Posted this years ago but only got speculations leading me to think it might be a T legend. A recent conversation reignited the controversy. Here's the scenario: Non-starter no battery car. Jacking one rear wheel & putting the car in high (brake handle fully forward) makes it easier to start or it won't start unless one wheel is up & in high. If it's true I'm thinking in must be affecting the mag/crank end clearance somehow. Perhaps the forward tilt tends to close the gap when hand cranking. Personally I don't buy the "flywheel" business suggested as the rear wheel turns but whatever. Ideas?
It removes the drag of the transmission and that allows you to crank faster and make more "juice" with the magneto. Also allows the engine to suck up more gas for better starting.
I have always believed that the need to jack up one rear wheel to start a T was due to the combined effects of a poorly adjusted "free neutral", cold weather and oil too heavy. These create too much clutch drag making it very difficult to crank start. Jacking up a wheel lets the wheel turn instead of creating friction at the clutch, making it easier to crank and start.
I don't believe I've ever heard of putting the car in "high" to do this nor have I heard that the mag/crank clearance is effected in any observable way.
Just my $0.02 worth.
No, you wouldn't necessarily have to put it in high, but you'd at least have to have it in neutral.
We can start our T's at 20 below by jacking the wheel up. We put it in high and the jacked wheel acts as a flywheel to keep the momentum. At that temperature the clutch plates are frozen together until the oil warms up. This is standard practice for us 2 or 3 times a week until the temperature is in the 40's.
You're right. I've never had to jack up a wheel to start my TT because I have a Muncie with a true neutral, but it stands to reason that if you have the emergency brake set tight you're defeating the point of jacking it up.
Jerry putting the car in neutral with the wheel jacked up defeats the purpose. The idea here is to eliminate all the drag in the transmission when cranking. With the wheel jacked up in high gear the clutch is out of the picture. In fact, you will find that the engine slows down considerably, and can stall as you begin applying the handbrake to stop the rear wheel rotation, which forces the clutch plates to go into neutral (slip). I often have to use this method with my '16 when the weather is cold.
So far it's both in high & neutral. The waters muddy a bit. It sounds more like freeing up things and getting more spark only because it's easier to spin.
My Dad was born in 1907 and he worked on Model T's since he was a kid. He taught me almost everything that I know about T's. When we restored his father's (my grandfather's) car in the late sixties, we cut some corners due to the fact that it was never meant to be a show car. One corner we cut was making sure the mag worked, thus the car always had to be hand cranked or started with the starter on battery. If the carb was adjusted right and if the motor had been cranked somewhat recently and the outside temperature was reasonable, cranking it was not a problem, but occasionally, we would have to raise a rear tire off the ground to reduce friction in the transmission. We'd never put the trans in high gear to do this as if the T wheel hit the ground (without a driver), it might take off , who knows where. With the clutch lever in neutral, there was enough drag to spin a rear wheel when started, but the wheel would stop immediately once it touched the ground.
Richard explained it a 100%.
If the clutch would drag, you would jack it up, starter or not.
Dad showed me that way when I was a kid.
We always put the car in high gear, and only jack up the left side wheel, as the other side does not work the same.
What Jerry and Richard said was told to me, in my earl model T years about 15 years ago, by a old man, he was 89 at that time, who used to drive a model T for many many years.
He added this: (and now I will have bad reactions).
He lift up the left rear wheel to start the car when it was cold and didn't use the crank but the free rear wheel to crank the engine.
He teach me how to do this on a nearly original 1914 runabout.
After lifting the left rear wheel and blocking the right he told me to prime the engine till gas was leaking out of the little hole in the middle of the Holley G carburetor.
Set the gas lever at about 1/3 down, the advance lever 4 stops lower as all the way up and the transmission in high gear (brake lever all the way forwards).
The ignition switch on magneto and turn the left rear wheel firmly to the left.
The car started right up and stay running.
Every time I need to start this runabout after a long time standing I use it and she never let me down.
Just for what it is worth.
Terry makes a valid point about the possibility of slipping off the jack and letting the spinning tire hit the ground.
My father wasn't quite as old as Terry's, but his "T knowledge" was still first-person. I'm sure his concerns about falling off the jack were based on knowing or knowing of someone who had suffered the consequences. When he taught me to run his T in 1960 he demonstrated the jack-up-the-wheel process and strongly stressed the danger of falling off the jack. His rules were:
1. Chock the two front wheels with good size blocks.
2. Jack very straight and on a firm surface.
3. Brake lever in neutral but not far enough back to engage wheel brakes.
We started that car in temperatures down to about 20F without a problem the first year he had it.
As to the physics of why to use neutral on the brake lever rather than HI, my assessment is that the small amount of slippage afforded by having the trans in neutral affords a better initial acceleration to the cranking effort, allowing the operator to get a full quarter turn more easily. I suppose that if the oil were absolutely solid, it wouldn't make any difference. But in most cases, the clutches aren't totally locked up; just very draggy.
