As an aspiring or present car enthusiast, there’s a high probability that you’ve encountered the word, “camber.”
Perhaps you’ve even seen a few race cars with very aggressive negative camber setups.
This might have led you to wonder, “why is negative camber good for racing?” Well, this is because negative camber significantly improves the handling of a car during high-speed cornering.
If this feels too foreign, the following post will certainly shed more light.
It explains exactly what camber is, the different types, and the effects of negative camber on racing.
Is Negative Camber Good for Racing?
Before we dive into the nitty gritty of negative camber, it helps to know what camber is.
This is one of three key measurements used to determine the suspension geometry of cars – with the other two being the caster and toe.
More specifically, camber is the vertical tilting of tires as perceived from the front or rear of a vehicle.
Camber angle is thus, the angle at which the wheel and tire of a car sit relative to a completely level ground. Usually, this angle is calculated when the vehicle is in a stationary position. This is why it’s referred to as static negative camber or static positive camber.
The reason why this is done is because any turning or cornering actions automatically alter the camber angles due to body roll.
The extent to which the camber changes is known as camber gain, and depends primarily on the kind of suspension your vehicle uses.
It’s important that a car’s suspension system is able to position the wheels at an optimal angle for improved handling.
The ideal camber ensures a uniform distribution of pressure and weight across all the tires.
It also guarantees better stability regardless of the scenario you find yourself in – whether you’re driving off-road or drifting.
To fully comprehend what camber is, take a look at your car either from the front or back.
If you’re keen, you’ll notice that the tires are inclined either away or toward the midline of the vehicle. This results in the three types of camber that exist:
Camber is described as positive when the top of the tire is inclined away from the vehicle’s midline while the bottom slopes in.
With positive camber settings, the car is able to pull to each side. This minimizes the effort needed to steer, especially if you’re driving in a straight line.
It also provides more stability on uneven surfaces, which is why you’re likely to find this setup in off-road vehicles.
An uneven terrain can cause a car to easily stray from a straight line but positive camber counteracts this.
If a car has zero or neutral camber, it means that its tires are perfectly perpendicular to the level road surface.
Interestingly, this isn’t the most ideal setup. Most manufacturers design the standard street car with a moderately positive camber.
Generally speaking, negative camber receives a bigger spotlight than positive camber.
But what does it refer to?
Well, a car has negative camber when the top of its tires is inclined towards the centerline and the bottom tilts outward.
The idea behind this setup is to provide maximum traction for higher cornering speeds.
Does camber help with racing?
Yes, it does. Specifically, negative camber provides massive benefits when it comes to car racing and other performance driving events.
Have you ever seen a car when it reaches the climax of a really sharp turn? If you have, what you observed were cornering forces.
This force is usually so intense that it forces the lead tire to tilt heavily over itself.
Anytime this happens, the inner section of the lead tire bears the brunt of the work while the exterior portion doesn’t help much.
There are three reasons why this isn’t ideal.
For one, it reduces the traction or grip of the tires on the road just when you need it the most. Secondly, it leads to uneven and premature wear of the tire.
And finally, it causes unpredictability when steering through mid-corners.
The easiest way to avoid all these is to put a negative camber on your tires. This setup presets the wheels causing them to tilt slightly inwards (at the top).
This gets your car ready to tackle the cornering force. Although putting negative camber optimizes your car for cornering grip, it also compromises your straight-line grip.
This is why you should put just the appropriate amount of negative camber that allows the tire to maintain a flat contact patch.
The Positives of a Negative Camber?
A negative camber offers several perks, such as:
- Better handling – a negative camber setup allows for an angled positioning of the wheel relative to the road. This facilitates an even load distribution across the entire contact patch. This then helps to improve handling.
- Reduced wheel vibrations – with a neutral camber, the wheels are perfectly perpendicular to the road course. Due to this every cornering action forces the contact patch of the front tires to be raised from the ground.
This compromises the smoothness of each turn, leading to vibrations. Adding a negative camber to the front wheels can prevent the vibration effects.
- Easy to achieve corner speeds – a negative camber also improves one’s cornering control. When making a turn, all the tread regions of the outside tires – that inherently shoulder more weight than the inside wheels – achieve maximum grip.
What Camber is Best for Racing?
Negative camber is the best for racing events.
By providing more grip, this camber setup significantly improves your handling and cornering performance. But as with anything in life, too much negative camber can be detrimental.
For one, excessive camber can lead to grip loss when driving straight.
Since the tires are at an angle, the vehicle works harder to get up to speed and also to brake.
More negative camber also accelerates tire wear.
This setup allows for greater contact between the tire and the road, especially when turning. As a result, the tire tread wears out over time.
Does Negative Camber Affect Speed?
Yes, it does. A negative camber that’s added to the front wheels makes it easier to achieve high speeds.
By reducing the contact patch of the tire, this configuration minimizes drag; hence, increasing the vehicle’s top speed.
How Much Camber Is Enough?
You might be wondering just how many degrees of negative camber you should add to your car.
Well for standard street cars, a tiny amount of negative camber is desirable; anything between -½ and 1°.
Most vehicles tend to have more negative camber on the back to minimize the risk of oversteering.
The camber for race cars varies significantly.
For such, experts recommend a positive camber for the left wheels. This is because the left wheels are always on the inner side of turns.
On the other hand, a negative camber is recommended for right wheels since they’re always on the exterior side of the turn.
How to Adjust the Camber Angle
Adjusting negative camber is a pretty simple DIY task that you can do in your workshop. However, the extent to which you can adjust depends on the type of suspension present in your car.
The majority of OEM suspension models offer just a tiny bit of adjustability via eccentric bolts or shims.
But if you have the double wishbone variety of suspension systems, adjustments are done through camber plates and eccentric bolts.
A negative camber is preferred for racing because it improves the tires’ traction when cornering. That said, you should be mindful of the amount of camber you add.
The right amount of camber is one that hits the sweet spot between tire wear and traction.
So even though it improves the cornering grip, this shouldn’t come at the expense of tire longevity. Experts recommend a negative camber