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How hard is it to install a steering linkage?Updated a month ago

Steering linkages such as our bolt-in heavy duty steering upgrades are not hard to install, but you must pay attention to details.  There is a lot of stuff going on with the steering under a solid axle Ram truck.  Not only do these parts work together to move your front tires side to side, but the steering also has to endure all of the suspension movement up and down, the weight of the truck, and not interfere with any of the other parts up front.  Something as simple as not lining up the bends in the tie rod or drag link correctly can create so many issues for you.  The biggest issues we see on a regular basis are the tie rod being rotated down, which in turn make the drag link angle incorrect, which then binds up the hardware at the pitman arm and will eventually break the pitman arm bolt or the pitman arm itself.  This is all caused either by not paying attention during install, or not going back to retorque the jam nuts.  Another issue that we see way too often is the misalignment spacers getting flipped around.  The way we send them out is how they're supposed to go on the truck.  Most of the time, customers tell us it was the alignment shop or installer that screwed up the misalignment spacers, but ultimately it's up to the owner of the truck to verify this stuff is installed correctly.  Take some time to get familiar with the components in your front end and see how they work.  You're supposed to check the steering linkage for clearance not just at right height, but at full droop and full compression, lock to lock.  Doing this will resolve most issues before they ever become a problem. 

To install our steering linkages, the steps are pretty simple.  Park the truck on flat ground, chock the back wheels or set your parking brake at least.  You can install the steering with the front tires on the ground, and actually it helps keep the alignment set if you do this right.  Loosen the TREs on the stock steering, then remove the stock linkage without moving the knuckles or pitman arm.  If you can do that, the new linkage can go on and you will be able to drive the truck without going straight to the alignment shop.  We still recommend having it aligned, but this buys you more time - the alignment is less urgent.   

Once the stock linkage is removed, you test fit the new DOR linkage and adjust the heims as needed to fit the length from knuckle to knuckle and tie rod to pitman arm.  Loosely install the tie rod first, make sure you get the orientation correct (the bolt that goes through it for the drag link to bolt to, should be pointing up towards the radiator/intercooler - not towards the front of the truck. The bends in the tie rod should be flat, not up or down), then tighten the jam nuts to hold the tie rod in that position.  You will find that a helping hand or a jack stand will make this a lot easier.  

Once the tie rod is installed, you can install the drag link. Make sure the misalignment spacers have the tapered ends facing the heim, not the other way around.  On the tie rod, we want to limit how much the heims can move to prevent the tie rod from flopping up and down.  On the drag link, we want those heims to move as much as possible because that's where all of the movement comes from when the suspension cycles up and down.  If you put the drag link misalignment spacers on backwards, you're going to limit the travel and basically the weight of the truck or axle will break the smallest part of that assembly - usually the pitman arm bolt.  Check the drag link for clearance around the passenger side sway bar end link, and the driver side track bar bracket and any crossmember that may be above the pitman arm on newer trucks.  Make sure nothing is binding or making contact.  Then tighten the jam nuts all the way to lock in the orientation of the drag link.  That's pretty much it.  

When you go to get the truck aligned, the tech will have to remove one or both ends of the tie rod to set your toe, so make sure he puts the tie rod back on the way it's supposed to be.  He will have to remove one or both ends of the drag link to adjust the steering wheel center.  Same thing, make sure he puts it back on the way it's supposed to be, including the misalignment spacers.  Check these things before you leave the alignment shop.  Most alignment techs are only trained to work on OEM stuff, which has adjuster sleeves and is easier for them to work on, but with our linkages we've eliminated those weak points with the goal being once the truck is aligned, you don't have to mess with it again.

Steering linkage installs take anywhere from an hour to a day, depending on how hard the stock linkage is to remove.  That is the hardest part.  Once the stock linkage is off, you can install the new one pretty quickly.  On the drill-out versions of our linkages, there is the extra step of drilling your knuckles and/or pitman arm out and that can take some time.  The knuckles are softer and easy to drill, just go slow and use lots of cutting fluid.  The pitman arm is forged and will take a while - just be patient and don't burn up the drill bit. 

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