Greetings everyone! About two months ago I purchased my first Model T, a 1925 Tudor. It's had an older restoration, looks nice, runs nice and drives that way as well. My plans are to slowly go through the car and check everything out mechanically. While doing so I'll freshen everything up. First and foremost the car is a driver, I just want to keep it as nice and correct as I can while still enjoying the car
I'm not totally new to the Model T. I once had a neighbor who had 1915 Runabout. I learned how to drive it and was always involved in the maintenance.
I've also restored two cars in the past an Austin A 40 and a 1936 two door Chevrolet.
Welcome to the forum! My number one recommendation would be to locate the nearest Model T chapter – there is a listing at: If there is not a club near by, there may be some members or other Model T owners near you – the nearest chapter even is a miles away may have some members near you. Please see:http://www.mtfca.com/clubpages/chapters.htm and http://www.modelt.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5&Itemid=15 They can be a real source of encouragement and help you as you learn to maintain the car.
The regulars on the forum should skip the rest of this -- the safety tips one more time … but for anyone new to Ts – the following can help save you time, money, and injury:
I would encourage you to ask the previous owner if the Babbitt rear thrust bearings were replaced with bronze thrust bearings in the past. If he doesn’t know – I would highly recommend that you check and confirm what they are made out of. There are also some roller bearing thrust washer/bearings. I personally would recommend the bronze – but the main thing is to make sure they are not the original Babbitt thrust washers. When they fail – they tend to go quickly and you no longer have a transmission brake, or low or high or reverse gear. You are free wheeling because the pinion gear is no longer making proper contact with the ring (also called crown gear). Below are some additional safety items and links that are helpful to a new T owner. While they may be common knowledge to the T owner of 70 years ago, many folks today have not grown up around Ts and are not aware of many of them. Many of the items below are issues from a part being repaired and then installed incorrectly (such as the front spring perches – which can cause the T to be a wild ride and even turn over. )
There are some known safety items about the Model T that you should check out before you start driving it. (If you are driving slowly on a farm where it doesn’t matter if the brakes fail, the spokes fail, car turns over, etc. – then you can ignore them all). I would encourage you to review them so you learn about those safety issues second hand rather than by first hand experience. Getting an experienced Model T person to help you learn about your car can save you lots of frustration and possible expense. For example if you fail to retard the spark and you push down on the starting crank at the front of the car to start the car, you could easily break your arm. That is a known safety issue with Model Ts. And it isn’t dangerous as long as you understand what causes it [spark lever advanced [that is the left hand lever on a left hand drive car or the right hand lever on a right hand car] should be pushed up], commutator adjustment rod installed wrong or bent improperly so that even with the spark lever up, the spark is still too far advanced, shorted wire on the commutator, etc. . And if you use the electrical starter that your car may have – if the spark is advanced and the engine back fires – it can damage the starter and/or bendix drive. For additional details please see: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/50893/68644.html?1224126132
and there are other related threads.
Some other safety related items:
And be sure the car is in safe working order. An engine that burns oil is not a critical safety issue (at least not in my book) but the front end castor if it is set up negative can flip the car. Those and similar items are well documented "oops" for the T. But if you have never been around one -- they are probably new "data points" for you. Some of them are listed below – not to scare you but to let you learn from others rather than discovering all the lessons on your own.
Safety Glass is nice: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/50893/72116.html
Use safety wire and not lock washers or cotter pins on the two studs holding the wishbone to the underside of the engine. Why? Because even if the nuts have cotter pins there have been cases where the studs back out. That allows the wishbone to be loose and the steering can become useless.
Lots of safety items http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/50893/69429.html
Over center steering – shouldn’t happen on the later Ts (Ford added a stop inside the steering gear housing. The change was approved Oct 28, 1921 and would have taken a little while to be put into regular production. Ref: http://www.mtfca.com/encyclo/S-T.htm#sgc )– If the steering gear is original to the car – that can also be used to establish it was before or after that change. Note there would have also been a period of overlap when both designed were used as the old stock was used up. If someone replaced the steering gear housing or rebuilt it without the lock pin – or installed the wrong length drag link etc. the over center steering might happen:http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/80257/86345.html as well as: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/257047/300409.html
Types of safety wire: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/29/41859.html
Example of loss of brakes caused by drive shaft failure: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/29/47804.html
Top T tips – many of them are safety related also: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/80257/85208.html
Tour safety check list: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/29/44331.html
And if you have a gas hot water heater in the garage – be very very careful. The float in a Model T Carb will sometimes stick (or trash in the valve) and the carb will leak gasoline. Not too bad if there are no sparks. But several homes, garages and cars have been lost when a gas hot water heater was near by and someone started the dishwasher etc. that caused the hot water heater burner to turn on at the wrong time. Note gas fumes tend to be heavier than regular air …. so they tend to hug the floor. If you adjust your garage door to let the mice in and the air out – that is a temp work around. But replacing the gas fired hot water heater with an electric heater or having the gas one relocated away from the garage is the best thing. Note there are also gas/propane fired hot water heaters that are supposed to detect the presence of gas fumes and not light their burner. I’m old school – I would not want to trust the computer technology to work perfectly every time….
