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Heim Joints and Rod Ends Buying Guide


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No matter if racing is a hobby or full-time job, being successful is on top of everyone's list. Bringing home that trophy is important, one must take advantage of anything that will help get them across the line first. Being number one requires much more than just having the biggest engine. The way your suspension reacts when exposed to high-stress situations will directly impact your ability to win. Using a top-notch rod-end bearing will help give you an upper hand. Speedway Motors has a wide variety of rod-end bearings in stock to help get you and your car into the winner’s circle, no matter if it is your local quarter mile drags or the A-main at Eldora Speedway. By using rod ends in your steering and suspension, you give yourself a better chance of taking home the coveted checkered flag.

In What Racing Applications Can A Rod End Be Used? 

Rod ends, often called heims, or heim joints, can be used in a variety of applications, no matter if you are building a competitive rock crawler or top fuel dragster.

Suspension pivot points will see the most benefit from a heim joint as it allows for greater articulation with less deflection. The downside is that, compared to a factory bushing, spherical bearings will provide a reduction in ride comfort. But we are sure that most drivers are willing to trade ride comfort for first place any day of the week.

Another area that heim joint bearings are used is in the steering system. Heim joint steering allows for maximum steering precision with minimal play. This is critical for any driver. QA1 rod ends are amongst the most popular thanks to their superior build quality and finish.

What Is the Difference Between A Two-Piece and A Three-Piece Rod End?

The construction of a rod end is very important. A two-piece rod end consists of you guessed it, only two pieces. The outer section is known as the body and helps keep everything together. It can be made of either various types of steel or aluminium. The type of metal used will determine its overall tensile strength. On the inside, the ball features high-strength steel construction with a perfect, smooth finish to help with articulation.

A three-piece rod end, on the other hand, has a liner between the body and the ball for added lubrication. Typically, the liner is injection molded and can be made from several materials including Kevlar. Its main purpose is to keep everything moving smoothly and help prevent premature failure and is a critical feature for dirty environments like dirt track racing. 

In most racing applications, an aluminium spherical bearing is preferred due to its reduced weight. In motorsports, where a few ounces may mean the difference between first and second place, an aluminium rod end is a must. Provided it meets the structural load needs of the joint. Our rod-end bearing buyer’s guide will help you determine just what will work for the application you are shopping for and more!

How Do I Know If My Rod-End Bearings Are Bad?

Spherical bearings or heim joints as they are more commonly referred to, are a great piece of engineering when they work as intended. Even the slightest deformation can effectively render a heim joint useless. The most common sign of a bad rod-end bearing is that they are stiff or hard to move. This usually happens when a crash occurs and deforms the body and/or ball. Since spherical bearings have very tight tolerances, the slightest bump may render them useless.

If the ball is out of round, it will eventually wear down to the point where it causes severe play in the joint. Of course, rod ends are built to allow for some play, but too much will cause excessive noise and lateral play, which can be detrimental on the track.

How Do Rod-End Bearings Work?

Heim joint rod ends, rod-end bearings, or whatever you prefer to call them, are the same thing. The job of a rod-end bearing is to allow the bolt or rod going through it (usually at or around 90-degrees) to have a certain degree of misalignment.

The articulation a rod end bearing offers is crucial for racers. Auto manufacturers will often use bushings in their suspension simply because it is a great way to remove vibration and provide a compliant, comfortable ride. While a smoother ride may be important on a road car, it can decrease performance on the track.

Opting for rod-end bearings in you steering system will radically change the way a vehicle responds to driver input. A rod end with bearing helps provide a quicker response to the driver’s steering input and the car will be more responsive.

Does a 4-link Rear Suspension Use Rod-End Bearings? 

A 4-link suspension setup is used to establish the center for your rear suspension. In other words, it will stop your body from flexing and help keep the rear wheels planted when accelerating. Therefore, traction is greatly improved by using a 4-link setup. While there are a few 4-link setups available with rubber or urethane bushings for street use, the majority are designed to use rod-end bearings for precise handling and suspension reaction.

4-link rod ends are designed to work in conjunction with the upper and lower links to help keep the axle straight. It is a common sight in high horsepower applications since the immense torque of the engine would devastate a regular suspension setup with bushings found on common passenger vehicles. You will often hear 4-link setups being referred to as “parallel” or “triangulated”. Although different in design, they do the same thing and all use rod-end bearings in the links and Panhard bar.

A triangulated 4-link setup works by creating a triangle between the frame and axle of the vehicle. This allows suspension articulation while limiting lateral axle movement. Alternatively, a parallel 4-link setup is found on bigger vehicles such as trucks because of the added space needed for installation. Additionally, the parallel 4-link requires the use of a Panhard bar to control lateral movement, which increases overall cost, but the result is a much more robust system. We offer a multitude of 4-link rear suspension options if you are considering upgrading your street or race car.

 Updated by Mark Houlahan