How To Diagnose and Repair Problems with Your Imperial's Center (Drag) Link

Imperial Homepage -> Repair  -> Steering -> Center Link

Tip from Bob:


The center bearing is a driveshaft component and is rebuilt by the Damper Doctor & others. The center link is a steering component and is rebuilt (or available) from others, like Rare Parts.  Here is a photo of the center link:

Question from Frank (1961):


I am going to replace the center link on my 61 Imperial. It looks simple enough but the 62 service manual has a warning about trying this without a tool.  It says: "CAUTION" Removal of the tie rod ends from the steering knuckle arm or center link by methods other than using Tool C-3894 will damage the tie rod end seal, necessitating replacement of the complete tie rod end assembly."  I called a parts store that rents tools but they never heard of a tool for this job. Is it really that difficult without one? Any thoughts about this subject before I proceed?




From Joe:


The tool described uses two arms which reach around the flange on the steering center-link and a bolt/screw is turned and forces the tie rod end out of the center-link. It is sometimes necessary to use a little force by hammering on the tool to help break the two pieces apart, but, they usually will separate after some effort and the seal on the idler arm or pitman arm is not damaged. The usual method used by those who do not read their service manuals involves using a tie rod end separator tool which very likely will damage the seals since it wedges between the idler or pitman arm and the center-link. I bought one of the tools years ago from Miller Special Tools which is mentioned in the service manual. I believe that Tony has included address and phone number information in his Frequently Asked Questions area. You should still be able to get one. They are still used to remove these parts even on some newer Chrysler vehicles, especially large vans and pickups.


From Ron:


Any Nationally Operated Parts Chain Store will carry a puller to assist you in your repairs. The use of the old style, "Pickle Fork", is not recommended as it will always tear the seal, making it necessary to change the ruined unit. TRUE CRAFT makes a puller for both Tie Rod Ends and Pitman arms. #2806 for approx. $15. or $20. AND, it works great for replacing U-Joints too! The tool slides over the center link or steering arm and presses against the threaded stud to separate them. No damage to the threads or seals.

Question from Jay (1962):


I finally have the means to get some long needed maintenance done on my '62. I asked my repair shop if there was anything other than the Kanter front-end rebuilt kit that they recommend I replace/service while the front end is apart (they will be doing the work). They recommended that I get my hands on a center link. The 62 has a minimum of 190K miles on her (could be 290K). Is the center link something I need to replace? Is there a way to gauge the condition of the original center link? I want to rebuild the front-end the right way. The front-end has been "sloppy" since I bought the car in '96, and the front end "clunks" if I brake hard. I already have new control arm bushings that will be replaced at the time the front is rebuilt. Does anybody know of a source for NOS/rebuilt/good-used '62 center links?




From Jim:


The center link for your car has long been discontinued as a new part, but, as others have said, they can be rebuilt. I deal with a business called Rare Parts in Stockton, Ca. They carry only suspension parts, and have lots in stock for older cars - their catalog goes back to '57 on Imperials. Unfortunately, they only sell to automotive businesses; I called and found that they can rebuild yours - usually in 1 day - plus 1 or 2 days shipping each way. Their list price is $247.81; I can sell it to you for about $200.00 plus shipping both ways. Give me a call if I can help!

 Jim Stoneman

Parts Manager

Westoaks Chrysler-Dodge

Thousand Oaks, Ca.


From Mark:


Don't forget about Lowell Howe at 209 892 3464. He keeps the rebuilt center sections for Imps. Pretty reasonable. Look on the web site for the address.


From Norm:


The center link is something that wears out in these cars. It is a rod that connects the components of the steering system. It consists of several joints where the idler arm and pitman arm connect to it and then to each wheel via tie rod ends, and they wear out. The center link can be tested . Put the car on a lift and leave someone behind the wheel. When the wheel is turned from side to side, some "slop" will be observed in the joints. "Slop" means that one part of the joint will move before the rest of it. There are several fellows in Hemmings who will supply re-built center links but you have to send in your core.


From Jeff:


I went through the center link problem on my 59 Custom and 62 Crown. Both cars had a lot of play in the steering, and my local front end shop told me that they needed to be replaced. I couldn't find anyone with them in stock (59 and 62 are the same), so I had mine rebuilt for 225.00 each. Let me know if you want to get yours rebuilt and I'll give you the name of the place that did mine.

