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How Cars Work: What is Camber and Caster in a Vehicle

Are you trying to learn more about how cars work?

When discussing wheel alignment in a vehicle, the terms camber and caster become relevant. You’ll know the state of your car’s wheel alignment by looking at these two angles.

Continue reading to find out what caster and camber are and what they have to do with your wheels.

Wheel Alignment

Although it’s called wheel or tire alignment, a vehicle’s tires aren’t what’s being aligned. It’s actually the suspension. The suspension connects tires to a car.

The right tire angles are required for proper alignment. This is achieved by adjusting the suspension.

Your vehicle has good tire angles when the steering wheel is centered when you drive in a straight line and the tire treads wear evenly.

It’s time for alignment when your tires have spots smoother than others, the car pulls to one side, and the steering wheel is off-centered and vibrates.

If you have a worn suspension you’re much more likely to need a wheel alignment.

Alignment affects how tires make contact with the ground. You want good tire alignment your car is easy to handle and your tires don’t wear oddly. Tires will wear more quickly if there’s a misalignment.

Camber

The camber of a tire is the tire’s angle when viewed from the front or back of the car. It measures the tilt of the tire compared to the ground in degrees.

Positive or negative camber will impact how the tire wears and how easy it is to handle the car.

Positive camber is a tilt that wears the outer tread. In this case, the outer tread is the visible side of the tire. The top of the wheel is angled outward.

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It’s very common for tires with positive camber to pull to one side.

Negative camber wears the opposite side (the inner tread). The top of the wheel is angled inward.

A car can suddenly have negative camber if a heavy object is put in the trunk or a bigger engine is installed.

Zero camber allows you to drive in a straight line with no problem. On the other hand, your tires have a better grip when you make turns with negative camber. The grip decreases when you drive straight.

Negative camber will also create camber thrust, which occurs when a tire loses traction and the car is pulled to that wheel.

Caster

Casters are seen from the side of a vehicle. These angles involve the steering knuckle, which connects the suspension to the steering system.

The first line needed to measure casters is the steering axis. This axis is a line through the center of the lower and upper ball joints of the steering knuckle.

The second line is simply a vertical line perpendicular to the ground.

If you draw these two lines on paper, you’ll get a caster angle. Zero caster is when the steering axis is the same as the vertical line.

The angle is positive when the steering axis meets the ground in front of the vertical line. The vertical line is where the tire has contact with the ground.

The steering axis falling behind the vertical line results in a negative caster. The optimal angle is usually a positive caster. It increases steering effort and the stability of your car at higher speeds.

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Your Guide to Camber and Caster

Now that you understand what affects wheel alignment, you’ll know what has to be adjusted if your car experiences common misalignment issues.

While positive casters are the best choice for your car, you can choose between zero camber and negative camber.

Negative camber is great for drivers who take hard turns or go off-road. It may not be right for more easy-going drivers.

Most vehicles have cross-caster and cross-camber as a safety protocol. If you lose control of steering, the car will automatically go to the right side of the road. This helps you get off the road rather than driving into traffic.

Add camber and caster to your list of automobile knowledge!

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