Crank vs. Electric Start

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Model T Ford Forum: Forum 2008: Crank vs. Electric Start
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By George Shebley on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 11:42 am:

It's been awhile, at least a couple years since I've hung around here. I've been so busy with other things that the Model T has just sat and has been driven 30 miles a year for the last couple. I always seem to be in to big a hurry to use it... (and the mag lights sure crimp my style, having to hurry up and get home before dark)

I'm pondering a decision I'm hoping you guys can can offer some advise on. I'm being serious and in no way am trying to be insulting to the more senior crew here (I'm rapidly approaching 55 myself).

I'm finding that I'm getting older since I built my '15 almost twenty years ago... It's a bone stock, mag lights, non starter car. It is not my intention to ever sell my baby, but I'm looking ahead to future years of enjoyment.

Now I've seen some old timers who use their foot to crank their "T"s (Kinda like kick starting a bike), but I'm wondering how many of the more senior crew here is still pulling their "T"s to life, or is it time to start thinking about adding a starter as I get older?

I never really rebuilt the engine when I restored the car, more of a just a major overhaul. It's run so great the last ten thousand plus miles I haven't wanted to mess with it! But she's getting a little excess blow by and a wrist pin thats a little noisy. So, I figure maybe when I rebuild the engine soon I should add a starter and generator and a battery.... =-( (I suppose it would solve the mag light problem too)

I do like the fact that she's a non starter car though....

Thanks,
Geo. - Ore.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Henry Petrino on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 12:06 pm:

I'm 61. My TT has a '23 "electric" enigne. The starter never worked right, so I didn't bother putting it back in when I had the engine out a couple of years ago. It starts easy with the crank. I have no intention of re-installing the starter. Who needs it?

Besides, it's fun to watch people watch when I start it. They get an amazed look on their faces.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Erik Johnson on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 12:09 pm:

Here is a video of Royce Peterson's father cranking a '14 Ford. (I believe he is 90 years old. Also - Royce, forgive me for hijacking the video for this post.)

Notice that he is not pulling fast or "strong-arming" the crank.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhEnNzv6LBM

Erik Johnson
Minneapolis, MN


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Tom Mullin on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 12:59 pm:

George,

You should be able to start with one or two quarter turns of the crank, if you have it tuned right and use a battery for the electricity. My mag is good enough to run on and sometimes I can mag start, but, not often. I do find the more often I start the car the easier it is to start.

I plan to keep my 1916 starterless, too. It is (usually) fun starting the car with the crank. Except this past summer I stalled on an upgrade on Michigan Avenue at rush hour in Ypsilanti, during the MTFCI Regional Centennial Tour, and had to hop out and start it before the light turned green.

Tom
Piquette Ts
Detroit


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Val Soupios on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 01:10 pm:

I'm 63 and have a bad back but I would never think of putting a starter on any of my cars. If they are set up right they start easily enough. I even start my 40 H.P. cars by hand and and most of them don't even have a compression relief feature. I'd do it right and keep the crank!


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Royce Peterson on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 01:45 pm:

Erik,

I shot that video in November 2008. Dad will be 92 in March. He pulled the engine out of his 1917 roadster in September 2008 to add a starter in case he ever gets too old to crank that car.

The '17 has about 4000 original miles and the engine has never been out of the car previously. It always starts on one or two pulls no matter how long it has ben sitting.

As was mentioned, if the car is tuned properly you don't need to pull the crank fast. It was about 45 degrees in the garage that day. The '14 has 10W-30 oil in it.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By George Shebley on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 02:01 pm:

Okay... This begs the question then, how many are using batteries to get their cars to start "cold" in a couple quarter pulls?

I'm finding cold starts with our mandated 10% alcohol fuel here in Oregon is not as easy with the mag as it used to be... (Mag is in good shape). In fact warms starts take a couple more pulls than before with this modern fuel mix (Used to be 1/4 turn to start warm).

Thanks!
Geo. - Ore.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Peter Claverie on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 02:13 pm:

I believe I'm the most verbal proponent on this Forum of kick starting. I have suggested it many times, and although I don't mean to, I think I've offended many purists by doing so.

If your car is magneto driven, or I should say if you don't have a battery to start on and then switch to mag, the fact that the mag's output is speed-dependent is important. If all is working close to perfectly, it goes without saying that hand-cranking spins the engine fast enough to produce enough juice to produce a satisfactory spark.

But, if one or more things about the entire system are off by a bit, spinning the engine a little faster with the crank has to be beneficial. And I maintain that you can spin the engine faster with your leg than with your arm. At least I certainly can!

Add to that the inherent safety factors I have painstakingly enumerated many times, I just don't see the reason for hand-cranking.

There is one exception to that statement, and that is when you're cranking the car as a demonstration - especially for kids. Certainly using the hand makes a better demonstration than kick-starting!

As for the addition of a starter: My '23 Touring has one. I'm 71 years old, and not in ideal physical shape. The actual cranking doesn't scare or bother me. It's the getting in and out of the car, which means making the wife get out first, that I find bothersome. And if it's to re-start after a stall in traffic, which is always caused by operator error so you start off mad at yourself, well, the electric starter is a God-send in cases like that.

