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Connecting Rod: Power from the Piston to the Crankshaft

Among the parts of an engine, perhaps it is the connecting rod that very little attention is paid to. Perhaps mainly because its function is only adjunct to what the piston and the crankshaft does, the focus is mostly on these two more popular neighbors of the connecting rod. However, it is very erroneous if one pays little attention to the connecting rod because any failure on the part of the connecting rod is apt to cause catastrophic engine problems such as engine explosions or flameouts.

Connecting Rod
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Function of the Connecting Rod

Also known as the conrod, the connecting rod has a very mundane role of connecting the piston to the crankshaft. Mundane as it seems, this role is very important because just like with the case of the crankshaft, it helps to convert the reciprocating linear motion of the piston into a rotating motion, which then results to the production of power. This role may seem small, but without the connecting rod, the crankshaft will not turn from the force exerted by the piston.

In today's modern automotives, the connecting rod must be made of durable material. Just like with the case of the crankshaft, the connecting rod is also subject to heavy pressure and forces during the process of producing power. However, if it is made from heavyweight metals, it requires a greater force on the part of the piston to simply move the conrod. This is why, aside from steel, the following materials are also used in the production of connecting rod:

  • Aluminum. Aluminum provides the most desired quality that an all-steel conrod does not have: less weight. Being lightweight, it does not require much force from the piston to move it. However, this lightness in weight comes at the expense of durability. This is why when it comes to overall engine efficiency, aluminum connecting rods are far better than all-steel variants, although they require frequent replacements. Still, they are very popular because they are elemental in efficient fuel consumption.
  • Titanium is another popular material used in the production of connecting rods. Here, both the qualities of lightness and durability are present, although it comes at a far higher cost compared with an aluminum connecting rod. This is frequently employed in many later models of vehicles and trucks with internal combustion engines. Titanium conrods are in effect a compromise between an all steel variant and aluminum conrods. In terms of application, titanium connecting rods are very popular among high performance engines such as in racing cars and in heavy duty engines such as in trucks because it helps produce more power with lesser fuel consumption.
  • Cast iron is also used, although their use has been very limited to motorcycles and scooters.

It is wise to always check the connecting rod, especially if it is beginning to show signs of fatigue, which happens when it is no longer straight and shows bending either at the middle or at the ends. It must be done on a regular basis to avoid the problem commonly known as throwing a rod when the broken conrod damages the crankcase, which often renders the engine beyond repair.

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