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View Full Version : (2009) Do I Need Camber Plates?



ea-sport
03-31-2009, 10:21 PM
I know some here (Jonathan, Woody, Brian, Bogdan and Pete to name a few) have more experience autocrossing BMW so if you may I'd like to pick your brain. I am planning to install some stiffer sway bars, shocks/struts and springs on my 330Ci. I am debating whether I need to install camber plates at the same time? The reason why I cam considering getting camber plates is to run as close to stock sport setting as possible for daily driving to preserve my tires and change it to the maximum negative camber for autocross. Does this make sense or am I looking at this the wrong way?

I already have the sway bars, shocks and springs and if it's beneficial to get camber plates, do you guys have any experience with any specific brands? I am looking at either UUC or Vorschlag. Thanks for the input guys.

Biggins
04-01-2009, 06:24 AM
I don't know much about the E46s, but you might be able to flip the strut hats for much cheaper than buying a camber plate? I'd only consider the Vorshlag piece if I were in the market. In money is no object, I'd pick up coilovers instead of sport shocks/struts before getting the camber plates.

How many events have you done? Just my opinion, but I wouldn't recommend replacing every part on the car before you're accustomed to how it handles in stock(ish) form.

Almost forgot... what tires are you running? Good tires are a much better investment than all of the above things you mentioned.

ea-sport
04-01-2009, 07:23 AM
I don't know much about the E46s, but you might be able to flip the strut hats for much cheaper than buying a camber plate? I'd only consider the Vorshlag piece if I were in the market. In money is no object, I'd pick up coilovers instead of sport shocks/struts before getting the camber plates.

How many events have you done? Just my opinion, but I wouldn't recommend replacing every part on the car before you're accustomed to how it handles in stock(ish) form.

Biggins, I've probably run 8 - 10 events. I wish I can do more but I travel a lot for work so it's hard to go to more events. I guess I am somewhat familiar with how my car handles in stock form. I didn't get coilovers because it would have cost roughly double what I paid for Koni SA and H&R Race Springs. Plus it would've kicked me to M3 instead of T3 class (which might not have been such a bad idea since for event #1 there were only 2 drivers in M3 and I would've beat the fastest time in M3 :biggrin:).

If camber plates doesn't really make huge difference I'll probably hold off on getting them since I'll also need new spring perches which will bring the cost close to $450 for the parts alone.

Pete
04-01-2009, 07:50 AM
IIRC the E46 has slotted strut mounts up front. I'm not sure how much max negative camber you can achieve but I think it's around 2 degrees. While not optimal, it's certainly better than stock. I'm not sure if the E46 responds to the same camber as an E36 as that is the chassis I know the most so you will have to check to see what is optimal. I suspect that it would like more than -2 degrees. If you want more than the slotted strut mounts can offer you, than camber plates are definitely the way to go as they are much easier to adjust than shimming the lower control arms. Plus you get the added advantage of increasing your caster which will help your on center return (aid in the wheel returning to center quicker) and feel.

With regards to adjusting them in between street and autocross, I wouldn't bother for a couple of reasons. First, every time you change camber, you do affect your toe slightly (as you never return the camber to the exact place it needs to be). Second reason is if you are worried about accelerated tire wear, camber does not effect wear negatively, camber and toe does. Go zero toe (in the front) on your alignment and you will not only have better turn in and no negative effect on tire wear. Keep in mind though that with the more aggressive alignment comes some trade offs. The car in street driving will feel more darty and you will loose some wet braking ability (but nothing to be scared about) but will require a bit more focus to drive but boy will it handle a lot better overall.

To give you an idea, my E36 323is had -3.4 degrees of camber and zero toe in the front. Rear had -2.4 and 1.8th toe. This made my car nice and neutral. IIRC the E46 should be around the same place as optimum but don't quote me. A good source of info to get you closer is Bob Tunnel's website as his advice is what got my car dialed in.

Hope this helps,

Biggins
04-01-2009, 08:42 AM
I guess I was thinking in terms of E36 setup... I haven't tinkered with any E46s.

Here is Bob Tunnell's website with set-up tips that Pete mentioned (although it is E36-centric): http://www.bimmerhaus.com/w5.html

As far as camber plates being worth it, I'd say it can be a catch-22 for a relative beginner. I've seen experienced guys in SCCA tinker with alignment specs and camber plates all season long and never find the settings with which they're content. I've also seen guys get a good alignment and that suffices. Camber plates can definitely get you that extra adjustment that makes everything perfect, but I feel like they could also get you moving in the wrong direction from ideal as well.

I've gone almost six seasons now with an almost identical set up (HELP!), but I've made it work. I have the Bilstein and H&R Sports which are a bit softer than your Koni/H&R. I've actually never had an alignment (not recommended) or changed anything else except to have the newest and best tires each year. The main reason I have not picked up the Vorshlag camber plates is because I'm afraid I'll make the wrong adjustment or spend all season trying to find that "perfect" set-up.

