How to Crank-Start a Tractor

Contributed Article

Talk of the Town:
How to Hand Crank a Tractor

This interesting discussion is from the Tractor Talk Discussion Forum. Remember that safety is your first priority - make sure you know what you are doing before attempting a potentially dangerous activity!

The discussion started out with the following post:

" I recently acquired a old Case CC a while back and would like some tips on hand cranking tractors. Is it easier and most importantly safer to just pull start with another tractor, or should I hand crank? All the other Cases I have are electric start, so any help and suggestions are appreciated. Thanks! "

What followed are some interesting replies:

" If the tractor is properly tuned, hand cranking is a relatively simple process. Two major things to look out for: NEVER, EVER wrap your thumb around the crank. Cup your hand and lay your thumb along side the crank handle. If, for some reason, she kicks back (backfires) and the crank doesn't disengage, you won't spend an hour looking all over the yard for your thumb. For the same reason, crank only on the UPSTROKE. Pushing down on the crank is a good way to get your elbow permanently embedded in your ear. On my F14, the procedure goes like this:

1. Turn on the gas
2. Advance the throttle a couple of notches
3. Double check to make sure it's in neutral
4. Set the spark advance about half way
5. Set the choke
6. Engage the crank onto the crankshaft pins and turn SLOWLY until you are at or near the bottom of the stroke and you hear the impulse on the mag click.
7. Pull up sharply to the top of the stroke and let go of the crank. 8. Repeat 6 and 7 until it starts.

Mine will start 2nd or 3rd crank in warm weather on a cold engine. Then I advance the spark fully and diddle with the choke until it's warmed up. It's a lot easier than starting another tractor, finding some one to drive, hooking up a chain, and dragging it around the yard. Looks cooler too. "

" That other fellow gave a good procedure. Broke my arm doing that once. Easy to forget how dangerous this old stuff is. Do you have a hill to park it on? "

" Roger Welsch had a good (I thought) suggestion in his book "Old Tractors and the Men Who Love Them". He made some protective sleeves out of 4 inch PVC sewer pipe that he puts on his forearms when he cranks an engine. He got whacked once and came up with the idea. "

" All of the advice given so far is good advice and should be followed. But above all, always remember to only pull up. NEVER push down on the crank. I used to start a TD 6 (same engine as MD) by hand and never had any problem getting it to start by the 3rd or 4th pull. "

" A previous poster has the procedure exactly right. Follow it and you will stay alive. I once me a fellow who was 60% disabled for life by a 1924 Sterling. He thought the spark was retarded, it wasn't. His thumb was wrapped around the crank. The engine kicked back, and broke every bone in his arm and totally destroyed his elbow. I would like to add that you should make sure that the crank disengages properly. On many older machines the dog which the crank engages has become so worn that the crank might become stuck. When the engine starts the crank becomes a deadly flail. Most permanently mounted cranks have some sort of spring to assist in the disengagement. Another anecdote: John Mack, a founder of Mack Trucks, was killed by a stuck crank. It yanked him off of his feed (He must have wrapped his thumb around it) and smashed him on the back of the head when it came back around.

Oh, another thing we forgot to mention: Make sure the impulse coupler on your magneto works properly. Otherwise, you could crank for the rest of your life and it won't start. "

" Considering the stuck crank. It might be wise to put a little grease on the end of the crank to aid in disengaging. "

" When I finally get my F30 ready for starting, it will be pulled first. If it runs OK, then I will hand crank it. My concern, and I don't know if its the same on other tractors, is the crank. Its removable and might sling off and hit me. "

" This is something that hasn't been mentioned: How well the crank fits. I have seen many tractors that the crank or its shaft was worn to the point where it would wobble and wouldn't stay in place when cranking. We have an MM Z that you can't crank because the crank wont stay in. A kid that worked for us got his eyebrow layed open when the crank came out while cranking. I had to make a new shaft for my Farmall regular because it was worn so bad. I haven't done it yet but I am also going to weld up and redrill the hole in the crank itself to make it fit like original. "

" By now you must have the idea that there is some danger. Back in 1951, when I was 14, I worked for a farmer who had a AC "B". This tractor had to be cranked every time because it had no starter. One day while we were hauling hay I killed the tractor while Bernie was up on the load of hay, so I proceeded to crank it. It ended up whacking my right arm. Man did that hurt. no broken bones though. Long story short. Bernie showed me how to stand with my right hand placed on the radiator grill, and my left hand on the crank with my thumb not curled around the handle. I then pulled the crank up to the top of the stroke and with a quick pull toward me, using my right arm as a opposite push, pulling the crank and starting the tractor. Since then I have used this position with many other tractors very successfully. Even though the engine might kick back, it will do it in a direction opposite where you stand and pull the crank out of your hand instead of into it. Good luck and be safe "

" After reading all of this, it sounds like those old flywheel started ones, like the JDs are a lot safer!! "

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