I am thinking about replacing my current 4:1 steering with the 5:1 kit, which includes the shaft and gears. I've heard a lot about how safer your T is with this improved steering, so I was wondering if you can remove the shaft without removing the entire column? I have a 1916 Touring, so removal shouldn't be too difficult with the top down.
yes, you can.
Sometimes the parts will fit, and sometimes they will not (without a bunch of fooling around). Hopefully your change-out will go easily.
Personally, the later ratio doesn't feel "T-ish" to me and I dislike it. I've driven 5 national and regional tours and countless smaller tours, and at what I consider a safe speed (30MPH), I've never felt the need for 5:1 steering.
I have friends who swear that 4:1 wears them out on long tours. It's never bothered me, and I suspect that the extra work is possibly due to trying to keep up with the wander induced by worn steering and suspension components. If you're trying to constantly correct your direction, then I suppose it's easier if you have more leverage. To each his own, and best of luck.
I agree that you can replace the column shaft on the open cars. I have a 24 Coupe that I am considering replacing the shaft with the 5x1 so that may be a different story.