Mechanics

PITMAN ARM

1997 Dodge Ram • V8 FWD •

Hi, I recently removed the Pitman Arm on my 1997 Dodge Ram 1500. I followed all of the instructions in the Haynes manual except for one small detail. I didn't mark the pitman arm and shaft positions for assembly reference. How do I properly install the new arm without knowing where to align?
AD
Avatar
Tomshanty
February 18, 2011.



There are four master key ways. You can't install it 90 degrees off.

Caradiodoc
AD

Caradiodoc
Feb 18, 2011.
What problem are you trying to solve? Steering wander?

Caradiodoc
Feb 18, 2011.
To answer your question, it didn't really wander. But I had to hold the steering wheel 30 degrees to the right to drive in a straight path. I suspected the Pitman arm because it was loose when I was inspecting underneath. And I saw the 4 marks after I read your first reply. Thank you.

This might be a second question. But it's related.

However, I spoke too soon. I thought I removed successfully removed the Pitman arm, but I soon found out that I didn't. It was on there. It made sense to me, but I got too close to the shaft. Does the entire steering gear need to be replaced or can the shaft alone be replaced?

Tiny
Tomshanty
Feb 23, 2011.
You can't buy just the pitman shaft but I wouldn't worry about grinding into a few of the grooves. The entire gear box would have to be disassembled to remove that shaft, and that is something you DO NOT want to do. I looked at the web site you listed. The grinder they used is pretty huge for the job. I use an air cutoff tool with a 3" cutting wheel, then I cut a notch straight into the arm 90 degrees to what they showed in their photos. The cut goes into the shaft but doesn't cause any harm. When you get about 90 percent of the way through, the arm will crack open from the stress.

As for the steering wheel being off-center, if you have a 4wd truck, there are two alignment adjustments. One adjusts the left wheel to set the total toe. That one is critical for good tire wear. The adjuster in the link between the pitman arm and right spindle is only for setting the position of the steering wheel. I never had good luck getting a straight wheel with the alignment computer. I always took a 15 mm wrench and the adjusting tool with me on test drives, then I'd stop on the side of the road and crawl underneath to tweak it until the steering wheel was perfectly straight. Part of my problem was there is a lot of play in the gear box when the engine is not running because it needs pressurized power steering fluid to remove that play. It's no fun making those adjustments with the engine running because you're so close to the fan, so even though the steering wheel was locked straight ahead, you couldn't see the tires turn as you made the adjustment.

There are two common causes of steering wander. One is the track bar and one is the gear box. When you replace the track bar you can be pretty sure the steering wheel will no longer be centered. Fortunately you don't need an alignment to get the wheel straight again. Just play with that adjuster to make the wheel straight.

Caradiodoc
Feb 24, 2011.
Success! I cut perpendicular like you mentioned. It didn't break all the way through, but it was loose enough to remove using the pitman puller. I was afraid the puller was going to break. And with the arm removed, I was able to see the grooves that I accidentlally grinded and damage was minimal. And you're right about not wanting to disassemble the gear box. I imagine a lot of springs and small pieces if I take it apart.

It's only a 2 wheel. And once I get the pitman arm situated, I will see about the track bar and gear box.

Tiny
Tomshanty
Feb 24, 2011.
Well, I have one piece of good news. I assumed you had a 4wd because that's what they sold the most of. The 2wd uses a different steering linkage system and no track bar. That eliminates the most common source of steering wander. The bad news is there is not that one adjustment that only affects steering wheel position. Once your new pitman arm is installed, you will need an alignment to adjust both front wheel straight ahead while the steering wheel is locked in the straight position. Even if you knew which way to turn each adjuster and you turned them an equal amount, it is near impossible to get it right for proper tire wear without using an alignment computer.

Caradiodoc
Feb 25, 2011.

AD