First off, Iím a newby so be gentle. My father could not longer take care for one of my Ďbrothersí (a 1915 touring car I grew up with) so the car moved in with me back in November. I travel extensively so I can only play with it on some weekends. I need a little advice and help. If someone lives in the Peninsula region of Southeastern VA, Iíd like to meet up sometime.
Iíve had it up and running a dozen times or so as well as out on the road. Starting (for the most part) hasnít been too bad. Strangely enough, initially starting has been pretty easy (with a few exceptions). My real problem is starting it after I turn it off or if it stalls out (God forbid, then Iím doomed). The normal restarting is baffling to me. It should start right back up with a single tug, but that has only happened once. I turn the key to the off position and when I attempt to restart it, I can crank for a looooong time with no-so-good results. Iíve had to resort to having it pull started with my truck about half of the time. Even then, it takes several rotations of the engine before firing. Iím at a loss for understanding.
It is a pull start (no starter). I know Iím getting spark to each coil and Iíve never played with the timing since it was running fine. I went to clean the commutator (per my dadís advice over the phone) and found that it was sparkling clean. So much that I think one of the last things he may have done was replaced it. Unfortunately the years are badly affecting his memory and he just doesnít remember. I squirted a couple shots into the commutator, but still no startup. When on battery, the coils sounded like they fired more consistently and thoroughly after oiling the commutator though. Again, she has been running and running well, so I donít believe there to be a timing issue. The only time it backfired was when I got the gas and spark mixed up when first learning to drive it (lesson learned without a broken arm or thumb).
I had a battle with starting it yesterday (Model T Ė 1, Max Ė 0). Hereís the series of events. Got battery hooked up. Turned gas on (made that mistake before). Adjusted the carb to about 1-3/4 turns open (made that mistake before too). Choked it with about 1 to 1-1/4 hand crank turns. Turned key to battery and just started immediately without cranking. Great! I like easy. I put the spark nearly all the way down (if she is all the way down, she sputters). Put the gas lever at a quarter. Adjusted the carb down to about ľ open. It went about its business clicking away and running very smooth. She ran for about a minute and a half. Started to run rough and cut out. I never got to switch it to the magneto. I tried checking spark and gas lever settings again (which were correct), but she already died on me. No problemo since she ran for a bit, right? I cranked a couple of times to see if sheíd start back up but with no luck at all. I turned off the key and choked her about a full turn. She sputtered a bit but didnít start. I repeated twice with the same result. Then nothing. No sputtering. No burping. Just a lot of swearing (by me, not the car). For about 2 hours, cranking and cussing. I figured Iíd let her sit and try again later. Thatís the point where I checked the commutator and oiled it. Waited til later that evening and tried starting again. Half hour later without starting or even sputtering, it was surrender time for the day (Model T Ė 2, Max Ė 0, game over). It was too late to try pull starting to see if she would even start then.
My hunch from VERY limited knowledge and understanding is fuel delivery since there was zero indication of wanting to fire a cylinder. Yes, she had about an ľ tank, maybe 3 Ė 4 gallons (lesson previously learned). Very frustrating. Unfortunately, Iím headed out of town and will have to resume next weekend.
Any thoughts you may have would be greatly appreciated from a novice with a thirst for understanding. Please remember (if you are kind enough to make a suggestion) that on a knowledge scale from 0-10 with 0 being ďthatís the commutator, right???Ē and 10 being ďMax designed the Model TĒ, Iím about a negative two. I was a pre-teen when my dad did the bottom up restoration in the 70ís. My experience and knowledge upon taking it into adoptive care was polishing her brass and cranking her to start her for my dad as he got older. Virtually everything Iíve learned in my limited ownership has been school of hard knocks and rough cranking. Also, please understand that my job makes it difficult to reply quickly, so if it is a while before I reply, please donít be offended.
PS - Sorry for the long thread lead. I talk even more...
