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Motorsport Wheel Alignment: Measuring & Adjusting Camber

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Measuring & Adjusting Camber


00:00 - Changing our camber is probably one of the most common adjustments we're going to make to our wheel alignment and on face value, measuring our camber and making these adjustments may seem pretty straightforward.
00:10 However the devil is in the detail and there are a few aspects that we do need to be aware of.
00:16 Both with the tools that we're using as well as the way we're making our adjustments, so that we can get the best possible results and make sure that the measurements we are taking are a true representation of the camber on the car.
00:28 There are a variety of tools available on the market to help us measuring the camber and I've got two common options here.
00:36 We've got a bubble gauge style camber gauge which can also be used for measuring caster and then we've got a digital level style gauge which can be held up against he wheel.
00:46 Really it's up to personal preference and your budget.
00:49 But both of these tools have come down in price dramatically over the last decade or so, making them completely affordable to most home enthusiasts.
00:58 One of the aspects that's really important, regardless of which option we use, is making sure that wherever we're doing our alignment setup, we have the car actually parked on flat and level ground.
01:10 Now this actually becomes more important with our bubble style gauge because there's no way of really calibrating this to take into account the fact that the car may not be parked on a completely level surface.
01:22 Now why that's important is that, let's say we've parked the car on a surface that has a half degree lean to one side of the car.
01:30 When we're using our bubble style camber gauge, what this is going to mean is that when we measure the camber, one side of the car will have an extra half degree of camber, the other side will read half a degree less than the actual camber.
01:43 Hopefully you can understand that that can really make it hard to get accurate results.
01:48 And of course a half degree slant on the piece of ground that you're using, is really hard to detect by the human eye.
01:54 Don't worry too much about this because we will have a look at how we can check our site is level and make adjustments cheaply and easily if if doesn't happen to be perfectly level.
02:04 Now when we're considering our digital style gauges, these introduce another potential pitfall in that any time we're looking at an instrument that gives us a digital or numeric readout, it's really easy to just want to believe the number on the screen and take that on face value.
02:20 However these tools are only as good as the way they're used so we do need to make sure that they are calibrated to the manufacturer's recommendations so that they are giving a true indication of a level surface.
02:32 Again, these will normally be used in conjunction with making sure that our wheel alignment area is level, which we're going to look at shortly.
02:40 Another really key point when we are using one of these digital style camber gauges, is to make sure that they two planes that it measures are set up perpendicular to each other.
02:50 So let's have a look at that now.
02:52 First of all we'll turn the gauge on and we'll sit it on the ground and we can see that the display is showing zero.
02:59 Now what we want to do is make sure that this plane here which sits against the edge of our rim is at exactly 90 degrees.
03:06 So what we'll do now is rotate the gauge and make sure that it shows 90 degrees on the screen.
03:16 So as we can see, we're showing 90 degrees there so we know that those two planes are perpendicular to each other.
03:22 So we've got an instrument that is calibrated and ready to go.
03:25 Of course with any instruments like this, it's important that you follow the manufacturer's directions for the calibration process as this will vary from one product to another.
03:34 Once we've got our instruments ready to go, we also need to understand where abouts we're actually going to be making our camber adjustments.
03:42 In this instance, there are a variety of options, it's going to depend on the amount of adjustability built into your suspension and it's also going to depend on the particular suspension setup.
03:53 We'll start by considering a MacPherson strut from suspension setup since this is potentially one of the most common that we're going to come across.
04:01 Now we're going to also assume that we have fitted a set of coil over suspension that includes a camber adjustable strut top.
04:09 Now the options we have available to us here would be to use the camber adjustable strut top to lean the strut in towards the centreline of the car to increase the negative camber.
04:20 You may actually find that this is still not enough, depending on the particular car you're setting up.
04:26 And this can be used in conjunction with camber bolts on the strut to hub interface and essentially what we can do here is lean the hub in towards the strut, increasing the negative camber further.
04:38 The last option we have available here is to adjust our lower control arm if we've got adjustability here.
04:45 And by extending the lower control arm, this will have the effect of increasing our negative camber.
04:50 But at the same time, this is also going to affect both our caster as well as our track width.
04:57 So personally my preference is to leave our lower control arms set and make our camber adjustments, either at the strut top or at the interface between the hub and the strut.
05:07 If you're dealing with a double wishbone suspension system, then the way we can adjust camber is to adjust either the length of the upper or the lower wishbone.
05:15 In general, I like to leave the lower wishbone set because this affects our track width, and then I'm going to shorten or lengthen the upper wishbone to make adjustments to our camber.
05:26 With a multi-link suspension system, we've got the option of either lengthening the lower control arm or the upper control arm, depending on the setup that we're dealing with.
