WINTER MOTORING SOME THOUGHTS ON DEFEATING THE ELEMENTS
THERE are few moments less enjoyable than that of pushing the starter button on a cold morning, to be greeted by two or three rumbles and then silence, with the prospect of winding a rather thin and sharp handle until exhaustion sets in, or one’s despairing cries bring a sufficient number of neighbours to allow the car being pushed out to a suitable down-grade. Experience of this sort gained with a large four
cylinder car kept in a draughty garage, combined with a good deal of foul-weather work throughout the winter encouraged the writer to go into things with some care, and it is hoped that some of the suggestions contained in this article may be of help to other motorists.
A heating installation for the garage is of course of great use, for, apart from keeping the oil thin and protecting the ignition system from damp, there is then no danger of the radiator or water jackets being damaged by frost. Radiator lamps either of miner’s lamp or electric pattern provide a simpler solution of the last problem, and for those who have to leave their cars out in the open air for long periods, glycerine or alcohol in the water also affords protection.
The first essential for easy starting is a sound battery. Coil ignition, of course, gives an equally good spark whatever the engine speed, but magnetos, especially old ones, require to be rotated at some 300 r.p.m. before the mixture can be ignited. Some preliminary turns of the starting handle lessen the strain on the electrical system, and if someone can be found to press the starter button while the swinging is taking place, the motor will be greatly helped towards getting the engine turning at the necessary speed. These measures relieve the battery of a good deal of its strain, but do not remove the necessity of having a sound one. Three to four years is about the life of this hard worked component, so if a second-hand car of this age is bought, it is always a good idea to renew the accumulator. If the expense is too great, reliable firms can sometimes fit new plates with satisfactory results. Magnetos and coils need little attention
except for filing up the points and checking the gap, unless they are fitted with carbon brush distributors. In this case a trail of carbon gets left in the cover, making starting difficult. Cleaning with petrol is the best method of dealing with it unless the carbon has become too hard to move in that way. The use of emery paper roughens the surface and so increases the speed at which the carbon is worn off.
Plug leads which seemed quite sound in the dry summer months play strange tricks when covered witi condensed moisture. Faulty insulation can sometimes be detected in the dark when sparks can be seen jumping to some of the metal parts on the engine. The rubber-covered wire costs very little and if the leads appear defective anywhere, it is well worth while renewing them.
Plugs, especially those with mica insulation, are often covered with a film of moisture in the winter months, and it pays to wipe them with a dry rag. Sports car owners are generally rather particular about the condition of their sparking plugs, so the suggestion of yearly renewal is hardly required in their case, but the gaps should be checked from time to time. Unnecessarily wide gaps may cause the spark to choose an easier path along a damp centre insulator, apart from the strain on the insulation of the coil or magneto.
Carburation has made great advances during the last few years, and modern carburettors are_ usually provided either with a variable jet, or even with a separate starting carburettor. This ensures a rich but properly atomised mixture without flooding and manipulating the choke. The petrol companies have come to the motorist’s aid by providing special ” Winter ” blends which contain a proportion of unusually volatile spirit. Hot cloths and suchlike means of inducing ready vaporisation are therefore seldom needed on modern cars. Sometimes one finds that an engine will start readily, then after a few minutes stop and will require a good deal of work with the starter before it can be got going again. The trouble in that case is caused
by the carburettor becoming very cold, due to the evaporising of the mixture abstracting heat from the surrounding objects. If the engine is run for abou half a minute or long enough to vt the cylinder block slightly warm, and then stopped for another minute, an equalisation of temperature takes place, and the engine can be warmed up in the ordinary way.
A last word about easy starting. A number of motor manufacturers specify a lighter oil for winter use. Such a change, where recommended, will often convert a difficult engine into an easily started one, simply because it allows the starter to get the engine turning at the critical speed. Though newspaper correspondents may state that the climate of Great Britain is growing worse each year, there is no doubt that motoring on a great many winter days is most enjoyable, and few owners of sports cars would think of laying them up for the winter months through any threat of the elements. To get the best results from the car in winter, however, one must be quite sure that the engine is running at a suitable temperature. Radiator thermometers which indicate ” cold,” ” hot” or ” boiling ” simply by a pointer on a column of liquid are not sufficiently accurate to allow maximum efficiency to be attained, though if they are calibrated with the aid of an instrument reading degrees they can be quite useful. 85 to 90 degrees Cent. gives the best results, and the radiator should be blanked off to give this temperature. Radiator muffs are very useful, especially to anyone who has to make a number of calls in the car as the whole of the radiator can be covered when the car is left. The best system of all is that of thermostatically controlled radiator shutters, but this can only be embodied in a radiator shell adapted for it. A useful alternative is a thermostat valve fitted in the top radiator connection. This restricts the circulation of the cooling water until a given temperature has been reached. The great advantage of the two last
systems is that the water heats up rapidly and stays at the right temperature, withoat the disadvantage of over-heating in traffic which sometimes occurs when much of the radiator is blanked off.
Winter and early spring bring with them the possibility of flooded roads, which can be unpleasant on a low-built car. When passing through water on the road, the speed should not exceed walking pace, otherwise there is a chance of water going through the radiator fins and getting thrown about by the fan, drowning the coil and the plugs, and bringing the car to a standstill. A more serious matter is the chance of sucking water into the engine, especially on those cars having a supercharger mounted low down in front. Water, as many people have found to their dismay, is incompressible, and if a sufficient amount finds its way into the combustion space, either the head is blown off or the con, rods fold up. Water in the exhaust pipe is not good either, and if the engine stops and the pipe fills, in all probability one will be unable to restart it. The essential thing
therefore is to keep the engine running at a good speed in a low gear, but the provision of a vertical flexible or even rigid pipe fitted on to the end of the exhaust pipe is a useful precaution for trials or in flooded districts.
