Over the past several issues (Part I, Part II, and Part III), we’ve taken a long, detailed look at a vital component(s) found in your racecar, and that’s the rod end. While they might all look the same, you’ve probably discovered in this series that they really are different. You do in fact get what you pay for. And that brings us to the el cheapo new, surplus or “lightly” used rod ends you’re sure to come across. Buyer beware. And here’s why:
The Finite Life Of A Rod End…
Pretend you score up a box full of “lightly used” racecar rod ends at the local swap meet. They’re cheap and they look good. It’s your lucky day. Or is it? Rod ends are like any other part on your car. They have a finite life. There is no way to determine if a used or surplus rod end is fresh or if it has reached the end of its operational cycle. You can’t tighten a worn rod end by staking it or hitting it with a hammer. There is no way to service (repair) it either. Another critical thing to consider is this: Any rod end that exhibits any amount of stretching in the head or the threads should be thrown away. The same “throw away” rule applies to any rod end bearing that has been dented in the race area or is bent. They are junk.
Here’s the problem though: From a foot or two away, it’s difficult if not impossible to figure out the difference between a high end racing rod end and one that’s worn out (or made in some sweat shop offshore). The best inspection process is to examine the machining carefully. Check out the race along with the ball. Are the pieces smooth and well machined? If it’s a standard rod end without a Teflon liner, does the ball fit precisely inside the body? Rotate the ball and check to see if there is any bind. Is the ball so loose it rattles? Take a close look at Teflon liners. Check for spots where the liner may have become loose (the liner should be one continuous tightly bonded piece). Watch for liner disintegration. Examine the threads too. Here, you’re looking for high quality, rolled (not cut) threads. Essentially, you should look at a rod end like any other racing component. Once you do a bit of digging, it’s not hard to spot used up old hardware or poorly made off-shore bit.
It should be no surprise that you get what you pay for. Quality rod ends, such as the pieces we’re showing in the accompanying photos, aren’t cheap. What you’re paying for is an extensive engineering background, arduous research, development and equally demanding testing agendas. The bottom line here is, when you buy into a manufacturer’s product, you’re trusting them to keep your car and your driver (which for readers is you) safe. These are vital parts with weighty tasks. Choose them carefully!