The center link also known as a drag link and it is in the steering and suspension system of a vehicle. The center link attaches most of the steering linkages together and helps the steering system operate in sync with each other. A failing center link will cause looseness in the steering system and sometimes a vibration when driving. After replacing a center link or any steering components it is recommended that the vehicle is given an alignment.
Part 1 of 6: Raising and securing the front end of the vehicle
- Center link
- Diagonal cutting pliers
- Front end service kit
- Grease gun
- Hammer - ball peen 24 ounce
- Jack Stands
- Ratchet (3/8)
- Ratchet (1/2) - 18” long for leverage
- Safety glasses
- Socket set (3/8) - metric and standard
- Socket set (1/2) - deep sockets, metric and standard set
- Torque wrench (1/2)
- Torque wrench (3/8)
- Wrench set- Metric 8mm to 21mm
- Wrench set- Standard ¼” to 15/16”
Step 1: Raise the front of the vehicle. Take your jack and raise each side of the vehicle to a comfortable height and set jack stands in position lower lack and secure and move jack out of the way.
Step 2: Remove covers. Remove any covers that may been attached underneath and that are in the way of the center link.
Step 3: Locate the center link. To locate the center link you will need to locate the steering system, steering gear, tie rod ends, pitman arm, or idler arm. Locating these parts will lead you to the center link.
Step 4: Locate the drag link. The drag link end is connected from pitman arm to the right steering knuckle.
Part 2 of 6: Removing the center link
Step 1: Reference marks. Take a paint marker to mark the position the center link is in. mark the bottom, left and right tie rod mounting ends and the pitman arm mount. This is very important because the center link can be installed upside down and put your front end extremely out of alignment.
Step 2: Start removing the center link. To begin start by removing the cotter pins using a pair of diagonal cutter pliers. Most replacement parts come with new hardware, be sure there is hardware included. Not all front end use cotter pins, they may just use lock nuts where cotter pins are not required.
Step 3: Removing mounting nuts. Start by removing the mounting nuts to the inner tie rod ends.
Step 4: Separating the inner tie rod. To separate the inner tie rod from the center link, you will need to get the tie rod removing tool from the kit to separate the tie rod from the center link. The separating tool will hug the center link and press on the exposed stud of the tie rod end ball joint out of the center link. To operate the separator you will need to use a socket and ratchet.
Step 5: Separating the idler arm. Remove the cotter pin if there is one, and the nut. To separate the idler arm there will be a idler separator in the kit with the same process of pressing and separating the tie rod ends. Use a socket and ratchet to apply pressure and separate the idler arm from the center link.
Step 6: Separating the pitman arm. Remove the cotter pin if there is one and the mounting nut. Use the pitman arm separator in the front end service kit. The puller will mount the center link and separate the pitman arm from the center link by applying pressure using a socket and ratchet.
Step 7: Lowering the center link. After separating the pitman arm the center link will be free and can be removed. Pay good attention to the way it is being removed so you don't install it incorrectly. Making reference marks will help.
Part 3 of 6: Removing the drag link
Step 1: Remove right front wheel. Remove the right front wheel, may need somebody to apply the brakes to break lugs loose. This will expose the knuckle and the drag link end.
Step 2: Separating the drag link from the pitman arm. Remove the cotter pin if there is one and the mounting nut. Mount the puller from the front end service kit, use a ratchet and socket to apply pressure and separate.
Step 3: Separating drag link from knuckle. Remove the cotter pin and the mounting nut, place puller from the front end kit onto the knuckle and drag link stud and press off the drag link applying pressure with a ratchet and socket.
Step 4: Remove drag link. Remove and set old drag link aside.
Part 4 of 6: Installing the new center link
Step 1: Match the direction the center link is installed. Before installing the new center link use the reference marks made on the old center link to match the new center link. This is done to get the center link installed correctly. This is to prevent the center from being installed wrong.
Step 2: Begin installing center link. Once the center link is in position to be installed, line up and mount the pitman arm to the center link. Torque the mounting nut to the recommended torque specification. You may need to tighten a bit more to match slotted nut to cotter hole on the stud.
Step 3: Installing the cotter pin. If a cotter pin is required, slide the new cotter pin through the hole in the stud of the of the pitman arm. Take the long end of the cotter pin and bend it up and around stud, and bend the bottom end of the cotter pin down, it can also be cut flush up against the nut with diagonal cut pliers.
Step 4: Install idler arm to center link. Attach idler arm to center link, start and torque nut to specification. Put in cotter pin and fasten.
Step 5: Install inner tie rod ends to center link. Attach inner tie rod end, start and torque mounting nut to specification and fasten cotter pin.
Part 5 of 6: Installing a new drag link
Step 1: Attach drag link to the knuckle. Attach the drag link to the knuckle and start the mounting nut and tighten the mounting nuts to specification and fasten the cotter pin.
Step 2: Attach the drag link to the pitman arm. Attach the drag link to the pitman arm and start the mounting nut and tighten to specification, and fasten the cotter pin.
Part 6 of 6: Grease, install skid plates, and lower vehicle
Step 1: Grease the front end. Take a grease gun and begin greasing from right wheel to left wheel. Grease the inner and outer tie rod ends, idler arm, pitman arm, and while you are greasing grease your upper and lower balljoints.
Step 2: Install the skid plates. If any skid plates were removed, install them and fasten with the mounting bolts.
Step 3: Install right front wheel. If you removed your right front wheel to access your drag link, mount and torque to specification.
Step 4: Lower your vehicle. Raise your vehicle up with a jack and remove the jack stands, safely lower your vehicle.
The center link and drag link are very important when it comes to steering your vehicle, a worn out or damaged center link/drag link can cause looseness, vibration and put your alignment out of specification. Having your worn parts replaced when recommended is essential for your comfort and safety. If replacing a center link or drag link is something you would rather leave to a professional, have one of YourMechanic’s certified technicians perform the replacement.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Replace a Center (Drag) Link and was authored by Michael Gonzales.