free starts

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davidheavner
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free starts

Post by davidheavner » Sat Feb 16, 2019 10:58 pm

I decided to start up Speedy to get the juices circulating. I do this occasionally during the winter months, or when I can't get out and drive. After starting using the starter, I wanted to hand crank to see how easy it was in these temperatures. After hand cranking a couple of times, I turned the engine off then on again and got a free start. So much for hand cranking. I tried again and again a free start and then a third. Now my question. Are free starts a sign of a well tuned engine. This is what I have always heard. I am open to all opinions.


Tom Hicks
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Re: free starts

Post by Tom Hicks » Sun Feb 17, 2019 7:51 am

I had an engine that often got free starts when warmed up, as many as 10 in a row! So I started checking around and found (mostly from this forum) that a number of factors were involved.


Yes, the engine has to be well tuned, the coils in good shape.

For some reason my engine almost always stopped at the exact same spot in rotation after I cut off the ignition, and that spot was conducive to a free start. When the ignition was turned on with the engine in that position the coil would fire.

I was running my engine too rich, so there tended to be gas in the cylinder after I turned off the engine.

My idle was too high which resulted in gas in the cylinder after I turned off the engine.

I had a worn timer which may or may not have been a factor.

But I think a free start is a result of your carburetor not adjusted properly. Lean it out some, slow down the idle, nd then se if you get free starts.

Free starts are not necessarily a good thing, and could be an indication of something that needs adjusting. OTOH, I thought they were neat!
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Charlie B in N.J.
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Re: free starts

Post by Charlie B in N.J. » Sun Feb 17, 2019 7:56 am

Engines actually do stop in the (roughly) same places. I believe it's 2 spots for a 4 cyl. 3 for a 6 cyl. and 4 for an 8 cyl. Compression stops it.Tha's also the reason a bad spot in the flywheel teeth keeps finding the starter.
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samuel pine
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Re: free starts

Post by samuel pine » Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:18 am

I think I typed this the other day. What works for me is after a drive & all is well I just bring it to idle and
dont touch the spark shut her down, walk away and maybe 7 out of 10 turn key on batt. a little throttle then
I retard the spark and off it goes. Had this happen even stopped for a week time period. I need coils ones
I have are the original Stamped Ford that I had in stock from my fathers days, and his days were when they
were new, cause he bought a new touring in 1927. So he told me this trick or his trick back in the 50's. Far
as causing damage thats a wife's tale as well as being a pristine engine. Tales about cranks broken, so they
blame it on a free start when in fact it probably was ready to break in the first place. Keep in mind these
are low compression engines very forgiving.......


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Re: free starts

Post by Russ T Fender » Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:35 am

In my experience a well tuned and well worn engine gives the most free starts. After a rebuild with higher compression free starts are a rarety at best.

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John Warren
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Re: free starts

Post by John Warren » Sun Feb 17, 2019 9:14 am

I rebuilt an engine for Dads 26 touring 5 years ago. The babbitt bearings in the block was ok. New- Scat crank, Snyders new babbitted rods, hi-compression pistons and a timing gear advanced 7.5 deg. It has a standard original cam with adjustable lifters adjusted to .010 , not to piston timing. He gets free starts often, once after not driven for a month. He couldn't wait to call me on that one. So far so good. It seems to me that when I get free starts, it is always a fairly gentle affair. It is not a huge jolting explosion, just starts. Many times I don't get a free start but just the engine turns some. I would say that the 12v starter hits the engine harder. Something that should be added to all of this is the safety factor. It is possible for these cars to start when turning on the ignition, so ALWAYS assume that it may start, and have the car in neutral and brakes applied or wheels chalked. Make sure that everyone is clear. As we pilots would say, CLEAR PROP.
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Re: free starts

Post by Mike Royster » Sun Feb 17, 2019 10:35 am

I found Russ's comment true for my 16 as well. Free starts were common to me until I did a valve and ring job on the engine. Never since!

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Re: free starts

Post by Steve Jelf » Sun Feb 17, 2019 10:48 am

It's fun when you flip the switch, go around front to pull the crank, and the car starts as you're reaching for the handle.
The inevitable often happens.
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TWrenn
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Re: free starts

Post by TWrenn » Sun Feb 17, 2019 11:55 am

Steve..I had that happen to me once when leaving the local ice cream shop with some friends with my fairly newly rebuilt '15s engine..turned on the switch and it gave one grunt..so I walked around to the crank, leaned down and when my hand was 3 inches feom tje handle it started! Boy did I ever jump!! Ive heard since I sold it it gives free starts a lot. Including right off the bat in the transport trailer.
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Re: free starts

Post by fliverfan » Sun Feb 17, 2019 3:30 pm



Rich Bingham
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Re: free starts

Post by Rich Bingham » Sun Feb 17, 2019 4:57 pm

David asked, " . . . are free starts a sign of a well-tuned engine ? . . ."
It's my opinion free starts are an entirely metaphysical phenomenon that's indicative of the temperament of your Model T, its emotional state at any given time, and very likely dependent upon the depth of mutual affection between human and T.

