Like many classic and vintage vehicles, the Series Land Rover was designed to be started with the aid of a starter handle should the battery and/or starter motor be not upto the task for some reason. Some of us have a starter handle, many of us don't, most have never used one in earnest to start the engine. Those who have, may remember the experience and not wish to repeat it.
Fact: A starter handle for a petrol engined Series Land Rover is an asset. Even if you never need to use it to start your engine, it is by far the easiest and most efficient means of turning over the engine by the small increments necessary to align the ignition timing marks on the flywheel. Also, when it comes to checking the tappet clearances, it is by far the best and fastest method to check all of them. It is also useful to remember that in these two particular applications, on petrol engines at least, the spark plugs can be loosened to reduce engine compression and hence save your arm muscles for other activities.
Caution: Using a starting handle to start the engine is seriously risky unless carried out correctly. If the ignition timing is too far advanced then there is high risk of a strong 'kick-back' from the handle as the first cyinder fires up. It's important to NOT grip the handle as instinct tells you to; do NOT hold the handle between the thumb and first finger of either hand. To do so, risks a broken or dislocated thumb if there is a strong 'kick-back'. Keep fingers and thumb on the same side of the handle. It is also important to keep a firm grip on the handle and keep the inside of your knees out of the way. It's easier with two hands.
These days. I do everything I can to avoid having to start my Series IIA Land Rover with the handle - it's not fun anymore with a 2286cc engine! When I have done it though, I always turned the engine over a few times on the handle first with the ignition off. This gives a feel for where the compression points (potential 'kick-backs') are in the cycle. I would then prime the fuel pump manually and press the accelerator pedal a couple of times to prime the inlet manifold, before switching on the igniton and going for it.
A well tuned engine should start first swing of the handle. If it doesn't start after 5 turns, your arms will be in the same state as the engine! You'll need to look for electrical or fuel problems.
Diesels? - don't even think about it!
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