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Car Travel – 1914 Style

by Sam Moore


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Sam Moore

When we plan a car trip today, besides packing our stuff, preparations include giving a little attention to the car. About all that’s necessary before a long trip is an oil change and lube, along with a check on all the fluids, and the tire pressure. 100 years ago, it wasn't so easy.

Recently, I was looking through a slim little volume titled “Autocraft.” Published in 1914, it contains a chapter that gives: “A Few Hints to the Tourist ... before starting on an extended trip.”

  • The Motor. Your engine should be in proper trim and everything should be gone over carefully. Change oil every 500 miles. Examine motor bearings, and if there be 1/32 inch play, they should be taken up.
  • The Valves. Determine the compression of each cylinder by using the compression relief cocks, and turning the motor with the hand crank. If there be a loss of compression in any cylinder, grind and adjust the valves.
  • The Ignition. Follow all wires to check for loose connections or rubbed insulation. Clean and file the platinum points on the make-and-break contacts.
  • The Transmission and Axles. Starting from the front axle, detach all wheels and remove all bearings. Wash the bearings, spindles, and hubs in kerosene, and repack with grease before replacing and adjusting bearings. Remove the drain plugs from the transmission and rear axle and allow all old oil or grease to empty out. Replace drain plugs and jack up rear wheels. Pour one and one half quarts of kerosene in the transmission and rear axle. Start the motor and allow the rear wheels to turn at low throttle for about two minutes to wash out the bearings. Again remove drain plugs to drain off this cleansing solution, after which you reinsert plugs and refill with a fresh supply of oil or grease.
  • The Brakes. With the car still on jacks, check to see that the brakes are being applied equally to both wheels. If brakes are not adjusted equally, it will cause the car to skid to one side.
  • The Radiator. In time a radiator will become clogged and may overheat. The use of a little washing soda mixed in boiling water and allowed to stand a few hours will clean out a radiator wonderfully. Be sure to drain off solution and flush good with the hose and a good force of water.
  • Miscellaneous. Manufacturers have provided a means to lubricate all moving parts. Spring bolts, radius rod support pins, brake linkage pins, steering connections, shock absorbers, speedometer, etc., should be given daily attention. With a piece of waste and an oil can, oil such parts as are supplied with oilers and give grease cups each one turn daily.
  • Tires, Tools, Accessories, Curtains for the Tour. Having attended to the pointers mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, it now remains for the tourist to prepare for weather conditions, tires and the necessary tools to make minor repairs while on the road. With the top raised, all curtains should be attached to assure they will fit properly. Do not fold curtains; it cracks the isinglass and creases the cloth. Roll them to pack them away.
  • It is advisable to replace badly worn tire casings and to keep older tires for emergency use. Inflate tires to proper pressure. Take two extra tires and about four or five inner tubes, together with tire patches, fresh cement, chalk, and blowout patches.
  • The tourist should next have a tool kit and be supplied with such tools as will enable him to make small roadside repairs. The following can be used as a guide to help make up a tool kit:
    • 1 two-pound hammer
    • 1 small screwdriver
    • 1 large screwdriver
    • 1 each, Nos. 25, 27, 29, and 33 double open end wrenches
    • 1 jack and handle
    • 1tire pump
    • 1 complete tire repair kit
    • 1 oil can
    • 1 6-inch cold chisel with 1/2-inch face
    • 1 12-inch monkey wrench
    • 1 14-inch pipe wrench
    • 1 pair combination cutting pliers
    • 1 10-inch flat file
    • 1 set tire tools
    • 1 12-inch hack saw and blade
    • 1 box assorted nuts and bolts
    • 1 box assorted lock washers and cotter pins
    • 1 spool wire
    • 1 piece, 2 feet long, of insulated wire
    • 1 spark plug
    • 1 6-inch drift (punch)
    • 1 canvas pail
    • 1 gallon lubricating oil
    • 1 tire repair kit, containing:
      • 1 piece emery cloth, 1/2 dozen small patches, 1 tube cement, 1/2 dozen large patches, 2 tire valves, 1/2 pound French chalk, 2 tire valve nuts, 3 tire valve cores.

Today, fortunately, we don’t need to adjust any engine bearings or grind any valves, and about the only tool necessary from the above list is a jack and handle. We travel in comfortable, climate controlled conditions (without having to rely on isinglass curtains), on smooth surfaced roads at more than a mile a minute, and the thought of a flat tire never crosses our minds. Our wives don’t need long dusters, goggles, or scarves to tie on their hats, and we don’t have to “get out and get under” even once (we hope).