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What is a Connecting Rod?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 23, 2024
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The connecting rod is a major link inside of a combustion engine. It connects the piston to the crankshaft and is responsible for transferring power from the piston to the crankshaft and sending it to the transmission. There are different types of materials and production methods used in the creation of connecting rods. The most common types of connecting rods are steel and aluminum. The most common type of manufacturing processes are casting, forging and powdered metallurgy.

The connecting rod is the most common cause of catastrophic engine failure. It is under an enormous amount of load pressure and is often the recipient of special care to ensure that it does not fail prematurely. The sharp edges are sanded smooth in an attempt to reduce stress risers on the rod. The connecting rod is also shot-peened, or hardened, to increase its strength against cracking. In most high-performance applications, the connecting rod is balanced to prevent unwanted harmonics from creating excessive wear.

The most common connecting rod found in production vehicle engines is a cast rod. This type of rod is created by pouring molten steel into a mold and then machining the finished product. This type of rod is reliable for lower horsepower-producing engines and is the least expensive to manufacture. The cast rod has been used in nearly every type of engine, from gasoline to diesel, with great success.

High-performance applications typically use a forged steel rod. This type of connecting rod is created by milling a solid block of steel into a finished product. The forged rod is able to withstand much greater loads and faster engine revolutions than a cast rod. The forged rods are often called billet rods due to the process of machining them from a block of billet steel. This is a much more costly way to manufacture the rod and the reason that these are typically only used in high-horsepower applications.

Another type of high-performance connecting rod is made of aluminum. The aluminum rod allows the engine to accelerate much faster due to the reduction of weight on the crankshaft. Aluminum also absorbs the harsh shock of acceleration and deceleration of a performance engine much better than steel rods. The aluminum is not as durable; however,and must be changed more frequently than its steel counterpart.

New technology has created the powdered metal rod. These rods are created by applying high pressure to metal powder as it is shaped into a rod. This is the rod of the future for most production engines. They are durable and cost effective to produce.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Ruggercat68 — On Feb 26, 2014

There are some things you can do yourself whenever an engine overheats, like allow it to cool or add more fluids, but if a connecting rod breaks, you're not going anywhere. But some of this can be avoided if you pay attention to the condition of the car's engine while running at highway speed. It takes time for a connecting rod to reach the point of failure, so if you notice the car is overheating and the oil pressure gauge or light is on, pull off the road and let the engine cool down. Many drivers throw a rod when they ignore the warning signs and keep driving at highway speeds.

By Cageybird — On Feb 25, 2014

When I first started driving, I knew very little about car maintenance and engine repair. I drove my dad's old car to and from work and that was it. One day I decided to take that car on the open road and drive to a friend's house. I didn't check the oil or the coolant levels before I left. The car started overheating on the highway, and the next thing I knew, the engine blew up. I was stuck on the side of the road for three hours before a tow truck arrived.

The mechanic told me that I had "thrown a rod", but I had no idea what he meant by that. He explained that when connecting rod parts get overworked, they will snap, causing the rest of the engine to seize up. I found out first hand how expensive it can be to have connecting rods replaced.

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