05:36 We do need to consider that for all for all of these suspension styles, as we adjust our camber, inevitably we're going to also affect our toe, so this needs to be factored in and we may also be adjusting our caster if we're adjusting camber at the front of the suspension system.
05:51 With all of these suspension systems, we do need to understand that as we adjust out camber, we're inevitably going to be affecting our toe and if we're dealing with the front of the car, we may also be affecting our caster so this becomes and iterative process of going through checking and adjusting camber, caster and toe one after the other to make sure that everything is within our specification.
06:15 Now that we know what we're going to be adjusting, let's head out into the workshop and get started.
06:20 We've started by selecting a suitable area to perform our camber measurement.
06:24 And again we're trying to find some flat, level ground here but in a second we'll see exactly how level our ground is.
06:30 What I've also done is taken the liberty of putting some marks on the ground using race tape and this just represents where each of our wheels is going to be located.
06:39 Now this is optional but particularly if you're going to be rolling your car forward and backwards in order to settle the suspension after making a change, this is just going to confirm that you've always got the car in exactly the same spot, particularly if your ground isn't perfectly level.
06:54 This is just going to give you the best chance of getting consistency with your measurements.
06:59 As we've discussed already, the chances of you finding a perfectly flat and level surface to perform your alignments is relatively minor.
07:07 That's OK though, we're going to show you how you can quickly and easily check the surface that you're going to do your alignment on and make some adjustments if that surface isn't perfectly level.
07:18 There are a variety of ways that we can perform this check and what we're going to be using here today is a piece of rectangular aluminium section and this is just a little bit wider than the track width of the car.
07:29 We're also going to be using two sockets in order to support that particular piece of aluminium extrusion off the ground.
07:36 It's really important that the sockets that you choose here are exactly the same height, otherwise this is going to build in some errors.
07:44 Once we've got this, we can then use our camber gauge or a builder's level in order to check the actual surface and make sure that it is level to the ground.
07:53 So what we're going to do here, we're going to do this at both the front and the rear axle line.
07:58 We're going to place our sockets approximately in the centre of the tyre contact patch.
08:03 Next, we're going to lay our rectangular box section aluminium extrusion on top of these sockets and then we're going to use our level or our bubble gauge or alternatively our camber gauge in the centre of this box section and we're going to be checking to see how level it is.
08:21 In the perfect world, obviously we're hoping that our working surface is going to be level but of course, that's rarely going to be the case.
08:28 No worries though, we can easily rectify this using some square vinyl flooring tiles.
08:34 Now these flooring tiles, we're going to use as packers on the side of the car that's low.
08:39 Each tile is around about 1.1 millimetres thick and they are relatively incompressible which is perfect for what we're trying to do.
08:47 I also purchased a pack of 12 of these tiles for about USD$25 so they're not going to break the bank and they're very easy to transport.
08:55 What we're going to do is use these vinyl tiles at the corner of the car that is low and we're going to use as many as we need in order to get everything nice and level.
09:05 Once we've done this at the front of the car, we're going to repeat that process at the rear.
09:10 Now if you are using the same area in your workshop for your setups repeatedly, obviously it would pay to write down how many tiles you're using and where they're located.
09:19 This way it's going to speed up your process for future alignments.
09:23 Once we've got our setup pad levelled, we can move the car into location and we can begin taking measurements.
09:29 Before we actually take our measurements, we want to make sure that the car is at our normal desired ride height and of course we want to make sure that our tyre pressures are set to our normal running pressures.
09:39 I should also mention here that we will be jacking the car off the ground in order to make our camber adjustments and of course when we drop the car back onto the ground, this is going to bind the suspension, so we're going to need to free that back up and there are two techniques we can use here.
09:53 Either we can roll the car forward and backwards a few metres, or alternatively we can use our home made slip plates which we're going to be using here.
10:02 These just consist of some square stainless steel plates with a layer of spray on grease in between them, allowing the suspension to settle back to its normal location any time we jack the car up and drop it back to the ground.
10:14 With everything ready to go, let's take our initial measurements for our camber.
10:19 Before we actually take any measurements, we do need to make sure that our steering wheel is pointing straight ahead, remembering that the caster will give us camber gain as we turn into a corner.
10:29 So in other words, the steering angle will affect the camber that we measure at the wheel.
10:34 This is relatively straightforward when we're first getting started but of course as we make adjustments to our camber, in turn, this will affect the toe.
10:41 So we need to be a little vigilant of this and adjust the steering as we go through to make sure that our wheels are always pointing straight ahead.
10:48 Let's get started by having a look at our camber/caster bubble gauge.
