A long time friend recently chastised me for demonstrating "Free Starts" at my Hershey space. His contention was that it could cause the crank to break because the engine was going from a complete stop to several hundred RPM with one "explosion" of a cylinder. Is this a plausible detriment to crankshaft longevity or not a likely cause for concern? I have shown this unique feature of the Model-T many, many times over the years as have many others, sometimes inadvertently, without breaking the crank.
I don't see how that would be any different from the explosion which happens when you're cranking it.
Ford addressed the issue in the Model K operators manual. They didn't really go out on a limb, saying it was the call of the owner whether or not to use free starts......
We use free starts all the time, and at shows too. So far, so good.....
The only difference that I can see would be that the engine starts from a complete stop while using the crank or starter, the crank is moving slowly. The free start will happen any time the crank is just past top dead center with a charge of gas in the cylinder and the switch is turned to battery. You could get a free start, or a free turn backward, if it is just before top or just a bump if it is directly at top. If it is exactly at top, it is plausible the crank could be damaged, but very unlikely to prevent unless you always start on mag.
If the crankshaft breaks from a free start it was ready to break anyway.
Very well stated.
A well executed had crank start on battery is essentially a free start. You are merely putting the a piston in the proper position and letting internal combustion take over.
One of my favorite videos - Royce Peterson's 91 year old father. Notice that he is lifting the crank - not strong arm or spinning it.
I wish there was a video of Eric Hylen cranking his '14. A gentle, graceful lift that he could probably do with his pinky.
Wow! That was scary to watch.
Most people I have seen crank their T's give a good hard pull like they are trying to spin the engine fast. That may well be necessary if starting on MAG, but I have also seen a lot of old-timers just give gentle upward pulls on BATTERY and it starts. I don't crank mine too often unless I am showing someone at a show or something. In answer to a question about the coils, I was slowly turning the engine over with the crank to hear each coil buzz. There was one buzz, pull a little more and there was another buzz, pull a little more and it started! No big yank, no fast spin, I was just slowly turning it to hear the coils.
Ken - Just curious about your comment,....why was that scary to watch?
Nothing scary at all.
I suppose some people would worry because of his thumb position early in the video. He corrects his hand position at 00:32. But you don't have to worry about that when the ignition is set up correctly.
I haven't got a video of myself, but my son can illustrate the point:
The thumb position makes no difference when cranking with the right hand. If the engine kicks back, it will do major damage to your hand and/or wrist, regardless of the thumb's position.
Of course, Erik is correct that if everything is done correctly and the engine doesn't kick back, there will be no problem. I suppose that's why Royce, Sr. still cranks with his right hand.
Mike, it is safe to start with the right hand as long as the palm in inward. I usually start with my foot, pushing slowly down from the 3 o'clock position.
Please don't tell me to crank with my left hand. I know it's easy for some, but not for me! I've tried it,....it's as difficult as trying to write with my left hand. Been cranking with right hand since my Model A in high school in the '50's. Left hand not only feels awkward, but my right hand/arm just seems like it's much stronger than my left.
I believe that the thumb on the same side as the fingers makes sense if you're going to try to "stem wind", which should never be necessary. As long as you ONLY,....repeat ONLY pull up on the crank, the thumb thing does not matter. NEVER ever push down on the crank! However, and this is the "biggie", if you push down on the crank, your arm is straight and elbow locked, and a broken bone is a real possibility, especially if your thumb is NOT on the same side of the crank as your fingers. A kickback while pulling up on the crank will always try to pull your arm out straight, and will have a tendency to try to pull the crank out of your grasp, no matter which side your thumb is on.
I know, I know, the crank could still possibly come around and smack your wrist, but even then, that should tend to just knock your hand and arm away. But I really think that is a very remote possibility. I know that I've never had it happen. When cranking, pull up from seven o'clock to twelve o'clock. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER have your hand pass twelve o'clock noon!
Anyway, that's my story and I'm stickn' to it!
Actually, I could have said that I do it exactly as Royce's Dad shows in the video, except that I actually do grab the crank with my thumb on the same side as my fingers, even tho' I feel that I really do that for no good reason. It's merely a habit, because my Dad taught me to grasp a crank that way when I was a kid. I honestly don't think that Dad realized that if you only pull up on the crank, the thumb thing does not matter.
Back in the early '50s I had a decrepit '26 roadster. The battery was dead and I didn't have the money to buy a new one and didn't know if the starter would work. I always started it with the crank in the 3 o'clock position with my left foot. No one ever told me not to do this.
I can't believe they are not crucifying you as we speak. I let kids that age crank mine at car shows, but I would rarely admit it here on the forum for fear of crucifixion. Of course, I always make sure the spark is retarded before I would let them, but kids that age usually have to use both hands.
Right after my wife got her Touring, I posted a couple of pictures of her and the car. One was of her cranking it right handed. She had just signed up for the forum and had only made a couple of posts, but all the negative crap by the holier than thou do-gooders about her using the right hand and me "Allowing" her to use her right hand, pissed her off so bad she's not been back on here since.
Robert, there are motorcycle riders starting their engines like that all the time - they'll learn to retard the timing just like Model T hand crankers
About the dangers of a free start for the crank - no, I don't think there is any risk the crank will break much sooner from that practice. Model T cranks were designed before Ford had good enough knowledge about metal fatigue so it was made a bit too thin compared to later 4 cylinder designs. Most owners back in the day never reached the design limit since roads were bad and the whole car wasn't expected to hold up more than a few years, ten at the most. Now when the cars are 87-106 years old we can evaluate the design limits on almost all the parts and it's not the sudden impacts from starting that breaks cranks, it's the constant twisting when running without a harmonic balancer on the front end of the crank that fatigues them. No place there for a balancer so we'll have to live with the occasional broken crank, I guess. Or invest in a new SCAT with larger mains + machine job +$$..