I would definitely get the anti-sway bar(s) for your car though.

Nick325xiT 5spd
04-01-2009, 09:20 AM
Skip the camber plates. What happens is that your alignment settings will drift over time as you mess with them constantly.

If you do decide to get camber plates, you should get a) the E46 rough road reinforcement plates, and b) a strut tower bar. The plates will strengthen the strut towers and the tower bar will prevent you from damaging the sheet metal as you constantly adjust the plates. (The rough road plates are very cheap - if you don't want to spring for the tower bar, the plates are much more important.)

ea-sport
04-01-2009, 11:30 AM
Thanks for all the input guys. For now I'll stay away from the camber plates and follow Pete's advice to get as much front negative camber that I can get and have zero toe. Plus I am still a beginner so I probably won't know what kind of set up is the optimal set up if I tinker around with camber plates. If anything I may mess things up even more :frown:. Thanks a lot guys.

Car54
04-01-2009, 02:15 PM
I've heard you can use E36 strut mounts form Greg Lindsay (an NCC board member) has done it on his 330. Email him, he's listed in the directory.

I wouldn't consider camber plates until you run R-comps or very sticky street tires. If you don't have enough grip to roll the tires over under hard cornering, then decreasing (more negative) camber won't let you use all of your (outside) tire.

Nick325xiT 5spd
04-01-2009, 02:25 PM
I've heard you can use E36 strut mounts form Greg Lindsay (an NCC board member) has done it on his 330. Email him, he's listed in the directory.

I wouldn't consider camber plates until you run R-comps or very sticky street tires. If you don't have enough grip to roll the tires over under hard cornering, then decreasing (more negative) camber won't let you use all of your (outside) tire.
I'd suggest that your logic is wrong, even though I agree that he doesn't need camber plates.

glindsay
04-01-2009, 07:46 PM
The stock left and right strut bearing tops are identical, so there's no advantage to swapping them side to side. However, the E46 does have elongated holes in the strut tower that can be useful somewhat, 0.7 degrees camber from one end to the other. There is a locator pin that protrudes through the top that can be knocked out with a hammer blow. But the stock position is near center within the elongated holes and will allow only 0.4 degrees of additional camber. At stock ride height the camber is -1.0 and shifting the mounts toward the inside will give about -1.4 degrees. Lowering the car an inch yields about 0.4 degrees additional camber. But lowering the car may appear to add static camber but it also gives up camber-gain while cornering.

As Craig mentioned above, The E36 M3 front strut mounts ($160 a pair) can be used on the Non-M E46. Installing them on their proper sides and making use of the slots yields -1.7 to -2.4 degrees camber at stock ride height and adds 1.5 degrees caster (significantly increases steering effort). With the E36 M3 strut mounts installed on their proper sides and stock springs, there's just barely enough clearance inside the towers. Not sure if your aftermarket springs have a smaller diameter or not, but my coil-overs have plenty of clearance and can handle swapping the E36 M3 strut mounts (installing the left on the right and right on the left side) yielding -3.2 to -3.9 degrees camber at stock ride height and still retains 1.0 degree of additional caster.

As mentioned in the posts above, changes in camber affect toe. Get some toe plates so you can adjust them yourself or you'll go broke getting it aligned every time you want to try something different.

Car54
04-01-2009, 09:03 PM
I'd suggest that your logic is wrong, even though I agree that he doesn't need camber plates.

Please learn me!

Nick325xiT 5spd
04-01-2009, 09:56 PM
Please learn me!
Simple - I've never met a tire I couldn't roll over. Winter tires, crap all seasons, etc.

jhm5
04-02-2009, 06:16 AM
Tires will make the biggest difference. Stickier rubber, even in a street tire, and consider getting rid of the staggered tire sizes. BMW likes the look of fatter rear tires... but that setup contributes to understeer. Same width tires all around, sticker rubber, and get whatever neg camber you can out of the stock strut tower slots.
If you've got adjustable sway bars, they can be tweaked for better balance.
But the more changes you make... the more adjustments there are to screw up.
You won't know if it's your driving or the car to blame... or credit... for your autox performance.

Pete
04-02-2009, 07:20 AM
I agree that a novice will have issues with pushing the car hard enough to roll the tires but it is entirely possible. BMW's are notorious for not providing enough camber in autocross situations. When he becomes quick enough, he'll start to get groove of death on the front tires (a large pronounced grove just on the inside of the outer edge of the tire). That usually is the indication that camber plates are in order.

If you're trying to reduce understeer, aligment and tire pressures can be the way to "dial" that out. Also, bear in mind that overdriving the car is often mistaken for understeer which driving style and technique come into play. All of these issues can be addressed with time and experimentation.

What is the car doing that you don't like?

Edit: I would have to agree with the poster before me that modification of the car is something you want to do after you get really comfortable with driving a stock car (driven to it's potential). I made that mistake when I first started out and modified the car way before I should have and thus extended my learning curve to really learning how to drive at the limit.