A drag link is a steering gear component in a vehicle that transfers the rotary motion of a crank or the steering box to a second crank or link in a different plane or axis. One side of the drag link connects onto the pitman arm, and the other connects to a fixed pivot point while the ends connect to the tie rods. When the steering wheel is turned, the drag link transfers the rotating motion from the gearbox to the wheels so that the vehicle can be steered. Drag Links are found on vehicles equipped with steering gear type steering systems, unlike in rack and pinion steering systems, and are commonly found on larger trucks and vans.
Since the drag link is one of the central elements of the steering system, when it gets damaged or it fails, it can cause several issues with the vehicle’s handling and steering capabilities, making it wander while driving down the road. Normally a damaged or failing drag link will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver of a potential problem that should be serviced.
One of the first symptoms of a problem with the drag link is abnormal tire wear. If the vehicle’s drag link wears out at the ends, it may cause the tires to wear unevenly. The tires may wear at an accelerated rate on the inside or outside of the tread. This will not only reduce the life of your tires, but also will put additional stress and wear on other steering components as well. An additional symptom of a damaged or worn out drag link is play in the steering wheel. If the drag link wears out or develops any play at any of its linkage points, it may be felt as play in the steering wheel. Depending on the amount of play, the vehicle may also experience shimmy or vibration in the steering wheel when the vehicle is in motion. Finally, a damaged or failing drag link can also cause the vehicle’s steering to wander when it is in motion. The vehicle may drift to the left or right on its own when traveling down the road. This will require the driver to have to constantly correct steering in order to maintain control of the vehicle, and may even make the vehicle unsafe to drive.
If you suspect your vehicle’s drag link may be damaged or is wearing out, you must have it inspected by a professional suspension technician to determine if you need to replace you car´s drag link.