I am sure many thousand of the forum members will have an opinion on this subject, but here is my experience.
I bought my 1910 about a year ago and have always struggled starting it cold.
It has new coils from RV Anderson and I have adjusted them to run on Battery and Mag. The car runs great when warm, but I have always had trouble when cold.
A few months ago my right arm starting hurting and has not stopped, so starting the car with my right hand does not work very well.
Today I removed the carburetor float bowl because it starting leaking a bit. I found a small amount of dirt in the bottom of the bowl. I cleaned it out and adjusted the float a little lower as it was set close to the top of the bowl. (it's a 5 ball with a brass float and a modern seat)
I would always needed to use starter fluid to get it started, but this time I decided to go back to basics and simply flood the carb with the tickler. It does not have a choke. The engine sputtered as always and before I could get around the front wheel to advance the timer it would always die. Very frustrating.
I surmised that it must not be getting enough fuel, so I backed out the needle 1/4 turn. The results were a litter better, but it still died. I backed out the needle another 1/4 turn and whalla, the engine fired right up.
I learned two things: Use your left hand to start the car and don't try to crank it fast. By using the left hand, I am not crossing over my body and it feels more natural. I also do not need to crank it hard and fast. By simply having enough fuel and cranking it slowly, the engine fires right up and I have plenty of time to walk around the front wheel to advance the timing.
Your mileage may vary
Can you start it that way on mag, or is the cranking too slow?
Starting on Mag is not an option. My crank has .025 end play and does not generate enough voltage at a slow hand crank. I always start on my 6 volt battery and then switch to Mag after it starts. I have the Fun Projects battery charger circuit installed so my battery never goes dead.
I will be rebuilding the engine this winter to reduce the engine knock and end play.
Rod,I have a 1911 with a 5 ball carburetor and Tru-fire ignition. My 5 ball has a choke on it.I also have a gas line shut off right before the carb.
When I start the engine cold,I turn the gas on,Adjust the mixture rod a little to make it rich,pull the choke on,pull the crank up 4 times with the ignition off. I then turn the ignition on and pull the crank and most of the time it starts.
After it starts,I advance the the timing and adjust the fuel mixture.
Jack up the rear wheels to act as a fly wheel. Had a 1915 that didn't like cold weather and this was the only way I could get to fire off.
I would do what Charles says and just accept that as your standard procedure for the first cold start of the day until warm weather returns. I keep a floor jack beside my car and will be doing just that about one hour from now.
In this discussion about hand cranked starting on magneto no one mentioned adjusting the spark lever until AFTER the engine has started.
If the initial timing (position of the timer when the spark lever is all the way retarded) is set at 15 degrees ATDC as Ford intended, hand crank starting on magneto will be much easier if you advance the spark lever 3-4 notches. (Obviously never do this when starting on battery).
The reason for this is as follows: If you don't advance the spark lever you will be trying to start the engine with a spark occurring at 26 degrees ATDC. By the time the piston has moved that far after TDC much of the compression has been lost and it will be very hard to start.
By advancing the spark lever 3-4 notches the first spark will occur at 4 degrees ATDC and the engine will be much easier to start.
In an effort to simply explain the Model T ignition system a friend and I wrote an article on this subject. One of the key points was an explanation of why Ford recommended advancing the spark lever during hand cranked magneto starting early Model T's.
This issue is depicted best by this diagram.
Here is the diagram.
Magneto Fig 7 R.pdf (28.4 k)
Rod, your right hand pain may be a blessing in disguise. If there's ever a kickback your left hand is more likely to be out of the arc of the spinning crank. Of course this doesn't matter to the guys who have never had a kickback because they never forget anything. I need it because I forget lots of stuff every day.
Better diagram Jay !!! LOL !!
Jay, you post some of the most fascinating photos. You always add so much to the hobby. Thanks.
I will second learning to crank with your left hand. I replaced my timer with an Anderson Timer several years ago and over the years, the flapper gets a groove worn into it. That groove will cause the spark lever to prematurely advance, causing the engine to kick back. This happened to me twice before I figured out what was going on and fortunately I was using my left hand to crank it just as a precaution.
Before I bought my car in 2006, it had changed hands about 3 times within members of the Tacoma club. Kye Hellig owned my car for one year. At the Early Bird swap meet in 2007, I noticed a scar on Kye's right wrist. I asked him how he got that scar and his reply was from cranking my car. I know that there are guys on the forum who has never had a problem cranking with their right hand, but I would rather be safe than sorry.
Yup,If not free every start is a crank start for 20 years now.At 60 deg and out of a truck i took Lizzie to inspect the overflowing suger beet dump in Wheeler.Ron Patterson offers good advise why many cant crank start on mag!! Bud.
My truck doesn't have a starter and was bought to use around the farm as a work truck hauling garbage, firewood and the like. I use it all winter long here in northern Illinois. I have to have a rear wheel jacked when the temp falls below oh 50 or so. One thing that makes all the difference in the world in the winter cold is heating up the intake manifold. Also, beyond my priming cranks, I never start it with my hand. I always put the crank at 3 o clock, turn the key and pray to the gods of free start, and when that doesn't happen, I'll give it a half-hearted push with my left foot and away she goes.
