Idler, Pitman & Steering Arms
What is a Pitman Arm System?
Accurately directing your vehicle where it needs to go is a crucial part of safely operating your automobile. Your steering linkage takes the motion from the steering gear and sends it to the steering arms, which adjust the direction of your wheels. It's important to trust that your wheels will respond accurately and turn at precisely the right angle when you rotate your steering wheel so you can pivot smoothly and avoid road hazards.
While certain vehicles use rack-and-pinion steering systems, many trucks and SUVs use a system that features an idler arm, center link and Pitman arms that link to steering arms. This type of steering system is sometimes referred to simply as a Pitman arm. Whether you drive a 2000 Chevy Silverado or a 2002 Mercedes G500, it's easy to tell when your steering linkage is worn. From a shaking and shuddering steering wheel to sloppy or loose turning and even unwanted drifting to the left or right, if you have steering issues, the NAPA Network is here to help you get back to sharp turning and excellent handling.
Idler & Pitman Arms
Older trucks often use Pitman arm steering systems, also known as drag link systems, that feature a steering gear, steering arm and Pitman arm to create the lateral turning motion in your wheels. The steering wheel turns the shaft, which turns the steering gear and rotates the Pitman arm accordingly, creating the side-to-side movement that changes the direction of your front wheels. The idler arm is the swiveling support for the steering linkage, which bolts to the frame.
The idler and Pitman arms use ball joints that are more susceptible to wear and tear. Like a hip joint, the ball-and-socket system should remain free of contaminants and debris and stay lubricated to function properly. Over time, aggressive driving, poor road conditions and even accidents can cause the ball joints of the idler arms and Pitman arms to wear. This can lead to a loose or drifting sensation when turning, shaking in the steering wheel and poor alignment.
Diagnosing Bad Idler Arm Symptoms
Diagnosing worn idler arms is straightforward for most at-home mechanics. However, before you get started, you need to research the weight of your vehicle. Here are the necessary supplies and equipment:
- Weight-appropriate jack approved for the weight of your vehicle
- Weight-appropriate jack stands approved for the weight of your vehicle
- Eye protection
Ensure the vehicle is lifted off the ground and that the tires are no longer touching the ground. Then hold one of the front tires at 9 and 3 and move the tire from side to side. If you notice a lot of play in the wheel, the ball joint of your idler arm is likely worn down and needs replaced.
Idler, Pitman or Steering Arm Replacement
Fortunately, the experts at NAPA Auto Parts can help you get all the parts, tools and gear you need for a safe and successful idler arm, Pitman arm or steering arm replacement. If you're not ready to take on the job by yourself, there's a NAPA AutoCare location near you with friendly, knowledgeable, ASE-certified technicians ready to get you back on the road in no time. Best of all, NAPA helps you budget with our free repair estimator tool, so you know what to expect before going in to one of our local shops.