When I bought my Lizzie, she came 2240 miles cross country, arriving in the belly of an enclosed transport long after dark on Halloween (!) The drivers unloaded her on the road under a street lamp, and rather nervously asked if I knew how to drive her. I told them it had been a while, but I reckoned so. I set the carb needle according to the previous owner's instructions, opened the throttle a little, turned the switch to "bat", and immediately got a free start, much to my surprise, but you could have knocked those truck drivers over with a feather. It gets better. As I was backing her into the garage, owing to my climsiness from lack of practice I stalled the engine. Setting up to re-start, I got a second free start! At that point, I reckoned she must like me, and we would enjoy a very pleasant partnership.

And so we have, although it was well over a year before she gave me another free start. :lol: That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.
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Re: free starts

Post by yukonjack » Sun Feb 17, 2019 5:56 pm

I get free starts regularly with mine, always when the engine is cold, not warm...3 priming pulls and we're off! My dad always told me to approach a free start backwards: timing fully advanced, ignition on, and slowly retard the spark until it fires.

Dad was born in '26, but my grandfather could never get the hang of shifting a sliding gear transmission so they were still driving Model Ts at home when Dad left for Europe in '44. He used to tell how crappy the fuel was during the depression (and how crappy he thought the vaporizer carbs were when they got they got some age on them) so he had never seen a free start until they found a 55 gallon drum mostly buried on the beach at their camp after a storm, which turned out to be fresh avgas...he said they didn't have to crank the car again until they'd burned up all that free gas!


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davidheavner
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Re: free starts

Post by davidheavner » Sun Feb 17, 2019 11:52 pm

Love the stories guys. My engine was rebuilt before I got it and it looks pristine when I had the cover off and looked up inside. I also notice that when I get free starts it is when I retard the spark before shutting down the engine. I retard the spark with the engine running so I won't forget to retard the spark before restarting the engine. I guess I will have to remember to always check the spark before restarting. Tom I will also bring the idle down before shutting off the engine. My timer is fine. We checked it when we rebuilt the transmission. Thanks to all of you for the input.


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Re: free starts

Post by Norman Kling » Mon Feb 18, 2019 12:36 pm

When I start my T's, they have usually been setting for from a few days to weeks or months, so the engine is completely cold and all compression has leaked out of the cylinders. So they won't start until a few turns with the starter or a few pulls of the crank.
However, when I am parked somewhere after having driven the car and usually if someone comes up to me and asks for a crank start demonstration, I turn on the key and get a free start. This will only happen if I turn it to battery, because if the timer is in just the right place and the engine has been run it will spark and start. If not immediately when I turn on the key, sometimes when I get to the front to reach for the crank. I don't think I have ever gotten a free start from an engine which has been cold for a day or two.
Norm


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Re: free starts

Post by Scott_Conger » Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:42 pm

Rich

my wheezy '13 gave me a free start after about 10-12 days of storage. If someone told me the same thing, I would not believe them. At All. I would have argued that it was impossible, given compression leak-down. And yet, I have experienced a "long" storage free-start myself...almost hurt me as I was about to engage the crank when it went off and started, without warning (something newcommers to stemwinders should be aware of...it happens). Many free-starts over the course of 15 years of ownership of 4 Ts...but only one free-start after sitting a long time. Very uncommon, to the point of being Implausible Myth, but I've experienced it. A nice loose engine with properly operating systems can do it all day long.
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Re: free starts

Post by Norman Kling » Mon Feb 18, 2019 4:51 pm

If the engine is well tuned and the neutral is free, all you need is 1/2 turn of the crankshaft for the next spark to occur, so it is possible to get a free start if there is just enough fuel in the cylinder to ignite with the first spark.
Norm


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Re: free starts

Post by modernbeat » Mon Feb 18, 2019 6:30 pm

The completely worn out and badly tuned engine in my '26 RPU gives free starts about half the time.
So, I wouldn't take it as gospel that a free start is a sign of a good, well tuned engine.
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Re: free starts

Post by Scott_Conger » Mon Feb 18, 2019 6:50 pm

You're right. A rebuilt engine will nearly always be too tight to free-start. The looser, the more likely it will happen. And while you may believe it is not well tuned, if it is free-starting, at least your coils are throwing a good spark.
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Re: free starts

Post by Ruxstel24 » Mon Feb 18, 2019 7:06 pm

I will venture to say, a miss tuned engine, incorrectly adjusted timer, can give you a free trip to the hospital.
If you're at BTDC, spark can and will turn the engine backwards :shock:


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Re: free starts

Post by signsup » Tue Feb 19, 2019 9:28 am

Not to hijack the thread, but the op's comment about his engine stopping in the same place could be a good news/bad news scenario. We ran into a period of time where we were jamming our starter Bendix and had to loosen the Bendix cover or rock the T to get it to clear. We suspected that we havd some weak, bent or damaged gears on the flywheel and the engine stopping at the same place every time meant we were trying to use the same gears to start. So, with the key off, we hand crank a quarter or half or 3/4 turn and then try to use the starter. Seems to have helped.

It also never fails that when demonstrating the car at an event about how to hand crank the car, when I turn the key
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Re: free starts

Post by Corey Walker » Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:20 am

I had a battery on mine in 94 and I don’t know exactly how I had the timing set because I was new to T’s but one time when I went to push the crank in with my right hand it just so happened to fire, backwards. The crank spun around and hit the back of my hand where my thumb starts. It crammed my hand into a 1958 license plate I had on there for no reason, resulting in me having to get stitches.
Corey Walker, Brownsboro, Texas

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