Even back then there were those who worked for the Model T and those who made the Model T work for them! Several old timers have told me through the years that in winter they thinned the oil with Kerosene! On the other hand 100 years later there are still those who dump # 30 wt oil [motor tar] in their engine and jack up a wheel! In the old pictures has anyone seen a wintertime Ford jacked up?? It's your T so hitch up the team if you want! Bud,Tired of winter!!
My paternal grandfather (not the one who had my TT) owned and operated a French bread bakery. In the late teens and through the '20's he had 2 or 3 Model T delivery trucks. He would tell me about staring them in cold weather. The process included jacking up a rear wheel, priming each cylinder, and lots of cranking (these were non-electric cars).
Another key element of the process not yet mentioned in this thread is the requisite cussing. Absent this critical part of the process you just can't start a T in cold weather.
I always block the front wheel with a 2x4. This is a must as mentioned. I haven't had the car slip off the jack in 40 years. If it did the engine would kill unless the RPM was very high. Occasionally I forget to put it in high with very poor results. At 20 below there is no Neutral. Adjusting for a free Neutral at 20 below would result in slipping when warm with standard clutch discs. Herm is right about the left wheel.
It's nice to hear the comments.
Dad and I used this method to start freshly built engines using both the starter and the hand crank at the same time. Car was in high gear and properly chocked. With the car in high gear, the rear wheel acts as an extra flywheel to help everything turn. I have also jacked up the rear wheel in neutral so the drag was negated by the extra flywheel. This works both ways and whatever turns your crank. You can also use this method if your battery is low and you still want to use your starter.
Joe R. Independence, Mo.
Sometimes these old (and proven) techniques seem more "magic" than fact, however the Physics here are quite simple. When the oil is cold and viscous, it will not shear well between the clutch discs causing drag. So you jack up a rear wheel with the E-brake fully forward, (High gear) and crank. If one understand the science, it will become abundantly clear why jacking up the car in neutral with rear brakes set accomplishes nothing. One could accomplish the same results with the car in neutral IF the rear brakes are are not dragging on the rear drums (defeating the purpose). This simple process has nothing to do with magneto clearance or nay other "magic phenomenon".
Dick Fisher, Blocking the front wheels, should definitely be part of the process, unless we coincidentally experience a 6.0 or stronger seismic event... in which all bets are off!
Having it jacked up and in neutral does not defeat the purpose. It still allows the drag to go through the drivetrain and allows the jacked up wheel to turn, same as if it were in high.
I seldom bother to jack up a rear wheel when it is cold, several people on this forum suggested parking with the clutch lever forward to squeeze the oil out of the clutch, when I start, I move the clutch lever back to the parking brake position and start it normally. The only time I have to jack up the rear wheel is when I forget to park it with the lever forward, and I always start it in neutral when I jack up the rear wheel. I have tried it with the lever completely forward and can not tell any difference in the drag when it is in neutral. Bear in mind, the drag is in the clutch, it does not matter if the clutch in not engaged, if the oil is too thick to allow the clutch discs to move past each other, it is the same as being engaged no matter where the lever is, you only need to release the parking brake so the wheel can turn freely.
Jerry, please read what I posted.
You said, "Jerry putting the car in neutral with the wheel jacked up defeats the purpose."
And, "One could accomplish the same results with the car in neutral IF the rear brakes are not dragging on the rear drums (defeating the purpose)."
Since I never suggested having the brake set, I don't see how my comment defeated the purpose.
Jerry, in my book you are spot on. I used my T all winter in Wisconsin, even in below zero weather. I blocked the radiator with cardboard and only used water. I would drain the water every night, or during periods of non-use (a few hours), and in the morning I would fill the radiator with hot water, jack the LR wheel and crank away. I never put the lever forward as the thick oil did a good job of locking the trans in high. I couldn't afford new oil so I used oil from a farmer's used oil barrel (yuk). I'm still using that block though I have to admit to some freeze cracks in the block above the timer. I now use modern clutch discs and always have a good neutral (here in Sacramento).
I never had a new battery either but used take-out batters that usually had enough juice to buzz the coils . My battery never had enough power to use the starter.
Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, Some people (like my neighbor) think that neutral means brake handle all the way back, rear brakes applied. Since you are as smart as me, there is no reason to argue this point. But details do matter.
Thanks. Sounds like stories my dad told of driving his T in the winter, in Detroit. He drove it not for fun, but for transportation. Have a good day!
I probably should have added that was 70 years ago. I even tried burning kerosene one time and that was a bust. Bad spark knock and a lot of very black exhaust.
Jeez John, I thought I was smarter! (Yes, I'm teasing. I'm not even as smart as I used to be.)
