Steering wheel turns about 1/3 each way clockwise or counterclockwise before front wheels react.
Is there a way to eliminate or alleviate this?
If that is 1/3 of a turn, the system needs rebuilding. There are several areas that need attention, gears, pitman arm, steering rods ends, track rods ends and king pins. Each needs inspection for play and if any is found, eliminated.
If it was 1/3 inch, you're in good shape.....
Ev Dirksen used to say, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." Your steering system is the same way. Little bits of slop in several places add up to one big slop. Check all the things Tony mentioned, plus the rivets holding the steering gear case in the column. A loose case can add to the problem.
Steve Jelf said the magic words, "steering system". There are very few adjustment, other than tightening the ball caps and wheel bearings that can be made to the model T steering system. The best way to achieve tight steering, in my opinion, is to start at the front wheels and work your way up to the steering wheel.
I decided to build a new chassis for my 16 touring last year which allowed me to replace/repair all bushings , shafts and worn surfaces. The total play now is about 3/4 inches in each direction at the steering wheel. What I learned in the process is that about every component forward of the firewall has some effect on the steering system play.
The model T steering can be made tight and responsive but it takes a patient systematic approach.
You should be able to get it under 1 inch of free play if you address all of the little sources of slop. Be sure to check and make sure the pitman arm is TIGHT on the steering shaft. Just because something has a nut and cotter pin doesn't mean it's still tight.
Jack your T up so you can get both wheels off the ground.
Once you get it off the ground you will easily see where all the slack is. Turn the wheel back and forth and you really feel the slack.
If it has that much slack as you mentioned it's time to remove the front axle from the car and rebuild it.
Replace ALL the bushings and King pins in the unit. It's not that hard to do.
You will be surprised how much play can develope here and there with the worn bushings and pitman arm.
Sorry. I should have been more specific. The slop is in the 3 steering pinion gears and pinion shaft inside the steering gear case. Someone suggested to place fine copper flakes inside the gear case so as to "shim" in between the gear teeth to cause a tighter fit. But I didn't want to do this without getting other opinions about a remedy.
The only real repair for the steering gear case is to replace the worn parts. New pieces are not terribly expensive and you will find that your Model T responds quite well to the introduction of new parts.
The gears in Oversize, if needed:
Loose steering is Really unsafe. Do yourself, your family, and everyone else on the road a favor and tighten up things. Good luck with your project, Bill
PS: The copper flake suggestion sounds flakey, B.
What?!?!?! Copper flakes? If there's that much play in the gear case it's time for new a new shaft and gears. If that doesn't completely do the trick, I'd get a better case.
Sometimes a part of the slop can be between the steering shaft that connects the steering wheel to the sun gear in the steering gear case, and the bright housing that encloses the gearbox at the top of the column. If this is the issue, Lang's offers two replacement set of gears - one is of standard dimensions, the other has the steering wheel shaft slightly oversize to eliminate play between the steering wheel shaft and the gearcase top. In my case (no pun) I discovered that Lang's also has a new outstanding quality steering gearcase top that is a perfect reproduction of the original. This enabled me to buy a set of standard gears, install them with the new gearcase top, and the side-to-side slop in the steering wheel is gone. The gearcase top is so new that it hasn't made it to Lang's catalog yet - you will have to call and ask for it. Lang's part number is 3504B.
I'll bet it's more than just the gears in the gear case if indeed the wheel can be turned that much before engaging. Like others said, check out EVERYTHING...and like I've said on similar posts in the past, unless there's maybe a specific part of the steering system that indeed is "perfect", just repair/replace the whole thing. Your life is worth what it costs to refurbish it and you'll love the steering performance. Don't overlook the fact that the axle itself might just be in need of what I call the "Stevens Fix" too.
To be blunt, you need to fix this before you or someone else gets hurt, or worse. Fixing means new or good used parts, (and not copper flake, JB Weld, shims, etc...) And yes, as others have stated, the is a system. You need to check out every piece of the steering, from the steering wheel, to the front wheels.
Be safe. Have fun!
I just replaced the steering shaft in my 1925 sedan. This was because of a slipping gear which was caused by a ovaled pin hole. Any repairs can be made when the steering post is removed from the chassis. I happened to have a good 5:1 shaft and gears to replace with. As this was the first time doing this it took a couple of hours and a good brass hammer to get the pitman arm off and back on. Take pictures before you start so you don't have to do it twice.