OPERATION AND CARE OF MOTOR FIRE APPARATUS
The topic assigned to me is one of importance at this time because of its connection with the subject of general discussion in fire department circles—sell-propelled apparatus. Anything dealing with this matter should be of interest to the firemen, because of the radical change that is promised by it, a change that must be fully appreciated by our senior members who have been identified with the service since the handtub days. From those days various methods of using horses have been tried. At first the arrangement was to provide everything but the horses, and when the alarm was sounded, to press into service any that could be obtained; later the horses were maintained, but were required to assist the street department, and finally the system in general use at the present time to keep them for fire department work only was adopted. We all know the disadvantage of horse-drawn apparatus, the small amount of work performed and the cost of the up-keep, it is unnecessary to speak of that side of the question. What we are looking for are facts concerning the automobiles, what does the change promise us? First is the freedom from expense when not in operation. On the return from a fire the switch is turned, the motor stops and expense ceases until the next call comes in; second, an earlier arrival at the fire, an automobile can go at least twice as fast as a horse-drawn vehicle under any conditions, and be better under control, and therefore safer to both the public and the crew; third, at a fire it is not necessary for the driver to stand by it, he is a working member, and consquently we get the benefit of the total crew. The gasoline engine seems to be the proper method of obtaining power for fire cars, although it has a strong competitor in the storage battery and couple gear. Chief Daggett, of Springfield, where an electric truck is in service, speaks highly of its prospects. Leaving the electric vehicle in abeyance, and dismissing the steam as being unsuitable for fire department service, I shall coniine the subject to gasoline cars only. Success depends upon intelligent care and operation, and this can be found only when the members have had sufficient instruction and experience to enable them to see clearly into and realize quickly any difficulty that may arise or be likely to arise. Repairs should, as far as possible, be made in quarters to enable the members to assist and become familiar with the internal mechanism. The ideal instruction would be practical work in the shop in conjunction with lectures on theory. The position of operator should be made an advantageous one, and be given to the member who has by interest and application acquired the most knowledge. The other members of the company should be graded in the order of their excellence and cover the position of operator in the absence of those of higher grade. When returning to quarters, the less experienced men should be encouraged by allowing them to operate. Officers in charge should be practical chauffers, otherwise their position would be a ridiculous one if the car failed mysteriously to go; also, they must know what is right in the daily drill and examination. If there are a number of cars in the department it would be well to have a qualified official exercise supervision over them, select the supplies, spare parts and accessories, investigate reports and direct instruction. The operator in caring for the car should, morning and evening start the engine to test it. Daily, and also after each run, examine control levers and pedals, steering post, steering arm, drag link, tie-rod, steering knuckles, wheels, axles, radius rods, torque member, brakes and connections, tires, all bolts, nuts and cotter-pins. Monthly, inspect the gearset, universal joints, differential gear and wheel hubs. Be sure to have plenty of gasoline and water, strong batteries and all frictional parts well lubricated. Do not alter carbureter adjustment unless you fully understand it. Keep all wire connections tight and the timer and spark plugs clean; occasionally adjust the coil vibrator; dry cells are of no use unless they register more than five amperes; spark plug gapbattery one-thirty-second inch, magneto, one-sixtyfourth inch. Except to apply a few drops of oil monthly do not interfere with the magneto. The recruit on an automobile company should learn the general assembly of the chassis, and master the details of the various systems, gasoline. ignition, cooling, lubrication, transmission and traction. Not only should he learn the theory but also to recognize the symptoms of derange ment, and exercise his knowledge by considering the cause and remedy. The occasion will eventually arise when such knowledge, quickly demonstrated, will prove valuable to the service and to him. In driving practice, the gasoline control will be easilv acquired, as it acts in a noticable manner on the speed of the car as the throttle is moved backward or forward. Spark control is not so easily learned; that is, to get the best results; the car may apparently be running all right, and still not be getting the most out of the expansion of the burning gas. The spark lever regulates the time at which we get the spark with relation to the position of the piston. When cranking, it occurs just after the piston has passed top center, and started on its downward course, if it came before that time it would drive the crankshaft in the wrong direction with possibly disastrous results to the person cranking; hence the necessity of retarding the spark. When started, the lever is advanced, and we get ignition on top center, which gives us the full benefit of expansion when the motor is running slowly. As the speed increases, the piston moves faster, and if the spark remained there, we would lose the benefit of the point of greatest expansion, and also about three-quarter inch of the propulsion stroke, because it takes a little time for the gas to expand, and the piston meanwhile would have traveled that distance, therefore advance the spark in proportion to the speed of the engine. When too far advanced, a distinct knocking will be heard, which is caused by the explosion trying to drive the piston down, against momentum, before it has reached top center. The part of the mechanism most likely to injury at the hands of an inexperienced operator, is the gearset, or transmission, when meshing the speed gear; it takes a little knack to throw out the clutch, with the left foot, and engage the gear, using the lever at the right of the seat, without injurious grinding or breaking; watching the regular operator will assist the learner. The service brake, operated by the right foot, and the emergency brake, applied by a lever near the speed control lever, will not be difficult to master. The following is a list of things you must NOT do when given a chance to operate:
Crank without seeing that the spark lever is retarded, and the speed lever is on neutral.
