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Know Your Angles: We Test Intercomp’s Digital Caster Camber Gauge and Turn Plates

Intercomp's Digital Caster Camber Gauge is definitely a premium piece of measurement equipment. It is accurate to 0.1 of a degree and is said to be up to 10 times more accurate than a typical "bubble" gauge. There is also a backlight function to help make emergency setup changes in a dark pit space easy.

Intercomp’s Digital Caster Camber Gauge is definitely a premium piece of measurement equipment. It is accurate to 0.1 of a degree and is said to be up to 10 times more accurate than a typical “bubble” gauge. There is also a backlight function to help make emergency setup changes in a dark pit space easy.

Football may be a game of inches, but racing is a game of degrees–at least it is when it comes to dialing in your setup.

Being able to dial in the right setup is nice, but being able to do it week after week can be the difference between a frustrating season and a seat at the head table at the championship banquet. And to do that you have to be able to measure your chassis settings accurately time after time.

We’ve had our eye on Intercomp’s Digital Caster Camber gauge for a while now, and Scott Elmgren, the company’s motorsports specialist sent us not only a gauge to try out for ourselves, but also a pair of Intercomp’s Digital Turn Plates. These are definitely premium products, and so they cost a bit more than a bubble-gauge and turn plates with a simple pointer, but they also promise increased accuracy.

Before we get started, a quick primer on caster and camber. Caster is the angle between the upper and lower ball joints on a steered wheel. Caster can be changed by moving either the upper or lower control arms forward or back. Caster is important because it affects how easy a car is to steer. If the upper ball joint is behind the lower, this is known as positive caster angle (a line drawn between the upper and lower pivot points would hit the ground in a spot in front of the tire’s contact patch) and can help steering feel more stable. Likewise, moving the upper pivot point ahead of the lower can make the car feel darty or unplanted, and isn’t recommended in dirt racing. Caster split is the difference between the front wheels and can help the car on turn in. Typically, a good starting point for caster split would be two degrees of positive caster on the left front and four on the right front.

Camber is the angle of the tire relative to vertical. If the top of the tire is leaned in toward the center of the car, that’s negative camber. The idea behind adding or removing camber is to maximize the tire’s contact patch during high G-loading through the turns when you need the most traction. A good starting point when it comes to camber is three degrees of positive camber in the left front and four degrees negative in the right front.

Remember, these are only general reference points and will be affected by the type of car you are racing, the chassis builder, type of tire, degrees of banking and driving style.

 

Here's a look at Intercomp's Digital Turn Plates. The digital display measures in 0.1 degree increments, operate off a single 9 volt battery and can be used on top of a set of scales.

Here’s a look at Intercomp’s Digital Turn Plates. The digital display measures in 0.1 degree increments, operate off a single 9 volt battery and can be used on top of a set of scales.

With the car at ride height and the wheels pointed straight ahead, set the front wheels so that they are centered over the turn plates. Turn on the digital readout and don't forget to pull the pins so that the plates can go through their full range of movement.

With the car at ride height and the wheels pointed straight ahead, set the front wheels so that they are centered over the turn plates. Turn on the digital readout and don’t forget to pull the pins so that the plates can go through their full range of movement.

The car that we are working with is a Dirt Late Model owned by racer Chris Hargett. He is busy rebuilding the car for the start of the season which made photos easier for us, but the steps for checking caster and camber are the same if the car is complete.

The car that we are working with is a Dirt Late Model owned by racer Chris Hargett. He is busy rebuilding the car for the start of the season which made photos easier for us, but the steps for checking caster and camber are the same if the car is complete.

Hopefully you have a large volunteer crew that helps you get everything done. But the truth is many racers spend lots of late nights in the race shop all by themselves. Here's a trick to help out if you find yourself without a second set of hands to help out. The next time your string your car and know your wheels are straight ahead, mark your steering shaft and the heim joint with a paint pen. Now all you have to do to confirm your wheels are pointing straight ahead is to line up the mark.

