On the Facebook Model T page the subject of controlling speed on a steep downgrade came up. Somebody mentioned using the reverse pedal. I made these comments:
You can slow down by riding the reverse pedal, but it's a bad idea. Of the three transmission drums, the reverse drum is most susceptible to cracking from overheating. A basic rule of T driving is to use the low pedal going down a hill where you'd have to use it to go up. So first, engine braking (throttle closed) in high. Second, engine braking with low pedal. If you're on such a steep incline that even that doesn't keep your speed down, then add the brake pedal in short applications. Keep your speed under control from the top, rather than trying to slow down when the situation is getting out of hand.
Going down in low should be enough. If you're in low with the throttle closed and still gaining speed, it's a mighty steep hill. Then you use the brake pedal intermittently, because you don't want to burn up the lining or crack the drum. In the real world I doubt you'll find a grade steep enough and long enough to overheat the brakes if you're in low with the throttle closed. But if you do, stop and let them cool down.
I don't want to give bad advice, so I thought I'd check here with guys who have a lot more T driving under their belts than I do. Do I have it right?
Sounds right to me. I would never recommend using the reverse pedal.
For steep hill, use the same gear going down as which gear you used going up
Had the T in Ruckstell going on these hills, even so on the downside, had throttle closed, but still had to tap the brake pedal from time to time to check speed downhill.....whoa...whoa...Lizzie
I used to alternate between the brake and reverse pedal (sort of like operating a player-piano), but having read warnings like this, no longer do it that way.
One can't help but wonder why the reverse drum was intentionally made with less beef.
About 40 years ago I learned to drive a full size school bus that was equipped with a 10 speed Roadmaster. I learned in the hills between Los Gatos, CA and Santa Cruz, CA. The first thing the instructor told me once we started the behind-the-wheel training was, "Use the same gear going down as what you'd need going up!" It's a good rule to follow!!
It's a roadranger.
Dan, that looks like Kanuga, if so that is a mild hill knowing George.
So it is, Richard. A Roadmaster is a Buick, if I remember correctly. 40 years is a long time, the memory banks short circuit sometimes.
If the downslope is steep enough to need Low, is there any danger of starving the brake of oil?
Steve, that's how I do it too. A few times, I have also pulled the parking brake on somewhat as well for a touch of extra braking power and so I don't over work the foot brake. Besides, if I'm going to burn up a brake in a panicky situation, I'd rather change the drum brakes than the hated transmission bands. Most important is to set up your stopping routine at the top of the hill. Flying down a hill and trying to stop at the bottom is is courting with disaster. My area has four mountain accesses very close to each other. I have now decided I am only going to use the two that allow for constant engine braking only. The other two are simply not worth the risk. Good subject, I hope it doesn't turn into a stock brakes vs rocky mountain vs disc brake slugfest. Been down that road too many times.
Don't forget to fully retard the spark for added engine braking and with no heat build up on transmission drums.
I helped scrape many a driver up on that stretch of Hy in my younger days. I commuted over it for a couple of years. I remember when it was 2 lane, and the bayshore was 3 lane.
One feature of a Ruckstell is sometimes forgotten. That is that in braking, the Ruckstell will give you the same mechanical advantage in braking downhill that it does in pulling uphill. In other words, the Ruckstell will give you the same amount of additional stopping power when braking with the Ford transmission brake as the amount of additional uphill Ruckstell pulling power.
Excellent advice Steve. The only thing I would add is to have the throttle set so that backing right off will kill the engine. That way you will have maximum engine braking. Even a moderate idle at the closed position will allow the car to run on more than may be desirable in some situations.
Hope this helps.
Allan from down under.
It's not much better now than it was then. The school bus driving I did was for Loma Prieta School District on Summit Road. Many of the smaller mountain roads we drove were no wider than the bus and had turns that tested the bus turning radius limits.
At first it was trying. I'd miss a gear and one or more of the passengers (the little darlings) would yell out, "Grind me a pound while you're at it!" It didn't take long to get the hang of it, though.