Question from Zan (1962):


Went out and had a second look at my car today w/ my mechanic on hand and the trouble it seems is the bolt between the Center Link and the Pitman Arm sheered. Wow am I lucky this happened in a parking lot, not on the open road!!!!  I'm contacting Bob Hoffmeister about the center link... anybody have advice here on taking a center link from an old car instead of finding a new one? I'm told that the center links from 57-66 Imperials will fit my car [part  # ES599]  See what I get for guessing it to be a tie rod end? Shows how much I  (don't) know :)

Reply from Peter:

I didn't think that a tie rod end was the problem either because one side of the car would still steer if that was the case.  You should check the pitman arm because a broken arm WOULD cause a total loss of steering.

Question from Bill (1964):


Ok, we can't be the only ones to ever have needed to replace their center link. Where can we get a new, rebuilt, or parts kit for the center link on our '64 Crown. All our local sources come up empty. They say the part is coded as such that it should never need replacing, well....




From John:


Your are correct, I had to replace mine too, and it made a big difference. They do need replacing, but they're not something you can rebuild yourself. Performance Suspension 800-526-1096 $225/exchange Same price as Kanter, and I'm sure they both get them rebuilt from Rare Parts (wholesalers) in Stockton CA.


From James:


I'm not familiar with '64s, but it's just a long piece of steel with four holes isn't it? All the wear should occur on the inner tie rods, idler arm and pitman arm (the "wear items") That's why nobody carries them. Only reason I can think of that one would wear out is that you've been running with one of the previously listed items loose and a hole got walleyed out. Am I right? Since they aren't wear items, just about any you find in a just yard should be okay. Now finding one in a junk yard... that's probably another story.


Correction from Bill:


I wish that were true, but on the Imperial ('64 at least) the center link has the normal tapered holes on the outer ends for the tie rods, but it has swivel "ends" that are permanently pressed in, they fit into idler arms (right and left). It's a pretty "busy" steering system. It is one of these ends that is loose in the link.

Here is what the part looks like:

Question from Rob (1964):


I assume a mechanic recognizes a worn drag link by tugging on the steering parts when a car is up on a lift and finding play.  My question is ... Short of examining the drag link, in terms of performance, how do I, the driver, know that the drag link needs to be replaced?  Does the steering just become looser or is there vibration in the steering column? What if any symptoms distinguish this problem from other steering issues or problems?




From John:


I had that problem with the 66 I had. When they put it on the lift, it was plain to see the problem. Just easily moving the wheels caused the link to wobble all over the place. When I got the old one back, you could see that the holes were worn large & elongated.


From Bill:


The "driver" would notice a gradual decline in steering control e.g. the car is less responsive to steering wheel movement, the car seems to "swim" done the road. Swimmers do not move through the water in a precise straight line, they shift slightly from side to side as they move forward. Same goes for worn tie rod ends, you loose precise control. A car that is only misaligned will tend to wander (or pull) to one side, but will be responsive to the steering wheel. You can align a car with worn tie rod ends, drive 20 feet, and have it out of alignment again. When you go to an alignment shop, the FIRST thing the tech should check is for worn parts, otherwise it's time and money wasted.


From Kenyon:


This Drag-link thread has not had the standard, additional suggestion of checking the steering box for looseness.  The Drag-link may very well be bad, too, but if you have not checked your steering box, please read on. There is a nut and screw at the top of the domed cap on the steering box in the engine compartment, attached to the DS frame rail near the exhaust manifold. Loosen the nut and standard-thread-tighten the bolt/screw that may have a flat blade or allen key hole (or other) until it is snug, working the steering wheel to seat the mechanism during the process before final tightening of the lock-nut.

To test: Car engine off. Put hand onto wheel and turn it in a loose rocking motion without turning the car's wheels, introducing tension. Allow steering wheel to snap back to resting position. Play should be rubbery and connected-feeling throughout and with only a few inches of travel. No perceptible bumping to be felt in the wheel, all linkage in the system feels tight. Feel another power steering car in the same way for reference (not identical, but gives an idea).

