I need to know the proper way to change a pitman arm.

Tiny
KLF100
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  • 1997 CHEVROLET S-10
  • 4.3L
  • 6 CYL
  • RWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 228,958 MILES
Steering wheel doesn't lock when I move it after I turn it off, moves to the left. Someone told me I pretty much just unbolt it and put the new one on and bolt it back up but that seems too simple.
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Thursday, June 18th, 2015 AT 7:40 PM

6 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
How are you correlating a non-locking steering wheel with the need to replace the pitman arm?
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Thursday, June 18th, 2015 AT 7:46 PM
Tiny
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A mechanic already told me I need to seriously replace the pitman arm, and there are some other problems too, but he said I need to seriously replace the pitman arm. It's always pulling to the left, and I have to always move the steering wheel while driving, when I turn left it act like it want to flip. I also need to replace the lower ball joint on the driver side. I have both parts. I'm just trying to figure out the pitman arm first. Then do the lower ball joint the next day.
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Thursday, June 18th, 2015 AT 7:54 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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OH! THAT makes more sense. You're going to need an air impact wrench to loosen the nut on the pitman arm, then you need a special jaw-type puller to pull it off the pitman shaft. A standard jaw puller is not nearly strong enough for this. Check at some local auto parts stores and find one that rents or borrows tools for the pitman arm puller.

When you try to turn the large nut, the steering shaft is going to turn too. Let it do that and come to a stop on its own at the end of its travel. You don't want to use the steering wheel lock for this. There's just a thin metal plate in there and it will likely get damaged from the pounding it will take.

Don't use any heat from a torch near the pitman arm because that will melt the seal and dust seal inside the steering gear housing. I like to use an air cutoff tool to cut a slot in the pitman arm right where it is pressed onto the splined shaft. You should be able to get most of the way through it, then it will suddenly crack apart from the extreme force on it. You may be able to remove it that way without the special puller.

You'll need an air hammer with a "pickle fork" attachment to get the stud out of the end of the center link. Don't get any grease on that stud or the splined shaft on the steering gearbox. That will reduce the friction fit that holds those parts together. If that stud were to come loose, both the pitman arm and the center link must be replaced. If the stud or the hole are deformed, those parts will never stay tight, and the stud could wobble and snap off.

GM has a real lot more trouble with idler arms than with pitman arms, so be sure to check that too. Those require special measurements when they're replaced to insure the center link is perfectly parallel to the ground. Failure to do that is why a lot of do-it-yourselfers end up with trucks that handle miserably. It sounds like the truck should be inspected at a tire and alignment shop so they can give you a detailed list of what is needed. S-10s and the small Blazers eat upper ball joints. It's common to have to replace them every two years.

If your truck uses torsion bar suspension, you can adjust the ride height if it's wrong. If you have coil springs, they must be replaced to correct sagged ride height. The people at the tire shops have small books that will show you where to take the measurements on your truck, and what they should be. If ride height is not at the specified height, the upper and lower control arms will go through the wrong arcs as the suspension goes up and down over bumps in the road. That will cause, among other things, very poor tire wear even when the alignment computer says everything is perfect.

The pulling to one side also tells me there is something wrong, more than just a worn ball joint, that has affected the alignment. Suspension and steering parts that are worn can separate leading to loss of control and crashes. Separated parts aren't real common on your truck, but they were VERY common on older Ford products. Once these parts are replaced, the truck will need an alignment. The mechanic is going to inspect the steering and suspension systems again, and if he is conscientious, he won't take your money or do the alignment if he finds more things wrong. He will just send you home to start all over again.
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Thursday, June 18th, 2015 AT 8:31 PM
Tiny
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I will get it aligned. My dad has been working a lot and he's certified, I've had to go to others here lately. But I don't intend to spend 400$ for everything, they said I needed to get an idler arm but they said it could be aligned and last a little longer. And also the black thing behind the AC compressor, that hugs around the metal part, that's the size of a hose. What's that? It's leaking bad.
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Thursday, June 18th, 2015 AT 9:06 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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If you need an idler arm, don't waste your money on the alignment until that is done. The final adjustment is called "total toe" which refers to the way the two front wheels are steering when the steering wheel is straight ahead. Your truck calls for 1/8" toe-in, meaning the fronts of the wheels are 1/8" closer together than on the rear. If you push the center link and idler arm up and down, you'll see the right front wheel turn left and right a bunch. Typically that is up to a half inch of toe change. Where is the mechanic supposed to set total toe? No matter where he adjusts it, it's not going to stay there, and you'll have miserable tire wear. The truck will not be stable at highway speeds either. You'll be constantly correcting the steering. That makes for a very tiring vehicle to drive.

For what is leaking, can you post a photo of that part?
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Thursday, June 18th, 2015 AT 9:26 PM
Tiny
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I mean behind the ac accumulater. It's beside those relays. Mine looks a little different but it's really similar.
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Thursday, June 18th, 2015 AT 9:40 PM

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