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Getting my steering wheel straight after tie rod/drag link install

kat

Sr. Member
Joined
Jul 22, 2015
Messages
1,042
Loc.
Bristol
So, a few years back I updated the steering linkage on my '76 from Y to T and then had front end aligned. But after my steering wheel was a 1/4 rotation off and just let it go. But now its kind of bothering me. My steering lock to lock is great so instead of taking pitman arm off and moving it, I am thinking of just adjusting the sleeve on drag link (coming off the pitman arm) to get it straight. It looks like I have enough thread to do it. Is this the way to do it?? I'm thinking so since it wouldn't mess with any front end alignment. Thanks.
 

broncobuddha

Jr. Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2007
Messages
198
If your box is truly centered, couldn't you just put the wheels straight (and if your stock pitman arm is straight back) pull the steering wheel off and straighten it?

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Wild horse 75

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May 9, 2023
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368
Loc.
BC
Everything starts with a centered steering box. Count the turns lock to lock and cut it in half. From there if your wheels aren’t straight you need to align them. Once that is done you can correct your steering wheel by either popping it off the column or moving the steering shaft.
 
OP
OP
kat

kat

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Jul 22, 2015
Messages
1,042
Loc.
Bristol
If your box is truly centered, couldn't you just put the wheels straight (and if your stock pitman arm is straight back) pull the steering wheel off and straighten it?

Sent from my Pixel 6 Pro using Tapatalk
I failed to mention that with the steering wheel off center, my turn signal doesn't cancel out on one side and cancels to quick on the other. So just removing steering wheel and adjusting it wont solve THAT issue.
 

DirtDonk

Contributor
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Did you remove the Pitman Arm originally to install the new steering system?
If not, then, the Pitman Arm, steering wheel, and box, should all be in sync and correct. No need, and no good reason to remove the steering wheel and re-orient it. Do you want the steering wheel and steering box centered to each other. As mentioned above, that is the first and foremost point of reference.

Turning the drag link to recenter the steering wheel and box is the correct method.
In fact, it is the only reason for the existence of the adjusting sleeve on the drag link in the first place.

if you did remove the Pitman Arm, or if it’s a non-stock Pitman Arm, or you did not do the work yourself, then you should disconnect the steering link, then verify that the box is centered.
If the box is centered with the steering wheel straight ahead, proceed to reattach the linkage.
If it is not centered on the box, then, and only then, do you have a reason to remove the steering wheel to re-orient it.

With the steering wheel and box centered, verify that the Pitman Arm is pointing straight back along the frame.
If not, remove and re-orient it.
Early models, specifically 73 and maybe 74, were offset slightly to the driver side. About one spline, or 10°.
Later, Ford chose to change that orientation to straight back. Either works, but your 76 is most likely straight back.

Then reattach the steering linkage in the correct position.
If the adjusting sleeve on the drag link needs to be used to correct the length on the drag link to be able to insert it into the Pitman Arm in this position, adjust the drag link the appropriate amount.
Button everything up, and go for a drive.

If the steering wheel is still slightly off, readjust the drag link as needed.
Again, that’s what it’s for.
 

DirtDonk

Contributor
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Also, is your truck lifted?
Is the Pitman Arm still stock, or dropped?
Is your track bar adjustable, or stock?

Got a picture of your front end from straight ahead?
 

Broncobowsher

Total hack
Joined
Jun 4, 2002
Messages
35,057
Which "upgraded" steering setup did you use? The original T style linkage didn't have any adjusters to center the steering wheel. You removed the wheel and moved it over a few splines. The aftermarket stepped in and sometimes added extra adjustments in different ways to allow centering of the steering box that were not available using factory parts. But we are now dealing with non-stock mystery aftermarket stuff. So I can't say what will work and what may cause issues. Simply because I don't know what version of aftermarket T-style linkage you are dealing with.
 
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kat

kat

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Jul 22, 2015
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Bristol
Ok so let me try to answer some questions.

The aftermarket T linkage came from WH and it does have the adjustment sleeve on drag link.
Yes, Bronco is lifted as has aftermarket dropped pitman arm.
Yes, when I did the work myself other than taking it to get it aligned afterwards. I 'eyeballed' it and used a tape measure to get it close.
Yes, I did center steering box, steering wheel, and pitman arm, everything was lined up.
Yes, Track Bar is adjustable.

The only reason I could think of how the steering got off slightly, is after I installed front end parts, I was still having a little 'slop' in steering only to find my frame was cracked and weak where the steering box mounts. So, I kept pitman arm on steering box to fix so not to mess it up.
It has been driving fine, no excess wear on tires.
But DirtDonk I believe you answered my question. I was thinking the adjustable sleeve on drag link was the best way to do it.
 

DirtDonk

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Cool, you’re there then.
So yes, if the steering wheel is off to the left a little bit, you just shorten the drag link.
If it’s off to the right, you lengthen the drag link.

