Your go-kart setup is a crucial to success, and camber is just one aspect of the many variables you can change. If you want to be competitive, you need to know how to tune your tires in order to get the most out of them. But what is go-kart camber?
Camber is the angle at which your tires are set on your go-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 it can give you both.
Camber is a fantastic setup tool to use not only in karting, but even further down the line in race cars as well. As soon as 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!
What Adjusting Your Kart’s Camber Does
Adjusting your kart’s camber alters the contact patch between the tires and the track. In other words, it determines how much of the tire is touching the track.
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 more wear on the outside of the tire means positive camber.
You only need to make very small changes with camber to see quite big differences. For example, the recommended camber angle for a dry circuit with medium grip is only 4 millimetres. That means 2 millimetres on each tire, 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, while still getting a bit of cornering advantage.
The 3 Different Go-Kart Camber Settings
1. Neutral Camber
Neutral camber is the factory setting that you will receive your kart in. The tires will be an equal distance apart with this setting (looking like this: | | ). A neutral camber setting 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 your camber. When you are cornering, your chassis will flex, and the weight of the kart will load onto the outside wheels. This can make negative camber a more appealing option.
2. Negative Camber
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, with the bottoms of the tires pointing outwards (like this: / \ ).
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. However, adding negative camber will reduce the contact patch between the track and the tires when the car is in a straight line, reducing available grip during acceleration and braking.
3. Positive Camber
With 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 (like this: \ / ). This rarely offers an advantage.
When To Adjust Your Go-Kart Camber
Camber is a setting you can play around with a lot as a kart owner, and there are various factors that affect the amount of grip you get from your camber settings. As a general guideline, it’s best to run a slight negative camber in karting, but the exact setup you should run will depend on a wide variety of factors.
In The Wet
If it’s raining and the track is offering very little grip, 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 lots of positive camber. In this case, reducing the contact area (by adding more negative camber) will actually help you.
Quali vs Race Laps
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. But 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 speed, 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 rolling resistance slowing the kart down on the straights.
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.
The Effect On Your Kart’s Handling
Essentially, by altering the camber, you are changing the way the front end grips the track. 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.
Find What Works For You
So, the key here is testing to find which setting works for you. It all depends on your driving style, as well as the track conditions and the rest of your kart’s setup. 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. It could also change over 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, this will make the track grippier, affecting the ideal camber settings.
KEY POINTS• You can have positive, neutral, or negative camber
• They each have their advantages and disadvantages
• It’s best to experiment and do lots of testing to find out what camber settings are right for your kart
How To Change The Camber On A Go-Kart
Before I go through the steps you need to take to change your camber settings on your kart, it is important to take note of a few things.
Calculating Your Real Camber
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 take 1 or 2 degrees away from it.
The second thing to consider is the wheel alignment kit you are using. I highly recommend you buy a full wheel alignment kit, which will include the Sniper alignment laser, as well as a steering column center 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 include:
- 30 mm spanner
- 5 mm hex/Allen key
- 3 mm hex/Allen key
- R3 laser alignment kit
The 8 Steps To Changing Kart Camber
1. Remove Bumper & Front Panel From The Kart
This step is optional. If you choose to do this step, it can make the process slightly easier, but 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 center of the chassis. This is the most reliable way to do it. If you try to judge it with your eyesight, there are various things that can go wrong, such as the possibility of the steering column being slightly bent.
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 5 mm hex key. You don’t have to remove it completely. 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 by screwing or unscrewing the “worm screws” that are on either side of the kingpin using the 3 mm 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 can be a complicated concept to understand in karting. It can be a very delicate and precise process to adjust your camber, but it’s fairly easy to do once you’ve done it once or twice.
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.
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