Safely Hand Cranking A Model “A”

Always grip the crank with the thumb wrapped below with the fingers. NEVER push the crank down the right side of the rotation!

Starting a Model A with the hand crankwas once as common as driving one.  It seems hand cranking has become nearly a lost art over the decades.  Following a few basic rules, hand cranking is perfectly safe and quite simple.  The hand crank should be one of the most useful tools in your toolbox!

The following list outlines the procedures for starting your Model A with the hand crank.  The specifics apply to a properly tuned engine.  Some variations may be required and are discussed later.

  1. Set the emergency brake and be sure the shifter is in neutral.
  2. Retard the spark by raising the left (spark) lever to the top of its quadrant.
  3. Lower the throttle lever approximately three notches, or until the gas pedal lowers very slightly.
  4. Adjust the mixture on the dash to the setting appropriate for the conditions.
  5. With the ignition OFF, hold the choke out (fully closed).  This will require either a helper, a pull cord from the lever on the carburetor to the front of the vehicle, or one of those modern undersized and sticky choke rod grommets.
  6. Carefully position the crank in place engaging the ratchet with the crank left of center in the lower of the two possible positions.  Grasp the crank as shown in the photo above, paying close attention to the thumb position below the handle. Pull the crank to the top briskly but carefully.  Repeat with a second pull.  At this point there should be gas running slightly from the carburetor to the floor.
  7. Release the choke and turn ON the ignition.
  8. One more pull of the crank and the engine should start.  NEVER push the crank down the right side of the rotation with the key on!
  9. Advance the spark lever about half way down the quadrant and adjust the throttle speed.

Other considerations: Although there is no serious risk of injury when handling the crank as shown, it’s startling when a kickback occurs.  Most kickbacks occur when the choke is closed.  The probability varies depending on the position of the crank ratchet relative to top dead center.  Leaving the switch off during the choking step almost eliminates the chance of kickbacks.

With a low battery the engine will fire more quickly by hand than with the starter because the starter isn’t starving the ignition system.

Variations: The car should start similar by hand as it does with the starter.  For example, using the starter I always start my cold A’s with the choke pulled for exactly two compression strokes or one turn of the crankshaft.  At that point, I release the choke and the engine fires.  I NEVER hold the choke until it fires as suggested in the Model “A” Instruction Book.

If your car REQUIRES the choke to be held more than two compression strokes with the starter, you may need to adjust step #6 similarly.

Experiment with a good battery so if you have difficulty starting, you can use the starter to determine if the problem is too much or too little gas.  Be conservative with the choke.  It is much easier to repeat the process than to hand start a flooded engine. A flooded engine is guaranteed to provide more exercise than you desire!

If your hand crank binds when inserted through the starting crank bushing and into the crank ratchet, don’t crank start your car.  Too much bind will prevent the crank from releasing from the ratchet.

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