Straight as an Arrow

Illustration for motorhome steering article

New adjustable drag link makes it simple to center the steering wheel on Ford F-53 chassis

Piloting a motorhome has its own set of idiosyncrasies and one of them is contending with a steering wheel that’s not straight. The off-kilter position is not a deal breaker, but most of us would rather have a steering wheel that doesn’t feed on our obsessive-compulsive disorders. While a crooked steering wheel doesn’t present driving-safety concerns, it does create a few pitfalls, and Redlands Truck & RV in Redlands, California, has developed a proprietary product, the Straight & Level Adjustable Drag Link, that fixes this malady.

In some cases, a steering wheel that is not centered affects how well the turn signals are cancelled, attributed to detent locations in relation to the position of the steering wheel. Not knowing when the wheels are exactly straight is another issue, which can be problematic when negotiating tight RV park sites. And last, but not least, if you’re like me, a crooked steering wheel is simply an irritant — exacerbated by a preference to have certain things symmetrical.

There is a more complicated fix, but it isn’t pretty. Mechanics have to loosen the front axle and chain it to a solid post that’s cemented into the ground and horse it into position until the steering wheel is straight. In some cases, the axle holes for the leaf spring locators have to be grinded to facilitate the correct adjustment. Other, less invasive, fixes require cutting the stock drag link and adding an adjustable sleeve (using a commercially available kit). Both solutions are rather expensive, eating up at least 1½ hours of labor time.

The Straight & Level Adjustable Drag Link from Redlands Truck & RV simplifies this task dramatically and carves much of the cost out of the process. Installation can be accomplished in 45 minutes and the retail price of the new drag link is $495.

When designing the new drag link, Redlands’ motive was to make it strong and durable, so the company uses a ¼-inch tube wall to meet the self-prescribed specifications. The drag link consists of three parts: the center section and two adjustable ends, the latter of which are replaceable in the unlikely event they become worn; jam nuts keep the ends in place. By contrast, if the factory drag link needs replacing, the cost for the new part is quite expensive and often not in stock. The ends also have Zerk fittings for injecting the proper lubrication, and they are designed to make it easy to attach the nozzle of a grease gun.

Installation is straightforward but working on your back can make the project more difficult. Be prepared to use some brute strength, if necessary, to remove the stock drag link. That’s because the ends may need some convincing to break loose from the linkage. On the test motorhome, the mechanic had to enlist the help of a pickle fork to break the ends loose, and even after attaching to an air hammer, the ends remained stubborn. You know the old adage about using a bigger hammer? Well, that’s what it took to pop the ends. The mechanic at Redlands has replaced numerous drag links and said some are harder to remove.

Once the old drag link is removed, the rest of the job goes quickly. When assembling the drag link, the threaded ends are spaced evenly, making sure the final length is close to that of the stock counterpart. After placing the new drag link’s threaded studs (the ends rotate to help line up the fit), the castle nuts were tightened properly and new cotter pins were secured.

A helper centered the steering wheel and the mechanic below turned the drag link until the length was correct. The jam nuts were then tightened and the motorhome was road tested for final adjusting. When done, the steering wheel was straight, matching the position of the front wheels.

The Straight & Level Adjustable Drag Link can be installed on any year Ford F-53 chassis with gross vehicle weight ratings (gvwr) from 16,000 to 26,000 pounds.

Sometimes the little things in life make us happy; in this case, returning the steering wheel to center was simple enough and helped make driving the motorhome more pleasant, and you don’t have to be obsessive-compulsive to realize the benefit. Now, about those little things inside that are not perfect …

Redlands Truck & RV




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