It doesn't matter which hand you use. If the spark is not set properly and the engine kicks back you will be badly injured.
This is Mom and Dad in 1955 in downtown Minneapolis after a meeting of the Tip Toppers club. This is how NOT to start a Model T. Never push down on the crank. Spinning the crank is also a bad idea and is never needed on a healthy Model T.
The Minnesota Pioneer plate number on Dad's 1915 is an early two digit one.
How fast is the engine turning when you pull up the crank, and how fast is it turning after it starts? I suspect the jump from 10 rpm to 200 rpm isn't much different from zero rpm to 200 rpm. I think Stephen is probably right that if it breaks it was about to break anyway.
I hope I'm not holier-than-thou, but I do tell people about my broken arm and how important it is not to spin or go over the top as I did. I'm right-handed and have no trouble pulling with my left so my hand stays out of the arc, but for those who are just too uncomfortable with that it's fine to go righty as long as you don't go over the top. I like Royce's observation. All you need is a pull up to start a healthy T.
I made the mistake of winding a 15 T to start it and broke my arm. I was demonstrating to a friend how to start it and suggested to him once he heard it running to pull down the spark leaver. You guessed it! As I was winding the T, he thought it was started, so whipped down the spark and that did it!!. Broke my wrist. The flight surgeon wasn't too impressed so I was grounded from driving airplanes for six weeks. He told me to get lost so I went to Edmonton to recover and wound up getting married to my lovely wife of 45 years.
On the Clear Lake MTFCI tour in '94 was the first time I ever cranked the Model T. I was 11 years old, and didn't have enough strength to pull up so I put all my weight on the crank to get it moving. I sure was proud of myself for that.
When leaving for Wednesday's tour, we pulled up to get the manifold cooker put on, and shut the car off. Somewhere along the way in the parking lot, the timing rod came unhooked, and despite the lever being in the right spot, the timer was advanced. I attempted to start it the same way as before, and was tossed over the fender.
So far I've only once tried to crank the car without the spark retarded. She kicked back but fortunately I was using my left hand with my thumb out of the way but it sure put the wind up me. I now double check the controls EVERYTIME before I crank. I got a strange look from a passerby when I was in town the other day,thought. I was muttering to myself, "Handbrake... retard..." I think I need to start saying "spark" instead!
On the subject of free starts, I often get them when the engine is warm. Yesterday I wanted to show someone how easy it was to crank and got 4 or 5 free starts in a row.
An old timer told me about a friend of his who, back in the day, would start his Model T by bumping his hand against the fender!
An interesting thread! Eric hit the nail on the head early in this thread. "A well executed crank start is essentially a free start" with some human help! To quote an old motorcycle manual from 1913 which I have, it states, If fuel and spark are present and the mixture compressed an explosion must result! With reference to my own car I never 'swing' the crank. It requires a gentle lift from bottom to top dead centre until it fires and combustion does the rest. If I do not have success after two or three pulls I go looking for the reason why it didn't start. Of course there are many variables such as low compression, thick oil, dragging clutches etc but a well sorted T should not be a problem for anyone to start. My 11 year old son loves to demonstrate starting mine!I admire anyone who has the strength to wind a T over several revolutions but completely unnecessary and dangerous!
Great responses to my query on free starts and I' m glad it went to the art of cranking the "T". I was also glad to hear about the timing rod which lost its cotter pin and failed to retard the timer, resulting in a broken wrist. Maybe we should say, " brake, spark, and rod". Thanks to all.
Your ear's will tell you that your timer is retarded if you do it while the engine is running!! You will also get more free start's and every now and then,cold after several day's!! Bud.
I'm gonna make an observation and you old timers can decide whether I'm correct regarding free starts:
If the spark control is fully up, the spark will take place late in the cycle and the crankshaft throw on the firing piston will be sufficiently out to the side that the mechanical effort applied by the burning charge will concentrate more on spinning the crankshaft than on driving the crankshaft itself straight down.
If the spark control is advanced, it's possible the spark will take place at a point in the cycle where the crankshaft throw on the firing piston will be lined up vertically with the crankshaft (top dead center) and the force of the mechanical effort of burning charge will concentrate on components that, theoretically, may bend or break before they move past center.
Therefore, I'm thinking free starts are okay as long as the spark control is all the way up and the ignition event takes place late in the cycle. -Am I right, wrong or just stating the obvious?
Because of my broken wrist in 1966, I now have a policy of retarding the spark before I shut down the engine! Helps with one's slowing memory!
Wilf - Me too! I developed that habit with my Model A Ford in high school in the '50's. Guess my thought then (and ever since) is that there's less chance of hand cranking with the spark advanced if I always push the lever up to full retard when I shut the engine off. However, I ALWAYS check just before cranking. Actually, I thought everybody fully retarded the spark when shutting down the engine,.....???
Looks like I got back to this thread late.
Yes, cranking with the right hand scared me as well as holding onto the crank after it started. It may be just fine for you guys but it scares me just the same.
I also fully retard the spark when I turn off the engine and double check it before cranking and I also thought that this was "standard practice."
Just because you're paranoid it doesn't mean they're not out to get you!