Go-kart set up is a crucial to success. If you want to be competitive, you need to know how to tune your tires in order to get the most out of them. You don’t need to have a lot of knowledge about tires in order to do this, just the right knowledge. But what is go-kart camber?
Camber is the angle at which the tires are set on the kart. If you are looking at the kart from the front, the camber would be the angle at which the tires lean to the sides of the kart. It can either give you more grip in corners, or more straight-line speed, and in some cases, both.
Camber is a fantastic setup tool to use not only in karting, but even further down the line in race cars as well. These tire settings are used by drivers across the world in all leagues of motorsport. There’s a lot to learn, but once you understand it, it can give you a better understanding of how your tires work.
The 3 Different Camber Settings
Camber is one of those set up elements where people tend to shudder when they think about it. As soon people think about tire settings, they tend to be put off because it can become a bit complicated to follow and to remember. But, in this guide, we are going to keep it simple and easy to remember, so that you can always refer back to here to refresh your memory.
The best part to check is the top part of the tire. There are 3 different camber settings:
This is the factory setting that you will receive your kart in. The tires will be an equal distance apart.
This setting means that the top parts of the two front tires will be closer together. From the front view, it will look like the tops of the tires are pointing towards each other.
In this setting, the bottoms of the tires will be closer together. When you are looking from the front of the kart, the top halves of the front tires will be pointing away from each other.
What this setting does is adjust the contact patch between the tires and the track. In other words, it determines how much of the tire is touching the track. So, for example, a positive camber will have the most contact between the tire and the road. So naturally, you might think that this is the best setting.
However, there are advantages to adjusting the camber, which we will cover in more detail later on. When you are cornering, your chassis will flex, and the weight of the kart will load onto the outside wheels. In this case, running negative camber will give you more grip through corners. This is because when the weight loads onto the outside wheels, there will be a higher contact patch on the tires.
Similarly, adding negative camber will reduce the contact patch between the track and the tires when the car is in a straight line. This will give you a straight-line speed advantage due to the tires causing less friction and drag.
Therefore, an easy way to check the camber on your kart is to run a few laps on new tires and then check where your front tires are wearing and graining. If the graining is central, down the middle of the tire, you have neutral camber. If you have more wear on the inside of the tire, you are running a negative camber, and wear on the outside of the tire means positive camber.
Camber takes extremely small adjustments in order to be effective though. For example, the recommended camber angle for a dry circuit with medium grip is only 4 millimetres. That means 2 millimetres on each tire though, not 4 on one tire. When it comes to your wheels and tires, you want them to be as balanced between left and right as possible.
When To Adjust Camber
Camber is a setting that can be played around with a lot, and there are various factors that affect the amount of grip you get from your camber settings. As a general guideline, you can follow this rule: Positive camber is equal to more contact, which creates more grip. Negative camber means less contact, and less grip.
However, as with anything in karting, this is not a fool proof rule. There are a lot of variables to consider when you adjust your camber. The first of which, will be the easiest to get through, and that is rain.
If it’s raining and there’s a wet track with very little grip on it, your camber can be set to a neutral position or even into the positive values. This will create a larger contact patch between the tires and the track, which will give you more front-end grip.
It gets more complicated when you consider the grip levels on track though. If you are on a high grip circuit, you might have issues with the rear of the kart sliding, or your tires overheating if you are running high camber levels. In this case, reducing the contact area will actually help you.
Adding positive camber will cause your tires to wear and overheat more quickly. So, it’s important to adjust your camber between qualifying and races. Having your tires heat up quickly can be useful in qualifying to get a quick lap in. If your tires overheat, you will start to lose your grip on those tires and your lap times will become drastically slower.
If you are looking for a higher top end speed on your kart, setting your camber to a more negative setting will help you to achieve that. This means that there is less contact between the tires and the track, and therefore less friction and drag slowing the kart down on the straights. This will also help your karts on the exits of corners, and you will be able to accelerate faster and earlier out of corners.
So, if you are running in a low horsepower category where all the karts struggle to get to a higher speed on the straights, setting the camber to a negative value could give you a big advantage. On the other hand, if you are running a high-speed kart like a KZ, setting your camber to a positive setting for higher grip will be advantageous.
So essentially, by altering the camber, you are changing the way the front end grips the circuit. Neutral camber for example, will give the kart more precise turn in during a corner, but it might oversteer slightly throughout the corner and be a bit less stable on the exit when accelerating.
If you set the camber to a negative setting in comparison, the kart will grip less when turning into corners, and you might find that you will need to turn into corners earlier in order to hit your apex. On the other hand, the rear of the kart will be planted on the exit of the corner, and you can accelerate earlier and faster out of the corner.
