A drag link is a suspension linkage component that is found in vehicles equipped with steering gear type steering systems. Drag links are most commonly found on larger trucks and vans, and serve as the component that links the vehicle’s steering gear box to the tie rod ends. One side of the drag link connects onto the pitman arm, and the other connects to a fixed pivot point while the ends connect to the tie rods. When the steering wheel is turned, the drag link transfers the rotating motion from the gearbox to the wheels so that the vehicle can be steered. As the drag link is one of the central components to the entire steering system, when it fails or has any problems, it can cause issues with the vehicle’s handling. Usually a bad or failing drag link will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver of a potential problem that should be serviced.
1. Abnormal tire wear
One of the first symptoms of a problem with the drag link is abnormal tire wear. If the vehicle’s drag link wears out at the ends, it may cause the tires to wear unevenly. The tires may wear at an accelerated rate on the inside or outside of the tread. This will not only reduce the service life of the tire, but will also put additional stress and wear on the other steering components as well.
2. Steering wheel play or vibration
Another symptom of a bad or failing drag link is play in the steering wheel. If the drag link wears out or develops any play at any of its linkage points, it may be felt as play in the steering wheel. Depending on the amount of play, the vehicle may also experience shimmy or vibration in the steering wheel when the vehicle is in motion.
3. Steering drifts to the left or right
A bad or failing drag link can also cause the vehicle’s steering to wander when it is in motion. The vehicle may drift to the left or right on its own when traveling down the road. This will require the driver to have to constantly correct steering in order to maintain control of the vehicle, and may even make the vehicle unsafe to drive.
The drag link is one of the most important steering components for vehicles equipped with steering gear type steering systems. It links together several of the steering components and can greatly affect the handling of the vehicle if it has an issue. If you suspect that your vehicle’s drag link may be having an issue, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic, to determine if your vehicle needs a drag link replacement.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Drag Link and was authored by Ed Ruelas.