How to Replace Your Centerlink and Tie Rods/Install Sleeves
One of the woes with GM’s IFS is the centerlink. Its factory design causes the front tires to “toe in” under heavy pull when in four wheel drive. The reason for this is the curved ends, as more pull is applied the tires naturally want to pull in as with anything, the centerlink rotates under this pressure and in doing so pulls the tires in due to the design of it. This makes the truck very unstable and breaks parts. To combat this issue, a straight centerlink can be installed. The straight centerlinks eliminate the curves on the ends which prevents the tires from “toeing in”. The other half of the equation is the weak factory tie rods, they measure in at a whopping 13.5mm thickness. The tie rods on my Jetta are enormous compared to the ones on these trucks. Since these products work best when paired together, and also since the tie rods get removed when doing the centerlink install, I’m writing this write-up to cover both. However if you are trying to decide which to do first, do the tie rod sleeves. The centerlink is more for the racers and pullers. It will hurt the trucks turning radius somewhat and cause odd tire wear if you make a lot of turns on pavement. However, the decision to purchase one is up to you I’m just here to show you how to do it. I will also state at this time that it is strongly suggested to get an alignment after installing a centerlink. Who Makes Sleeves?
Upstate Diesel Performance
Pacific Performance Engineering
Crank It Up Diesel
You can also make some yourself Who Makes Centerlinks?
Pacific Performance Engineering
Crank It Up Diesel
NOTE: The above list is just the manufacturers I know off the top of my head who make these products. If there are others let me know and I will add them.
The Install is pretty straightforward; the only special tool you will want is a tool to separate the steering linkage as it is a press fit. Otherwise you just need a 22mm socket (7/8”) to remove the wheel, a 21mm socket and wrench, and an 18mm wrench. You’ll also need a hammer and a floor jack. Scale of 1-10 I’d rate this at about a 3. It’s pretty easy, but it has some difficult parts. Parts you will need:
Just Centerlink OR
Centerlink & Sleeves Optional
New Inner Tie Rods
New Outer Tie Rod Ends How to do it
1.Start by jacking the truck up and removing both front wheels. Now place jack stands under the truck and remove the jack. It’s best to be safe, I knew a few people who have been killed by falling vehicles, semis, lawnmowers etc.
2.Now loosen the jam nut that holds the tie rod end to the tie rod using a 21mm wrench. Do this on both sides. Only do this if installing sleeves or replacing tie rods.
3.Next remove the locknut that holds the tie rod end to the steering knuckle. Do this on both sides. Then give it a tap with a hammer to pop it out of the knuckle.
4.Now remove the outer tie rod end from the shaft by threading it off counting how many full turns it takes until it is off. Write the number down, it may be different from side to side. Again do this for both sides. Now thread off the jam nut of tie rod sleeve if present. Again only do this if replacing tie rods or adding sleeves. Skip 5 is you already have sleeves or are replacing the inner tie rods.
5.At this point if you are installing sleeves and not replacing the inner tie rods simply thread the sleeve onto the tie rod, then thread on the outer tie rod end using the same amount of revolutions as it took to remove it, then reinstall into the steering knuckle, install the locknut and torque to the spec below. Then tighten the sleeve to the outer tie rod end, the sleeve is your new jam nut. Do this on both sides and you’re done.
6.If you are proceeding to remove the centerlink, start by removing the steering stabilizer. To do this remove the nut that is on top of the centerlink using an 18mm I believe. It’s a locknut and it’s hard to get at so it will take awhile to get it off.
7.Next remove both of the nuts that hold the pitman and idler arms using a 21mm. Either using a steering linkage puller or a hammer separate the centerlink from the pitman and idler arms. You can use a tie rod fork put it may damage the seals.
8.Now your centerlink is free from the truck, slide it out either on the passenger side or driver’s side.
9.Now you need to remove the inner tie rods from the centerlink. Slide the boots back and then using a BIG crescent wrench, thread the tie rod ends off, then clean the threads and apply loctite to them, then reinstall into the new centerlink and slide the boots back.
10.Now reinstall the centerlink into the truck.
11.If you didn’t replace the inner tie rods, then you simply just need to reinstall the tie rod ends into the steering knuckles. If you did replace the inner tie rods then follow step 5 at this point.
12.Now just torque everything to spec and get an alignment if needed. It’s that simple. Torque Specs
30lb-ft/40N-m: Nuts that secure the Idler and Pitman arms as well as steering stabilizer
48lb-ft/65N-m: Nuts that secure tie rod ends to steering knuckle as well as the jam nut