O.K., I didn't specifically state "no parking brake". Now I see what you meant.
I would strongly suggest that the front wheel be chocked for movement fore and aft as a T started when it is very cold can do a bit of a dance before,it settles,down and just as easily fall back off the jack as forward. I always start my T's on a jack and in high when the temperature is 20 degrees or below and so far it has worked down to 15 below.
The coldest i have ever ran my stem wind 14 was 7 above zero. When you say 20 degrees below or 15 below are you talking below zero?? Bud.
Yes, 20 degrees below zero F. Any colder than that it is difficult to turn through the thick oil. Either hand cranking or using the starter. I use 10W-30W. It also seems that the gasoline doesn't atomize well when colder than -20. I did use a tank heater on one T and we could warm it to start at -30 F.
I haven't read everything above, but speaking from experience. We start our N (155 cu in), Ts (177 cu in) and K (405 cu in) in below freezing weather. By jacking up the rear wheel (or back end ideally), starting the car is incredibly easier. Do not put the car in high, just neutral. If it's in high, the entire drivetrain must turn. When the car tries to start, the tolerances in the drivetrain will go in fits and jerks. In free neutral, no jerks and spasms if the engine doesn't start, or stutters.
Even in summer if our T's are to set overnight the lever is left forward and 5-30 oil is used.I used to run our cars year around if the roads were dry and free of salt.At seventy i let our cars rest the winter and no way in Gods dear earth will i frog with a model T at -20 or even close to that!!!!!! I don't remember when i woke up old but i'll leave the one up man ship to the politiacians!! Bud.
I used to jack up the rear wheel, leave the car in neutral and start it. I always put a brick in front of the front wheel. Once the car started I would let it down slowly off the jack. I didn't have parking brakes back then and one time the hydraulic jack went down too fast and the car jumped the brick, in neutral with the clutch dragging. I grabbed it from the rear and it dragged me forward until it smacked right into the side of my mother's car. I adjusted the clutch later and don't have to do that anymore, but it doesn't get super cold here.
Your story reminds me of a cartoon I once saw about this problem. It's a drawing of a guy pinned against the wall of his garage by his T. His wife is frantically reaching for the switch to turn it off. In the caption he's yelling at her, "No! Let it warm up first!!"
I'd like to hear more on the theory of why jacking up one side is better than jacking up the other. I can't see how it would matter.....unless we are perpetuating the old wives tail that a differential has a 'primary' or 'dominate' side.....
Or is a matter of safety or convenience about getting it back down after it starts?
Like Corey said if your clutch is adjusted properly and you use appropriate oil grade for the outside air temp this is never needed.
In the old days folks rarely if ever changed the oil and if they did it was straight weight. Even in warm weather SAE 30 is thick and will make the car hard to crank.
I can't believe that a subject as simple as starting a Model T in cold weather can cause such a commotion
I am with Ken - Even in summer I leave the handle forward when parked overnight to squeeze oil out of the clutch. Then put it in neutral (brake off) when starting.
I do the same in the winter, but jack up a wheel when starting to lower the drag. Once it warms up I pull the leaver back to engage the rear brakes BEFORE letting the jack down. The motor usually slows a bit - indicating that there is a viscous coupling between the motor and rear wheels.
Hal - I haven't a clue about which side is best for jacking. I usually jack the driver's side because my floor jack is on that side of the garage.
A couple other things -- My grandfather told me that he added kerosene to the oil in the winter because it got stiff when cold and he had a hard time starting his T after spending a few hours in church. Today we have multigrade oils so kerosene is not necessary.
Once when I was having a hard time starting the T on a cold day he came out of the house with a tea kettle of boiling water, opened the hood, and poured it on the intake manifold/carb.
It started on the next pull of the crank.
Them old guys didn't have to look at every angle, analyze every action, or contemplate why they have lint in their navel - they just figured out what worked and did it!
Fred my dad did the boiling water on the manifold trick when I was a kid he also had a small fire in a pan under the oilpan and take out the plugs and heat on stove. when my dad drove a t to highschool in winter he got a pail of hot water from the boiler the janitor would give him it always started then! antifreze was only for rich guys
Obviously this is no myth.
Kerosene in the oil....... Wonder how much of that vaporizes out when the engine warms up? Early form of multi-grade. Acts like a low viscosity at low temperature and then begins to act like a higher viscosity as it warms up.....assuming it does actually boil off eventually.
I don't think the kerosene would boil off real easy - there's a real problem even today with cars driven only a few miles every day during the winter so they rarely get to full operating temperature and the oil gets thinned by gas slipping by the piston rings and humidity that is condensed in the crank case - then, when the car suddenly is used for a longer trip at high speed, it may break down due to too thin oil, since the gas & water dilution won't boil out in time. So, changing the (multigrade) oil more frequently is the cure for any car driven short trips in cold weather.
