Preparing your antique engines for show season

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Since many of our engines have not been run in months lover the winter, it's always a good idea to look everything over closely before the first start-up of the season.

Christian Williams

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With the first shows of the season upon us, this seems like a good time to mention safety. There’s probably very little I can say about safety that we all don’t already know, but if we take a few minutes periodically to think about safe practices, we will be less inclined to cut corners and endanger ourselves and others.

Since many of our engines have not been run in months, it would be a good idea to look everything over closely before the first start-up of the season.

As you are wiping down the engine, cleaning off any dust or oil, look for any cracked or broken parts. Feel for anything that has become loose, especially flywheel gib keys and governor parts.

Make sure that all the mechanisms still work freely, from the valves and magneto parts to the latch out. The last thing you want is for oil that has become gummy to prevent your governor from working properly.

Despite the severity of a governor failure, it, and other unforeseen malfunctions, do occur. Always have a contingency plan to shut down your engines in case an emergency arises. Often, shutting of the fuel will not kill the engine for many minutes.

A contingency plan can be as simple as yanking a wire plug. It might be holding in an exhaust latch out or manually holding in an exhaust valve. Regardless of what you choose, realize that all of these measures pose their own hazards. A shock from the magneto might cause you to jump and contact a moving flywheel. A latch out and an exhaust valve both present serious pinch points. Consider all of these possibilities before firing that engine for the first time.

If a situation mandates that you take action, be prepared so that you can do so while remaining calm and not creating a more serious situation.

There are a myriad of other serious issues to write about, but space is limited. You probably know them all anyway, so please take a few minutes to consider safe work practices so we can all enjoy an incident-free show season.

This article was provided by Rob Skinner and originally ran in the April 2008 issue of Hit & Miss, the Journal of the Western Antique Power Associates. Contact Rob at  rskinner@rustyiron.com and visit his website at  www.rustyiron.com .