Not to hijack the thread, Henry, but I had a similar experience while I was in the army. They rounded up 4-5 of us to be bus drivers. They sent us to about a 1 hour class, let us drive around the block, signed off on our license and sent us to Graf (I think it was).....all in the same day! When we got there, we had to drive a full bus of other soldiers on one of the steepest, narrowest, twisting, ice covered roads I had ever seen. Scared the Hell out of me. I really did NOT have the proper training to have 50-60 other people's lives in my hands under those conditions. I didn't have any incidents and I got better at it after a few days, but was never comfortable with it.
The reverse should only be used as a last ditch when low,transmission brake and parking brake don't work. You run a strong risk of destroying the reverse drum. If you use low, hold the pedal down firmly so that the band does not slip. Just leave it in low until you are down the hill. The parking brake will slow you IF the low pedal is down, but if the car is in high the parking brake will put it in neutral and you will lose all compression braking. A Ruckstell will increase the braking power of the transmission brake at the same time as increasing the compression braking, but be sure to shift down BEFORE you get to the steep hill. If you are already going too fast down the hill, use low pedal and not Ruckstell. This is very important. It is possible to get the Ruckstell stuck in a neutral position and that will lose the transmission brake until you can get the Ruckstell into gear. Unfortunately when the car is rolling very fast the gears don't mesh easily, so slow down first before you shift into Ruckstell and then rev the engine as you shift down. This takes some practice and it should be learned BEFORE you actually get into a downhill situation.
I know those roads, had class mates that went to Mountain School back in the 40's. I learned to drive on some of those roads also. I'll be down in Turlock this summer and will try to look you up, if that's ok?
Hal, I drove 5 ton tractor trailer up and down the LZ's and mountains in Viet Nam's central and Northern highlands back in '71. My training session was pretty much like yours. Sarge asked if I'd ever driven a truck at home. I said "yep" and there I was, an instant truck driver. There was nothing like have a flatbed trailer full of HE Artillery rounds and having that 6X6 bouncing off the ground trying to get up some slope you knew that truck couldn't climb. Somehow it always made it but things could get scary.
I unlearned driving immediately upon arrival at Fort Polk. A bunch of us were standing around, still in civvies. We didn't even have our GI haircuts yet. A corporal asked, "Who knows how to drive?" A couple of guys eagerly raised their hands, and he told them, "Here, drive this cart around and pick up all that trash." There and then I learned I learned about volunteering for anything, and that it might be better to be a non-driver. The whole two years, I never re-learned how to drive. The last thing I wanted was to spend my weekends chauffeuring some lieutenant around on his dates.
That would be great! Send me a PM and I'll give you my cell number.
I'm going to throw a spanner in the works here,
It seems a modern influenced driving method has come to the fore. I have always used reverse if needed. Never in 50 years have I cracked a reverse drum.
I had never heard of using reverse as a brake as being a No No until it appeared on the forum here a few years ago. Does anyone know of a period publication (1920's Ford Owner Dealer etc) where it was advised that it should be avoided?
It appears to me this has evolved with the introduction of Kevlar bands as previously to use reverse as a brake never normally resulted in the drum cracking, actually it would be the end of the cotton band failing.
Reverse was always used to keep the speed in check while the foot brake was being let off to cool with oil. As a 18year old I was instructed by long time Model T drivers, who had learnt when the T's were new.
Engine braking efficiency will depend on how good the compression is. A good percentage of Model T's engines are way low on compression and therefore have reduced ability to help slow the car.
The weight of the vehicle and the passengers also makes it harder to slow the car. Often a hill is long and easily climbed in top gear but coming down and using the low pedal could be a poor choice as you would reduce the speed so much for so long other traffic may be adversely effected.
Using the foot brake in short firm applications, and occasionally using reverse to keep the obtained speed in check while the foot brake gets it dose of oil can be a sensible option. The reverse drum does not get to a temperature that would end in it failing.