Race the engine when idle.
Force the speed lever; it should move easily.
Start or stop suddenly; it is destructive to mechanism and tires.
Drive with a slipping clutch.
Suddenly apply brakes on wet asphalt, wet pavements, muddy roads or when changing direction.
Fail to throttle down and keep the wheels driving at a slow pace when turning corners.
Allow your attention to be divided ; safety requires all of it.
Forget to be on the alert and give warning at intersecting streets.
Let the engine labor when ascending a grade; use a lower gear.
Throw out your gear to coast; disengage your clutch instead, because if the brakes fail, the compression of the cylinders will retard the speed when the clutch is allowed to engage.
All of these are either likely to cause accident or injury to car. If the battery gives out and you wish to start on the magneto, do it in the following way, unless you are experienced enough to take a chance with a back kick : Set the spark lever about midway, spin the crank and step out of the way quickly, while another member throws on the switch. When the car begins to skid sideways, do not apply your brakes suddenly, keep the driving wheels turning and head the front wheels in the direction in which you are skidding. This is a dangerous trait in the selfpropelled vehicle, and should be avoided by going carefully on slippery ground. Chains should be on the tires of a fire department car at all times, or put on immediately should the weather tend towards wet or greasy streets. When putting into the car, strain the gasoline and the water. Gasoline vapor is more dangerous than gasoline, and being heavier than air, gathers near the floor; to get rid of it, ventilate at that point and drive it out by a forced current of air. Ventilators or windows may carry it off, but not in damp weather. A gasoline leak is not always discovered, as it evaporates so readily, but it remains as vapor for a long time, and may be ignited by other means than a light, as for in stance, an electric spark in the timer, at the magneto brushes or a short circuit in the wiring of a portable electric lamp, even shoenails striking on a granolithic floor may cause a spark sufficient for the purpose, so the advisability of care in this direction is apparent. Liquid gasoline will burn, not explode; to extinguish it, throw on sand or dirt with a sweeping motion, or cover with a wet blanket. Tires should be blown up hard; 50 pounds for 8-inch diameter, and 10 pounds for each additional half inch; don’t let moisture remain around them; wash off grease promptly; keep the extra ones front moisture; oil and light in a moderately warm, dry place, with the tube slightly inflated. Never let mud dry on the car; use plenty of water, not too hot nor too cold, and castile or any good special soap; dry with chamois skin. Symptoms may be divided into: Smoky exhaust, misfiring, loss of power, overheating and noisy operation.
Smoky exhaust: black, foul smelling—too rich a mixture; blue—to much oil.
Misfiring; weak battery, defective wiring, improper contact in timer, timer shifted, vibrator stuck, dirty or defective spark plugs, carbureter not adjusted or water in the gasoline; poor compression.
Loss of power; leakage round spark plugs, cylinder head or valve cage packings, defective valves, stuck piston rings, gasoline mixture too rich, lack of oil or water, clutch slipping, dragging brakes, poor compression.
Overheating; running with a retarded spark, impaired oil circulation or level not high enough, mixture too rich, failure of cooling system.
Noisy operation; knocking, spark too far advanced, lack of lubrication, improper carbureter adjustment, mechanical derangement, squeaking, dry metals rubbing, hissing or puffing, leaking from chamber or manifold packings, popping, weak mixture, air leak in intake passage, gasoline flow blocked, water in gasoline, excessive heat in carbureter water jacket.
In conclusion, I would like to add a few words to the men who will have direct charge of these cars. As in the older type of apparatus, there will always be a difference of opinion when the cars of various manufacturers are compared and without doubt you will form a strong opinion, but let us continue that spirit that made us boast of what our hand tub could do, despite a long record of defeats, that made us in later days threaten to go into another company’s territory and get the fire because our company could do better work, although we knew the others had the advantage of us, let us transfer that feeling to our car, make it the best because of the work it performs, take an interest in it, and you will soon learn that it has moods and grouches just as we have, but it differs in one respect, and that is, that there is always a reason for a car’s grouch, which you, with your experience and knowledge of that particular car. can soon locate and remove.
“Read at the recent convention of the Massachusetts State Firemen’s Association.