What Is a Panhard Bar: Function, History and Comparisons

What is a Panhard bar?’ is not a commonly asked question, but once it is finally asked, not many car owners and enthusiasts know the answer. The track rod is often found in trucks, and you would only know about it if you have looked under it or worked with the rear axle.

Panhard Bar in Cars ~ Ran When Parked

Despite being overlooked, the bar is a highly important part of your car’s suspension, and if it gets damaged, it can lead to an accident. In this article, we take a closer look at how it works, what it does, and the symptoms to look out for if it’s damaged.

What Is a Panhard Bar in Cars?

A Panhard bar in cars is a stabilizing unit located in the rear axle and is created to reduce the side-to-side roll of your car. It consists of a single road and is bolted to the rear axle and frame of the car.

It is also known as the Panhard rod, track bar or track rod. The rod is only found on cars with a live axle or solid axle, and so it cannot be found in independent rear suspension systems. The main point of the track rod is to ensure your axle is centered under your car. One end of the rod is attached to the axle, and the other one to the rod.

There is also the adjustable Panhard bar, which allows drivers to alter the suspension when driving. It is often found in 4×4 and off-road vehicles that want to lift their cars. Also, the rod is called a track bar in the off-road world.

The Panhard is a simple device that prevents lateral motion in your car. If it’s damaged or too short, it can lead to sideways movement while driving. It is not ideal for small cars since the axle must be placed in an arc related to the body.

How Does a Track Rod Work?

The track rod works by connecting from the axle to the frame in a diagonal manner. This allows some up-and-down movement of the car’s rear axle. Since it’s mostly on 4x4s, it prevents the car from moving too far to one side when driving on uneven terrain.

A track rod has to be long for it to work. When it is long, it does not give the axle leeway to move too much to either side. But if it’s short, it allows for a greater body movement in your car. When you’re driving, and you have full control over your car on uneven terrain, it’s due to the track rod. Without it, your car can tilt over.

What Are the Functions Of a Track Rod?

The functions of a track rod are to keep the axle aligned with the vehicle’s frame, stop the suspension from swaying from side to side, and allow the pivot to slide up and down. These are essential roles that keep your car stable while you’re driving.

The main role of the Panhard rod is to ensure the live or rear axle is aligned with the frame of your car. This might seem irrelevant, but without this, your car can fall apart or wobble while you’re driving. The rod is attached to both parts and keeps them secure on the roughest terrains.

The track rod also has pivots that allow it to slide up and down. This function keeps your car from getting into an accident when driving. For instance, if one wheel hits a bump on a rough terrain, the entire axle tries to move forward.

But the track rod will keep all the wheels on the ground even when one is up. Without it, all the wheels will jump up and crash your car.

Finally, the track rod stops your car’s suspension from moving from side to side. The track bar ensures that your car is within your control and is not swaying while driving. Essentially, it keeps your car stable and solid on the road.

Where Did the Panhard Bar Get Its Name?

The Panhard bar gets its name from the company that invented it, Panhard. This was an automobile company in France that was around in the 20th century. Since then, the name has been used for this part of the car and has been widely used for many vehicles.

Using Panhard Bars ~ Ran When Parked

The French company was founded by Rene Panhard and Emile Levassor in 1887. Panhard is known as one of the earliest car manufacturers. Although the company has been broken up and acquired many times over the years, the name still remains the term for the track rod.

What Cars Use Panhard Bars?

Cars with a live axle or solid axle setup use Panhard bars. Only cars with this setup require a Track rod, as those with an independent rear suspension system don’t. It is often found in older vehicles since live or solid rear axles are no longer common in modern cars.

Also, drag racers usually switch their IRS system with a solid rear axle and would have to install the track rod. One of the popular cars that use the track bar is the Ford Mustang. Most Mustangs made after 2005 come with a factory-installed track rod. Also, there are aftermarket upgrades for those who want to lower the Mustang.

Some Chevrolet cars also come with Panhard bars, but these are the older, classic cars. If anything, only drivers with off-roading vehicles, modified race cars and classic cars come across the track rod.

What Is the Difference Between Panhard Bar and Sway Bar?

The difference between the Panhard bar and the sway bar is that the Track rod keeps the suspension stable and prevents it from wobbling, while the sway bar keeps the car table when you’re making turns. The sway bar ensures that your car’s body is levelled when making turns.

The sway bar is also called the anti-sway bar, anti-roll bar and stabilizer bar. It enhances the performance of your car, especially those with four-wheel drive. If you’re towing heavy loads, the sway bar ensures that your car does not crash or fall when turning, even with sharp turns.

Unlike the track rod that is connected to the axle and the frame of your car, the sway bar is connected to the left and right sides of the suspension. Most cars also come with a sway bar in the front and another one in the rear. It connects the outer end of the stabilizer to the control arm.

What Is the Difference Between Panhard Bar and Watts Link?

The difference between the Panhard bar and the Watts link is that the Watts link creates a rotation center in the car’s rear by providing a pivot point. The Track rod is not good with keeping the rear axle centered when the suspension is moving. Watts link solves this problem.Panhard Bar and Watts Link ~ Ran When Parked

The Watts link was designed by James Watt, an inventor in the 1700s, to be used in the steam engine. Today, it is used as an alternative to the track rod. It sets up any form of lateral motion or swaying because it has four points of connection in the axle rather than two, like the track rod.

The Panhard is good for reducing the swaying motion of a car, but if it’s not long enough and parallel to the ground, it can make it harder to control your car. With the Watts link, you won’t have to worry about this, so it is ideal for overall handling.

On the downside, the Watts linkage is too heavy and expensive to add to some cars. It also increases the center of gravity as the rear axle moves. The Track rod is favoured because it is light, has a simple design, and maintains the center of gravity at a lower level.

What Are the Symptoms of a Faulty Track Rod?

The symptoms of a faulty track rod include a shaking steering wheel, uneven wear and tear in the tires, the steering wheel pulling to one side, and noises coming from the suspension. Your car might also be wobbling even more at higher speeds.

Working Track Rod ~ Ran When Parked

If you think your track rod is faulty, it’s best to replace it as soon as possible. A bad track rod can lead to an accident, as you might lose control of your vehicle.

Steering Wheel Issues

If you have a damaged track rod, you might notice that your steering wheel suddenly vibrates or shakes when driving. This can be because of different reasons, but it’s a good idea to check the track rod.

Steering Wheel Issues ~ Ran When Parked

Also, the steering wheel might be pulling to one side when driving. This is highly dangerous as you can lose control and go off the road.

Uneven Tire Wear

Another sign is uneven tire wear and tear in your car. If you notice that your tires are wearing down on one side and not the other, it is because the tires are under pressure, as the track rod is not working as it should.

Suspension Is Noisy

You might also hear noises coming from your car’s suspension when you’re driving. If you notice this, pull over and inspect the suspension.

Fixing Noisy Suspension ~ Ran When Parked

There are different things that could be wrong with your suspension, but the track rod is a known culprit.

Conclusion

With our article on ‘What is a Panhard bar?’ you know this simple yet important part of your car and what it does.

Here’s a rundown of what we covered:

  • It is a stabilizing rod in the rear axle that stops the car from swaying from side to side when driving.
  • It is connected to the rear axle and the frame of the car and keeps it stable on uneven terrain.
  • An alternative to the track rod is the Watts link.

If you notice something is wrong with the stability of your car, you should inspect the track rod or ask a mechanic for help.

References 

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