Excessive play may mean the drag link or other components are loose or worn, but tightening the steering box is one place to look. If the steering wheel moves but the pitman arm does not, the box is loose. The Pittman arm is a 4 inch cast (curved on mine) piece that connects the bottom of the steering box to the drag-link and moves the drag link left-right. It is visible from under the car. I had a buddy progressively rock the wheel harder while I looked at the Pittman arm. Once you do it and fix it, the 2nd time is much easier to do without help once you know what you are looking for. All 3 of the Imperials that I have gotten have benefited from this 5 minute steering box adjustment.


Follow-up question from John:


During the steering box adjusting procedure, should the engine be running?


Reply from Kenyon:


Engine off, preferably cold! so that you keep from getting burned on the exhaust pipe. Once your motor is spinning the power steering pump, your ability to feel the mechanical components is totally masked. The '6o that I know so well has pinky finger steering, and you can't feel a thing if the engine is running. Check you Field Service Manual about this for diagrams and instructions. I didn't state it as explicitly as possible, but a good linkage will have a rubbery feel that is very progressive, almost as if you are loading up a rubber bushing as you twist the wheel, letting it go causes it to rebound and "uncompress" and should be almost without slop before it starts to compress going the other way, if that makes sense. If there is a little play, your power steering will mask it, so don't try to go for perfection - close will usually work better than over-tightening things. While in there, inspect the hoses that go to the Power steering pump. The one with the threaded metal fittings is easy to unscrew and replace if not really good looking. This is the pressurized "sending" hose. The other one is the return hose and is not under as much pressure, thus only has hose clamps. If either deteriorate and pop, your power steering has just left you and you will have a 5000 pound steering adventure that will test your upper body terribly. I have had this type of PS hose failure happen once. -Never again! It scared me worse than when I fell off my motorcycle, because the car got 10 times harder to steer, and I was near a cliff, and I'm a pretty good sized guy. Got it back, but under different circumstances it could have led to a crash.

Question from Dan:


Urgently needed - STEERING CENTER LINK - Moog # ES599 - Fits '62 through '66 And no, Rare Parts doesn't have one - Neither does Bernbaum, or any other people I've checked - Any ideas?




From Brett:


Have you tried J. DeChristopher, 215-297-8103? I think I bought a centerlink for my '58 from him a few years ago.


From Wayne:


I bought my center link in April of 1991 from:

J. DeChristopher

Box 148

Feasterville, PA



It cost $195. You will have to call to find out if they are still in business, or have one in stock.


From Joe:


Have you checked with Kanter Auto? I was able to get complete set of ball joints, bushings, steering center link, pitman arm and idler arm from them several years ago. They started out with Packard parts, but, began to include other car parts. They may have what you need. They advertise in Hemmings Motor News.


From Dave:


Kanter Auto Products lists 57-64, and 65-66. Both are $175.00 exchanged, or add $100.00 core. Call 1-800-526-1096 to order. These folks have been very accommodating in my searches for various parts for my '61 LeBaron. Good luck!


From Nancy:


De Christopher probably has a new one but prepare to pay $200.00, last I checked, or maybe they have gone up. We probably have a good used one in fact with all the parts cars we have I'm sure we do as long as it's for a full frame Imperial.


From Elijah:


If this is a reference to the rubber bushing that joins the two portions of the steering column, my mechanic just purchased one this week for my '71 Imperial from Chrysler. They still have them -- the trick is to get a parts person who is willing to take the time to look it up and order it. In fact, over the past few weeks, I have found out that this is true for a lot of things. Chrysler still has many more parts than most of us think -- it's just that most parts department personnel are not willing to spend the time and effort to look up the items.


From Jim:


I hope somebody in the IML comes through with the actual part, but meanwhile, have you tried


10621 Bloomfield St, #32

Los Alamitos, CA 90720.

Tel: 310-594-5560

They've gotten some favorable mention here on the IML at various times, and I've had favorable dealings with them through the years. In THEIR catalog, the item is part #: 860-010 Center Link Assly/Remanufactured ($215.18 -- plus a $100 core charge refundable when the old part is returned to them. Also, since I got this catalog 3 yrs ago, I think prices may have gone up $5-15, depending on the part).

This page last updated March 6, 2003.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club