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Easiest way to remove center link from pitman arm w/o damage?

Anime

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What's the best way to pop the center link tie rod end out of the pitman arm?

Specifically the stock center link tie rod end that's been in the stock pitman arm for 19+ years, if the idea is to pop it out to change the boot, then put it back.

The tie rod end on the center link is fine, so I don't want to destroy it, nor do I want to damage the power steering pump or pitman arm, or anything else.


TierodRemovalTool.jpg

So far I've popped the tie rod ends in the spindles out with the "big" tie rod remover tool, and even managed to use it to pop the drag link out of the center link even though the gap in the jaws was actually too wide, it barely worked.

It's much too wide for the pitman arm though, there is barely a centimeter of the jaw on either side. It's also too bulky and the drive screw winds up where it's tough to crank down on it and impossible to bang on.

648692-tie-rod-puller-small.jpg

I've tried the "small" tie rod end tool, and it's just too weak. Too bad they don't make it just like the big tool but with the jaws closer together. I've already snapped one of the (very thin) jaws off the Autozone rental tool, and a new one I bought for the purpose with a shorter drive screw (to better clear the radiator hose and steering pump) flexes to the point of almost breaking well before it's even budged the tie rod out at all.

Tapping/banging the top of the drive screw and/or the pitman arm with the tool under tension hasn't "popped" the tie rod out, nor has just leaving the removal tool on under tension for a looong time, or heating the pitman arm, even when it was really cold out, or a combo of all these methods together.


It seems what I really need to do the job right is just a stronger tie rod removal tool that won't flex and then break. The right tool is pretty expensive, and can't be rented:
BMP-115452-p.jpg

I guess that would make it too easy. I might rig up something similar with bolts and some steel plate, or just weld something up if I need to.


Either that or one of the other variety of tie rod/ball joint removers:

61970a.jpg


530d1320548549-tie-rod-end-removal-image_12294-jpg.jpg



I don't want to use a fork to seperate them because that will stress the tie rod and probably damage it, making it unuseable. I also don't want to bang on the pitman arm with a BFH and fork and vibrate the steering parts or worse. I don't want to use (much) spray penetrant since I don't want to contaminate the grease in the tie rod, either. The original stock rubber boot has been cut and removed to allow for easier access.


Obviously a lot of people have done this, surely someone has some insight on the easy way to make this happen. I've searched a lot of other forums since the pitman arm / center link is a common setup, but having to push the center link tie rod out from the top, along with the interference from the cooling/steering components seems particular to the Explorer/Ranger here. I haven't found anything on here yet, other than people who were removing it for replacement or for a SAS, so they just used spray lube, a BFH, whatever.

So, any bright ideas or helpful suggestions?
 
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corkey

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if the boot is of no concern, why not a pickle fork ?? they are cheap, and don't destroy the ball and socket joint, just the boot, and your going to change it anyways
t-removal-60401d1332442294-build-thread-91089600_l.jpg
 
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IAmTodd

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if the boot is of no concern, why not a pickle fork ?? they are cheap, and don't destroy the ball and socket joint, just the boot, and your going to change it anyways

This. Had mine out in a matter of seconds when I redid my steering. Autozone will rent you one if you don't care to purchase.
 
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Xeek

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i hate pickle forks. only cause i tend to drop it a lot when using it, and it sounds horrible until you grab it haha

i usually use the pitman arm puller, the larger one listed first. sometimes you have to play around with it and due to being so big they only come off if the tre hasnt been on there for years and years. never tried the actualy tie rod puller.
 
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Anime

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if the boot is of no concern, why not a pickle fork ?? they are cheap, and don't destroy the ball and socket joint, just the boot, and your going to change it anyways


"I don't want to use a fork to seperate them because that will stress the tie rod and probably damage it, making it unuseable. I also don't want to bang on the pitman arm with a BFH and fork and vibrate the steering parts or worse."

Think about how the pickle fork works. It's seperating the link from the pitman arm, with the tie rod still in there. It's basically pulling the tie rod using the link, in hopes the ball end doesn't pop out of the link before the tie rod pops out of the pitman arm. I'd rather not do this both because of the high probability of ruining a perfectly good center link, and the possible damage to the pitman arm or power steering system due to the banging. I also think if it's this stuck, there's a really good chance using a fork would just pop off the link and leave the tie rod still in the pitman arm.

