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Hand Starting a Model T Without Breaking Your Arm


After seeing a video on Facebook showing a guy starting a Model T by pushing down on the crank with his right hand, and then spinning it with both hands, there were a lot of reactions from people who knew better. This was mine.


Some guys crank like that and are lucky enough to escape unscathed. But they're courting disaster. I DID break my arm with stupid cranking like that, and I can tell you it hurts like Hell. I passed out on the ground, and when I came to I drove to the hospital one-handed. Since then I've paid attention to how you start a Model T correctly.

1   Start ONLY by pulling up on the left. NEVER go over the top. If your car won't start that way, fix it.

2   It's better to pull with the left hand because if there is a kickback it's likely to throw your hand out of the way so it isn't struck by the spinning crank. The notion that you're going to pull your right hand out of the way before that crank comes around is an idiotic fantasy. That spin is so fast the damage will be done before you know what happened.

"But I'm not left-handed." You don't have to be. This is not a fine motor skill like throwing a baseball or handwriting. Just pulling up on the crank requires no dexterity at all. It's just pulling.

"But it's awkward pulling the choke wire with my right hand while pulling the crank with my left." Of course it is. So don't do it. Pull the choke wire with your left hand and pull with your right WITH THE IGNITION OFF. Then turn on the ignition and pull with your left hand to start.

"I've been cranking this way for ___ years and never had a problem." YET. At age 73 Karl Wallenda had never fallen off a high wire. Then he went splat. The fact that something hasn't happened doesn't mean that it won't.

Here's how fast the kickback happens. Note that with left-hand cranking it does no damage.

And here's  safer starting.


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