An old lesson — “Go it Easy”Written by Nick Shultz | | email@example.com
I was reading a copy of an original owner’s manual from a Model T Ford recently and thought I would share some of it with you. In the early days of the automobile, it was not referred to as an owner’s manual but rather as an “Instruction Book.” It consists of 29 pages and is the size of a small booklet or brochure. Owners’ manuals during that period of time were not filled with disclaimers but rather were useful documents covering the operation, maintenance and repair of the vehicle. Actually one could overhaul the entire vehicle using the information contained within the document.
Written in those 29 pages were complete disassembly and reassembly instructions for every system of the car as well as useful driving tips. Complete operating instructions and all necessary adjustments were covered as well.
Excerpt from a 1911 instruction manual which accompanied every new Ford Model T, page 3:
“Go It Easy”
“In the flush of enthusiasm, just after receiving your car, remember a new machine should have better care until she “finds herself” than she will need later, when the parts have become better adjusted to each other, limbered up and more thoroughly lubricated by long running.
“You have more speed at your command than you can safely use on the average roads, or even on the best roads save under exceptional conditions, and a great deal more than you ought to attempt to use until you have become thoroughly familiar with your machine, and the manipulation of brakes and levers has become practically automatic.
“Your Ford car will climb any climbable grade. Do not, in your anxiety to prove it to every one, climb everything in sight. A good rule is, if you crave the fame, climb the steepest grade in your neighborhood once, and let others take your word for it, or the word of those who witnessed the performance, for the deed thereafter.
“Extraordinary conditions must be met when they present themselves — they should not be made a part of the everyday routine.”
As the automobile was a new invention and most people had never owned or operated one, it was necessary to include very basic information regarding its use and maintenance. There were very few dealerships that sold the new cars at this time, and most folks took delivery of their new cars at the railyard, where they had been shipped by Ford Motor Co. or whomever the manufacturer happened to be.
There were very few paved roads in America at that time so the buggies were shipped with a dual-purpose tire of sorts. All tires at that time had an inner tube that contained the air. The sidewall construction of the tires was made from a durable fabric material.
Although fairly rugged, this fabric did not offer much lateral support for the tire. There were no tire beltings as we know them today supporting the side walls. This caused these early tires to be very weak when turning corners. The tires were also susceptible to side-wall damage or puncture in the event a stone was hit while driving. This inherent weakness of the tires required that the owners carry along a spare tire and/or a tire repair kit.
Excerpt from 1911 Ford Model T instruction manual covering maintenance:
“Vigilance and Oil”
“The first rule in motoring is to see that every part has, at all times, plenty of oil — then more oil. The second is to see that every adjustment is made immediately the necessity of such adjustment is discovered; and the third rule is exercise ‘common sense’ — that’s what they drive horses with.
“The liability of trouble with the consequent marring of pleasure trips through neglect to make adjustments promptly increases by the square of the times they are neglected.
“Permitting any part to run for even a brief period without proper lubrication will certainly result in serious injury to the machine and expense to the owner; and the result of reckless driving, while they may not show up immediately, will none the less certainly appear later, for all that.”
As you can see by the above excerpts from the instruction manual, the auto manufacturers relied on their customers’ “common sense” to ensure that the vehicles performed as designed.
Though we laugh at how little these early cars cost, it was no laughing matter for those who purchased them. Each of these cars was a major purchase. Cars were not financed in those days. They were bought with money saved. They cost, on average, one-half of one year’s salary.
These early car owners, our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, assumed much of the responsibility for the maintenance and repair of these vehicles. There were few shops, if any, available that could perform the work for them. Replacement parts were ordered through the mail and installed by the car owners upon arrival. These were self-reliant men and women.
The impressive amount of common sense that our forefathers exhibited never fails to amaze me. With little or no fanfare, they accomplished each task that presented itself. They did so with great determination and enthusiasm. Whether it was repairing the family car or repairing items in and around the house, these men and women used their common sense to overcome their lack of knowledge.
Self-reliance and common sense may be the greatest lessons you and I can derive from our forefathers. Their “I can” attitude, though commonplace in their day, seems far less common today.
I will be teaching a small equipment class this summer at the college and hope that those of you who would like to gain a greater understanding of mechanics and electronics can join me. You can find the class on our Web site. The class is called DSL 103, and registration is available online. This class is an opportunity for you to get your lawn and garden equipment up and running, as well as any other small equipment that you may want to learn about, including your motorcycles. Hope to see you there.
Nick Shultz is an instructor of Automotive Technologies at Owens Community College. He is an arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau who specializes in cases involving the Ohio and Michigan Lemon laws. He is a certified master automotive technician by ASE, General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. Shultz, a Toledo native, will take questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.