Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Fayetteville, GA
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In my experience, if you take off the tie rod end and the stud (the piece going into the spindle) shakes freely, its worn out. The center link is often called an inner tie rod end and can cause the same symptoms. The center link was worn out on my 99 2WD and caused the steering to be very sloppy.
The same tie rod test applies to the center link, if the tie rod end that connects to your pitman arm (steering box arm) is loose and shakes freely, it is bad. It is under more strain than most of the parts on your steering system.
No reason you have to go to a shop. Measure your toe (distance between front of tires front and back of tires) so you can reset it without going to the alignment shop. Then seperate the tie rods with a tie rod splitter and a hammer (go to your local auto parts store, they should offer a rental tool) and inspect. If they have Ford marks on them, I would go ahead and replace them for safety's sake. Plan on a few hours of downtime.
SirZoltun - Early 99' F250 Superduty