A Homesteader Shares his Gas Engine Tips

A homesteader shares his knowledge of cars, tractors and gas engine tips.

| November/December 1966

A Gas Engine Magazine reader shares his gas engine tips. 

Introduction to Following Story I'm sending you the enclosed material to do as you like with. Some of it may seem old hat to you or many of the readers, however I've been surprised at the number of people (many of them garagemen) who did not know some of these simple things. Maybe you will have better articles on these subjects (Then good, maybe I'll learn something) Though I've had years of experience with engines, the number of makes has been rather limited. I'm not claiming to be an expert by any means, but have found all directions given in these articles to be as true as the day is long, and these gas engine tips might be of help to some.

I like your magazine a lot and hope other readers will contribute as much.

I recall back in the days before the self starter became universal on automobiles of seeing people now and then going around with their right arm in a sling. When questioned as to what had happened the answer was almost always that their car had kicked them when they tried to start it. Some were lucky enough to survive with merely a sprained wrist, but cranking a car was considered rather dangerous. When I was a Boy Scout, longer ago than I like to admit, I passed an examination for a merit badge in automobiling. One of the things I learned was how to grasp the crank. They said to take hold of it with the thumb on the same side as your fingers are on, that is,  do not reach clear around the crank with your hand. Also do not try to spin the motor, but instead give it a series of upward jerks, do not bear down on it, if you do, you are more likely to be injured in case it kicks back. I think that was very good advice.

My dad bought his first car (A Model T Ford without self starter) in 1916. One of the first things he did was to hook up 4 dry cells in series and connect them to the extra post on the back of coil box, then by turning the switch key to the left the coils became energized from the batteries. He temporarily removed the wires from the spark plugs. Then he set the No. 1 cylinder on top dead center and bent the control rod to the timer slightly, so when the spark lever was raised clear up it would fire just after dead center. He knew then that if the spark lever was raised clear up when cranking that there was no danger of being kicked. He and I drove that Ford more than 10 years after that, always starting it by arm strong method and we were never kicked by it.

Ford was turning out Model T's by mass production in those days and apparently paid very little attention to proper setting of spark. (At least that was the way it was with this particular one.) Also I suspect some of the owners did not understand just what retarding the spark meant. Some of the accessory mail order companies sold a ratchet affair which when bolted to the crank made it impossible for the engine to turn backward. I think that was a very good idea. Another gadget had a handle extending through the floor boards, and by pulling on it the motor could be turned a quarter turn at a time. (similar to the recoil starters on modern lawn mowers.) I never saw but one of these, and the owner said it worked fine except in cold weather, then it was best to go back to the crank. I never have heard of anyone being injured starting a John Deere tractor with their flywheel starting. You could always let go of the flywheel if it kicked back. The Rumely Oil Pulls in the middle 20's and later had an eccentric shaped cam which could be engaged with the flywheel to prevent their kicking back. The old McCormick-Deering impulse starter that you had to set by hand was also very reliable, providing you didn't forget to set it. The automatic impulse starters made since were ok if kept clean (Free from gum and flush them out with kerosene occasionally.) Spark advance for normal running speeds need to be 15 to 30 degrees before top dead center and on most of the older engines was manually controlled.


Gas Engine Magazine A_M 16Gas Engine Magazine is your best source for tractor and stationary gas engine information.  Subscribe and connect with more than 23,000 other gas engine collectors and build your knowledge, share your passion and search for parts, in the publication written by and for gas engine enthusiasts! Gas Engine Magazine brings you: restoration stories, company histories, and technical advice. Plus our Flywheel Forum column helps answer your engine inquiries!

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