the vehicle’s frame) as viewed from the front or rear.
  • Negative camber can cause problems such as reduced stability and wear and tear of the tire tread and wheel bearings.

There are three primary wheel alignment angles: camber, caster, and toe. From the factory, most vehicles have a slightly positive camber on the front wheels, meaning the wheels lean outward slightly at the top. With negative camber, which is the exact opposite, the wheels lean inward at the top.

To illustrate camber, simply put your hands side by side on the table like the wheels sit on the ground, but with your thumbs pointing up. If you tilt your hands so your thumbs are farther apart at the tips, that’s positive camber. If you tilt your hands so your thumbs are closer together at the tips, this is negative camber. So, you see, leaning out would be positive while leaning in would be negative.

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Some racers and car enthusiasts set their camber angle so that it leans inward at the top (negative) beyond the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. They do this because negative camber can increase handling during extreme performance driving.

But for a vehicle that’s a daily driver, it’s best to keep the camber angle set to the vehicle manufacturer’s specification. Doing so will help the tires wear evenly and promote their longevity.

car with negative camber
Some racers and car enthusiasts set their camber angle so that it leans inward at the top (negative) beyond the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications.

What Is Camber?

Camber is one of the three basic alignment angles in a vehicle (together with toe and caster). It is the inward or outward tilt of the wheels from the true vertical as seen from the vehicle’s front or rear. If a vehicle has zero camber, it means the tires are perpendicular to the road, producing the least amount of rolling, resistance, friction, tire wear, and the greatest traction.

To put it differently, camber is the vertical alignment of the tire (toe is the horizontal alignment). The tires should be parallel when the wheels are straight if toe is set to zero.

Camber alignment is not adjustable on many vehicles. However, it may change unintentionally every time you drive over bumps or potholes and whenever the vehicle is being loaded. This is due to the adjustments done by the control arms and struts as the suspension bounces up and down. Older vehicles with weak suspension springs may develop an issue with negative camber that can only be corrected by replacing the springs with new ones of the proper tension.

Older vehicles with weak suspension springs may develop an issue with negative camber that can only be corrected by replacing the springs with new ones of the proper tension.

– Richard McCuistian, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician

For vehicles with adjustable camber, shims, eccentric cams, and slots are often used to move the upper or lower control arm or the entire strut assembly to achieve the desired angle.

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What Is Negative Camber?

Negative camber means the top part of the vehicle’s front wheels are tilting inward (towards the center of the vehicle’s frame) as viewed from the front or rear. In contrast, if the vehicle has positive camber, the front wheels tilt outward.

Problems Caused By Negative Camber

Camber should always be within specification to optimize tire life and steering performance. Excessive negative camber can lead to one or more of the following problems:

Wear and Tear

Excessively negative camber will cause accelerated wear on the inside (shoulder) of the tire tread. The issue can also cause the wheel bearings to wear prematurely.

Reduced Stability

The vehicle may pull to the side with the most positive camber, even more so if the camber is negative on the opposite side and the caster is negative on the side with the positive camber.

A difference of more than ½ degree from one side to the other may cause the vehicle to pull, affecting its stability and straight-line performance.

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example of negative camber in car
This is negative camber. The tire is tilted in at the top 1.31 degrees from true vertical (see front left camber angle), which causes the tire to wear on the inside and will typically cause the vehicle to pull in the direction the tire is leaning. Sitting in the car, this would be a pull to the right, which is indicated by the alignment angle. Remember: we’re looking at this tire from the front, so it’s leaning toward the passenger side on a left-hand drive vehicle. “SAI” (shown at the bottom) is “Steering Axis Inclination,” which is a non-adjustable angle. | Image Source: Richard McCuistian

What Causes Negative Camber?

There are several reasons why your wheels could have negative camber. Some of the most common include:

Will an Alignment Fix Negative Camber?

In some cases, yes. But as mentioned above, camber issues often result from worn or broken parts. Those parts must be replaced before a wheel alignment can be performed. Most experts also recommend an annual alignment check or whenever the tires are replaced.

Driving with misaligned tires can cause several drivability issues and accidents while on the road. Make sure to get a certified mechanic to do the job for you, as wheel alignment is a complex process that requires a series of detailed steps.

How Much Will a Camber and Alignment Kit Cost?

A camber and alignment kit can cost anywhere between $100 and $500, depending on the brand, and your vehicle’s year, make, and model plus labor costs.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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Asher Holland

Great explanation of a commonly misunderstood issue.

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