It is difficult to imagine how one managed before windscreen wipers were invented, and in the last year or so the range of types has been extended. The correct way of cleaning the screen is obviously to wipe the whole pane from side to side with one or more vertical blades. A vacuumoperated wiper of this type is now on the market, and there is a chance of an electric one in the near future. The chief disadvantage of the suction type in the past was that when the accelerator was depressed and one was getting maximum speed the wiper ceased to function, but by providing a reservoir vacuum tank which is continually being exhausted, this disadvantage has now been overcome. The advantage of the vacuum type of course is that it uses no battery current, an important point where the dynamo is only just able to cope with the consumption of the lights and other accessories.
The chief advantage of the cabledriven type is its extreme thinness, which enables it to be fitted to the screen in front of the driver, without interfering with his line of sight. Fog is an obstacle which it seems almost
impossible to overcome, but research into the best way of penetrating it has developed various lamps which make it possible to proceed slowly under almost any conditions. The essential thing is that the light should be powerful and near to the ground, and deep orange lenses tend to cut out the blue rays which are reflected by the clouds of vapour, and to pierce through to the kerb. The chief snag of the modern sports car in fog is its high bonnet, which means that the nearest part of the kerb one can see may easily be 20 feet away, and short of buying a lefthand drive car for use in fog, the only thing one can do is to carry a passenger, and to drive according to his instructions. Another thing which helps considerably, though nowadays it is rather out of fashion, is a three-piece screen, which can be opened up in front of the driver. Having a clear view, apart from the fact that one is not bothered by one’s breath condensing on the cold glass, relieves cons derably the strain of driving in foggy weather.
During the past few years motor manufacturers, who are supposed to anticipate the wishes of their clients, have concentrated on saloons rather than open cars, but a reaction against this has set in, and in 1933 many more people are going to brave the elements without the protection of a “glass-house.” Given warm and comfortable clothing, nothing can be more exhilarating than a fast run on a sunny frosty morning, though to enjoy it in the back seats one needs to be very thoroughly protected. In this connection it seems a pity that some English coachbuilder cannot evolve a neat and well-balanced rear screen as fitted to Packards and other high-grade American cars—possibly most of our sports cars are too short in the wheelbase to allow for the storage of such a fitting between the front and back seats. The most successful garment for the open car is the leather coat. It is windproof, stands a good deal of rain without getting soaked and does not show wear or oiLstains as badly as do some fabrics. On the other hand good leather coats are relatively expensive, and excellent service can be had from waterproofs, especially those interlined with oil skin. With the modern low hood, one does not often
need side-curtains, and the only part of the driver that need be exposed is his right arm. The Drisleeve, a waterproof gauntlet covering wrist to shoulder, protects this vital point.
Some hardy souls decline to use the hood even in pouring rain, and for them there is nothing left except the rubber poncho or the Sidcot suit. The first is a black rubber coat made without a joint. One’s head goes through a hole the sides of which then cling firmly to the neck, making it the only garment which avoids those trickling streams of water down the neck. Being made of rubber, however, it becomes very hot, so the Sidcot is more usually favoured. This is simply a suit of overalls of waterproof material lined with a fleecy cloth, and sometimes interlined with oilskin. Getting in and out is a little difficult, but one is protected all over without having the encumbrance of a rug round the legs. Everyone has their own ideas about headgear. The number of people who look well in berets is smaller than many of the wearers imagine. The cloth cap seems to be the most satisfactory, but
unfortunately does not stand rain very well. The waterproof” ski-ing caps “used by motor cyclists might be of value in this direction, but for really foul conditions the only possible protection is the leather helmet.
Driving gloves must be hard-wearing, non-slipping and fairly waterproof. Plain brown leather gauntlets lined with chamois leather or other material which will not come unstuck and lodge in the tips of the fingers are very suitable. Fur backs, though ornamental on. good gloves do little towards keeping one’s hands warm. Thin silk under-gloves, originally made for the R.A.P. can be purchased for a very small sum and keep cold at bay in conjunction with the gauntlets mentioned above without restricting hand movement unduly.
“Two pairs of everything” is actually a safe principle for all cold weather motoring, and two pairs of socks and similarly a waterproof worn over a leather coat retain heat far better than a single thick garment.
To complete the cold-defying equipment a good supply of rugs is essential. Every passenger needs one, which should be wrapped round the legs coachmanfashion to exclude all draughts. Then clothed in whatever quantity of clothing the extremes of the weather dictate one can venture forth on main road or a trials run knowing that one’s person and one’s motorcar will be unhandicapped by any of winter’s annoyances.
Letters From Readers, September 1973
Grit Sir, I see from Mr. Conway's letter that the "moaning season" has started. His ill-informed comment that surface dressing is ineffective has spurred me to reply. Surface dressing is…
National Motorsport week
Ever since the likes of John Cooper and Colin Chapman started dominating Grand prix racing in the late 1950s and early ’60s, Britain has been the hub of influence and…
MATTERS OF MOMENT, April 1962
MATTERS OF MOMENT THE NEXT GENERAL ELECTION As we close for press the overwhelming Liberal majority in the Orpington By-Election is exciting great speculation in political circles. This is a…