The pitman arm is simply a component of your vehicle’s steering system, attached to its gear shaft and producing a rotary movement through its ball joint or steering linkage.
This constant rotation leads to the left or right action of the wheels. However, this depends on how the steering wheel is turned.
Drivers and car owners should ensure their pitman arm are properly functioning, as a bad pitman arm can affect steering control in a dangerous manner.
The pitman arm is another significant component of a vehicle’s steering system; hence, you should give it adequate attention.
What Is a Pitman Arm?
Pitman arms are simply shafts that connect the steering connector to the steering column and help the other pieces of the connection from the idler arm. It is a mechanism that translates the rotary movement in the steering gearbox to the middle link. The pitman arm causes the backward and forward motion that affects your tires.
What Does the Pitman Arm Do?
The pitman arm plays a crucial role in the automotive or truck control mechanism by serving as the connector within the steering box sector shaft that translates the angular movement of the steering shaft into a linear motion required to control the wheels.
The pitman arm is the first of three angular turning connections, as the sector shaft supports it and, in turn, provides support to the drag connector or middle connector link using a track rod.
Therefore, it helps in the passage of movement from the steering mechanism to the drag or center connector, resulting in its left and right direction and steering the wheels appropriately.
The idler arm is found in one side of the middle linkage from the pitman arm and car’s frame and supports the middle or drag connector to give the required height.
It is essential not to have a bad or worn-out joint because it may result in play in the steering and put it in its worst possible state.
Also Read: Vehicle Control Arm – Everything You Should Know
Bad Pitman Arm Symptoms
The following are some symptoms of a bad pitman arm.
1. Inability to Steer Your Vehicle
Whenever you encounter a complete failure in your pitman arm, it will cause you to lose the ability to steer your car.
Therefore, replace the pitman arm as soon as possible to avoid future disasters that could result in the complete loss of your vehicle’s steering.
Inability to steer your vehicle is dangerous, so whenever you notice this sign, stop the vehicle immediately or pull over to one side of the road that is safe and contact any available experienced auto mechanic for help.
2. Steering Malfunction
If you discover that your steering undergoes several plays, for instance, if the wheel is experiencing an excessive turn than usual before the wheels engage, it is a sign that you need to work on your pitman arm.
As long as the pitman arm plays a crucial role in your steering system, it would be best if you took it to an experienced auto mechanic for proper check-ups and repairs.
Immediately your vehicle fails to steer, as usual, notify your auto engineer and fix your pitman arm.
3. Wandering to the Left or Right on the Highway
If your car is swaying to one side or the other or experiencing difficulty in steering, it shows that your pitman arm needs adequate attention and care. Failure to look into it will result in your Car malfunctioning whenever you steer the wheel.
Apart from the several plays that the steering will undergo, it could malfunction or stop working while driving, which is a risk on its own, especially during unfavorable weather conditions or when you are in the middle of a busy road.
Also Read: Brake Light Blinking (Causes & How To Fix)
Can I Drive With a Bad Pitman Arm?
It is not advisable to drive your vehicle if you have a bad pitman arm. In the event that you continue to drive with a clapping or noisy pitman arm, the ball joint that connects the pitman arm to the center link will separate, leaving you unable to steer your vehicle.
Therefore, you have to prevent this unfavorable and risky situation by ensuring that the pitman arm is looked into or replaced as required and at the right time.
How Often Does the Steering Pitman Arm Need Replacement?
Under normal driving conditions, the pitman arm does not need to be replaced before it reaches 100,000 miles.
It is important to note that current diving in bad road conditions can increase the chance of you needing a pitman arm replacement sooner.
If you constantly drive on bad roads, you should expect all your suspensions to be replaced faster than usual.
If you have loose or worn-out tie rod ends, you will probably need to replace your pitman arm and idler arm, which might cause subsequent problems.
Also Read: Can You Drive Without Power Steering? (Answered)
Pitman Arm Replacement Cost
Pitman arm replacement costs between $200 or even $300 on average. Labor costs range from $100 to $130, while parts range from $90 to $150.
How to Perform a Pitman Arm Replacement
If you want to replace a pitman arm, there are specific expertise tools that you may need, and it may require just one day to complete, based on your skillset and experience. Below are the steps necessary to remove and replace a pitman arm.
1. Get the Car Ready
This step may involve lifting the left side of the vehicle, placing a jack stand around the A-arm under the frame on the left side, followed by lowering the car down to rest on the jack stand to enable easy removal of the wheel.
2. Removing the Pitman Arm
Take off the huge nut that supports the steering box and pitman arm simultaneously with a breaker bar and a ¾” drive socket. Make sure it is tightened to at least 180ft pounds.
Then, with a pitman arm puller, separate the pitman arm from the steering shaft.
3. Take Out the Bad Pitman Arm
Remove the nut and cotter pin that binds the pitman arm to the center connection. You can separate both parts using a puller or pickle fork. Gently pull it off after pulling down on the center link.
If you encounter difficulty pulling it off, loosen the two bolts that join the idler arm to the frame and take it down. Then apply grease to the steering box tapered bolt to wipe off any moist substance or dirt.
Match the pulled-out cotter pin and shorten a part of its length as you make arrangements to fix a new cotter pin.
Check out this video for more tips on pitman arm replacement
4. Install the New Pitman Arm
When you take a close look at the steering box, you’ll always find splines and four flat points that the splines can fit into.
Fix the arm to the steering shaft, and ensure the spines are piled up while a tapered bolt is installed in the center link. Drop the split lock washer on the steering shaft, ensuring that it is fastened to around 180ft. Ibs.
Install the nut on the pitman bolt, and tighten it to the specified rate. Meanwhile, endeavor to line up the cotter pin hole during the installation. Then, fix the new cotter pin and apply the pitman oil with grease.