The connecting rod or control
connects the piston to the crank or crankshaft. Transferring
rotary motion to reciprocating motion was made possible by the
connecting the crankshaft to the connecting rod, which was described in
the "Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices". The
double-acting reciprocating piston pump was the first machine to offer
automatic motion, but its mechanisms and others such as the cam, would
also help initiate the Industrial Revolution.
Internal combustion engines
Independent to their frequent
occurrence on televised competitive automobile events, such failures are
quite rare on production cars during normal daily driving. This is
because production truck
parts have a much larger factor of safety, and often more systematic
The small end attaches with the
piston pin, gudgeon pin (the usual British term) or wrist pin, which is
most often press fit into the con rod but can swivel in the
piston, a "floating wrist pin" design. The big end connects to the
bearing journal on the crank throw, running on replaceable bearing
shells accessible via the con rod bolts which hold the bearing "cap"
onto the big end; typically there are pinholes bored through the bearing
and the big end of the con rod so that pressurized lubricating motor oil
squirts out onto the thrust side of the cylinder wall to lubricate the
travel of the pistons and piston rings.
In modern automotive internal
combustion engines, the connecting rods are most usually made of steel
for production engines, but can be made of aluminum or titanium for high
performance engines, or of cast iron for applications such as motor
scooters. They are not rigidly fixed at either end, so that the angle
between the connecting rod and the piston can change as the rod moves up
and down and rotates around the crankshaft.
The con rod are under tremendous
stress from the reciprocating load represented by the piston, actually
stretching and relaxing with every rotation, and the load increases
rapidly with increasing engine speed. Failure of a connecting rod,
usually called "throwing a rod" is one of the most common causes of
catastrophic engine failure in cars, frequently putting the broken rod
through the side of the crankcase and thereby rendering the engine
irreparable; it can result from fatigue near a physical defect in the
rod, lubrication failure in a bearing due to faulty maintenance, or from
failure of the rod bolts from a defect, improper tightening, or re-use
of already used bolts where not recommended.
When building a high performance
engine, great attention is paid to the con rods, eliminating stress
risers by such techniques as grinding the edges of the rod to a smooth
radius, shot preening to induce compressive surface stresses, balancing
all con rod/piston assemblies to the same weight and Magna fluxing to
reveal otherwise invisible small cracks which would cause the rod to
fail under stress.
In addition, great care is taken to torque the con
rod bolts to the exact value specified; often these bolts must be
replaced rather than reused. The big end of the rod is fabricated as a
unit and cut or cracked in two to establish precision fit around the big
end bearing shell. Therefore, the big end "caps" are not interchangeable
between con rods, and when rebuilding an engine, care must be taken to
ensure that the caps of the different con rods are not mixed up. Both
the con rod and its bearing cap are usually embossed with the
corresponding position number in the engine truck parts block.
However, for a given
engine block, the sum of the length of the con rod plus the piston
stroke is a fixed number, determined by the fixed distance between the
crankshaft axis and the top of the cylinder block where the cylinder
head fastens; thus, for a given cylinder block longer stroke, giving
greater engine displacement and power, requires a shorter connecting
rod, resulting in accelerated cylinder wear.
Many-cylinder multi-bank engines
such as a V-12 layout have little space available for that many
connecting rod journals on a limited length of crankshaft. This is a
difficult compromise to solve and its consequence has often led to
engines being regarded as failures.
The simplest solution, almost
universal in road car engines, is to use simple rods where cylinders
from both banks share a journal. This requires the rod bearings to be
narrower, increasing bearing load and the risk of failure in a
high-performance engine. This also means the opposing cylinders are not
exactly in line with each other.
In certain types of engine,
master/slave rods are used rather than the simple type shown in the
picture above. The master rod carries one or more ring pins to which are
bolted the much smaller big ends of slave rods on other cylinders.
Radial engines typically have a master rod for one cylinder and slave
rods for all the other cylinders in the same bank. Certain designs of V
engines use a master/slave rod for each pair of opposite cylinders. A
drawback of this is that the stroke of the subsidiary rod is slightly
shorter than the master, which increase vibration in vie engine,
catastrophically so for the Sunbeam Arab.
The usual solution for
high-performance aero-engines is a "forked" connecting rod. One rod is
split in two at the big end and the other is thinned to fit into this
fork. The Rolls-Royce Merlin used this "fork-and-blade" style. The
journal is still shared between cylinders.