Max, I am also a newbie here , my limited Model T knowledge is a little greater than yours, I would be checking fuel delivery problems. There are other posts on this very forum on sediment in the bowl, needle float sticking, etc. If it starts and then will not continue running, I believe you should start with fuel delivery issues starting from the carb all the way to sediment in the fuel tank. My own personal opinion here, I would keep fuel stabilizer ( as in Sta-Bil) in the tank, you don't run it long enough or often enough to not have problems with stale gas. Good luck and I hope no one gives you a hard time. You are trying, I am sure your Dad would always be pleased that you are looking after your brother this way !
Max, here is a fuel delivery problem from a guy working on his first T:
Finally, we have a 1914 Touring we are working on here in Houston .
There are some Model T'ers more experienced than I who will help you.
1/4 open seems to lean. My T would "run a minute or so then die" if only 1/4 open. Once it starts, close mixture until engine starts to sputter then open it up some until it smooths out. With a little experimenting you will find the right spot. You probably will need to readjust some as she warms up.
I note your statement: "Adjusted the carb down to about 1/4 open." Typically, you would run with the carburetor about 1 to 1 1/8 turns open. It sounds like she is getting fuel starved (i.e., running too lean).
Best of luck,
1 1/4 turns open for starting sounds OK. A couple pulls of the crank with the choke on for a cold engine sounds OK too.
Once it starts, let it run at that 1 1/4 turn setting to see if it starts to stumble from being too rich - you'll know it's rich from the smell, if it's REALLY rich, you'll see black smoke out the tailpipe and your eyes will start to water from all the raw gas.
If it's obvious that 1 1/4 turns out is too rich for warm engine running, then turn the mixture 1/4 turn leaner and see if the engine smooths out. Once the engine gets nice and warm, try turning the mixture a little leaner until it starts to stumble, then richer until it starts to stumble again. The "best" setting will be in between the rich and lean stumble settings.
Once you find that "best" setting, remember that setting and do all your subsequent mixture experiments from there.
Once it's warm, it should start easily without any more use of the choke.
I try to keep the fuel level in my tank between 5 and 8 gallons (I have a 1924 with an oval tank).
If you have a fuel filter in your fuel line, get rid of it.
Thanks for the replies, guys! Interesting that when I have it up and running, that 1/4-1/2 turn is the sweet spot where it puts like a kitten.
After she stalled out, I opened it back up to 1-1/4 turns. After the initial frustration and suspicion that it was starving, I tried choking it several times to see if I could make it based on some has. Strange thing is that I NEVER smelled gas when doing that.
My suspicion is that after it died and you turned it back out to 1 1/4 turns and started cranking it, it got flooded and choking it only made it worse.
Giving up and letting it sit overnight allowed all of the excess gas to evaporate, allowing it to start again at the 1 1/4 turn out setting.
If you feel brave, loosen the locking nut, unscrew the mixture needle all the way out, and post a picture of the tip of it here on the forum (be sure to resize the picture to a file size under 250 KB).
If the tip is deformed or has a ring on it from a prior owner screwing it down too tight, dress it down to a nice conical shape using this procedure:
Holy smoke! I was replying from my phone in an airport so I didn't see how many replies I got! Many thanks again!
Brooks, I'm kind of wondering about the gas issue more and more. One of my lessons learned was (cough) taking an hour cranking it before realizing it was out of gas... quite humbling, but at least I discovered that myself. The other lesson learned with that was, if you spill gas all over the place filling it with a can, make sure to put the gas cap back in before pouring gas all over the tank to rinse it. I mention this because I got curious about fuel delivery then and checked out the fuel system. As a result of concerns about water in the tank, I drained about 10 ounces from the tanks drain sediment bulb. I also closed the fuel line, opened the drain on the carb, then re-opened the fuel line to drain about 2-3 ounces from that point. I may try that again also ...Pretty ugly stuff. I'll try that again to make sure there isn't something in there. Look for future posting that says something like "idiot catches self on fire, but T okay". Meanwhile I'll check those links out.