Even with a perfectly good and properly adjusted front steering system – if you back up quickly, the front wheels can go full left or full right and pull the steering wheel out of your hand – so remember to back up slowly. It is caused by the caster of the front wheels similar to the casters on the front of the shopping cart – designed to be stable in one direction but not so stable in the opposite direction. If someone rebuilt the front axle and it is was really difficult to keep the car going straight they may have inadvertently swapped the front spring perches. There is a left and a right spring perch that tilts the axle so the bottom of the axle is slightly ahead of the top of the axle (5 1/2 degrees positive caster – although there is some discussion that it is a little less but still positive for the balloon tires). If it has negative to neutral caster it can cause a wild ride and also could cause the car to flip even at a slow speed see:http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/80257/80333.html?1233523419 that shows the spring perch installed incorrectly and how the front axle looks then. Also see: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/29/40382.html Note even with the spring perch installed correctly a bent or shortened wishbone could cause neutral to negative caster.
Also the rear axle thrust bearings if they are babbitt (originally bronze in the 1909-1915 cars and then switched to babbitt on the cars during 1915 ref: http://www.mtfca.com/encyclo/P-R.htm#rax3 see part number 2528 ) can fail with minimal warning leaving the driver without the normal transmission brake (the main regular brake on a stock Model T). See the discussion at:http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/50893/78685.html?1233159025 If you loose the brakes and you are on a flat area with minimal traffic – it is not nearly as bad as loosing them while going down hill towards a busy intersection. See the rear axle babbitt discussion part way down in the following thread: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/257047/277093.html?1332591272
Wood spokes work fine – but they need to fit tightly, not be split or wood rotted, made of quality wood (pine is not a good choice and yes some folks have offered pine spokes for sale) and the bolts etc. need to be tight without too much wobble in the wheel. see:http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/179374/248594.html?1322326314
The Model T is a faithful servant but it has some known issues that the driver needs to be aware of and to take proper precautions about or it can bite you.
Steve Jelf has an excellent set of books he recommends for new owners on his web site at: http://dauntlessgeezer.com/ with the T section at: http://dauntlessgeezer.com/DG52.html and the recommended books listed at: http://dauntlessgeezer.com/DG80.html
Note there are also free “how to books” on the internet such – see: http://books.google.com/books?id=uKVAAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=editions:xR 56bbT2W68C&hl=en&sa=X&ei=tdpWVMi4PMOjgwSAhoC4Ag&ved=0CBcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=fa lse and there are others – on the net. And the Ford Service is online at: http://mtfci2002.readyhosting.com/manuals/Model_T_Service_Manual/mtsm.html and does include the starter equipped cars and even the 1926 -27 “Improved car” features. The owners/instruction manuals are at:http://www.mtfca.com/books/bookmenu.htm and the 1921 would work great for your 1923 car. Also the Ford Instruction Course on that same page the link is: http://www.mtfca.com/books/Course.htm And to help you with parts identification etc. I like Lang’s Old Car Parts on line catalog (you can also down load it as a PDF) available from: https://www.modeltford.com/download.aspx 16 mb so on a slow connection start the down load when you are going to do something else. Many of the photos are in color. Many but not all of the part numbers are the same as those used by Ford. They also have some helpful tips in the catalog. They are also great folks to deal with.
Also if you may want to review Milt Webb’s excellent “How to remove a T from mothballs” see the posting at: http://www.mtfca.com/discus/messages/29/8538.html and scroll down to Tom Mullin’s posting the third posting from the top. While it was written for a T that had been stored for a long time – running the checklist on any T can help you know what to look for.