With the wheels/tires straight, you just tweak the drag link until the steering wheel lines back up straight.
Easy peasy.

The reason I asked about the pitman arm, or a picture, is I was wondering which Pitman Arm you went with.
That is because with a dropped Pitman Arm on a T linkage swap, with the large factory track bar bracket on the frame of a 76, the best alignment between the track bar and drag link is achieved with the mid-drop arm from a 78/79 full size Ford.
Maybe you did it that way already. But even if so, talking about it, will let others reading this know ahead of time what might work best for them.
Of course, EBID! (every Bronco is different…)
 
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kat

kat

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Jul 22, 2015
Messages
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Loc.
Bristol
Cool, you’re there then.
So yes, if the steering wheel is off to the left a little bit, you just shorten the drag link.
If it’s off to the right, you lengthen the drag link.

With the wheels/tires straight, you just tweak the drag link until the steering wheel lines back up straight.
Easy peasy.

The reason I asked about the pitman arm, or a picture, is I was wondering which Pitman Arm you went with.
That is because with a dropped Pitman Arm on a T linkage swap, with the large factory track bar bracket on the frame of a 76, the best alignment between the track bar and drag link is achieved with the mid-drop arm from a 78/79 full size Ford.
Maybe you did it that way already. But even if so, talking about it, will let others reading this know ahead of time what might work best for them.
Of course, EBID! (every Bronco is different…)
I bought all of it (front end/pitman arm/adjustable track bar) from a vendor on here, but nice to know about the 78/79 Ford. Come to think of it, my buddy had a 78 Ford 4x4 in his yard I could have gotten parts off of.
 

jamesroney

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Fremont, CA
Cool, you’re there then.
So yes, if the steering wheel is off to the left a little bit, you just shorten the drag link.
If it’s off to the right, you lengthen the drag link.

With the wheels/tires straight, you just tweak the drag link until the steering wheel lines back up straight.
Easy peasy.

The reason I asked about the pitman arm, or a picture, is I was wondering which Pitman Arm you went with.
That is because with a dropped Pitman Arm on a T linkage swap, with the large factory track bar bracket on the frame of a 76, the best alignment between the track bar and drag link is achieved with the mid-drop arm from a 78/79 full size Ford.
Maybe you did it that way already. But even if so, talking about it, will let others reading this know ahead of time what might work best for them.
Of course, EBID! (every Bronco is different…)
If you use the 78/79 pitman arm, you want to reverse the twist in the factory arm. It takes about 10 degrees. Heat it cherry red, and it will move by hand. Then let it cool slowly. It is cast steel, (not cast iron) and is very ductile. Just don't quench it.

The 78 Bronco has the arm facing forward, and has a twist in it so that the drag link end is centered in its socket. When you use it on a EB, the arm faces rearward, so the twist is the wrong way. With a short EB drag link it will want to bind. But it's super easy to fix.

While you have the 78/79 Pitman arm in the vise, go ahead and grind off about 1/8 inch of excess casting on each side of the arm on the splined end so that your normal pitman arm puller will fit over it. Ford made that piece huge for no reason. I mill them to make them pretty, but it doesn't take much.

I've seen plenty of 78/79 Pitman arms on EB's that have not been corrected. But there has never been a Bronco that left my garage where it wasn't fixed. I once had a guy snap off a drag link end in the middle of the Sierra Trek shortcut dead middle of the trail, in the easy part. Wouldn't have thought it would do that.
 

DirtDonk

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Thanks very much for that detail James.
I knew about the angle, but didn’t know how relatively easy it was to, correct.

An even better course of action, for a lifted bronco, might be to use the correct drop Pitman Arm for a bronco, but then custom make a track bar drop, or utilize a track bar riser, and get the track bar angle a little lower to match the drag link.
The result is a less acute angle on both, and parallel bars.
The only reason for the use of the 78/79 arm in the first place, is to keep costs down, on a mildly lifted rig.
Which is fine for lift of 2 inch or less I suppose. But the lower the angle, the better up to a point.
So more drop can be better.
 

broncobuddha

Jr. Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2007
Messages
198
Personally, I like the drag link riser option better than a drop arm.

But I only think one parts house is selling those.

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DirtDonk

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Drag link riser?
I think going tie-rod over would be a better way.
 

Madgyver

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Jul 30, 2001
Messages
14,746
my steering wheel is off centered to see my gauge cluster while going straight
 

broncobuddha

Jr. Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2007
Messages
198
Drag link riser?
I think going tie-rod over would be a better way.
Duff's makes it. I think it's a slick design. It was designed to be used with their Heim steer kit but can be used more or less with any steering set up.

I actually have a probably near 20 year old (bought it new) Bulletproof Steering heim setup on my 73'.

Drag link connects all the way over on the passenger knuckle where the tie rod connects.

I'm running a 1" body lift with a 2.5" suspension lift and I was toying with the idea of moving the tie rod over the knuckle but the two are practically close to parallel to each other now.

I'll save that for if/when I go higher on the suspension.

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