If the electric starter were strictly an aftermarket item, and not indigenous to the T, adding one might me considered "butchering" the car. But since it's an improvement that Henry made, and there are thousands of T's out here with starters, I have trouble seeing it as a bad thing to add. It's a big job, of course, but if you're taking the engine out and apart to overhaul it, we're really talking about the cost of the parts. That, of course, depends on where you get them - from suppliers, from friends, or from a spare engine kicking around the back of your shop.

Free advice, freely given, and worth every bit of the cost!


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Jim in Indiana on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 02:24 pm:

I was not a big fan of srarters,or generators for that matter until I killed the engine right in the middle of very rough railroad tracks.This was one of those steep humps that school busses could not go over because the would hang up....'till I got it started and back and back on the seat,the front of the locomotive looked real big.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Ed Niedzielski on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 02:42 pm:

In a hybrid, query way of thinking, I was thinking of mounting an Atwater Kent K-2 distributor setup with the correct dash mounted coil box which has a buzzer button that fires a spark to one of the spark plugs to start the engine (if there is still a gasoline charge in the cylinder). It took me a while but I finally have all the parts to make a complete and proper setup for my '14 Touring, which of course has no electric starter. Does anyone have any experience with these and does the spark/start element of the Atwater Kent work properly as it should?


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Norman T. Kling on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 03:09 pm:

I'm 72 and use either the starter (when it works) or the crank. I use the crank right handed and always pull up on it and let go when it gets to the top and move my arm away from it. I don't lock the thumb around the crank, but hold it on the same side as the fingers. I would not use my foot to crank. Would rather (if it happens) have a broken arm than leg. I have had neither caused by cranking the cars. I have 3 Model T's and have had low batteries, or bad starter switches from time to time which necessitated the use of the crank. It's good to be able to use both methods. It is also good to be able to start on mag or battery, but usually easier to start on battery and then switch to magneto.
Norm


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By oldcarfudd on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 04:04 pm:

I'm 72 and will be in the hospital this coming Thursday for a scheduled replacement of an arthritic shoulder. I have no trouble cranking my '13 runabout on battery (or on mag if it's feeling good). But there's no way I have the strength to spin it. I also hand-start my one-cylinder Cadillac (5" bore and 5" stroke - I need both hands pulling up on the crank, and it makes a T feel like child's play!) If you can physically keep cranking, I suggest you do so. It's easy enough to put in a starter engine if the day should come that you need to.

Gil Fitzhugh, Morristown, NJ


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Ricks - Surf City on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 04:27 pm:

Good to see your posts again, George!

Hard to believe it's been near 11 years since you were the great wrench on our team for the 1998 Greatrace.

rdr


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Hal Schedler. on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 05:02 pm:

To crank or not to crank...for me it all depends on the size of the audience (I'm 77).

George, at age 55- you have at least 35 years to decide about the electric starter.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Kenneth W DeLong on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 06:01 pm:

ED/George,On some of the early expensive cars there was A SHOWER OF SPARKS and there in the Old Car Festival video OLD 16 was started that way.Bud.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Hal Schedler. on Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - 06:13 pm:

For cold starting (hand cranking), a 6V electric fence battery works fine (and for my money is necessary), for buzzing your coils, but those batteries are almost as pricy as a small 12V lawnmower battery. DON'T wire it so that DC voltage goes to the magneto plug. As a kid in Wisconsin I used to start my T by installing hot water in the radiator (that leaked like crazy) and then I hooked up a fence battery. I didnít know about isolating the magneto from the battery voltage though and my mag finally died.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By George Shebley on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 - 12:28 am:

RD, Stop, your scaring me! It couldn't have been that long since the Great Race!! Seems like just a year or so ago... Thanks for the welcome!

Geo. - Ore.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Wes Melo on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 - 02:34 am:

Hi George, where are you here in Oregon? I live in Roseburg.

I have 3 early T's that are crank start only, and I rarely have any problems. I do use a 6 volt battery on them to fire the coils and the spark plug, and I usually crank 2-3 quarter turns with the key off and the choke on, then in many cases when I turn on the key I get a free start. When there is no free start it usually only takes one or 2 quarter turn pulls and they start.

I have a 23 TT fire engine that has an electric start, and the only reason I use the electric starter is that is somewhat of a pain in the you know what to get in and out of the open cab over the PTO shift,and I cannot access the spark and accelerator levers from the left side of the vehicle because of the ladders that are mounted and in the way.

BTW, I am 65, and the folks who watch me crank really get a kick out of seeing the T's come to life. From my perspective that is much of the fun of owning these vehicles.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Steve Jelf on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 - 07:09 am:

I would think it all depends on the condition of the vehicle and the condition of the operator. There are some people in their nineties who could easily hand start, and others in no shape to do it at fifty or sixty.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Warren Mortensen on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 - 07:43 am:

I have both starter ('26) and non-starter ('14 and '17) cars. For my money, I can skip the starter in any future builds. When I get too old to handle the crank I'll get someone else to do it for me. I know a couple other guys who say the same thing.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Bob Robb on Wednesday, January 21, 2009 - 02:26 pm:

George,
I'm in total agreement with Norman T. Kling on this one.
I'm 74 and was regularly using the starter until the Bendix flew apart. I repaired that and decided that I'd crank 'er unless I was in traffic or on a hill, etc., thus saving the starter.
It's easy, and fun when it elicits applause when it starts on the first pull!
I figure that if you can't physically start it with the crank, you probably aren't going to be able to physically drive it anyway.
You might consider having a starter, but only use it when absolutely necessary. That's what I do.
Good drivin'
Bob


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