View Full Version : Starting handles and trafficators...

06-20-2004, 11:44 PM
I had the pleasure of hanging out most of the day at a local car show with the owner of a 1950 Austin A40 Devon (that belongs to a member of our local club).

He took great pleasure all day in demonstrating his use of the starter handle to start the car as well as showing off the trafficators. It brought back good (or bad?) memories for all the old timers, and absolutely astounded some of the younger people who had never seen anything like it before. I for one have never before really seen use of a starting handle, or don't recall seeing the use of trafficators.

We also heard tales all day of early motoring with Austin Devon's, including some incredibly long trips back when the cars were contemporary and the average "highway" in Canada was gravel.

06-21-2004, 12:07 AM
My Imp came with its starting handle and I always thought it was really cool having a starting handle that went in the back of the car instead of the front!

Sadly the dog for the handle kept unscrewing itself. I perservered for a while, trying all sorts of things to keep it done up. In the end removed the dog and replaced it with a regular nut as I was afraid of pulleys flying around in the engine bay. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/frown.gif

06-21-2004, 08:07 AM
You are mentioning my first "official" car (I "shared" several other cars before this).
Recently, an old buddy of mine, from high school mentioned that he had taken some pix of the car back then (around 1966). Here's a picture he scanned and sent to me not long ago. That's me at age 15, long before the grey hair came. We rarely cranked it with the handle since it was easier to get my friends to push it. We also used to put 2 batteries in series (24V) to get it going, but the electic starter eventually fried. Trafficators never worked but they looked cool.
Eventually, it snapped a rod. We pulled the broken bits out, and drove it for a while longer on 3 pistons. I have a few others he sent me:


06-21-2004, 08:25 AM
Here's a picture of the Austin David (aka 78Z around here) sent me... (gotta get a digital camera sometime /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/rolleyes.gif) Actually, yesterday was only the second time I've ever seen a Devon in good shape, not counting some rusty wrecks I've seen


06-22-2004, 11:49 PM
James..........My 48 Rover has a starting handle and working trafficators which you looked at last year at Haugens /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/canpatriot.GIF /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/thumbsup.gif

Bill Robertson

06-23-2004, 10:52 AM
No experience wth trafficators, but until comparatively recently, Citroen were still including starting handles with all of their air-cooled cars, notably the GS/GSA, the 2CV and the Dyane. Great emergency backup, and I did actually use the thing once or twice. Love those Citroens!

Ken G
06-23-2004, 01:20 PM
I am surprised that no-one has mentioned an important use of the starting handle, namely to turn the engine by small amounts while setting/checking ignition or valve timing. I cannot start my Rover using the handle (I'm not strong enough) but nonetheless I use the handle frequently. If you have no handle, you have to jack up a driving wheel, put the car in the highest gear, and turn the wheel (but this does have the advantage that you can turn the engine backwards as well as forwards!); that was the method I used on my Mini back in the 1960s.

Ken G, 1925 Rover 16/50 (San Francisco)

06-25-2004, 05:56 PM
Aloha Sherlock,

As Ken pointed out, the starter handle is very helpful with many of maintenance checks. I had a failed starter motor and probably went about two years before I replaced it, during that time I used the hand crank to start the car. It always drew some curious looks and often questions.

If the ignition is working properly, about a one quick quarter turn will start the engine. My technique is to crank slowly a few turns with ignition off, this draws fuel into the cylinders. Crank around until you come up to a compression stroke (you will be able to feel the increased resistance), turn on the ignition and crank quickly. A safety note is that you should always use an cupped grip (fingers and thumb on the same side off the handle) in case the engine back fires. A back fire can jam the handle against your hand sharply, if the thumb is in the way it can be sprained or broken. A common aliment before electric starters.

Safety Fast,

06-30-2004, 08:49 PM
Taken directly from my web site regarding my 1953 MG YB...

Upon leaving my sister's house late on Thanksgiving night, I found myself with a drained battery. I had stupidly left not only the keys in the ignition but the ignition itself on earlier in the day after showing off the trafficators. Fortunately I had a battery charger in the trunk and it really doesn't take much to start the car, so my sister, brother-in-law and I went out into the cold night to try charging the battery enough to get the car going. After several attempts the car still didn't have enough power to start as the battery was completely dead. Rather than mess with jumper cables, I decided to try and crank start the car which is something I had never done before on any vehicle. Fortunately I had recently seen a web site showing the proper way to crank a car - palms up. I turned on the ignition, inserted the crank and gave a pull, then a second. I pulled the choke out, then cranked a third time and the car came to life!

Crank still in hand, I raised my arms in victory. Quite unexpectedly I heard applause and cheering from a crowd of people down the street. I gave a wave and laughed as I cleaned up the charger and extention cords. Then, just as I was packing it all in the trunk, the car died. It may have had too much choke. No problem, I was excited to crank the car again anyway! I cranked it until I broke out in a sweat and just couldn't get it started this time. So swallowing my pride I decided jumper cables were the best way to go.

Of course the car started immediately so we put away the cables and moved the donor car. I said goodbye again and turned on the headlamp switch.

Nothing happened.

These cars don't charge until the engine has sufficient revs to get the generator going so I had no power to the lights. I decided I would simply drive the car and have faith the lights would remain on so long as I was at speed. So off I went in the dark, but as I hoped, the lights brightened with more engine speed and that's how I drove the 40 miles home.

07-04-2004, 02:53 PM

Say Ken, Did you know that you can simply put the car in gear and rock it!---Keoke /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/yesnod.gif

07-05-2004, 11:24 PM
A starter handle?? My 1973 Land Rover Series 3 had one, Plus alot of other cool stuff like a PTO that came through the rear bumper to run all kinds of farm/industrial equipment.

I really miss that truck, except for the 10deg days in NE driving to work barley able to feel my fingers or see through the windshield!!

Sure was fun in the Summer though./ubbthreads/images/graemlins/cool.gif
heres a shot of her on the beach: https://home.comcast.net/~ghamilton99/wsb/html/view.cgi-photo.html--SiteID-1463097.html

Geo Hahn
07-06-2004, 02:34 PM
...A safety note is that you should always use an cupped grip (fingers and thumb on the same side off the handle) in case the engine back fires. A back fire can jam the handle against your hand sharply, if the thumb is in the way it can be sprained or broken. A common aliment before electric starters...

[/ QUOTE ]

I usually do a couple of crank-starts at car shows for the benefit of the younger generation of car enthusiasts. Yes, I use the open-hand method -- though my engine doesn't seem prone to backfiring. I have heard that those who have engines that tend to back-fire use the thumb-wheel on the dizzy to retard the timing a few degrees to make it easier to start, then reset to running spec.

BTW - it is possible to crank start even if you have added an electric fan (on a TR3A anyway, probably on others too).

Ken G
07-08-2004, 04:35 PM
Only on a perfectly flat smooth surface, and I didn't and don't have such a one! Besides, that wouldn't be practical single-handed with my Rover, weighing about 3700 lbs.

Ken G, 1925 Rover 16/50 (San Francisco)