Top 4 Symptoms of Bad Pitman Arm

Symptoms of Bad Pitman Arm

The pitman arm, a link between the steering gear and the linkage, is an integral part of a car's steering system.

But like other automotive components, the pitman arm eventually wears out or gets damaged. When this happens, you'll likely notice a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including these.

Key Takeaways

  • The pitman arm is an important part of a parallelogram steering/conventional suspension system found in light trucks and cars with rear-wheel-drive setups
  • Symptoms of a bad pitman arm include wandering to the left or right while on the road, poor steering/inability to steer, and clicking noises when steering.
  • A pitman arm replacement usually requires a professional mechanic and costs around $275.

What are the Functions of the Pitman Arm?

The pitman arm is typically used on vehicles with parallelogram steering and conventional suspension systems. This type of steering arrangement is commonly used on light trucks and cars with rear-wheel-drive setups.

The arm comprises a smooth-surfaced component that connects with the seat and threaded bearing stud. A dust boot is also designed to prevent dirt from entering the seat and the threaded bearing stud.

The upper portion of the stud, which is connected to the steering linkage's center link, is protected from dirt buildup. Conventional vehicles use a conventional steering gear instead of a rack and a pin assembly.

This arrangement is commonly found on older cars and trucks with rear-wheel drive setups. The pitman arm then connects the steering gear to the other steering linkage components. When the wheel is turned, the driver's rotational motion is transferred from the steering column to the gear.

The pitman arm transfers the driver's input to the steering linkage, which then connects to the knuckles for turning the wheels. Some types of pitman arms have no moving parts. Others have a movable ball joint that's connected to the steering linkage.

Symptoms of Bad Pitman Arm

If you notice these symptoms, your vehicle may have a bad pitman arm. They include the following:

1. Wandering to the Left or Right While on the Road

If you're experiencing issues with your vehicle's steering or it's pulling to one side, you must have a mechanic inspect the pitman arm.

A bad or failing pitman arm can prevent the vehicle from responding properly to a turn.

The bad pitman arm can have various play functions but can also be inaccurate or have an erroneous mind while driving. This can happen during times of hazardous weather.

2. Poor Steering

If you notice that your steering is having a lot of play, then your vehicle may have a faulty pitman arm.

Since the pitman arm is an important component of your vehicle's steering system, you must have it fixed by a professional.

You should contact your mechanic immediately if your vehicle isn't steering like it used to.

3. Inability to Steer

If the pitman arm completely fails, it can prevent you from steering properly. The replacement of the component should be done before the issue gets worse.

If you notice any of these symptoms, then you must have a mechanic inspect the pitman arm before it completely fails. You should also stop driving if you're experiencing this issue.

If you're experiencing issues with steering, you may have a faulty pitman arm.

The replacement of this component should be done immediately. In addition, if you frequently drive off-road, it's also important that you have the pitman arm inspected and replaced as needed to ensure the safety of both you and your passengers.

4. Clunking Noise When Turning

Sometimes, a faulty pitman arm can make a loud popping or clunking noise while you're turning the steering wheel.

Pitman Arm Replacement Cost

A defective pitman arm will be replaced during this service, and it will ideally last for the lifetime of your vehicle.

It's important to regularly inspect and maintain your vehicle's pitman arm to ensure it's working properly.

The pitman arm is a vital component of your vehicle's steering system and must work properly.

It can prevent the vehicle from steering properly if it stops working. A replacement for this component usually costs around $275.

Pitman Arm Maintenance

The pitman arm should be regularly maintained and inspected. In addition, you must have the wheel alignment and other suspension components inspected yearly.

Some of the most common symptoms of a worn pitman arm include loose or erratic steering, tire edge wear, and playing with the steering wheel. Having your vehicle inspected by a service professional can help identify potential issues.

How Important is it to Get the Pitman Arm Fixed?

Failure of the pitman arm can prevent you from steering properly. The wheels and the sector shaft will no longer be connected if it fails. It can lead to various problems, such as accidents.

How to Remove the Pitman Arm

Before you start the process of replacing the pitman arm, make sure that you have all of the necessary tools and supplies. They include the following:

18mm drive and 1/2 drive wrenches, a long breaker bar, and a drive socket. The former is for removing the pitman nut.

A torque wrench that can go to 180 feet is also included in this set. Other tools, such as a flat-head screwdriver, needle nose pliers, and a floor jack, are also needed.

Remove the Big Nut Holding the Pitman in Place

First, you need to get it in the air. To do this, you will need to jack the left side of the truck up. Then, lower the vehicle down on the jack stand.

To remove the big nut that holds the pitman arm to the steering box, use a drive socket and a mother breaker bar to remove the nut. The nut is about 1-5/16 in size and is torqued to 180 feet.

Use a Pitman Arm Puller to Remove the Arm

Pull the pitman arm out of the steering shaft using the pitman arm puller. It will release from its position and drop down a bit, but the center link will still hold it up.

Remove the Center Link Nut

The cotter pin and the large nut holding the pitman to the center link should also be removed.

To separate the two components, use a pull and pickle fork combination. You can easily remove the pitman by sliding it out of the center link.

How to Reinstall the Pitman Arm

To keep the steering box clean, apply some anti-seize grease to the top surface of the steering box's tapered bolt. Then, cut down the length of the cotter pin to match the one you removed.

To get rid of the debris accumulated in the center link hole and the steering shaft, use a cloth to wipe it away.

Then, apply good grease around the area where the steering shaft sticks out. This will help seal the box.

The inside of the pitman arm shows four flat spots aligned with the steering box's internal splines.

To install the pitman, line up the four spots with the steering box's internal splines.

After you have installed the pitman on the steering shaft, use a split lock washer to tighten the big nut.

After installing the pitman on the steering shaft, line up the four spots with the steering box's internal splines.

After you have installed the pitman, use a split lock washer to tighten the big nut. Make sure to line up the cotter pinhole while turning the nut.

How Long Does a Pitman Arm Last?

Even though the pitman arm is often under tremendous pressure, it will remain persistent. It will suffer a certain force whenever you move the steering wheel.

To extend its life span, the pitman arm must be regularly checked.

The pitman will continue work as long as your vehicle everything goes according to plan.

Is It Safe to Drive with a Bad Pitman Arm?

If the pitman arm is not working properly, it's important that you immediately replace it. This can prevent you from losing control of the steering system.

Take your vehicle to a mechanic to find out why your pitman arm is not working properly. He or she will be able to diagnose and fix the issue.

What is a Pitman Arm Seal?

A pitman arm seal is typically depicted as a steering shaft component connecting the arm to the gearbox.

The pitman arm seal is an important steering system component and helps prevent overfill in the power steering fluid.

One of the most common reasons the seal will eventually wear out is due to the constant movement of the shaft.

A monthly inspection is also important to determine the condition of the pitman arm seal. On-time repairs can help prevent overfilling and tire wear.


If you notice you're having trouble steering or a clicking noise when you turn, the cause is likely the pitman arm, and it's a serious issue that needs to be addressed soon. The cost of repairing a pitman arm is around $275.