Have you ever wondered if a leveling kit does affect camber? Look no more. We´ve got you covered.
Modern trucks, out of the factory, come with a certain positive rake angle. In other words, the rear end is higher than the front.
This is not some weird error but intentionally done to prevent issues when towing. When you attach a trailer or a camper to the hitch, part of its weight transfers downward through the hitch.
This has the consequence of pushing the rear end of the truck lower to the ground, and when the maximum tongue weight of your vehicle is reached, it will sit level with the rake angle close to 0.
Manufacturing trucks with a positive rake angle is done to prevent problems with steering and braking when towing close to capacity.
A leveling kit will affect your camber, and you should adjust it, whether with camber bolts, plates, or changing the adjustment of the control arms if they have it. Only with a neutral camber, you can be certain that the tires are sitting properly on the road and provide the maximum grip they can, which is needed for safe cornering and stopping.
Table of Contents
What Is A Leveling Kit?
The leveling kit is a simple device that makes the front of your truck sit a bit higher than stock, and thus making it level with the rear end. The simplest ones consist of a spacer that is mounted between front suspension springs and their upper spring perches.
The kit may include replacement torsion bar keys if intended for trucks that use a torsion bar front suspension.
And more elaborate kits may include replacement bushings, ball joints, upper control arms, shocks, sway bar end links, and so on.
Leveling kits can raise the front end of your truck for between 1 and 3 inches, for anything above three inches is needed a lift kit which is a different thing altogether.
And usually, you don’t need to raise the front end of your truck more than 2 inches to have it sit level.
You should be aware that when installing a leveling kit, the geometry of the suspension will change.
There is no way around it, effectively the front suspension springs will be moved downward by around a couple of inches, which elongates their axis, and with it, the angles of all suspension’s elements will change.
All three elements, toe, camber, and caster; will be changed, the question is how much.
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Will a Leveling Kit Hurt My Gas Mileage?
Yes, a leveling kit can change your mpg, any form of modification (aerodynamics of the truck) to make the truck ride higher will cause a drop in MPGs. I think the only way to mess with the suspension and not have it affect the gas mileage is to lower it.
You’re MPG reading on the truck will always be incorrect after a lift or a tune, and stock wise they’re not that accurate anyway.
You can get some rims with a negative offset that will give you the look you’re going for.
What Is A Camber?
In the simplest terms, it is the angle the vertical axis of a wheel makes with the horizontal axis of the steering rack. When looking at the vehicle from the front, it is the angle at which the wheels sit on the ground.
This angle is supposed to be 90 degrees, and the camber is expressed as the difference from it, either positive or negative.
“The camber is called negative when wheels sit leaning toward the inside with their top, in other words, when their angle with the ground on the inward side is less than 90 degrees. And positive in the opposite situation, when this angle is larger than 90 degrees.”
The camber is important when it comes to the tires’ wear, as the angle at which they meet the road determines the size and shape of the contact patch.
With a neutral camber, the tire presses evenly on the road with its whole width, thus the wear on it is also even.
In the case of negative camber, the tire will exert a higher pressure on its inside shoulder than the rest of its tread surface, which will cause uneven wear due to decreased size, changed shape, and changed location of the contact patch.
This also impacts the handling of the vehicle as the smaller contact patch means lower traction.
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What Affects The Camber or Misalignment?
What causes camber misalignment? In general terms, the camber is affected by the position of all elements of the front suspension except the steering rack’s tie rods. In this type of situation, the most important factor is spring compression.
When a leveling kit is installed, the distance between the upper spring perch and lower perch, in case of the independent suspension, becomes larger.
For all intents and purposes, this has effects that are opposite to compression of spring. Because the control arms have a fixed length, the only way to accommodate this increased length is if the wheel’s camber is increased.
How big the increase of camber happens, depends on the height of the leveling kit. It can be from negligible and within the tolerances of the manufacturer of the truck, but can also require realignment.
How Much Does a Leveling Kit Affect Alignment
After the installation of a leveling kit your truck will need an alignment. The caster and camber remain virtually unchanged but it throws the toe out almost 1 full degree per side which will destroy you tires with the quickness and also make the truck handle very unpredictably.
A front-end alignment should be done every time the front suspension is touched, common knowledge.
Every company that makes a lift kit tells you that in the installation instructions. Camber will also be altered for those who adjust their front torsion bars to achieve lift.
This is quite normal when lifting the front end of any vehicle equipped with an independent front suspension using a so-called “level kit”.
All IFS 4x4s will need a full alignment, while solid-axle 4x4s can typically get by with centering the steering wheel via the draglink adjustment.
Some solid-axle 4x4s will also require caster adjustment for proper handling and road manners.
What To Do In Order To Improve The Camber
How to improve the camber depends on the exact construction of the front suspension. But overall it is done by properly adjusting the alignment of the wheels.
Generally speaking, there are three ways to do it. On some vehicles, the lower control arm or upper control arm has the adjustment nuts for the camber.
So adjusting the camber means just turning it in the desired direction until the camber is in an acceptable range.
In case that neither has it, aftermarket control arms adjustable both for caster and camber are available on the market but are actually the most expensive solution. The third option is the installation of camber bolts or camber plates.
Both of these will give you the option of adjusting the camber and caster of the wheels.
Depending on the design of the suspension, camber bolts are used either instead of the standard strut bolts used for connecting it to the steering knuckle, or instead of standard bolts that connect the lower control arm’s bushings to the front subframe.
In some cases, your truck’s suspension could have adjustable camber plates already mounted into the strut tower, otherwise, this is where they need to be mounted.
In case that you opt for installing either camber bolts or plates, to do so you will need the jack stands, and also to closely follow the instructions which come with the part you are installing.
After you did so, the work is not finished, as you will have to take the truck to a repair shop where technicians can precisely measure the camber, caster, and toe.
Wheel alignment is not hard to do, the problem is to accurately measure it. While there are somewhat inexpensive, or at least not very expensive, measuring tools, they are nowhere near as precise as the tools in repair shops. So, it’s better to properly align wheels there.
“In case that you are not planning on towing huge weights with your truck, its OEM rake may either make it look aesthetically unpleasing or limiting your ability to install bigger wheels on all four corners, as at front they may rub wheel arches when cornering.”
The solution for this is installing a leveling kit, which can raise the front end of your truck between 1 and 3 inches.
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