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Pitman Arm Replacement Cost

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

The average cost for a pitman arm replacement is between $180 and $313. Labor costs are estimated between $61 and $178 while parts are priced between $119 and $135. Estimate does not include taxes and fees.
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What is a Steering Pitman 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 pitman arm, being directly connected to the steering gear, has the task of turning the entire steering linkage assembly when the steering wheel is turned.

How does the Steering Pitman 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. This is the beginning of a chain reaction that ends when the wheels turn in response to the steering wheel.

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What are the symptoms of a bad Steering Pitman Arm?

If the pitman 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. Unlike the idler arm which only affects the passenger side wheel if it fails completely, if the pitman arm fails, complete control of the vehicle's steering will be lost immediately. The front wheels will be completely unresponsive to the steering wheel, and the vehicle will wander in any direction. Also, the front tires will be able to move completely independently of one another and the steering gear.

Can I drive with a bad Steering Pitman Arm?

If the pitman arm is not replaced immediately, tire wear will likely become more expensive than the repair and possible front end alignment. Furthermore, driving with a clunking or popping pitman arm will eventually lead to the separation of the ball joint which connects the pitman arm and centerlink, causing loss of steering ability. To avoid these scenarios, the pitman arm should be replaced as necessary, without undue delay.

How often does the Steering Pitman Arm need replacement?

Pitman arms are tough and have only one typical point of failure, so they tend to last tens of thousands of miles. A typical vehicle driven under normal operating conditions should not need the pitman arm replaced 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. If the tie rod ends have become loose or worn, it is likely the pitman arm and idler arm should be replaced as well.

How are Steering Pitman Arm issues diagnosed?

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

How are Steering Pitman Arms replaced?

Pitman arm replacement can be physically demanding, but with the proper pullers and separators the job is quick and smooth. First, the wheels should be steered straight ahead, and the steering wheel should be centered. Then, the pitman arm can be separated from the centrelink with a ball joint separator, after the retaining nut is removed. The retaining bolt for the steering gear is then removed. Afterwords, and without turning the steering gear, a pitman arm puller can be used to separate the splined pitman arm from the splined output shaft of the steering gear. Installing the new pitman arm requires placing the new pitman arm in the correct orientation to slide onto the steering gear output shaft, and attaching the pitman arm to the centerlink. Once fitted, all nuts are torqued to specification, and the vehicle may be aligned if necessary.

RepairPal Recommendations for Steering Pitman Arm issues

When purchasing a pitman arm for an older vehicle, ensure you are using a part endorsed by the manufacturer of that vehicle, or the manufacturer of the power steering gear. The output shaft of many power steering gears are conical, and the new pitman arm must be able to seat in the original pitman arm position to prevent undesirable steering geometry changes. 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 Pitman 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 pitman arm ball joint. If the pitman arm ball joint fails, the vehicle could fall while lifting, and serious damage to the power steering gear could occur.

Can I replace the Steering Pitman Arm myself?

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

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