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Center Link vs. Drag Link

Hey everybody!

My company’s work van - 2002 Ford E150 (4.2L, 310K miles)- has recently started vibrating pretty badly at highway speeds. That, plus the tread feathering on the front tires led me to take the van for an alignment.

Now, I don’t have an official mechanic, as I usually do the engine work on the vehicles, so I just picked a random place with “alignment” written on their sign and gave them a try. A few minutes later, they came and told me they couldn’t align it because the center link AND the drag link are worn out, and quoted me $500. I told them I’d have to get back to them.

So here’s the thing- I don’t have much experience with steering components, but the few minutes of research I’ve done online are leading me to believe that “center link” and “drag link” are two different ways of describing the same part.

I’d appreciate it if someone clarified this for me. Are they trying to take me for a ride here? -or are the center link and drag link in fact two different parts that are prone to wear out?


You are right that the Generic terms Drag and Center link describe the same part. (Don’t forget relay rod.) However I think the Mechanic used the wrong term for the parts. E series vans have two very long inner Tie Rod ends and could be mistakenly called Center/Drag links.

The term “drag link” is supposed to refer to the one tie rod the fastens to the pitman arm, no matter the design of the tie rod system.
This E150 has four pieces of tie rod, all of which have the ball socket in their end which will wear out.
The drag link ( attaches directly to pitman arm ) is the longest piece of all of them and reaches toward the right ( passenger side ) wheel, Ford# 6C2Z-3304-D (fka f2uz-3304-a) $150.00…sometimes called the right inner.
The second longest tie rod fastens into a hole in the drag link and reaches over toward the left wheel, Ford# 6C2Z-3A130-D (fka f2uz-3a130-a) $ 100.00…sometimes called the left inner.
As the tie rods reach each wheel there is an outer tie rod end and adjusting sleeve. Outer ends about $70.00 each ford.
All of these tie rod parts can be obtained at parts stores like AutoZone, Checker, CarQuest and the like for less $$.

Name, rename, Pete and repeat. You’ll have that these days and I used to prefer drag link to center link. You do have two parts and I will bet that they are both worn out. It is now just a situation where the checkbook gets overworked and the problem goes away.

Dang, the only thing you left out was the local number for Autozone!

You win the award for the most specific information in a post. My hat’s off to ya!!

Thank you very much, Ford parts is what I do ( 29 years now ) with a few years spent at Auto Zone working nights. One suggestion I might add is that the outer ends be replaced now too. All 4 have seen the same miles and use. Just how much longer will it be until their time is up and you pay for another labor and alighnment job. Replacing these now will only add the price of parts, no additional labor.

well alright guys, thanks for the info! I see now that I should just replace the whole shebang - drag link/ left inner/ and outer ends.

I’ll look around for the best price quotes. …though honestly, I’m inclined to do it myself just for the experience. There seem to be a couple good write ups on it online- and I even somehow collected a tie rod puller in my vast tool collection (though I have no recollection of buying/using it). Might as well put it to some use.