Yet another common location for rod failure is a portion sometimes called the "hinge point," which is generally where a connecting rod's beam section changes in cross-section area (wide to narrow). Connecting rod designers frequently work in this area to determine the best compromises between rod strength and material selection. Of course, you should always include proper rod side-clearance, making certain not to provide excessive dimension that allows oil to create over-oiling of cylinder walls. Insufficient side-clearance can lead to over-heated and failed rod bearings, as well.

Finally, if we assume that a piston represents the "floor" of an engine's combustion space, then the rate of piston movement and time spent at each crankshaft angle will affect the rate of change in combustion space (volume). Of the reasons this is important, one is that piston movement can affect mixture density during the compression stroke (and subsequent flame rate and rise of combustion pressure). This, in turn, bears influence on spark ignition timing and the optimization of IMEP (minimizing "negative" torque). During an exhaust cycle, piston motion can also affect efficient cylinder evacuation and, therefore, is linked to proper exhaust valve timing.

Just considering these two peripherals of piston movement, we can immediately see that any changes to a piston's rate of travel may affect net cylinder pressure and power. Connecting rod length can, and does, influence cylinder pressure. Perhaps obscure is the fact that while longer connecting rods produce a larger included angle between rod axis and crank throw (stroke) at the same piston position and crank angle, it is piston motion approaching and leaving TDC and BDC that provides some interesting study.

Here's an example of that. As connecting rod length is increased, piston motion (both acceleration and velocity) away from TDC decreases. This results in a slower rate of pressure drop across the inlet path, therefore causing a reduction in intake flow rate (all else being equal). Unless compensation is made for this change in piston speed, some degree of volumetric efficiency may be lost.

In contrast to this effect upon volumetric efficiency (potential torque), piston "residence time" at and near TDC during combustion tends to hasten flame rate, correspondingly raise cylinder pressure per unit time, and enhance the tendency toward detonation. Reduced initial (or total) ignition spark timing, applied to reduce pre-TDC cylinder pressure, also increases IMEP by the reduction of negative torque. Or it can work against the piston as it approaches TDC during combustion.

Long rod combinations usually like intake manifold passages (actually heads and manifold) that help boost flow rates not provided by more rapidly descending pistons associated with shorter rods. So in addition to adjusting valve timing and lift patterns to match changes in piston speed needed to increase volumetric efficiency for increased rod length, port section areas and even carburetor sizing can be used to help restore reduced flow rates.

There is also the issue with reduced piston side-loading with long rod use. This reduction in friction horsepower has been attributed to power gains, especially when piston speed increases beyond about 2,500 feet/second. Improved ring life with long rods has also been claimed by some engine builders.

So while none of this month's Enginology was intended to advocate the use of short or long connecting rods, it emphasizes the importance of contemplating other engine functions that required consideration when making material changes to the rate of piston travel as a direct function of crankshaft angle. You will find that knowledgeable parts manufacturers, relative to the subject of connecting rod length, generally have a store of information linking how their components can affect an engine's ability to capitalize on rod length changes. If they don't, you may want to consider finding manufacturers who do. The concept of functional parts integration isn't without basis.