If you are to set the camber to a positive setting in the same scenario, you might have an extremely sharp turn in, but you will find yourself fighting the kart with oversteer as the rear will lose grip before the front. You would also find the kart to be a lot slower on exits and straights with the extra contact between tire and track slowing it down.
So, the key here is testing to find which setting works for you. It all depends on your driving style, as well as the different track conditions. It’s important to do a lot of testing to really get a good understanding of how camber affects your kart.
Always remember that these settings could change depending on the circuit and the weather conditions. In addition, it could also change during the course of the day, for example if there are a lot of karts running at the track and a lot of rubber is laid down, which will make the track grippier.
How To Change The Camber On A Go-Kart
Before we start on the steps you need to take to change your camber settings on your kart it is important to take note of a few things.
When you adjust your kart’s camber, it will most likely be on a trolley or simply on the ground. However, if there is no driver in the kart, this will affect the angle at which you set your camber. This is the theoretical camber. In order to calculate the actual camber, take the theoretical value and minus 1 or 2 degrees from it.
The second is the wheel alignment kit you are using. It is highly recommended to buy a full wheel alignment kit, which will include the Sniper alignment laser, as well as a steering column centre laser, and a steering column locking mechanism. I would recommend the Kelgate R3 Magtronic Master Kit. This might be a bit pricey, but you can find everything you need in this kit.
Tools you will need to change kart camber:
- 30mm Spanner
- 5mml Hex Key
- 3mml Hex Key
- R3 Laser alignment kit
The 8 Steps To Changing Kart Camber
1. Remove Bumper And Front Panel From The Kart
This step is optional. If you choose to do this step, it can make the process slightly easier, however it is not essential at all. This will simply make working on the kart easier.
2. Ensure The Chassis Is Sitting Level From Front To Back
Use either a normal level, or one of the magnetic ones provided in the measuring kit on the frame of the kart.
3. Make Sure That The Steering Column Is Straight
You can do this with a tool provided in the laser kit by attaching it to the steering column and pointing the laser to the centre of the chassis. This is the most reliable way to do it. If you judge it with your eyesight, there are various things that can go wrong, such as the possibility of the steering column being slightly bent for example.
4. Use The Locking Mechanism To Keep The Steering Wheel In Place
This is especially useful as the steering can easily be moved during the alignment process.
5. Fit The Sniper Alignment Kit Onto The Spindles Of The Kart.
Make sure you place both in the same place on both spindles, otherwise the alignment could differ between the two wheels.
6. Loosen The Kingpin
Next you want to loosen the kingpin (the pin that holds your spindle onto the chassis) using the spanner and the 5mm Hex key. You don’t have to completely remove it; just loosen it so that there is about an inch of play on it.
7. Adjust Your Camber With Worm Screws
Now you can adjust your camber screwing or unscrewing the ‘worm screws’ that are on either side of the kingpin using the 3mm Hex key. Moving the spindle more towards the kart will give you negative camber and moving it more towards the wheel hub will give you positive camber.
Using the laser wheel alignment kit, you can see this happening in real time. Camber is shown in a vertical plane (up and down) on the graph, and you can use the laser point to adjust your camber to where you need it to be.
8. Tighten The Kingpin
The final step is to tighten the kingpin again and double check that your camber hasn’t accidentally adjusted from where you had it set.
As you can see, this is a pretty delicate and precise operation, so you will need to work carefully to ensure that your kart is set up correctly. Once you have done some testing, you will not only get a better idea of what camber settings you prefer, but you will also become better and quicker at adjusting it.
Camber is arguably the biggest factor to consider when it comes to the whole picture of wheel alignment. However, there are still some other settings that you can look at. You will notice on your R3 laser kit that adjustments on the horizontal plane (left to right) will adjust your toe in and toe out.
If you are looking from above the kart this time, toe in will mean that the front of tires will be pointing towards each other and toe out means they will be pointing away from each other. These can be used to even further adjust your kart’s front-end grip.
To keep it short and simple, increasing toe in will give you more understeer and keep the kart more stable during high speed corners. Increasing the toe out will give you more oversteer and make the kart more responsive to steering movements.
Camber can be a complicated topic to discuss. However, I hope that this article has helped you to fully understand how camber affects your kart, how to adjust the camber, and when to adjust it. It can be very delicate and precise process to adjust your camber, however it is simple to do and does not take too long.
It’s important that you do a lot of testing under different track conditions to find the camber settings that work best for you. It’s not a one size fits all kind of setting, and your driving style will determine which camber setting gives you the fastest lap times.