Hopefully you have a large volunteer crew that helps you get everything done. But the truth is many racers spend lots of late nights in the race shop all by themselves. Here’s a trick to help out if you find yourself without a second set of hands to help out. The next time your string your car and know your wheels are straight ahead, mark your steering shaft and the heim joint with a paint pen. Now all you have to do to confirm your wheels are pointing straight ahead is to line up the mark.

Intercomp has several mounting options for securing the Caster Camber Gauge to the spindle, but for Late Models with a Wide 5 hub the simplest option is an adaptor that screws into the spindle. Just knock the dust cap off and install.

Intercomp has several mounting options for securing the Caster Camber Gauge to the spindle, but for Late Models with a Wide 5 hub the simplest option is an adaptor that screws into the spindle. Just knock the dust cap off and install.

Using the digital gauge is simple--there are only three buttons and a bubble level to worry about. After installing the gauge, turn the power on and rotate the gauge so that the bubble is centered in the level. We'll make a quick check of the camber settings first (Always make sure to check camber again after adjusting your caster settings as this can affect your camber.) so Hargett just pushes the caster/camber button until the gauge reads "CBER."

Using the digital gauge is simple–there are only three buttons and a bubble level to worry about. After installing the gauge, turn the power on and rotate the gauge so that the bubble is centered in the level. We’ll make a quick check of the camber settings first (Always make sure to check camber again after adjusting your caster settings as this can affect your camber.) so Hargett just pushes the caster/camber button until the gauge reads “CBER.”

Now it is as simple as checking the readout on the gauge. The right front has negative 4.3 degrees of camber. Right where Hargett wants it.

Now it is as simple as checking the readout on the gauge. The right front has negative 4.3 degrees of camber. Right where Hargett wants it.

Unlike checking camber which is essentially no harder than turning the gauge on, checking camber does require four steps. First, touch the caster/camber button so that "CAST" shows up on the readout.

Unlike checking camber which is essentially no harder than turning the gauge on, checking camber does require four steps. First, touch the caster/camber button so that “CAST” shows up on the readout.

We are working on the right front, so Intercomp's instructions say to begin by turning the wheel to the left. The Caster Camber Gauge has a setting to allow you to choose between 15 and 20 degree sweeps. Since the wheel movement will allow it we chose 20. Here, you can see that the Digital Turn Plate has confirmed that the wheel is turned exactly 20 degrees to the left.

We are working on the right front, so Intercomp’s instructions say to begin by turning the wheel to the left. The Caster Camber Gauge has a setting to allow you to choose between 15 and 20 degree sweeps. Since the wheel movement will allow it we chose 20. Here, you can see that the Digital Turn Plate has confirmed that the wheel is turned exactly 20 degrees to the left.

Rotate the gauge on the spindle until the bubble is centered in the level and hit the "Zero" key to zero out the display.

Rotate the gauge on the spindle until the bubble is centered in the level and hit the “Zero” key to zero out the display.

Now turn the steering wheel until the tire and spindle is rotated back straight and then 20 degrees to the right. Set the gauge to level once again and check the readout. This is your caster angle.

Now turn the steering wheel until the tire and spindle is rotated back straight and then 20 degrees to the right. Set the gauge to level once again and check the readout. This is your caster angle.

One this car we have 3.8 degrees of positive caster angle.

One this car we have 3.8 degrees of positive caster angle.

Photo 14

It is nearly impossible to get an accurate caster reading with your race car’s tires on the shop floor because the friction between the tire’s contact patch and the floor will deform the sidewalls and create inconsistent readings. Instead of simply pivoting, Intercomp’s turn plates allow movement on three different axis to eliminate binding and promote accurate, consistent readings to help dial in the perfect chassis setups. A set of turn plates like this will also allow you to precisely dial in your ackerman settings as well.

Source

Intercomp / 800.328.3336 / IntercompRacing.com

 


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