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Idler Arm Replacement Cost

Know what price you should pay to get your vehicle fixed.

The average cost for an Idler Arm Replacement is between $140 and $306. Labor costs are estimated between $61 and $123 while parts are priced between $79 and $183. Estimate does not include taxes and fees.
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What is a Steering Idler Arm?

For steering systems that use a steering gear or a power steering gear, the gear will be on one side of the vehicle, but turns both front wheels. To facilitate this action, a centerlink is used to transfer the push or pull from the steering gear to the other side of the front of the vehicle. It is just a solid piece of metal with a hole in each end so it can connect to the pitman arm and idler arm. The pitman arm attaches the centerlink to the steering gear, and the idler arm attaches the centerlink to the frame on the other side of the vehicle. The idler arm can pivot where it attaches to the frame, so it allows the centerlink to move side to side which indirectly causes the wheels to turn. The idler arm is typically attached to the centerlink via a ball joint, which allows the centerlink to pivot slightly if needed.

How does the Steering Idler Arm work?

The pitman arm is connected directly to the steering gear on one end, and it connects to the centerlink on the other end. When the steering wheel is turned, the steering gear turns the pitman arm, which pushes or pulls the centerlink. On the other side of the vehicle, the centerlink is connected to the idler arm, which is bolted to the frame and centerlink and turns with the centerlink whenever the steering gear pushes or pulls this assembly.

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What are the symptoms of a bad Steering Idler Arm?

If the idler arm wears out, the steering wheel will feel loose, and there may be a clunking or popping noise when turning. Also, the vehicle may wander in either direction. Finally, if the idler arm fails completely, the front passenger wheel will point completely out or completely in, depending on the direction the vehicle was turning when the idler arm breaks.

Can I drive with a bad Steering Idler Arm?

The idler arm should be replaced immediately upon recognizing the fault. If not repaired right away, excessive and uneven tire wear will likely become more expensive than the repair. Furthermore, driving with a clunking or popping idler arm will eventually lead to the separation of the idler arm ball joint, causing loss of control of the passenger side front tire. To avoid these scenarios, idler arm should be replaced as necessary, without undue delay.

How often does the Steering Idler Arm need replacement?

Idler arms are tough and have only two points of failure, so they tend to last thousands of miles. A typical vehicle driven under normal operating conditions should not need an idler arm replacement before the 100,000 mile mark, but keep in mind that modern vehicles absorb lots of hits from the road without the driver feeling them. This means that if your vehicle is driven on rough roads, expect all of your suspension to need replacing prematurely. Heavy duty trucks and SUV's which are used as such are also more likely to need a replacement ahead of time.

How are Steering Idler Arm issues diagnosed?

When diagnosing a clunking or popping noise from the front end, the idler arm, as well as all other front end components will be checked for excess movement, and lack of firmness in the ball joints. If the idler arm displays excessive play, the ball joint on the idler arm is loose, or the technician can manipulate the centerlink to replicate the noise, the idler arm will be replaced. Also, a torn dust boot on the idler arm ball joint or a crack in the idler arm would call for replacement.

How are Steering Idler Arms replaced?

Replacing an idler arm takes only a few minutes with the proper tools. A ball joint separator will be used to separate the centerlink from the idler arm, and there will be few bolts that secure the idler arm to the chassis. Once removed, the new idler arm will be installed by securing the idler arm to the chassis and centerlink, torquing all fasteners, and aligning the wheels if necessary.

RepairPal Recommendations for Steering Idler Arm issues

If the idler arm is suspected of failure, all other ball joints should be inspected at the same time. The tie rod ends and pitman arm are under the same stress as the idler arm, so they may fail around the same time.

What to look out for when dealing with Steering Idler Arm issues

Though the centerlink looks like a strong place to place a jack, lifting a vehicle from the steering centerlink may cause failure or separation of the idler arm ball joint. If the idler arm ball joint fails, the vehicle could fall while lifting.

Can I replace the Steering Idler Arm myself?

With a good set of ball joint separators changing the idler arm is a very easy job. The average DIYer could inspect, diagnose, and repair a failed idler arm without difficulty as long as all safety precautions are exercised, and the proper tooling is used.

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