Originally posted by jfujimoto
When I grasp the drag link and steering damper (as a unit), the ball joints pivot like crazy (fore and aft). Time for a new drag link?
Answering this remotely is a little tricky, Jeff. The ball joints are SUPPOSED to pivot radially about the center of the ball. This is what differentiates a ball joint from a single-axis rotating bearing surface. The important thing is whether you see displacement at the ball joint in the direction the linkage moves.
The best way to test this is to have the car on all fours, but arranged so there is room to get under it. E.g., up on ramps, with safety jackstands stategically placed. Else look under the car to get the best vantage point of each set of ball joints in the linkage.
With the engine off, have someone gently turn the steering wheel back and forth, just to the point resistance is felt - try to not actually turn the road wheels. Meanwhile, be examining the joints for signs that there is any movement of a linkage rod with NO corresponding movement of one attached by ball joint. This is freeplay. If the joints all pass this test, they are ok. If the idler arm moves up and down appreciably, the bushings need replacement. This should be done before making a final determination of linkage looseness.