10:52 And we've got our adapter in the centre of the wheel here and we're going to simply place the camber/caster bubble gauge on, we're going to level it and then we can take a reading of our camber.
11:05 Now it is important with our camber/caster bubble gauge to make sure that the mounting surface on the wheel as well as the base of the camber/caster gauge is nice and clean and free of any debris.
11:16 Anything that could offset the mounting will affect our camber reading understandably.
11:21 We've got the gauge located, and we're just going to zero the level on the end and we can simply take our camber measurement.
11:30 And as we can see there, we're sitting just under 3.5 degrees of negative camber.
11:35 And on this particular gauge, we have one vial for reading negative camber and we have another for reading positive camber.
11:42 Obviously for our purposes on a racetrack, positive camber, very little use, so we're always going to be using our negative camber gauge.
11:49 Next we're going to look at making a camber reading using our camber gauge in an aluminium frame.
11:56 What we want to do for a start is make sure that our long standoffs, which go against the rim of our wheel are correctly adjusted for our rim diameter.
12:04 What we're looking for is a portion on the wheel where we have a flat area.
12:08 Obviously we want to make sure that this is consistent on the top and the bottom of the rim, otherwise this is going to affect our reading.
12:14 It's also worth mentioning here that you want a rim that is straight and in good condition.
12:20 If you've got a buckled rim, of course this is going to affect our camber reading.
12:24 So let's turn our gauge on now.
12:27 We've already calibrated it and we're going to place it against the bottom of the rim and against that top.
12:32 We want to go through the centre of the rim here and we're trying to make sure that our camber frame is relatively vertical.
12:39 So looking at our reading there, we're reading 3.4 degrees, essentially exactly what we saw with our bubble gauge.
12:47 So now we know that our camber on the front right of the car is 3.4 degrees negative.
12:52 Now for our demonstration here, let's assume that we actually want that to be four degrees of negative camber.
12:59 So now we're going to make a change to achieve that.
13:01 We've already talked about the ways we can make these changes.
13:04 In this demonstration we're going to make that adjustment using our camber adjustable strut top.
13:09 So let's go ahead and do that now.
13:12 The process we're going to go through here is to start by loosening the cap screws that lock the strut into the camber adjustable strut top.
13:20 And we're going to then make our camber adjustment.
13:23 Now a little tip here is that it does make it a lot easier to slide the strut inside of the camber adjustable strut top, if we just jack the front of the car slightly to take the load off the wheel.
13:35 Now when I see people make adjustments to their camber adjustable strut tops, more often than not I cringe seeing people use pry bars or steel punches.
13:44 And while yes this will be effective and it will allow you to make adjustments to your camber, it's going to quickly destroy your expensive, brand new camber adjustable strut tops.
13:55 Personally, in order to prevent damage to the strut top components, I like to use either a wooden or a plastic material and this can be as simple as using the end of a hammer.
14:05 This way, you're probably going to be using a tool that you've already got lying around the workshop.
14:11 So what we're going to do in this case is gently tap the strut top inwards to create more negative camber.
14:17 Of course if we wanted to reduce our negative camber, we'd do exactly the opposite, tapping it away form the centreline of the car.
14:23 Now a little tip when we are doing this, you'll find that the adjustable portion of our camber strut top, has multiple threaded holes for our four cap screws that we use to lock the strut in place.
14:35 Depending on how much you're moving it, you may find that the original holes, you're not able to reuse.
14:41 We always however want to make sure that we do have four cap screws in location, making sure that it's locked down and it's not going to move.
14:50 Once we've got our adjustments made, we can lock everything back in place, we can lower the car back onto the ground, remembering of course that if you aren't using slip plates, this will require you to roll the car forward and back, in order to reset all the suspension.
15:04 We can now take a further reading of our camber.
15:07 Alright, we've got our car back on the ground, we've got our wheel pointed straight ahead and we've settled our suspension, we can take another measurement of our camber.
15:19 So as we can see here, with one adjustment we've actually managed to fluke it and we're right on our four degree target.
15:25 So in this case our job is done on this particular corner of the car.
15:29 So from here, we'd repeat the exact process that we've just looked at on the remaining three corners of the car, iteratively adjusting our camber until we get it onto our target.
15:39 On the rear of this car, because it is a multi-link suspension system, we're going to make our adjustments on our adjustable lower control arm.
15:47 This is on the inner rod end that we've already looked at.
15:51 Of course, when we are working underneath the car, we always need to make sure that it's adequately supported on jack stands for our own safety.
15:59 Once we've got our camber where we want it to be, it's also a good idea to check the suspension through it's range of travel and at the front of the car, through the range of steering movement, just to make sure we're not going to have any problems with the wheel or suspension components contacting the chassis.