General Tips

By E. Meloan

(This article was originally published in the January, 2001 issue of the Spark Coil.)

Howdy fellow Model T’ers!  I’d like to use the next column or two to talk about some short items that really don’t warrant a whole column but are things folks ask about from time to time.  If you know of a good tip or method of doing some repair or adjustment, please drop me an e-mail ( and I’ll include it in a later issue.

Gas Lines…  The original factory gas line from the tank to the carburetor on the Model T was made of brass.  It varied in how it was made over the years but it was always brass.  It was NOT copper!  A quick look at the lines on T’s on the tours will reveal that an awful lot of them are soft copper.  Soft copper is illegal in some states because it will fatigue from vibration and break!  The break is almost always at the carburetor end because that’s where most of the engine vibration is.  A broken gas line is not a pleasant experience!  At the least, it’s a nuisance to repair and it’s not a very good idea to have a stream of gasoline  splashing on the hot exhaust manifold and pipe!  The auto suppliers carry pre-formed steel brake lines which make very nice steel gas lines for our T’s.  If you’re running copper, consider replacing with a steel line.

Tire Pressure… I know we’ve talked about this in the past but it keeps coming up.  30 inch clincher tires MUST have at least 50 to 55 pounds of air pressure!  Less than 50 pounds will allow the tire and tube to creep on the rim and cut off the valve stem.  It also causes rim cuts.  21 inch tires take 35 pounds.

Timing Gears…Originally, Ford used a cast iron gear.  They still work well but are noisier than fiber.  A Fiber gear works well in a T without a generator and will work for a while in a T with a generator but  the generator does increase the strain on a fiber gear.  Originally, fiber gears were laminated layers of fabric impregnated with binders at high pressure.  These were tough gears!  Modern fiber gears are frequently not made of laminations  but are simply molded ground up material.  They do not last as well as laminated gears.  The T suppliers also sell an aluminum gear which is a better choice when running a generator.  It will stand up better than a fiber gear but no better than the original cast iron one.  Bronze gears are also available but are really not needed unless you are running an overhead valve conversion.

Lubricating King Pins & Shackles… Ever feel like the oil runs out of the king pins faster than you can fill the little oil cups?  Bill Eads (Model T Nuts) says he uses a mixture 90% 600w and 10% 30 w oil.  Sounds like a great idea!  A mixture of STP and motor oil would also probably work well.  Ever get tired of unscrewing the spring shackle grease cups, filling, screwing, unscrewing, filling… You get the idea.  You can hide a modern pressure grease fitting inside the original cup and then use your modern grease gun.  Just tap the inside of the cup, coat the new fitting with JB Weld and screw it in.   Let the JB Weld cure and that’s it!  Just take off the cup cap and grease away.  Keeps the original look too.

Timers and Top Dead Center… When it comes to setting the timer to fire plug one at TDC, all timers are NOT alike!  The neat little wrench Ford provided and T suppliers sell will set the rod at the correct place for an ORIGINAL Ford timer.  It will not set it correctly for some Tigers and ALL New Days.  Don’t use the gadget and then crank assuming it will be correct!  You will probably get an unpleasant surprise!  Remove plug one and carefully turn the engine over till the piston is at TDC on the compression stroke.  Putting your thumb over the spark plug hole will tell you when the compression stroke starts (you’ll feel pressure against your thumb).  With the piston at TDC the number one coil should just begin to buzz when you pull the spark lever down a notch.  Bob Thompson suggets a different method for the Anderson Timer so read his directions with care.

See you down the road…