Jim, Mike, and Mike - I'll revisit the carb turns once I get it started next. Tom at Snyder's was a big help with that. Once she was up and running, I started turning it back about a half to a quarter at a time until she started purring the way my dad had it running. I'm well familiar with the overly rich running. The last time it was started by my [other] brothers and I at their home in PA, we didn't know to turn the carb back so it was drinking gas like I drink beer!... this go a back to the first time attempt with the gas tank being empty. Hahaha. What clued me in that first time was when it occurred to me that I didn't turn the car off then... it just stopped. That memory hit me and prompted me to check the level in the gas tank... hahaha... lessons learned the hard way..
Please realize when I say I didn't smell gas that I work around purified ammonia. Maybe my sense of smell is gone? Hahaha..
Again, many thanks for the suggestions.
Mark, I'll take a look at that when I get home. I'm headed to La Crosse, Wisconsin via Minneapolis this week and won't get the chance till I get home.
I'm hoping it isn't a carb innards issue as I could see that taking a bit to do.
"Adjusted the carb down to about ľ open." was a red flag for me too. 1 to 1Ĺ turns out is about right for most T's. I think Mark may be onto something with his suggestion of a possible boogered up spray needle. Not to worry. If that's the problem, the repair shown in the video is pretty simple.
On my '19 if it has sat for, for a week I turn it out to 1 3/4 to 2 turns and with switch off choke for at least 3 or 4 cranks and then switch on and hopefully it will start.
Since your cold starts are okay, but your engine doesn't want to start when it's hot, I'm thinking it's possible you have a vapor-lock problem. _ With the engine running, a fresh, cool flow of gasoline is coursing through your fuel line, but when the engine stops, so does the flow of gasoline, and it just sits there in the radiated heat of the engine, bubbles up and turns to "vapor."
How do diagnose:
Start your car and run it as usual. _Then, just before shutting down, remove the hood and floorboards so all the heat can radiate up and away from your fuel line. _Come back in five or ten minutes and see if the engine will start hot. _If it does, you've just diagnosed a vapor-lock problem.
How to fix chronic vapor-lock:
The cure is to either re-route the fuel line further away from the exhaust pipe or wrap the exhaust pipe and/or fuel line with the kind of insulation manufactured specifically for exhaust parts.
Hey Bob, I've been reading about that and it makes a lot of sense. I don't remember my dad having these issues, but he generally didn't run it in the winter. I also remember that he had some sort of work done on it, but I cant remember what it was and he may not recall either. I work in industrial refrigeration (which is all about evaporation). I will definitely make that the first shot followed by draining the sediment drain and playing with the carb.
You should not be constantly fiddling with the mixture control. Adjust it to where it runs right with the engine warm at cruise. Make a mark on the knob to show where that "sweet spot" is. You should not have to adjust it again if the carburetor is in good shape.
Some Model T's run a bit lean when cold. On those cars you have to open the mixture a bit during the first 15 or 20 seconds of operation. If this is the case, you can return to the "sweet spot" that you marked with confidence.
When starting the car warm, open the throttle a bit further than normal. Your carb probably has the float a bit higher than necessary. This makes the car easy to start cold, but too rich when warm. You can crutch the issue somewhat if you have a fuel shutoff valve near the carburetor. Turn it off as soon as you stop the engine. Turn it on just prior to starting.
Thanks for the idea, Royce. I'll look into that as well. After The car starts, I generally close the carb down and she goes from sounding like a galloping horse to a nice even purr with coils clicking away. I leave it alone once I set it. I very well may have set it too lean (and possibly vapor locked it too?).
On a separate note, I have a question about how hard cranking should be. I've been around my dad starting the car since I was a boy. I've started it quite a bit myself over the years. I'm questioning whether it's gotten harder, if it just me at 51, or a combination. My sweet spot for cranking is from about 8 o'clock position to 1 o'clock. If I'm feeling good, I can get the crank over the top and get 2 complete (not fast) rotations.
