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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The vehicle may pull to the side with the most 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.
What Causes Negative Camber?
There are several reasons why your wheels could have negative camber. Some of the most common include:
- Bent spindle
- Dislocated strut tower
- Bent strut
- Worn or collapsed control arm bushing
- Bent control arm
- Weak or broken spring
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.