In all the research I did, many, many people urged against using pickle forks except as a last resort or if everything was just being torn apart for salvage or a whole new setup, including people who had used pickle forks then regretted it.
 
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Anime

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It's been awhile, but in the interests of helping anyone else out who winds up with the same difficulty, I'm posting the end result.

This is the ball joint / tie rod seperator that eventually did the trick:

94185a.jpg


Should have bought it to begin with after the large/small ball joint/tie rod pullers didn't work. This is definitely the tool for the job since it also avoids the interference issues with the power steering pump and coolant hose.

It took two tries, first nudging it on there with a hammer and a block of wood and cranking down, which pushed it out a tiny bit, then I removed it and left it for a day, and went back, being sure it was pushed on all the way for the lower jaw to have the most strength and least chance of breaking, then just cranked down slowly and eventually -BANG!- it was out. Sure looked like the tool was on the verge of breaking too, but that's how it works, the lever part where the screw is -bends- to keep pressure to force the taper joint out.

It also seems to work good for pressing out broken lug studs and pressing new ones in, another good reason to get it and add it to the pile of tools for working on the Explorer.

So, if you're going to be removing the drag link, get one of these.
 
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Kiliona

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I'd still rather use a pickle fork xD but i see your logic behind not

Safety tip, i heard you say you tried heat, I also did that at the shop at college on a ball joint (same concept tie rods use ball joints) we heated it up a TON and smacked it with a hammer..... and it exploded with enough force to knock a quarter size hole a cm or two deep in the solid concrete of the shop floor, and then continue to skid 100 feet across the shop. Apparently with heat those things can build up a TON of pressure! So for anyone else, i wouldn't recommend heat on enclosed joints like that, or atleast not much.

Obviously this was a rare occurrence, the instructer said in 30 years he'd never seen anything like it, but it had enough force it could have easily killed multiple people (especially if it had been the lower ball joint and had exploded up not down) so food for thought!
 
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Anime

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Didn't want to damage the factory parts, but I was just being picky about how I went about it. I'm sure it would have been well worth it to just demolish the center link and buy all new steering parts in order to have it over with and done sooner rather than later, but I also didn't want to damage the steering pump any, the banging with a pickle fork might have led to fixing other things that weren't broken before.

I read up on NOT using heat like a gas torch when doing ball joints or tie rods because they explode like that.

The heat I used was just a hair dryer (due to not having an actual heat gun), and only on the pitman arm, when the metal was cold, to try and make the pitman arm hot and pop the joint out due to thermal expansion. Didn't work, probably not enough temperature difference.
 
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Insanejuggalo

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What does your stock pitman arm look like. I'm trying to figure out if mine is a stock, lifted or lowered arm
 
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Anime

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The stock pitman arm has about a 2" drop.

The 4" drop pitman arm makes an obvious difference.

Steering geometry before drop pitman arm
DSCF3915.jpg


After drop pitman arm
DSCF3921.jpg


Old pitman arm soaked with PB Blaster
DSCF3916.jpg
 
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Occ

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I replaced the steering gear box on my 94 Ranger about a year ago and ran into similar difficulties. O'Reilly's had rentable pitman arm pullers, but they weren't very good quality and didn't fit very well into the gap between the pitman arm and steering gear box. Ended up renting a heavy duty pitman arm puller from Autozone, and then grinding the steering gear box enough for the puller to fit in between and do its thing (it just needed a little bit more clearance). Was able to still return the old steering gear to avoid the core charge, and the grinding was slight enough that the old gear box could still be used.

Obviously you expressed a desire not to have to mangle your steering gearbox, but this is another possible solution, particularly if you are replacing the steering gear box.
 
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Anime

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The difficulty I was having was in removing the center steering link from the pitman arm, not removing the pitman arm from the steering gear box.

Obviously the pitman arm remover is the way to go when doing that, and since the pitman arm connection faces downward, you can use whatever big heavy-duty puller you can find. Members on here have used the commonly available pitman arm pullers at auto parts stores, but a slightly larger, slightly heavier duty puller might be better or at least make the job that much easier.
 
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xplorernewb

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Which tool was used to get this done? Can't view the pic.. sorry for commenting on an old thread but this is no joke
 
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xplorernewb

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Which tool was used to get this done? Can't view the pic.. sorry for commenting on an old thread but this is no joke
 
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