Jay couldn't help to notice the headlights in the picture you posted. They really add to the looks and boy does she look fast. Do you know if they are sealed beams or normal? It really doesn't matter I suppose, really a thing of beauty and way to fast for me.
Thanks Ron. I just Goggled your article on ignition timing and found it very informative!
I may try installing a 12v battery to see how much it improves my timing.
Converting a Model T to 12 volts to help timing is only effective if you are forced to drive the car on a 6 volt battery because the magneto is inoperative. This the key point of the article you posted.
Here is the article I was referring to:
Model T Ford Ignition System and Spark timing
Hope this helps.
Ron the Coilman
Ryan or anyone else, what method do you use to heat up the intake? Would a hair dryer work? I just know my car will cold start like a dream if I try that. I don't want to use an open flame near the carburetor though..
That photo Jay posted reminds me of the newly wed bride calling her girl friend, she complains, my husband went duck hunting and just called me to say he'd seen a couple of honkers and had gotten a woodie.
Note the guy in Figure 40 is cheating and using a battery. He has the spark lever all the way up.
That's not Cheating, that's smart!
Not so smart.
See my comments on hand crank magneto testing above.
Ron the Coilman
Somewhat facetiously, I call battery starting "cheating" because Ford didn't supply a battery with the car, and in the instructions told only how to start on MAG, with no mention of battery starting. But he was realistic enough to provide a BAT switch setting.
I absolutely agree with Ron Patterson. My '27 simply will not start with the spark fully retarded. Three or four notches of advance and it's good to go.
The guy in figure 40 likely won't get it started on battery either. His throttle is closed.
Yes Dave, if the engine is cold, that would be a problem. If it's hot, he has another problem with his "correct method". His bare hand and wrist are leaning on the hot radiator.
Dave, I've used one of those "painters lamps", the kind with the clamp on them, clamped to the radiator support rod, resting the reflector onto the head/manifold area with a 100W bulb, either overnight if I know I'm taking it out the next morning from a cold night, or even two or three hours ahead of time. Works pretty good. Open spray needle extra half turn or so, about half throttle, and varoom!
Its funny how a topic can be soooo close to what is happening in your life. I recently traded T's and am learning the nature of the new beast. I understand the positions of the spark advance and the throttle but experience is the only way you know where things should be for each T. My right hand looks like a catchers mitt today. I think the ratchet on the crank for this 1915 needs to be replaced. It will sometimes come unhooked when you power pull to get the quarter turn that normally starts all my other cars. The result is a right hand slammed against the right head light. This happened three times during one starting session. I stopped, turned the lights out and went to the house. Did it again the nest morning. IT HURTS!!!!!!
Thanks Tim. I might give that a try.
Although my '14 will start on the mag, for safety I use a lawnmower 12V battery under the front seat: On a stone cold engine, I first set the brake, then crack the spark lever 1 or 2 notches and open the throttle 4 notches. Then open the carb mixture adjustment on the 4-ball carb 1/2 turn. With the key OFF, I go to the front and pull the choke wire out while I spin the crank 4 or 5 complete turns. Releasing the wire, I go back to the coilbox and turn the key on. The engine instantly starts 19 out of 20 times. The one time it doesn't I just repeat the procedure. I immediately start closing the adjustment mixture until it misses, then open it a crack and let it warm up.
No worries about a backfire, or which hand to use. I'm safely up by the front seat when the engine fires. If the engine's warm it almost always starts on compression. If not, turning the key on after a single spin always does it.
Your mileage may, of course, vary. But this works for me.
Just another take on how much to choke your engine.
We all know that cars vary on how many pulls are needed with the choke closed. Some say one or two quarter turns, and others seem to need four or five complete revolutions. If the car starts successfully, then that's the right amount of choke for that particular car.
My method is to listen to the carburetor as I pull the engine through. The first one or two pulls usually sound "dry" to me. But after a couple of pulls, I begin to hear a "chuff" sound as the engine is pulled through. That's the sound of wetness in the carburetor. After maybe one more pull with the choke closed, I open the choke and turn on the ignition. If it doesn't free start, I crank it. If no fire by the second pull, I turn the ignition back off and give it one more crank with the choke closed. This process works very well for me. I think the key is "hearing" when the carb is wet. Don't keep choking after you hear the chuffing sound, but don't stop choking until you get the sound.
Let the motor talk to you.
That sounds good advice Dick I'll try that.
Dave, a hair dryer works just fine. I aim for hot but touchable, not burning hot. Considering my truck cold starts fine when the temp outside is above 55F I just aim for something around or above that.
Ryan, I agree, the intake won't need to be hot, somewhat warm will do. My car starts and runs perfectly with any warmth at all. It will start ice cold too but, after too much cranking, you start to wonder if you are giving it too much gas or choke or not enough. I would rather not fight with it to get it going so, a slight intake warming would be nice. People used similar tricks back in the day because they worked. Thanks.
When setting the spark lever a certain number of notches, consider whether there is slack in the linkage.