The ATIS Stationary Engine Mailing List is a growing internet group of engine enthusiasts. Recent discussions have not been entirely engine orientated over the holiday season, but one of our annual events did throw up an interesting and useful topic. Each year, for New Years, we hold a
world-wide crank up in memory of engine friends now past on. The exact timing for the crank up is not essential, as New Year lasts from New Zealand to California. It is this geographical spread of the List which brought a question from Canada:

I have never attempted to start one of my engines in this kind of cold weather before so I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions to avoid undue cranking. Someone told me once to put hot water in the hopper prior to start up so it will be a little easier but I was worried about cracking something. Thoughts and ideas would be appreciated.

I suppose by the time this is in print, spring will be here and thoughts will be turning to the coming show season rather than snowy starts, but it is useful information to store for the future - you’ll have fun next winter going through the year’s back issues of GEM looking for it! Ignoring a few of the suggestions such as “let your wife crank it” or “move your engines to California”, here are some of the tips the List came up with.

Hot water will work wonders. You don’t need to worry about it cracking.

Hot water will hurt nothing, and likely make your engine easier to start. Another idea is to bring the engine inside the night before and let it warm up a bit, or even put a 40 watt (lit) light bulb in the hopper for 12-24 hours or so (with a pan of some kind as a lid for the hopper.) Anything to get it a bit warm.

I've also had great success with adding a couple of buckets of hot water to the hopper. In fact that's the recommended procedure for cold weather starting in all of the old owners manuals that I've read.

To which I could add that draining the hopper while it is still warm helps it to dry out fully.

We have our DeLaval running on propane, and put hot water in the hopper before every start. Let it sit for a couple of minutes until the cylinder is warmed up. No problem.

It is also possible to to add anti-freeze to the hopper water, but take care not to let it splash on the paintwork - which brings with it its own advice.

Keep the water level 3" below the top of the hopper and it will not slop over.

Toss in as big a piece of 1/2" thick wood that will fit in the hopper. That will also help keep the a/f mix from sloshing out. Don't use plywood as it will go to pieces. You have to take the wood out occasionally to dry it out. It won't float after it soaks up so much water.

Use a kirk sanding patch - it's a cork block that fits in your handpalm. These cork blocks are light and make no noise in the hopper. You got them in the local paint shop.

Now here is an example of how this list works. Now that I know what we are talking about, I can go out to the shop and make a slopper stopper out of a big block of cork that I had lying around. I like that.

The number one thing about getting an engine to start, whether or not it is cold, is to have no one watching. There is a scientific principle that states: "The length of time it takes an engine to start is directly proportional to the number of people watching you try to start it." The sister scientific law is that: "The length of time it takes to start an engine at a show is inversely related to how well you know the people who are watching you start the engine."
So in cold weather, be sure that no one is around when you try to start an engine.

This may be of some interest to those wanting to start old engines on days when the low temp is not favorable to such activities.
I have a Perkins Diesel powered tractor that is a no start at temps below 50 degrees so this morning I got my little 500 degree heat gun and stuck it down the air intake while holding down on the start lever. It started right up fast . I may just use the trick on my flywheel engine on New Years Day if it is too cold to start easily.

The owner's manual of my dad's Diesel Chevette suggested sticking a blow dryer in the intake horn of the air cleaner. Same idea, but your heat gun's a bit more intense. I'd be cautious about using that 500 degree thing in a carburettor with gasoline.

As things turned out, I don’t think many of our List Members had much of a problem with the cold this year. It was colder in California than Pittsburgh, and the Australians only had red-bellied snakes to contend with!

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