Suspension Settings Explained
How Suspension Modding Effects Your Handling
What are Camber, Caster, and Toe?
We all strive for the best performance from our vehicles. From modding and upgrading to more performance based parts, to tinkering with parts already on the car to achieve the best results, it's in our blood to make our rides the best they can be. Unfortunately, modding isn't always easy. This is especially true with suspension. But what are a few key areas where modifications can change the way the car responds on the track?
But how do they affect the car? Lets explain!
Camber is the angle of the wheel from top to bottom. Negative camber is obtained when the top of the wheel is closer to the body of the car that the bottom of the wheel. Positive camber is the opposite, when the bottom of the wheel is closer to the car than the top.
Negative camber has many affects on the car. First, it will increase inner tire wear since that portion of the tire will come into contact with the ground more than other parts. Tire grip will also be affected, as less rubber is making contact with the ground at any given time. This also effects braking and controllability during heavy acceleration. Positive camber is also detrimental, as it can cause issues to both the suspension, tire, and handling capabilities of the car.
Since we know that it is ideal to have the most tire on the ground at any given time, we can assume that some amount of positive or negative camber are acceptable to get the most meat on the asphalt. While street cars rarely see positive camber, negative is more common. Different cars require different specs, so find the best settings through trial and error.
Caster is the angle of the wheel from front to back, with a centerline inside the strut. The easiest way to imagine this is to think of the angle the strut or coilover sits inside the wheel well. Positive caster has the top of the strut facing the driver, while negative caster has the top facing the front of the vehicle.
Positive caster creates what is called "align torque". This torque helps the car stay straight when hitting bumps or travelling in straight lines. Negative caster is more commonly seen on older cars that do not have power steering, as it lowers the effort required to steer the car. Caster must always remain symmetrical, so having different settings on each side of the car will only cause steering and tracking issues when driving.
Most cars today run some sort of positive caster based on the design of the chassis. Increasing caster (nagative) will cause heavier steering. Less effort means a more enjoyable driving experience on the track and your daily commute.
Toe is measured from the top, with outside toe meaning the front of the wheel faces outward. Inside toe is when the front of the wheel faces inward towards the engine. Toe has a large effect on how the car reacts when you turn the steering wheel. Toe is also the main culprit in unever or excessive tie wear.
Since toe-in points then wheel inward, it will improve your straight line control at high speeds. Toe-out points the wheel outward, which can improve steering response. Excessive settings of both toe-in and toe-out cause premature tire wear, so find a setting that works best for your driving habits (racing, street, dail driver).
In most cases, it's best to set a nuetral toe within .03 +/-, but every platform is different in the amount of acceptable toe. Check with the owners manual or call us for more information.
What Does All This Mean For Me?
Modding the suspension is necessary on almost every platform that see's the track; either the drag, road course, autocross, or rally. But not one setup will work for everything. For daily drivers with coilovers and other height adjusting mods, getting the car back to factory suspension alignment will typically have the best effects. But if you plan on taking the car to the track on occaision, finding a happy medium between a setup that works on the street as well as the track is a great idea.
For the strictly track driven car with additional mods other than your typical lowering setup, you'll have to experiment with different settings available on your parts to achieve the best results. You can use the information provided above about caster, camber, and toe, as well as suggestions from the manufacturers of the aftermarket items you've installed to find the perfect setup for just about any car on any surface. So mod away, and have fun dialing in your suspension!