How to Adjust Camber Boltsby Jody L. Campbell
To put it simply, camber is the vertical position of the wheel and knuckle on a vehicle. The straighter it is, the better the tire wear. Because suspension and steering components weaken after time, the camber on the vehicle can be compromised. Camber is measured in degrees when performing an alignment. Some vehicles come with camber bolts already in place as 1 of the 2 strut bolts. The camber bolt has an off-centered lobe that manipulates the vertical position of the knuckle and wheel to a slight degree. Most often, camber measurement can be corrected with a camber bolt.
Put on the safety glasses and place the vehicle on the alignment rack. Follow the machine's direction to determine the alignment measurements. Always adjust camber (and caster) before making toe adjustments.
Determine if there is a camber bolt already installed. One of the strut bolts (usually the top bolt for rear struts or the bottom 1 for front struts, but there are exceptions) will have a washer with a small tab-like handle (aftermarket camber bolt) or the bolt will have an offset eccentric bolt head (original equipment).
Loosen the non-camber bolt first with the impact gun and a socket. If the camber bolt is aftermarket, loosen it with 2 hand wrenches. Never use an impact gun on an aftermarket camber bolt. Do not loosen the bolts too much. Once both bolts are loose, a helper can manipulate the vertical position of the tire by pushing the top of the tire in or out. Some vehicles use oblong bolt holes to allow slight positioning of the strut bolt to adjust camber.
Manipulate the tire to get the desired measurement as close as you can and tighten the strut bolt with 2 hand wrenches and only tighten it snugly--enough to hold the position of the camber with the wheels and axle positioned back onto the rack.
Run a caster sweep again if the alignment machine prompts you to. Return to the specifications screen on the machine to recheck the camber reading.
Compare the current measurement to the specifications and then if necessary, repeat the procedure to get the camber into specs. Camber bolts are only going to manipulate the measurement of the wheel slightly (see Tips section).
- Negative camber positions the tire so the top of the wheel points inward toward the engine and the bottom of the wheel points outward away from the car. Positive camber positions the tire so the top of the wheel points outward and the bottom of the wheel points inward. Be sure the washer and handle (on the aftermarket bolt) do not come unseated from the bolt hole. Position the bolt in the maximum position; place the lobe of the bolt facing the handle of the washer and the handle facing away from the knuckle. For an original equipment camber bolt, position the bolt so the tick marks on the bolt head face the engine. Camber bolts are only going to allow you to manipulate the camber measurement of each wheel to a few degrees. If the measurement is way out, further diagnosis will be necessary. Check for front-end damage like a bent axle or strut rod. Be sure all the front-end suspension and steering components are tight and within specifications.
Things You'll Need
- Alignment rack and machine
- 1/2-inch drive impact gun
- 1/2-inch impact socket set
- Box-end hand wrench set
- Safety glasses
- Torque wrench
- A vehicle that does not have camber bolts or slotted (oblong) struts holes can most often have a strut bolt removed and an aftermarket camber bolt installed. Usually, you would place the aftermarket bolt in the lower strut bolt position for the front and the top strut bolt position for the rear. Aftermarket camber bolts are thinner than strut bolts (except for the offset lobe) which allows them to move and manipulate the knuckle position. Because of this, they are not as strong as a strut bolt and if not tightened or positioned properly, they can slip from their position or break (if not placed in the correct strut hole). Always read the instructions that come with the camber bolt for the correct torque specifications and position before installing.
Jody L. Campbell spent over 15 years as both a manager and an under-car specialist in the automotive repair industry. Prior to that, he managed two different restaurants for over 15 years. Campbell began his professional writing career in 2004 with the publication of his first book.