Removing a Stuck Pitman Arm

When replacing a pitman arm, the nut and lock washer that retain the arm to the steering gear usually come off easily with the properly sized socket. If a proper socket is not avaliable, an axle nut socket intended for servicing front wheel drive cv axle assemblies will often work in a pinch (30mm, 32mm, 34mm, 36mm, etc.).

The nut that retains the rotating stud on the pitman arm to the center drag link usually comes off without too much effort too. From the factory, the later crown vics use a nylon based system to lock the nut in place. But many aftermarket replacements use a castellated nut with a cotter pin instead.

However, actually sliding the pitman arm off of the steering gear output shaft is sometimes rather challenging. According to the ford service manuals, simply place the appropriate pitman arm puller on the pitman arm, tighten the pressing bolt, and the arm will pop right off. However, this is often not that case with a pitman arm that has been in place for several years.

In this particular case, the pitman arm was seized onto the gearbox and tightening down the forcing bolt only resulted in broken pitman arm pullers. The ford service manual does not have a procedure for this particular complication. But in the field, there are a few possible solutions:

-Heat the arm with an acetylene torch, and then use the puller. But this is likely to damage the hydraulic seals inside the box along with the output shaft bearings.
-Bang a large balljoint "pickle fork" seperator in between the gear and the pitman arm with a big sledge hammer. Also likely to damage the output shaft bearings inside the box.
-Use an angle grinder to cut a notch in the pitman arm around where the sector shaft passes through the pitman arm.

For this project, the method of cutting a notch in the pitman arm is going to be used as it's the least likely to damage the gear box.

So here's the box with the stuck pitman arm.

Here's the gearbox with the notch cut into it near the sector shaft.

In this case, the grinder cut a deep notch into the arm without cutting into the sector shaft at all.

The arm now popped right with a pitman arm puller after a pressure relief slot was cut into the metal.

Here's the gearbox that previously had a pitman arm that wouldn't come off

And here's the tool that was used for the job. A 4.5" electric angle grinder with a thick abrasive metal cutoff wheel.

The electric angle grinder makes easy work of pitman arm. But it also makes lots of sparks and dust in the process. So make sure to wear eye protection and a dust mask too.

There was some localized heating to the arm using the angle grinder. But this heat was minimal compared to the flame of a 4000+ degree oxygen/acetylene torch.

Some people have commented that there are stronger pitman arm pullers that are less likely to fail when removing a pitman arm than the cheapie autozone $10 one pictured above. While this is true, there are also some pitman arms stuck on the sector shaft so good that you can break even the best pitman arm pullers.