Tips – General



Model A specifications
Canadian Engine Numbers
Starting Procedure
Must Take Items on Long Runs
Emergency Radiator Filling
AR Designation Explained


Starting Procedure

(Distributors/Timing: : Held at A & E Jeffree’s home 12/12/10)

Two aspects of starting procedure and efficient running of a Model A came out of the discussions on the day.

  1. Where do you have the spark lever for starting and running?
  2. What does the mixture screw do (choke rod) and where should you turn it to for starting and driving?

Below I have listed the starting procedures from the original Model A Handbook which came with each new Model A, but first a couple of explanations.

The spark lever is there to control the spark (advance, retard) so that in the case of a back fire while starting, it protects the starter from damage or destruction.  Ford vehicles after 1931 had advance and retard built into the distributor and the spark lever was no more!

The mixture screw/choke rod has two tasks:

Firstly as a choke: when pulled up it provides extra petrol to the engine for starting.  It shouldn’t be needed again after the cold start.

Secondly, turning this rod controls the amount of fuel that gets into the carburettor once started.  If it is too closed (lean/clockwise) the engine will not perform well, and may stop if the carburettor is in good condition.  Running too lean will damage your engine valves and cause overheating.  If too far open (rich/anti-clockwise), the engine runs rich consuming more petrol than needed, and your exhaust will belch black smoke and your vehicle will not run nicely!

Son Darren has an oxygen sensor fitted to his Woodie, with flashing red, amber and green lights.  This tells him where the mixture screw should be for an efficient mixture.  If you have moved the mixture screw it instantly changes the light readings.  You need to use trial and error on your mixture to find where your car performs best, with little variations at a time.  The best running should be with the mixture screw somewhere near one quarter turn open.

Starting procedure as in the original manual:

  1. Turn the switch key to the right.
  2. See that the spark lever is retarded (up), the throttle lever advanced (down three or four notches) on the quadrant, and the gear lever is in neutral position.
  3. If the engine is cold, turn the carburettor mixture screw one full turn to the left (anti-clockwise), to give a richer mixture for starting.  This rod serves both as a choke for starting and as an adjustment.  Next pull up the rod, at the same time pressing down on the starter button, and release the choke rod; next advance the spark lever.  When the engine warms up, turn the choke rod back to its normal position one quarter turn open (clockwise).

It should be mentioned that after 80 years of use, our carburettors will have varying amounts of wear, and one quarter open and one full turn open could vary somewhat!  On both of my Model As, I open the mixture screw about one half turn (anti-clockwise) for starting cold and turn it back to about a quarter open after a few minutes.

One of the regular things we all forget is to retard the spark when starting!  Just remember up/start or get into the habit of pushing this lever up in your stopping procedure.

Alan Jeffree, Western Model A News, Feb 2011
Top of page


Must Take Items on Long Runs

  • Basic tool kit & crank handle
  • Water pump packing
  • Spare water pump if you have one
  • Points & condenser
  • Spare distributor if you have one
  • Manifold gasket (good copper ones)
  • Head gasket
  • Fan belt
  • Fuses
  • Timing gear
  • Starter Bendix spring & replacement bolt & tab set
  • A set of front wheel bearings, they can be a used set

Peter Sartori, Western Model A News, April 2016 & March 2018
Top of page


Emergency Radiator Filling

Overheating of the Model A cooling system may occur for a variety of reasons including the loss of coolant.  Some owners will carry a container of water or special coolant however many do not.  If you are unable to drive, or do not wish to drive, to a source of water or coolant, then the following hint may be of assistance.

Obtain a large strong plastic bag or two capable of holding say 6 or more litres of water.  Plastic bags used for crushed ice or from parts suppliers are ideal.  Keep this empty bag or bags in your tool kit.  The bag can then used to carry water from the nearest source back to your Model A.

The capacity of a standard Model A cooling system is approximately 2.5 gallons (11 litres) and hence 6 litres or more will be sufficient to at least replenish lost coolant and enable the owner to drive to the nearest source of coolant.  If you have a second bag, this can be filled and tied off using say adhesive electrical tape and then carried as back-up.  (We all carry a roll of electrical or duct tape in our tool kit??).  As always observe the normal precautions when adding cool water to the Model A radiator cooling system.  On his last trip to America, Steve Read, noted that this technique was in use with special bags provided by automotive suppliers with all the normal precautions printed on the bag.

John Moorehead, Western Model A News, Jan 2018
Top of page



With winter approaching several members have found a product called RAIN-X.  It is sold at all good car parts stores.  It is a liquid which you rub onto a windscreen so you can see the way ahead without needing to use a windscreen wiper.  Instructions are on the bottle.  It also means your passenger can see when it is raining.

Alan Jeffree, Western Model A News, April 2012
Top of page


AR Designation Explained

Production of the Ford Model A commenced late 1927 with the final production ending March 1932 presumably to complete orders for the 1931 model.  If the Model A Ford Service Bulletins are examined it will be noted that numerous changes were made to the Model A over the production period.

Whilst Ford never catalogued a “Model AR” it is generally known that it is a very early Ford Model A with several notable differences from vehicles built from mid 1928 through to the end of production.  The designation results from an “R” suffix on parts that are particular to the early vehicles.  The suffix means “Replaced” and it was applied only after those early parts had been superseded.  The superseded parts were incorporated at different times so there is no one definition of what constitutes an “AR”.  Over the years some restorations may contain a mix of early and late parts.

Perhaps one notable example is the difference between initial 21 inch wheels and brake drums.  The early drums have a part number A-1125-AR and the new drums A-1125.  These are not interchangeable with the wheels…

In the 1950s and 1960s the designation “AR” was adopted by restorers and the like to identify an early Ford Model A.

Confusing isn’t it !!!

John Moorehead, Western Model A News, Nov 2016
Top of page