Here's my quick check procedure:
- Jack up one front tire.
- Lay down under the truck & put both feet on the jacked up tire (one foot on the right side, one foot on the left side). Push each side of the tire trying to "steer" with your feet.
The tire shouldn't budge more than 1/8-1/4" either way (really none at all). Any looseness you see in the pitman, idler or tie rod end joints means they're worn past their useful life.
Let the tire off the jack & repeat the procedure on the other front tire.
I am guessing if you have a steering part that is this worn, the center like may be "wallered" out & wont' fit real tight together when a new idler, pitman or tie-rod end is installed, so it would be a good idea to check the trueness of the holes in the center link when you've got the parts off the truck.
Check 1: engine on at idle, have helper turn steering wheel back and forth, about 1 time per second, just turning it far enough to barely turn the tires. Look for loose tie rod ends, and for some movement of the idler arm. The arm should not move vertically
Check 2: engine off, raise RF tire with jack under lower control arm. Manually push/pull the tire as if trying to steer the truck. Observe the idler arm. Again, no vertical movement. Also, check the tie rod ends.
If there is vertical movement in the idler arm, replace it. If the tie rod ends are loose, replace them as well.
I don't believe that tie rod ends alone can allow this much movement, but the idler arm sure can.