Protect Yourself From Your Auto (Apr, 1934)

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Protect Yourself From Your Auto

By Walter E. Stewart

Many serious and painful accidents are caused through failure of autoists to become properly acquainted with their machines. Here are a few valuable tips.

HADLEY came to work the other morning with a badly blistered forearm. He went down to the first aid room to have it dressed. The doctor cut short his shamefaced explanation: “Yes, yes, I know. Your radiator froze up and when you removed the cap the steam shot out along your arm. You’re the sixth so far this morning.”

Hadley looked as astonished as he was. He said: “Gee, Doc, I never knew anybody else who got burned like this, and I’ve been driving a car for years.”

“That’s just the point,” the amiable doctor answered after a quick glance into the anteroom to see that no one else needed his attention. “If you had known personally someone who got burned this way you would have exercised sufficient forethought to have avoided the injury yourself. It’s too bad that people must get hurt before they take enough thought to protect themselves from ordinary accidents. Do you remember Jim Swenson?”

Hadley’s eyes gleamed, he had never liked Swenson anyway.

“Yeah, he’s the fellow who was working under his car in a double garage and had the other car back out over his foot. I remember he said he yelled and the other fellow got excited and pulled back in, only to run over him again.”

The doctor grinned too. Now that Swenson had recovered, the thought of that yell, which must have seemed to come from the earth itself to startle a well intentioned driver into a repetition of the accident, did have its humorous angle. As he was ushering his patient to the door he urged, “You’ll remember this burn and Swenson’s foot without trying, but what you need to do is try to think of all the Jones and Smiths who have stuck their fingers into running fans, or across sparkplugs, or who have let the car roll off a jack onto them. Come down tomorrow and let me see that arm.”

Hadley and I talked over what the doctor had said. We concluded that it was really not necessary to get hurt in order to know where danger awaited, provided one discovered the source of the hazard. To test our conclusion we decided to list all the ways we and our friends knew for getting hurt about an automobile, knowing that the discovery of hazards would serve to inform and warn us.

We found some well-authenticated cases of freak accidents, as, for instance, the fellow who got his eyebrows singed from peering into his radiator by the light of a match. His motor was hot and the fumes of the alcohol he was using as an anti-freeze caught fire and flared up into his face. Neither of us had ever thought of that possibility, though, of course, we knew its classic relation, the match-gasoline tank combination.

We were astonished at the large number of our acquaintances who did not know how to avoid a broken arm or dislocated shoulder when obliged to crank their cars. Many of them admitted they usually stood inside the bumper and got their weight into play by thrusting down on the crank. Naturally we displayed our greater wisdom by explaining that often cars roll a few feet unexpectedly and bang up unwary shins, and that more often balky cars kick and break arms which are opposed to them by the weight of a man’s body.

Since our listeners seemed interested we further explained that the only correct and safe way to crank was to stand outside the bumper, free to run if necessary, and to pull up on the crank in such way that a kick would only jerk the crank out of one’s hand.

The mechanic at our favorite gas station has a permanently chewed-up right forefinger. He was cleaning the commutator on an automobile generator by holding a piece of cloth against it with his finger while the motor was running. Somehow his finger slipped a little, the cloth caught on a projection of the armature and drew his finger tightly against the revolving armature and the stationary frame. The nail and end of his finger were mangled.

Now the mechanic uses a piece of wood about six inches long, half an inch wide and-a quarter inch thick. To the end of this was glued a felt pad. He tore a strip of cloth about half an inch wide and a foot long from a wiping rag and passed it down along the stick, over the felt pad and back up the other side, holding the two cloth ends and the stick in one hand.

The mechanic, while on the subject of fingers, suggested that they could also be chopped off or crippled by trying to get at the water pet-cock while the fan was running.

  1. Craig says: October 31, 200710:16 am

    Being an autoist myself I find this article quite informative and will certainly heed the timely advice should occasion occur.

  2. Neil Russell says: October 31, 200712:31 pm

    That guy cranking the Model A just reminded me of something my uncle always loved to say, he called cranking a car “shaking hands with Henry”

    There should be some sort of short gloves that just cover the knuckles, because that’s what I always smash when working on a car.
    It seems like the engineers always put nuts and bolts in such places as to be in a direct line with something sharp from the end of a wrench.
    Anyone else that’s worked on a car should be able to verify that!! 🙂

  3. Githyanki says: November 1, 20074:34 am

    They sell mechanic gloves that cover the first knuckle. I see them all the time at home depot/lowes.

  4. mrchurchill109 says: November 1, 20074:46 am

    Speaking as one who owns a car with a starting handle (a crank to the common folks) the talk on the best way to crank an engine is spot-on. If that engine kicks back (and they do) you sureashell do NOT want to have your hand wrapped all the way around the crank end.

    Doing that is a guaranteed route to the emergency ward and a plaster cast for the broken hand or arm. I’ve been kicked by mine and it is not at all a pleasant experience.

    What kind of car? Old Land-Rover (1964 vintage) – and I do start it on the starting handle on a regular basis, just to stay in practice. Anyway, it’s a great way to freak people out.


  5. nlpnt says: November 1, 20079:32 pm

    That brings up an interesting question- what’s the most recent car with provision for a crank? I have the 1971 US-market brochure for the Datsun 510 (1968-73) and there’s something that looks an awful lot like a crank slot under the front bumper.

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