Crank-It - It all started by Cranking It

What is Cranking & How Does Hand Cranking work?


 | 8 minutes read

Did you know: Cranking is the first action in an automobile engine?

What is Cranking:

When we think about an Automobile, the word is a combination of ancient Greek & Latin words. The word ‘autos’ meaning ‘self,’ and ’mobilis’ means movable, which simply means that it’s a machine that moves by itself. Automobiles, especially cars, have come a long way since their inception. In order to get an engine running, it first needs to be rotated at sufficient speed. Thus, it gets the fuel pumped up to the cylinders and ignited and enables the engine to run on its own power. Cranking the engine simply means turning the engine’s crankshaft that rotates the engine to power itself.

The mechanisms used for cranking the engine are:

1. Push Start (only in case the routine procedure fails!)
2. With a Cranking wheel
3. With a Cranking Handle
4. With an Electric Starter
5. With a Starter Motor with a Floor Mounted Push-Lever Mechanism
6. With a Starter Motor with a Push Button
7. With a Starter Motor with Ignition Switch
8. With a Remote Engine Starter & Start-Stop Button

Evolution of Cranking mechanism:

1. Push Start or Desi “Dhakka Start”:

Firstly, push-start means starting the vehicle by pushing it from behind and engaging gear when it gets some speed. Thus, the motion of the wheels is transferred to the engine in the reverse order for cranking. This is a common practice for starting the vehicles with a manual gearbox when its starting mechanism fails. Although, it is not a regular practice as it requires other people to push. However, it is beneficial, especially in the case when the battery is discharged.

2. Cranking Wheel:

Secondly, back in the nineteenth century, all the automobile components were pre-dominantly mechanical in nature and operation when automobiles were in their infant stage. There was no system of generation and storage of the electric current back then. Thus, it could not be used as there were no means to power different electrical instruments as there were none. Hence, the duty of cranking the engine was left to its mechanical components.

Benz MotorWagen 1886 with Cranking wheel (Courtesy: Benz, Wikimedia.org)
Benz MotorWagen 1886 with cranking wheel (Courtesy: Benz, Wikimedia.org)

The Benz Motorwagen – A light carriage for personal transport is commonly regarded as the ‘World's First Automobile’ produced way back in 1886. The Benz-Motorwagen was a simple three-wheeler with a single-shaft handle to steer the front wheel. It was powered by a horizontally mounted Benz 954 cc, single-cylinder, four-stroke engine, which produced 2⁄3 horsepower (0.50 kW) at 250 rpm. This tiny single-cylinder engine had an ‘open crankcase’ supported by a bigger flywheel. The flywheel also acted as a 'Cranking Wheel' to rotate and start the engine since there were no electric starter motors back then.

Benz MotorWagen 1886 with Cranking wheel (Courtesy: Benz, Wikimedia.org)
Benz MotorWagen 1886 with Cranking wheel (Courtesy: Benz, Wikimedia.org)

Watch here world's first automotive engine running:

3. Cranking Handle:

As the automobile industry started evolving, the innovations replaced old technologies. The internal combustion engines became more sophisticated, which featured a ‘closed' crank-case. Most of the engine parts such as connecting rods, counter-weights & the fly-wheel itself found their place inside a ‘flywheel housing’ in the ‘closed crankcase’ construction while the engine itself got under a closed hood/bonnet. As a result, the fly-wheel became inaccessible. Hence, the closed hood did not provide enough space to rotate it from the inside of the engine hood.

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