Is your car's steering wheel starting to get a little sloppy? If your steering wheel intermittently moves two inches or more to the sides on its own, your car lurches to either sides when going over bumps, or the front end shimmies but the wheels are balanced, you most likely need to replace the Pitman arm, also referred to as the steering arm. This part, along with the idler arm, connects the steering box and the center link. Fortunately, replacing this part is easy. Just follow the instructions below:
Tools you'll need:
- Cotter pins
- Torque wrench
- Wrench and socket
- Wire cutter
- Breaker bar
- Pliers (needle nose)
Step 1: Remove the busted Pitman arm.
Once your car is jacked up and leveled and the wheels are removed, take a look under your vehicle and look for the big nut that attaches the steering arm to the steering box. Using a socket and a breaker bar, remove that big nut. If it's a little stuck, use the breaker bar and keep on twisting until it comes off. After removing the nut, use the puller to safely remove the steering arm from the steering shaft. Now the arm will be a bit loose, but it's still connected to the assembly through the center link.
Step 2: Uninstall the Pitman arm from the center link.
The arm is linked to the center link by means of a nut and a cotter pin. Using a socket wrench, remove the nut and cotter pin. To safely pull off the arm, use a puller or pickle fork. With the puller attached to the arm, wiggle the center link until it slips off. You should then be able to completely pull off the arm once the center link is removed.
Step 3: Prep the steering system.
Before you install the new steering arm, wipe away traces of dirt or grime from the center link hole and steering shaft. Then apply some anti-seize grease on the tapered bolt of the steering box and shaft to prevent moisture and dirt from going in. You also need to prep the new cotter pin by matching its size to the size of the original pin you removed.
Step 4: Attach the new Pitman arm.
Place the arm in position under the vehicle. Make sure that the spots on the arm are aligned to the splines located on the steering box. While aligning the arm to the steering box, insert the tapered bolt into the center link. Attach the washer for the split lock and begin to hand-tighten the big nut on the shaft. Then attach the nut on the arm bolt and tighten it according to the manufacturer's torque specifications. Install the new cotter pin and smear some grease on the new arm to help protect it from dirt, grime, and moisture.
Now that the new Pitman arm is attached, go for a test drive and see if the steering assembly works just fine. Any sign of wobbling or shaking means you might need to re-tighten some bolts.