Hal & Roger,
How much of the kerosene would boil off ?
I don't have any specific knowledge of the Model T, but many WWII aircraft engines incorporated dilution systems in which gasoline could be injected into the oil tanks prior to shutdown. The basic idea was to thin the oil before shutdown so that the next morning it would be started when the oil was cold. A typical instruction manual would tell the flight engineer or pilot to hold the dilute switch down for one minute for every 10 degrees below below 45F. Clearly the gasoline went away during the next flight as there was no requirement to change the oil after subsequent use. Nor any warning about the minimum time the engine must be run before subsequent dilution would be required.
It must not have taken too much heat to drive the gas out of the oil, because in cold weather operations it was difficult to maintain minimum temps in flight, even with cowl flaps or oil cooler shutters fully closed.
If any of you hear an explosion near Newfields this weekend it is me trying to figure out how fast kerosene vaporizes when heated.
Don't worry I will wear protective equipment if I can figure out what is needed
In preparation for your experiment I thought this information from Wikipedia might be helpful:
"The flash point of kerosene is between 37 and 65 °C (100 and 150 °F), and its autoignition temperature is 220 °C (428 °F)."
I'm about 3,000 miles away from you but if you let me know what time you're gonna do this I'll watch for the flash.
I bought my first T in 1977 and knew very little about them.It had been 30 years since it had been run(I was told).The starter was a bit lazy so I jacked up the rear end and kick started it on the rear wheel lugs and lo and behold it started,smoked like crazy for about 15 min.After that it started on the starter. Fritz
It is not a myth. Many Model T's have misadjusted clutches and thick oil. Those two things - or either of them - will cause the owner to need to jack up the car to start it.
Keep in mind though that an easier/faster spin equals more juice from the mag for a better spark so in a way it does go back to electricity.
This is getting a bit off topic, though it was interesting to read about the way WW2 aircraft were run from Dick's post above - haven't seen that before.
Now, how come the aircraft could handle something that risks seize the bearings in a regular car? First, think about two stroke engines. They run fine with their oil diluted with 96-98% gas since they rarely have any plain bearings - only roller & ball bearings in the crank shaft on a two stroke. Same with WW2 rotary aircraft engines, so they could handle lots of gas in the oil without problem. Plain babbitted bearings in a regular car engine needs more viscosity to keep the needed oil film strength.
Be careful with comparing viscosity to film strength.
They are related but not the same.
Today's oils have significantly higher film strength than previous oils.
If I remember correctly there was something called the Amsoil number that describes film strength. It was years ago and developed by the Pennsylvania crude oil folks to show the advantage of their base material. It may not be used today because today's oils have additives that increase the film strength without affecting viscosity.
There are still plenty of plain bearings in WWII radial aircraft engines. I think the big difference is the oil used. Most of those engines used SAE 50W, and the capacity per engine was measured in gallons, not quarts. So you could dump quite a bit of gas into the oil before reducing the viscosity too much. I don't actually know the quantity of gas -- it was just measured by how many seconds the switch was activated.
I don't know if any of the inline, liquid cooled engines used dilution. The only place I've seen it is on radials.
More viscosity = less oil gets to the bearing. It has not one thing to do with the lubricating qualities of the oil, or the oil's film strength. This is why for example turbine oil is extremely low viscosity, yet capable of extreme pressure and heat tolerance.
Thicker oil is needed in the rear axle, for example, because the axle gears depend on the lubricant climbing the ring gear to feed the pinion bearings and the axle inner bearings.
I'm sure in the old days, jacking up a wheel was just a routine thing people did automatically. Just like in the '70s, I would open the air cleaner on a car and pour gas in the carb to prime it. It was just part of life. Could you imagine some people today doing that?
My question is, which is safer if the car fell off the jack, neutral or high gear?
Safer in neutral or high gear ? My preference (to paraphrase a line from the movie "Karate Kid"): ....best no be there when happen !
I would say it would be safer in high gear because it would probably kill it but in neutral it will keep going. What Dave said about pouring gas in the carb, I had a lawnmower that you had to pour gas in every time to start it. I drilled a hole in the air filter housing and screwed in a cleaned out Model T grease cup so that I could unscrew the cap and pour gas in there. That way I didn't have to go find a screwdriver.
If it's in high gear, and the motor sputters, coughs, or otherwise hesitates, the entire drive train does the same thing, magnifying the shock because of tolerances in rear end, etc. Also, the back wheel(s) act as another flywheel, and if your in gear, they send a reverse shock if any of the above happens.
Believe me, I have experience both ways, and starting in high gear doesn't always turn out well. Out of gear and there is no "reverse shock" because of neutral.
If you don't believe there is a lot of drag on they car when it's cold (with neutral adjusted properly), jack your car up and start it in neutral. Then put on the hand brake and notice how much it pulls the motor down, until the fluids are warmed up.