I'm a newbie - I've only had my Model T a couple of weeks but I'm learning lots.
I've got pretty good at starting using the crank when the engine is still warm but today I thought I'd have a go at cranking from cold. I gave her a couple of complete turns with the crank to prime and then turned on the ignition and she sprang to life. I reckon she would have kept running if I had given her a bit of choke.
Is this normal? Was I just lucky? Maybe I did something wrong?
More abnormal than "normal".
Yes you were lucky.
No, you did nothing wrong; in fact you (or the caretaker before you) did many things correctly - a well adjusted engine sometimes rewards you pleasantly!
Enjoy many of the "quirks" of the Model T.
My truck surprises me like that sometimes. I'll tell you this: it only happens when you are by yourself. When 10 people gather round to watch you crank start it, after going at it about 5 minutes, you will realize you forgot to open the gas valve.
When you learn the "combination" of your car, placing the rich/lean mixture setting at the right place, free starts after priming will not be unusual (even when cold). For me, the tough part is setting the mixture correctly, and learning how many priming cranks to give.
I like to cold start this way because I'm able to control the rich/lean and throttle and spark immediately as I'm back at the steering wheel to turn on the switch on instead of up front at the crank, where I need to scurry back to the throttle and spark controls.
I had my 26 Tudor at a local high school this spring demonstrating it to the students in the Auto Shop. The students wanted to see the car hand cranked. The car was warm as I had just finished giving all of the kids a ride and had pulled into the shop. We had taken a few minutes to discuss the Model T ignition system. I adjusted the spark and throttle for hand starting and then I turned the key to battery. Free start after Free start, finally I got it to stay off as I was walking to the front of the car I bumped the fender and it free started again. I had to turn the key to mag to demonstrate the hand crank. Needless to say the kids were impressed with the free starts as was I. That car had rarely free started in the past.
A true free start is turning on the switch no cranking or priming involved!Before shut down retard the spark and count to 5 then turn off switch! You will not forget to retard your spark on start up because it was left retarded-no kickback!! If everything is right and you are lucky your T will free start sometime's after several day's!!!!!!!!!!!!PS,If your a expert or have a grinder please pay no attention! Bud.
My car will 'free start' 90% of the time. I just about count on it now. When it's cold, I give it 3-4 good primes and then turn the key to bat and it starts right up. the nice part is that since I am already at the steering wheel, I can quickly adjust the spark and throttle and then climb in.
My '26 will give a little "poof" when cold, but will almost never free start totally. I wonder what is out of tune?
I think folks are talking about 2 different kinds of "free starts".
I'm with Kenneth - a true free start is when you walk out to the car, flip the ignition to battery and PRESTO! She's up and running. These are magical and rare and just have to do with the condition of the engine and the manner in which the car was shut down when last driven.
The other one is kind of cheating to me - I call them "cheap starts" cause you didn't have to crank it in order to start it. You only had to prime the engine with the right number of cranks and choking combination to make it ready for the cheap start. The cheap start is not free because it requires specific personal knowledge and experience with the individual car as well as priming cranks.
I tried my own advice this morning. After posting above, I went to our building, primed, and ........... nothing.
Then I realized I forgot to choke. Ten pulls with choke, switch on, an viola, "primed free start." I opened the rich mixture (original Buffalo carb) one and a half times, and used ten pulls through compression. The engine temperature (infra-red test) was 64 degrees F:
Seth and Bud,
Regardless, the engine must have fuel and be on compression. Either the engine was shut down and "primed" at the time, or it was "cheated" into prime and combustion position. As I wrote earlier (and you can see on the video) I like the "cheat" start (new term ) with a cold engine because I don't have to hurry back to set the throttle and spark.
Either way, things must be set properly, and the fuel and ignition systems in good order.
No matter what i do my Ford will usually make a fool out of me but one thing sure you should not get a broken arm from a free start!Make the Ford work for you instead of you work for it!Bud.
I guess they are more rare on a cold engine than warm, but with a cold engine and a couple of priming pulls, it is certainly no surprise to me. Both of ours will do it pretty regularly on a warm engine, and like was stated above, it can be annoying when you are trying to show someone how to hand crank and it won't let you. I've experienced that several times. For the last couple of years though, I have been cranking on magneto almost exclusively, so I don't get them. Last weekend, I was teaching some folks to drive. Whenever they would choke it down, I tried to get a free start so I wouldn't have to get out, but it never did it.
