Being undelighted by the 5½" (!) of play in my steering wheel, I set a shop light and a mirror in front of the car so I could see what was going on when I turned the wheel. Some of it was an easy fix. It turned out that most of the play was in the Pittman arm, and getting the nut really tight cured about four inches of slop. The remaining 1½" of play is in the gear case. That brings us to my question. How much is normal? The Bible tells us how to rebuild the steering, but I didn't find anything saying when it should be done.
Steve, The MTFCA safety inspection form says that less than 2" to no play is acceptable.
You can get new planetary gears and pins to help take up the internal slack. I always find the two long rivets that hold the box to the column contribute a lot of play. You can work the key and key slots in your pitman arm and shaft to make them tight and would be a good thing to do before depending on the nut alone to stop movement. ideally the shaft taper and pitman taper would fit well enough to be like a tapered drill bit when that nut is tightened.
After replacing all the bushings, shimming balls as required, and tightening the pinion nut, Mine is down to less than an inch, more like 1/2 inch. I lucked out and did not have to do anything to the steering gearbox other than take the cover off, clean everything, and pack in new grease.
I think Jim is onto something with the rivets. When I turn the wheel the case rotates a little in the opposite direction. At some point I'm going to replace this setup with a proper 1915 steering column, so I'll live with the 1½" for now.
Steve, I had the exact same problem with the rivets on the gear case on my '20. Have a post on it back whenever, but don't know how to retrieve it. Any way, I cheated and just took the stupid loose rivets out and used small bolts and solved the problem toot-sweet. I now have less than 3/4 inch. play, the case no longer rotates the opposite direction. My friend has the same problem on his, he'll be doing the same thing shortly.
Yes loose rivets in the steering case can cause this
I happy with anything less then 2" at the wheel
The earlier cars with the round steering box it is very important to have good and tight rivets. With the later cars with the diamond shape, you can drive in a wedge such as a piece of hack saw blade and tighten it up if it rocks back and forth.
Steve -- The vendors have oversized rivets to replace those with holes worn larger. Just run a drill through the holes to the size of the new rivets, tap them in place, and you'll have a tight assembly.
Norman, I tried the shim thing and it didn't work well enough, I suspect I just didn't have the right thickness of shim stock, plus, it was hard to really "get in there" and push it in good and tight. I'm happy with the results of the bolts, even if they aren't "pure"...
A T friend showed me a sickle bar rivet tool that he uses to tighten up the rivets at the top of the steering collumn.
Steve, there should be some of these around your area.
I tried the hack saw blade trick on my primitive pickup. I could only get it in after it was sharpened in the edge and it took a lot of effort to get it in 3/4 inch, but that was enough & the steering is steady enough for 50 mph driving - if the road is smooth ;)
I never had much play in my 15 touring, but recently decided to switch to 5:1 gears. The switch was easy and I had no problems.
Since the steering shaft had to be replaced, I also installed a new Pittman arm key. That took the last little bit of play out of the steering system.
As an aside, the 5:1 gears are wonderful. Some say the change is barely noticeable, but in my case it made a big difference!
Steering is easier and I can now backup without fear of turning turtle. ;o)
Tightening the pitman arm nut might only be a band aid patch. You've got to wonder about the condition of the woodruff key & slot that would allow for that kind of movement, even if the nut were loose.
Agreed. With the proper 1915 steering column I'm making, all that will change. Meanwhile, with the band aid applied, the steering is much improved.
A while back there was a bad run of repro Pitman arms. The keyway was .260" wide instead of .250". That doesn't sound like much, but by the time you extend it out from 3/8" to about 6" it amounts to quite a bit of play. I drove a couple of cars with those arms on them, and they were scary!