Saturday, 28 November 2009
Driving the Motor Car - American Boy magazine 1916
Driving the Motor Car
How to Start the Motor, Use the Clutch and Shift the Gears
By A. HYATT VERRILL
THE BEST WAY to learn to drive a car is to have some experienced and competent driver accompany you, and show you each step in the process. This is not essential, however, if you are willing to go slowly and learn one thing at a time and in proper order. Most owners are so anxious actually to drive their car along the roads, or through the streets, that they start forth long before they have thoroughly mastered even the rudiments of driving. As a result they become nervous and "rattled" when an occasion arises which they have not foreseen, or else they are possessed with over-confidence. In either case, trouble and serious accidents are likely to follow.
In driving a car, you should school yourself to follow a definite and regular routine, especially as regards the preliminaries to starting out. If you make it a point to do this from the very first, you will eliminate a vast amount of trouble, and you will be free from many vexatious delays and minor accidents which are due to lack of care in seeing that the car is actually in condition for operation before taking it from the garage.
Always examine the lubricator or oil-container and grease-cups, and have them filled with the proper grade of oil and grease. Always fill the radiator with water, and if there are leaks about the hose connections, pump, etc., see that they are tight before starting forth. Examine the brakes, and see that they grip and release readily. Examine the tires, and be sure that they are properly inflated and are in good condition. A poorly inflated tire soon wears out, and a sudden blow-out or rim cut may cause a car to upset, skid, or collapse. See that the emergency brake-lever is set; make sure that the gear-shift lever is in neutral; open the throttle about one-third; retard the spark to the limit, and the car is ready to start (Fig. 1.)
An advanced spark lever may cause the engine to "kick back" when starting and thus break or injure the operator's arm. A gear, in mesh, will cause the car to jump ahead and run down the operator, if he is standing before the car; or even if he escapes injury, the car may dash into bystanders or vehicles. If the gears are free and the brake released there may be no danger in starting the car when on smooth, level ground; but sometime you may start it when on a hill or on an uneven surface and, if the brake is off, an accident may occur. If the brake is always set before starting the motor, such a disaster will never occur.
Starting the Motor
IF THE CAR is provided with a starter, it is only necessary to "press the button," so to speak, and the starter will "do the rest," but if the car is of the "cranking" variety, or the starter refuses to work, you should start the motor in the proper manner. Many drivers seem to think that it is necessary to open the throttle, retard the spark, turn on the switch, and turn the crank. In a general way this is perfectly true; but not one man in three uses any judgment in the amount by which he opens the throttle, or in the manner in which he holds or turns the crank. If the throttle is opened too far, the motor will start off with a roar at high speed, or in other words will "race," and one minute of racing will do more to injure a motor than several hundred miles of ordinary road work. The throttle should be opened just as little as possible, and it is an excellent plan to experiment by opening the throttle a notch at a time, until the motor starts. Then mark the exact spot where the throttle-lever was set, and place it at that spot whenever you crank the motor.
Most operators grasp the handle of the crank in the right hand, with the fingers on one side and the thumb on the other (Fig. 2). With the hand in this position, if the motor back-fires or "kicks," a broken arm, sprained wrist, or torn hand may result. Grasp the handle with the fingers and with the thumb on the same side, and there will be no danger. Another fault of many operators is that they stand in such a position that if the motor kicks, the crank may be thrown violently against the body, shoulder, or leg with serious results. If you can start the motor by using your left hand on the crank, by all means do so—it is the safer method. If you must use your right hand, turn your body away from the car, facing the right hand wheel of the car, and keep your left hand and arm out of reach of the crank. Very few engines will ever "kick" if the spark is retarded when starting, but if you always expect the motor to kick and act accordingly, you will be on the safe side. Never "push down" on the crank. Either pull up, or else "spin" the motor. A motor in good working order, with the carburetor properly adjusted and with a good, strong spark, should start readily by merely pulling up the crank once or twice. In cold weather it may be necessary to "spin" it, but it is usually easier and safer to prime the motor by injecting a little gasoline into the cylinders, through the pet-cocks. In very cold weather, if the motor is difficult to start, use half-and-half ether and gasoline for priming.