Hal, usually a "stalled" engine will not free start. The "stall" causes the engine to land at a different position, usually not top dead center. I get "free or cheat" (Seth has started a new term for us to use) starts at least 90 percent of the time. If it will not free start I am trying to figure out why. Every engine is a little different. If my engine is cold, I choke 3 or 4 pulls of the crank. I also turn the needle about 1/8 turn richer. My spark is set about 5 notches down from top. turn the key on and "cheat" start. If the engine is warm I retard spark and wait a few seconds before killing the car. When Im ready for a "free" start I turn on the key, and move the spark down to the 5th notch and "Free" start more than 90 percent of the time. It will usually start for hours after Ive killed it. Sometimes even the next morning, (rarely). One thing to always be aware of, when working with a buddy, is always be aware of each others hands and fingers when turning on the key. It could hurt real bad if the hands are in the wrong place. I do not know how many people still park the car in "high" They used to do it to make morning starts easier. I have seen the following happen one time. The owner had the car in high and turned the key on. It started in gear and luckily it could only move about 3 feet before it ran into the bench. In a parking lot it may not have been as nice of a ending.
I'm continually amazed at the wealth of knowledge and experience on this forum and the freedom with which it is shared.
It's such an encouragement to a newbie like me.
Free starts are great, but not when you do not want them.
Some years back I was at one of our annual "Texas T Party" tours. We had just gotten back to the motel and a local paper reporter was there to get a story. He asked me if I had to hand crank my car and I said yes as it was a 1912 and did not come equipped with a starter.
He had his camera ready and I went to hand crank it. I set the spark and throttle and turned the key to "Bat". You guessed it, it started.
He did not call me a lair, but I am sure he was thinking it.
Mark: Free starts happen with some frequency, but I obtain more with a primed cold engine than a warm one.
Technically, there really is no difference between a free start and a hand crank start.
Note how slowly Royce's dad cranks the car. The engine basically starts itself after the crankshaft is nudged and everything is in the proper position - once a cylinder fires, combustion takes over.
Same thing with Eric Hylen's son - slow crank:
With a free start, everything is in the proper position for the combustion to occur when the ignition is turned on. When cranking, you're simply putting the piston in the proper position and letting combustion take over.
I realize my explanation may be overly simplified but hopefully it makes sense.
I am like Barry -
I usually get a cold primed free start easier than a hot primed free start.
I must admit that I jack up a wheel and put the brake handle part way forward when it is cold.
I believe I get the free start because there is little drag on the system and it is easy for the motor etc to turn.
I probably don't get many free starts when it is warm because I am hesitant to choke it because I don"t want to flood it.
Ok, warm free starts. I'm getting the K and N ready to tour next week and my daughter wanted to go to town. So, off in the K. Perfect time for some warm free starts...
Of course, the second try it failed. Then six straight "free starts." The cutout is open so it sounds like a tractor
My favorite was Old 16! It took a lot of priming and cranking but when everything was ready just hit the shower of spark's!! It's on the web and great to hear! I miss seeing her waltz around the Village!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bud.
Frequent free starts are an indication the carburetor is set richer than needed.
I guess it just goes to show that each car is different, but if I were to choke through more than one or two pulls, there would be gas pouring out of my poor Holley NH.
I do park mine in High when I'm leaving it overnight or longer. I've never thought about one starting up on a free start while in gear. I suppose it is possible, but I would have thought it would have immediately choked itself down. Guess it depends on where the throttle is set. Some are afraid they will run over themselves hand cranking if they forget to take it out of high gear before trying to start. I seriously doubt that's gonna happen. There is a big difference in the amount of force required to start one in gear vs. in neutral. It becomes readily apparent something is wrong when you go to pull up on the crank.
If your Model T is tuned properly and broken in (engine with 10,000 miles plus) then you should get free starts nearly every time you cold start, and nearly every time you turn the key on with a warm engine. If you don't get free starts it means there is room for improvement. The proper setting of the timer rod length is the most critical thing to a good running Model T, followed with good carburetor mixture, and then good compression.
I am storing an old 1913 in my shed, been on the road 55 odd years. Free starts from cold more often than not; 3 chokes, turn on the key and presto. Actually I get a bit upset if I have to crank the old thing. Fantastic car.
Now my 1911 is the opposite. from cold 3 chokes and she fires, but does not start. So choke her again and start over once more. Royce is 100% correct, room for improvement. I am sorting out the commutator and timing at the moment. Each time I get closer and closer...
Hal, why do you park yours in High? I noticed a '25 at a show one time parked in high which I thought was strange. I guess there must be a good reason?
Keeps oil squeezed out from between the clutch plates - that way when you pull lever back and crank it she doesn't want to creep (or sometimes flat out jump) forward.
Awesome,I learn something here everyday!
There shouldn't be a need to scurry back to the spark and throttle controls when the engine starts. If everything is working correctly, it will run just fine with both levers set for starting. When the engine is cold, you might have to stand out front and tickle the choke for a few seconds before sauntering back to advance the spark. That's how I do it. I'm getting too old for unnecessary scurrying.
I'm still "sorting out" the K, so settings are being adjusted on the go. I did try a cold free start this morning with only three compression pulls and the rich knob one and a half open (from normal) and it started, so I'm getting there.
No more starter for me, only crank starts for the last month. OK, I did burn off the wiring to the starter while washing it a month ago, and just left it disconnected.
See you next week at New London,
Eric, I agree.