What is the Pitman Arm all about?
Not the sexiest of all automotive parts, the Pitman Arm, named after railroad engineer George Pitman, is tasked with steering your car. The Pitman takes the circular motion generated by the sector shaft and converts it so that it can be used to turn the wheels. The Pitman arm, supported by the sector arm, is attached directly to the steering gearbox.
Keep in mind:
- The Pitman Arm is robust. With proper maintenance, it will last the entire lifetime of your car.
How it’s done:
- The vehicle is raised, secured on jack stands and the front tire removed
- The defective pitman arm is removed
- The new pitman arm is installed with a new nut
- The tire is installed and the vehicle is lowered off of the jack stands
- The vehicle is road tested for proper steering operation
The Pitman Arm needs regular maintenance. If it receives that maintenance, it will easily last the life of your car. However, if you fail to give it regular maintenance, you will find that between 30,000 and 50,000 miles, your car’s steering will falter. To prevent this, vehicle owners should have their Pitman Arm inspected regularly. A six-month inspection of the steering gear is more than adequate for most driving. However, if you drive in rough, rocky, off-road or other harsh conditions, the Pitman Arm will deteriorate quickly. It is wise to have it inspected, and replaced, if need be, on a three-month basis if this is the case. This may seem drastic, but remember that if your car’s front wheels are taking a pounding, the Pitman Arm, as it sits on the steering gearbox, does too.
What common symptoms indicate you may need to replace the Pitman Arm?
- Excessive play in the steering
- Irregular or slipping steering
- Inexact steering or wandering
How important is this service?
If you fail to follow the service recommendations in your owner’s manual, you run the very real risk of losing steering control due to Pitman Arm failure. When the Pitman Arm fails, there is no longer a connection between the sector shaft and the wheels. When that direct connection is lost, you lose the ability to steer, which can result in dangerous consequences.