If you do spin the motor, never start the operation by pushing down; start with an upward pull, and whirl the crank completely around its circle. Most good motors, if properly adjusted, may be started "on the spark." which obviates all danger of a backfire and consequent injury from a flying crank. To start a cold motor "on the spark," spin it once or twice with the throttle well open and the switch off. Then turn on the switch, and if the motor does not start, move the spark-lever back and forth a slight distance. If your pistons arc tight and the mixture right, the engine will start when the electrical connection is made. If the car has been running and the throttle is swung well open as you turn off the switch to stop, the motor can usually be started on the spark by merely turning on the switch and moving the spark-lever back and forth. Whether the motor can be started in this way or not depends upon the condition of the engine, the temperature of the air, and the length of time it has been standing.
Using the Clutch
IT IS a good plan to become familiar with handling the steering wheel, applying the brakes, and shifting the gears before actually going out on the road, especially if you have no expert along to help you. A good way to do this is to jack up the rear axle until both wheels are clear of the floor, place blocking under them to support the car steadily, and fix good big cleats or chocks both in front of and behind the front wheels. Now start the motor, take your seat, shut the throttle and retard the spark until the motor is running slowly and smoothly, and imagine you are actually driving on the road. First try throwing the clutch out and in. Press your foot against the clutch-pedal, at the same time keeping your hands on the steering wheel, and hold the pedal down for a moment; release it slowly and gently, and then repeat the operation over and over until you can do it without even glancing: towards your feet. Next practice touching the accelerator slightly just after letting the clutch in, and keep at this until you can release the clutch, let it slip gently back, and accelerate the motor with perfect ease and confidence, and without giving the operation any voluntary thought.
Next try shifting gears. Depress the clutch-pedal, and at the same time swing the gear-lever in or out (as the case may be) and into the first speed position (Fig. 3). Just as it slides into this position, allow the clutch to slip in gently, and slightly touch the accelerator. The rear wheels, will at once commence to spin, you may now try throwing on the foot brake. Don't throw the brake on hard and suddenly with the clutch in; but depress the clutch and push slowly and firmly with the other foot on the brake-pedal until the wheels cease to revolve. Repeat this operation several times until you become thoroughly familiar with the motions, and then try the emergency or hand brake in the same way. When accustomed to doing this, without having to look for the brake-lever, try using both brakes together. Next try shifting to a higher gear. Depress the clutch-pedal, and swing the gear-lever through the gate into the position of second speed; at the same instant gently release the clutch and touch the accelerator. When you have practiced this until you can shift from first to second without any trouble, and without making a grinding or grating sound of the gears, try shifting from second to third, or high. As this merely necessitates bringing the lever straight back or straight forward from the second speed position, you will find it far easier than the more complicated motion required to shift from first to second. Don't try to shift too quickly or with a slam-bang; move the lever smoothly, firmly, and rather slowly from one position to another, and do not let the clutch jump back into position, but ease it slowly in with the pressure of your foot on the pedal. Care must be taken not to run the motor swiftly when practicing in this way, and if, when shifting the gears, there is a grating or grinding sound, press upon the foot brake to slow down the motion of the wheels which may be revolving too rapidly to allow the gears to be safely shifted.
Don't try to shift "down" from high to second, or from second to first, while the wheels are in motion. It's a hard matter to do this with the car actually moving on the road, and it's far more difficult when the wheels are running idle. If the lever is in high or second and you wish to shift to a lower gear, place the lever in neutral (with the clutch thrown out), stop the wheels by means of the brakes, and start all over again from first speed.
Learning on the Road
THE GREAT ADVANTAGE of this method of becoming familiar with the handling of clutch, gears, brakes, etc., is that when you first attempt a road lesson you will be able to give your entire attention to steering, and you will not have to look or feel about to find the levers and pedals. It is not absolutely necessary, however, and if there is a stretch of good, smooth, open highway in your neighborhood, you may learn to drive the car on the road from the first. Select a stretch where there is little traffic, no railway or trolley crossings, few crossroads, and no ditches or stone walls.
