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I honestly don't really see any play that you are talking about, all the links are moving together and it isn't like any of the rod ends are sloppy or moving differently from one another, looks fine to me. Maybe the tierod ends are starting to show a little movement, but that is all that I can see.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I thought that there isn't supposed to be any play at 3 and 9, and 6 and 12. How do you tell if the center link is shot?
 

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I see up and down movement in the Idler Arm.

What brand did you replace it with? I have had bad luck (parts store parts) with anything that didn't say MOOG Problem Solver on it. Went through a couple cheapies on the sedan I had.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I see up and down movement in the Idler Arm.

What brand did you replace it with? I have had bad luck (parts store parts) with anything that didn't say MOOG Problem Solver on it. Went through a couple cheapies on the sedan I had.
ACDelco....I put a MOOG Problem Solver idler arm on my other B-Body (RMS), and couldn't really tell a difference. That's why I went with Delco on this one.
 

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How do you tell if the center link is shot?
What you need is an assistant--you're looking for motion between the pitman arm (bottom of steering gear) and the center link, when the steering wheel is turned.

That means you need someone to turn the wheel and someone to observe the left side of the center link at the pitman arm attachment point. Even better if you can put your hand on the 2 parts while the steering wheel is being rotated (no need to go more than 1/4 - 1/2 turn each way to feel any slop in the joint.

Engine can be off, wheels on the ground--column unlocked.

As far as the idler, if it was recently replaced, I would not just jump in and change it again--the OE design and the aftermarket replacements, from my observation, are NOT very precise--in the bigger scheme of things, a "precision" idler would ride on bearings just like the pitman arm does. The NASCAR world does it that way, but we have to give up some precision (and high maintenance) for durability and long life with little real trouble.

I think the real problem is that the design of the entire steering system, with the "old school" recirculating ball gear and multi-piece linkage have not kept pace with the tires and wheel sizes--these parts aren't really much more substantial than they were when the same (GM full-size) cars were using 14 & 15 inch wheels, and quite small tires by comparison. As a result, there's much higher loads on these parts considering the effort needed to guide larger/stickier tires and wider wheel, and they actually FLEX more than anyone realizes--even the frame, steering gear attachment to the frame, and idler attachment point is a potential flex point.

The steering gear itself, assuming it's in good condition, is not the real problem, so a total re-think and beefing up of the linkage and mounting points for the gear and idler would be a good project to work through.

Yes, rack & pinion would be a good way to fix this, but the frame layout and cost of converting are impediments to doing so.
 

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The tie rods maybe look a little loose. Do the joints rock easy if you try to turn them forward or back by hand in the center by the adjuster? If they are not tight, they are worn.

For the center link check you dont need an assistant. Start the car when its cold so you will not burn yourself (wear gloves)

While the car is running, Grab the steering shaft at the top of the column and turn it.. You can turn the steering shaft which will turn the wheels easily when the engine is running and observe movement at the joints. You wont be able to turn the wheel alot, But it will be enough to see if you have play at the joints.

To be 100% sure an idler arm has some play, Put a pry bar between the arm and the frame and pry down on it. If it has a lot of play its toast. Note, All idler arms will have some BEND during this test and that does not necessarily mean they are worn, so keep that in mind
 
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