Also Milt has a great article about how slow cranking may be caused by poor 6volt electrical maintenance see Milt’s Six-Volt Battery Performance http://milttheinstructor.com/Six-Volt_Battery_Performance.pdf
Again welcome to the forum, and when you have a chance please post some photos of your T as well as your Austin A 40 and 1936 Chevy.
Hap l9l5 cut off
Hap -- I think you should add that new folks are invited to add their location to their handle so regulars participants know if they live close!
It may help them get hands on assistance!
If it were mine, I would first ask the previous owner whether it has bronze thrust washers in the rear axle. If he doesn't know, take it apart and check for yourself. The original washers were babbit and they tend to crumble. when that happens you lose your brakes and also do additional damage to the differential parts. Bronze washers last a lot longer and are safer.
In a Model T, the brake pedal compresses a band in the transmission and the car is stopped through the drivetrain. That means that any part which fails behind the transmission will cause the car to go into freewheeling without brakes or the compression of the engine. The only way to stop the car in that condition is with the parking brake which is a steel shoe against a steel drum. It is aptly named the "emergency" brake.
Your profile indicates you live in Vancouver Wa. In that area there is urban traffic and various mountains or hills. So you need a good way to stop the car. I would recommend Rocky Mountain or disk brakes which are available through the vendors. Those auxiliary brakes will apply braking directly to the wheels and will work even if the drivetrain fails.
Next you need good tires and wheels. If you have wood spoke wheels, check to be sure all the spokes are tight and the bolts which attach them to the hubs are tight. If you have wire wheels, check that they run true and don't have cracked hubs or spokes.
Check for excessive play in the steering more than 4 inches at the rim of the steering wheel. Many causes of play are found in the tie rod and drag link. Have someone move the steering wheel back and forth while you look at the various joints in the front end. If you find loose parts, they need to be addressed.
As far as the engine and transmission, I would check the bands and drums in the transmission through the inspection plate at the top of the transmission. Jack up at least one rear wheel and with the parking lever in the high gear position and the ignition switch off have someone slowly turn the crank around a few turns and look between the ends of the bands at the drums. They might be scored but there should be no cracks apparent. If the lining is thin, the bands should be re-lined. All bands should be adjusted so the pedal bottoms out about 1 1/2 inches above the floorboard. Do not adjust them any tighter than the above. Too tight leads to rapid wear of the band linings and cracked drums.
Other than that, listen to the engine. If it has loud knocks, you might need to adjust the bearings or rebuild the engine. If it sounds quiet just drive it, checking the fluid levels from every time you take the car out and have fun. If it overheats you might need to clean the cooling system.
You need to buy the Ford shop manual and the several books or tapes from the club which will teach you how to do the above tests and adjustments and others you might need to learn. You have an active club in the Portland area. Join it and meet the other members. Ask around and find someone to help you with your car.
Have a lot of fun with it and enjoy.
Thanks Hap, Fred and Norm for the warm welcome and above all, the safety tips and check points. Some of them I was aware of and some I was not not.
Sometime around the first of November I plan on the front suspension, and going through everything, bushings, pins... including dismantling the front spring, cleaning the rubbing surfaces, applying slip paint etc. The front spokes are tight and the wheels are pretty true. Once the front running gear is finished the drive shaft and rear end is next.
All I know about the rear end at this point is that there is no end (in and out) play at the wheel hub and about 3" play when you move the wheel forward and backward. The spokes in either wheel are slightly loose and I plan on having these re-spoked. The car needs 5 new tires and one new split rim. The rim that has the spare is egg shaped.
Has anyone ever used the services of Mr George Garrigan of The Vintage Wheel Shop? I'm thinking about having him re-spoke the rear wheels.
Oh I'm 61 years of age And live in the Hazel Dell/Felida area just North of Vancouver WA.
I forgot to mention that the planetary steering reduction gears and pins are badly worn resulting in 3.5-4" right and left movement and wobble on all points of the compass. The ratio is 5 to 1 so I'll order a new over-sized kit from Langs. I may need to make a bushing for the case. I'm lucky enough to have a decent bench lathe.
Charles, I have used George, he does very good work. I recommend him and he is great to talk with.
Charles - you are just a young one at 61!
You will find the model T challenging and loads of fun.
Just remember the T is a horseless carriage not an antique car.
Some folks disagree with the previous statement, but my model A is closer to my modern car than the T and the T is closer to a horse and buggy that the A.
Driving the T like it is a horseless carriage will keep you out of most of the trouble.
"61 and havin' fun!"... Welcome to the club!