How to: Center your steering wheel

If driving around with a crooked steering wheel is bothering you then I’m here to let you know it’s an easy fix. With just a few basic tools and a few minutes of effort, anyone can do this. To be clear this adjustment won’t have any impact on your alignment, it will simply help you to center your steering wheel. You may also notice that your particular steering setup may look different then what we have in our pictures. Don’t fret because the procedure is almost universal for solid axle vehicles and this guide will allow you to adjust the wheel on your Jeep or pickup truck.

Take a look at the image below and familiarize yourself with the nomenclature. There are several arms and rods that are associated with your vehicles steering system but we are going to focus on the drag-link. The drag link can be identified because it is the only rod that is connected to the pitman arm on the steering box.

The first step is to park your vehicle with the wheels straight. Turn the vehicle off and do not lock the steering wheel.

The second step is to locate the adjustment collar (also known as a turnbuckle or adjustment sleeve) on your drag link and loosen the bolts or jam nuts. If your vehicle has bolts, do not remove them, just loosen them. Most applications will either use a small collar that squeezes or clamps two threaded ends of a drag link, or the drag link will use threaded ends with jam nuts to keep the rod from spinning. Both styles work similarly.

This is an example of a drag link that uses jam nuts
This is an example of a drag link that uses bolts

The third step is to rotate the adjustment collar either clockwise or counterclockwise depending on which direction you would like to adjust your steering wheel until the steering wheel is center. It helps to have a friend observe the steering wheel during this step so they can let you know if you are making adjustments in the correct direction and to notify you when your steering wheel is center. Doing this yourself is just a little more effort as you will have to go back and forth between under the front of the vehicle and to the steering wheel.

This is a drag link on a 1970’s full sized Chevy

The fourth and final step is to tighten the bolts or jam nuts that you loosened during step two.

This is an aftermarket drag link on a Jeep JK

This is an easy process but may leave you wondering why you had to make this adjustment in the first place. Things we recommend checking that could have caused your steering wheel to be off center are:

  • A bent tie rod (common if you offroad or were in a collision)
  • Loose tie rod ends (loose meaning the jam nuts or bolts are loose enough to allow the tie rod to spin and adjust)
  • Loose track bar
  • Wallowed out track bar bolt holes
  • Worn ball joints
  • Change in ride height (lifting or lowering vehicle)
  • Worn control arm bushings
  • Alignment where drag link was not properly adjusted afterwards (this does not mean your alignment is bad and if you adjust your drag link it will not change your alignment)

As always don’t forget to tighten the bolts or jam nuts to factory torque settings. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a few adjustments to get the steering wheel just right. Those with a less OCD personality will find this easier to accomplish.

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