Unfortunately all too often drivers forget the rules and still think that they are in a far more modern car and tend to apply the brake for far to long and heat builds up too high and when released the oil is unable to cool things down enough before the brake is again applied and when off speed picks up and the brake now finds it harder to do its job, reverse can come to the rescue here as one can prevent the speed increase while the brake is released but again used badly and it too will overheat and yep probably crack.
I live in country similar to San Francisco, lots of steep hills and the main highway to Sydney has a long 5 km long down hill which one can easily keep the car in check with the engine and the brakes at about 25 mph but to go into low gear would result in all the trucks running over the top of you where you can comfortably pass them while they crawl down in low gears.
Still always it depends on the exact situation and the condition of the vehicle, I am comfortable in my cars but I know of a lot of Model T's I would not attempt to drive even on flat country because of their condition.
As a matter of fact, I have seen some period writing actually recommending the use of REVERSE, just as you describe. The theory was that it would help bands to last longer as LOW and BRAKE tend to get used more, therefore wear faster. However, I will admit I am apprehensive to do so because of the horror stories I've heard about cracked drums. Reverse is, indeed, much thinner than the other drums. It is relatively flat here, so it is not that big of a deal, but we do occasionally take the car to more hilly regions. I am a firm believer in engine braking.
I still remember my first truck with a Road Ranger It was an army truck and I learned to drive it in Fairbanks Ak. I still say swizzel sticks when I get frustrated!
I don't know about the T but I am going down hill fast.
It is now taking me hours to do things that used to take 10-15 minutes
That is if I can remember what I was supposed to be doing
"I don't know about the T but I am going down hill fast.
It is now taking me hours to do things that used to take 10-15 minutes
That is if I can remember what I was supposed to be doing"
Well, Fred, if you were a T you could just step on the reverse pedal and back up (to a younger age).
Going down hill and picking up speed.
My mother, told of her father cutting a tree at the top, chaining it to the back of the car and dragging it down the mounting to slow the car. This was in New Mexico in the 20's.
Bob, that truly is a fantastic story. Thank you.
I have been going Downhill for several years ...
So I feel I am not in any position to give Advice ...
I concur with Peter, but, what everyone needs to take away from this thread is from Steve's post--"Keep your speed under control from the top, rather than trying to slow down when the situation is getting out of hand." Don't overdrive your car's capabilities/limitations, especially on unfamiliar roads!
I did not read anything above that I would not agree with.
One additional point I would mention. In comparing driving conditions between the "model T era" and today, there is a huge difference. Speeds, roads, and traffic was way different then. It made sense then to use the reverse drum to balance band wear, and speeds rarely got high enough to over-heat any of the bands enough to break a drum.
It also made sense then and now that when in doubt, slam any and/or all pedals rather than hit something. Remember, people then were less used to working with and depending upon machines than they are now. People would fumble and forget which pedal to hit in a panic. People today, being used to modern technology do the same thing with model Ts because they are so very different.
I rarely use the reverse band to slow or stop a T. I would recommend anyone do the same. I feel it presents risks for damage or problems that should be avoided if readily possible. I like my parking/emergency brake (whatever kind it is) to be well adjusted and working well enough to use it if a little more braking is needed.
The most important thing, is to PLAN AHEAD! DO NOT let it get away from you. KNOW the car you are driving! Know its abilities and limitations. Be prepared for additional unexpected issues (sand in road? pinion key breaks?).
Steve, it sounds like you are doing good! (And doing well!) (And that is two entirely different things!)
My dad's famous last advice? "As a matter of last resort, hit something cheap!"
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
Wayne -- Your Dad sounds like a helluva guy. I wish I'd known him.
The advice near the end of your post is sound. Most of us tend to drive our Model T's today too much like we drive our modern cars. It is very easy to get beyond the car's design capabilities. I have been guilty of this for many years, but I'm determined to take it slower and easier.
Take time to smell the roses as you drive by, and BE SAFE!
Hal Davis, as is often the case everyone is right.
I found this quote in a booklet of the period (1923) under
The veteran motorist says -"Don't"
No 4- Don't make a practice of using your reverse as a brake.