Alignment & Camber Kits
The aftermarket for tuners is steadily expanding as manufacturers continue to produce popular products and build the resources to reach a greater demand. Nowadays, it is not only Volkswagen, Subaru, and Honda models making the list of performance enhancements – you can upgrade the suspension of almost any car! It is popular for drivers to gently drop the riding height of their vehicles by an inch or two on quality lowering springs and upgraded shocks. This puts the control arms into a stable position that they would normally only reach in a tight corner.
The control arms are mounted to the lower subframe below the engine and flex with the suspension travel to ensure the fulcrum turning point of the ball joints is adaptable to the actual position of the wheels. In other words, the control arms complete the rotational movement of the ball joints that allow your front wheels to turn left or right as you steer by giving them a range of motion that travels with the suspension.
Wheel camber is the measurement of the wheel’s angle from the ground. A wheel with absolutely no camber is exactly like a fresh tire that is standing straight up on its tread. However, if the wheel is tilted at the top towards the engine bay, this is negative camber. If it is tiled at the top away from the center of the vehicle, the positive camber range begins.
Effect of Lowering Suspension
When you upgrade your suspension, the wheel camber can wander into the negative range. This is sort of like walking duck-footed. The top of the wheel tilts inward toward the engine bay, resulting in compromised handling and uneven tire wear that can quickly shred a new set of tires down to their radial belts. Minimal negative camber may actually improve traction and road adhesion by bending the walls to create a slightly fuller tread contact with the road surface. In this case, any uneven tire wear can be eliminated by simply rotating the tires.
What is Alignment?
An alignment today is typically done by automotive technicians using ultra-precise laser measuring equipment. The technician loads your vehicle onto the ramps of the alignment equipment. The technician attaches reflective paddles to each of the four wheels that the laser uses to calibrate the steering geometry by measuring the ride height, rake, camber, caster, and toe of the vehicle.
In a standard alignment, they typically have to adjust the length of the tie rods to ensure that the wheels track straight. This is calibrating the fine-tuning adjustments of the steering geometry. Most vehicles have no fine-tuning adjuster for any of the other factors. If the castor or camber is out of range after the tie rods are set, this means that the vehicle has been modified, or otherwise needs suspension or wheel repairs. Most shops are able to print out a calibration spec sheet from a computer to prove that the technician adjusted your wheel alignment to ideal ranges.
Correcting Camber with Camber Kits
A camber kit should be installed simultaneously with any performance suspension. This will help the technician dial the camber back into the factory specifications or even add a margin of negative camber for maximum performance.
Once the ideal camber is set on a performance suspension system, the handling of the vehicle becomes crisp and accurate. The lower center of gravity and proper traction improves high-speed vehicle stability. Sharp turns become easier because there is less roll of the vehicle from wind deflection and uneven weight distribution. Your tires may also begin rubbing in the wheel wells if the camber is not adjusted.
- Installing lowering springs that reduce the height of your ride by 1-inch typically results in a front-end negative camber around -.75° and a rear-end camber of -.50°
- Installing lowering springs that reduce the height of your ride by 2-inches typically results in a front-end negative camber around -1.50° and a rear-end camber of -1.00°
- Installing lowering springs that reduce the height of your ride by 3-inches typically results in a front-end negative camber around -2.50° and a rear-end camber of -2.00°
What are Signs that I May Need an Alignment?
An alignment should be performed immediately after any suspension or steering work is done. You may be able to swap out the ball joints without experiencing any effect on alignment if the knuckle is not disassembled. This is hit or miss, depending on how much play is possible on your ball joint mounts, the age of the ball joints replaced, and when an alignment was last done. If you have done these major repairs, you should not even drive on the vehicle until the vehicle is aligned.
Alignment problems cause pulling to the left or right. If you let your hands off your wheel, your vehicle should track straight. It is possible if you had an alignment before that the tie-rod adjustments were properly done but the steering wheel was not kept straight. The steering wheel is typically weighted to self-balance. If you let your hands off the wheel and your car tracks to one side, it may be from a misaligned steering wheel.
If you have bad suspension parts or unbalanced tires, it may be difficult for the technician to even make any alignment. They may be able to mechanically align the wheels to track straight. However, if you have any of these problems, the vehicle may nevertheless have a mind of its own and drive like a boat or wear the tires unevenly.
Driving Without a Camber Kit or Proper Alignment
It is dangerous to drive your vehicle without a camber kit or proper alignment. Not only do you have to struggle to obtain responsive steering, but you can also blow out a tire at high speeds and get into a crash. Therefore, adding a camber kit from Springrates.com to your performance suspension is paramount. There is no sense in upgrading the suspension if you are just going to sabotage its parts. That being said, if you make these simple upgrades that are usually just replacement of a few bolt-on linkages, you will have awesome potential to turn your vehicle into a performance street machine.
We stock the camber kits that are matched to your specific make and model. This means that a great deal of computer engineering went into determining how to tweak your ride for optimal performance. Do not fall for universal camber plate kits that adjust the camber on your strut mounts. These are inferior methods that can be problematic to dial into the exact settings you need. Buying brand and model specific applications from a retailer like Springrates.com is the only surefire way of guaranteeing a perfect fit and performance.