I watched a YouTube video where an older gent grabbed the crank on his T and it looked like he was winding a big toy. That crank went round and round quickly. My dad got multiple rotations on a good day. They would be quick, but I was convinced he'd drop dead from it just his effort (and language). That old gent made it look effortless it was so quick. If it were my car, I would have expected to see the car shaking/jolting if I rotated it that fast, I know that technique helps, but I can't imagine his technique and strength were that much better (especially than my dad who had been driving T's since the 1940s).
How hard should it be to crank?? Is there a chance that something with the brake or gearing may be set wrong?
Watch this video of Royce's dad.
The idea is to let the internal combustion do the work. Your job is only to get the piston in the correct position to allow the cylinder to fire.
Cranking should always be done with the left hand, thumb under the crank, and a 1/4 pull up.
Other may argue about this, but it works!! I actually get a little more than 1/4, almost 1/3.
Max, when all else fails my solution is to jack the left rear wheel and it will start every time. Once the rear wheel is up, chuck the front wheel and put the brake down ( high gear). Starts every time very easily. It is the momentum of the drive train that helps. I use a "tire saver jack" that is available everywhere and it is quick and easy. It is without saying that you must have gas, spark and know the sweet spots of the throttle, carb mix, and timer setting.
Although there are many who "windmill", and I have personally seen a few, I cringe when I see that.
It is true that a properly adjusted ignition system should never cause a kickback, I have read one too many stories on this Forum about something becoming maladjusted....either a frayed or broken wire making ground at an inopportune time, or a timer malfunction - pin being dislodged, flapper bent - a myriad of problems that MAY lead to a broken bone.
One should NEVER have to windmill - it (in my humble opinion) is a dangerous practice - a nasty habit - something that someday may bite you...
With thanks to those who have previously posted these pictures...
Like Dave, I cringe when I see somebody spinning a Model T crank. That first broken wrist photo above is mine. I did it with a tractor, but the pain would have been just as excruciating with a Model T. It hurt so bad I passed out. The fact is that spinning not only has the potential for serious injury, but it shouldn't be necessary. If a T won't start with sane cranking, it should be fixed so it does. Here's how fast you should have to "spin" the crank:
If it starts easily when cold, but hard to start when hot, my first thought would be too rich fuel mixture. Normally if the spray needle is set too rich, the engine will surge until you lean the mixture.
There is another possible cause and that would be a leaking float needle which would cause the fuel to rise and flood into the intake. In that case, a cold engine would start very easily without choking when cold, but when you park for a while, such as at the gas station or other place and the engine is still hot, you try to start and the engine if flooded. This might not be your problem, but it is something to look at.
Here is a video of my Grandfather starting the Maxwell he gave me. It always starts like this unless the battery is dead. My friends with Model Ts seem amazed at how easy it starts.
Wow! Obviously something is not correct with my ignition system. Thanks to all of you for posting the great videos. If a picture is worth 1000 words, a video was worth a hell of a lot more!
You very well may have saved me a broken wrist. I cranked for an hour and a half without even the slightest hint of ignition. My solution the other day (if I had enough time in the day) would have been to pull start it. Even when I have pull started it, the engine makes several revolutions before it fires. This has had me thinking that it is vapor lock as the valves might be sucking the vapor out of the line. Now Iím thinking it might be a combination of difficulties.
Many thanks again for all of these posts. It has definitely enlightened me to realize that the car never really did start properly. Iím really hoping to find someone in southeastern Virginia that may be able to walk me through some issues. I spend so much time in Wisconsin, if any of you knows of somebody in south eastern Wisconsin (Milwaukee through Green Bay region), I might be able to connect that way as well.
RS - I've tried that as well and only been successful once. And that was using cranking a couple revolutions... while looking to break my wrist!
In that case, it went several revolutions and then sputtered to a start.