The first steps in road driving should be the same as already given in detail. That is, the beginner should look over his car. See that everything is in order, start the motor, release the hand-brake, throw-out the clutch, shift the gear-lever from neutral into first, let the clutch in gently, and press the accelerator slightly. The spark, however, should be further advanced than when practicing with the wheels free. As soon as the car is moving smoothly along on first speed, throw out the clutch, shift the gear-lever to second speed and set the clutch in. Don't attempt to drive faster than second until you have become familiar with the use of the brakes and the steering-wheel. As you proceed, try the foot brake; practice stopping within certain distances; and learn to steer straight and without zigzagging or wobbling from side to side of the road. You will find that a very slight motion of the steering-wheel will swerve the car, and a great fault with many beginners is in moving the wheel too much. Don't try to keep the wheel absolutely motionless and rigid. This will tire and strain your hands and arms and it is not necessary; only a firm, easy grip is required, and a little motion back and forth does no harm.
It is impossible to describe just how to steer a car; it is a trick which can only be acquired with practice, and if you learn while running on second, or even first speed, you will have little trouble. The main thing is to correct each deviation of the car by a slight touch of the wheel, and to avoid swinging the car back and forth by violent motions of the wheel.
When you can easily and safely guide the car along the road, can steer around imaginary obstacles, and can hug one side of the road without running into the bank, you may attempt running on third or high speed; but be careful not to go too fast, for it is far harder to steer when running rapidly than when running slowly. Also remember to keep one foot on the brake-pedal and the other foot on the clutch-pedal. If the car shows any signs of swerving or of becoming unmanageable, throw out the clutch and put on the brake at once. Then shift the control to neutral, wait till the car comes to a standstill, and start over again at first speed.
The secret of shifting gears easily, quietly and smoothly, lies in acquiring the knack of checking or accelerating the speed of the motor at just the right moment and the proper amount. This is necessary in order to bring the speed of the various gears into a more or less uniform speed so that they will mesh without grinding or jarring. When the ear is proceeding on a low gear, the motor and the driving or "lay" shaft are revolving a great deal faster than the main or driven shaft. Hence, if the gears are shifted to a higher speed or "shifted up," as it is termed, the motor and lay shaft must be slowed down until they are revolving at practically the same speed as the driven or main shaft. This is usually accomplished with little trouble, for as soon as the clutch is thrown out and the lever is moved to the neutral position, the free shaft and gears slow down of their own accord or are checked by a clutch-brake which operates in unison with the clutch-pedal. When changing from a high to a lower gear or "shifting down" the conditions are reversed, for then the main or driven shaft is revolving more rapidly than the driving shaft and gears. For this reason, it is more difficult to shift down than to shift up and a great deal of practice is required in order to accomplish the operation properly.
By throwing out the clutch, shifting the lever to the neutral position, letting in the clutch, accelerating the motor and then again throwing out the clutch and changing to the desired gear, the shift down may be carried out smoothly and safely. This is known as "double-declutching" and after you have learned to shift gears up without difficulty, you should practice shifting down in this way until proficient.
Having mastered the operation of the clutch, the brakes and the accelerator, you are in a position where further proficiency is largely a matter of practice coupled with good judgment. Study the instruction book furnished with the car and follow the directions for operation for your particular make of car.
Of course, you know the most elementary of all the rules of the road—that you turn to the right to pass a vehicle approaching you. When you are passing a vehicle which you have overtaken, always turn to the left and sound the horn before you attempt to go by. Slow down in rounding turns and keep close to the right-hand side of the road. Before you stop or attempt to cross the road to turn up a crossroad to the left, put out your arm horizontally so that the driver behind will be warned of your intentions and will not crash into you.
Every wise motorist makes Safety First his maxim. Do not take chances, proceed carefully. It is better to be safe than sorry.
IF YOU DESIRE information concerning any particular make of motor car in which you are interested, address " The Automobile Editor, THE AMERICAN BOY, Detroit, Mich.," and he will see to it that the information is supplied to you.
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.