Machine Maintenance: Time For Spring Cleaning - Engine Builder Magazine

Machine Maintenance: Time For Spring Cleaning

Springtime is here at last. Birds are chirping, the snow is melting and the grass is finally starting to show. It’s time to hang up the snow shovels and get the lawnmower tuned up. And if you’re like me, you can hardly wait to get your summer toys out of storage and ready to roll.

But there’s business to attend to first: it’s time for spring-cleaning in and around your shop.

Let’s start at the front and work to the back of the shop. Spring is a great time to spruce up the outside of the shop. This is your first chance to make an impression on your customer. Now keep in mind, you probably don’t need to go as far as a retail store in fixing things up, but you still want the place to look good. Check out your parking lot after the winter. Do you have potholes that need filling? Are there weeds growing wild in the cracks? How about the shop windows and doors? Are they clean and inviting? Would you want to go into your shop based on the way the outside looks?

Okay, you got the customer in the door. What kind of impression are you making with your front office? Now is a great time to clean it up. Get rid of newspapers, old magazines, empty the wastebasket, and get rid of any junk that doesn’t belong in the customer area. If you have a coffee pot, make sure it’s clean. Replace any worn or dog-eared posters. Wipe down all your counters, fix or replace the benches or chairs so your customer has a comfortable place to sit while waiting. Replace the old catalogs that aren’t useful anymore with the new ones you’ve received from supply companies.

Dust off your showroom of finished work pieces or, better yet, put out new work pieces that have been machined recently. If you used to only do automotive engines, prep and display any small displacement engines you’ve invested in to show that you do more than just automotive. Show them your shop’s versatility.

While we’re talking about the front office, don’t forget the people who work there. Make sure they have clean, new uniforms sporting the company logo; have them look smart as well as be smart.

The shop is next. Take a moment to walk through the shop. Pretend that you are a customer. What is your first impression? Is it clean? Organized? Are there painted lines defining a walkway? Neatly organized work pieces ready for the next operation? Finished products bagged and ready to be picked up or exchanged? Cores lined up ready to be machined? I know it’s easier said than done, but let me assure you: you will make a huge impression on your customers if you get and stay organized.

Big machines should be tuned up before the summer rush of machine work. Wipe them all down, clean out the coolant sump or dump the chip trays. This is a great time to replenish all the reservoirs with fresh oils, lubricants or coolants. Adjust the drive belts or inspect the gear boxes. Now is the perfect time to replace any questionable components. Wouldn’t you rather do it now rather than when you’re in the middle of a customer’s job?

If you can, clean and re-paint your older machines. I talked to a shop owner who picks one machine per month to re-paint. In time, he’ll have all of his machines repainted without a lot of interference in the day-to-day operations. Of course a newly painted machine won’t do the work any better or faster but it looks much more professional for both you and your customer.

Spring is also an ideal time to bring in new machines. Prepare the shop for the new addition BEFORE it arrives. Have the air plumbed and ready to go, make sure you have the proper power in place, and have a forklift ready to unload your new machine when the truck pulls up. Make sure your sales rep is available for the set up and training. Pre-read the instruction and parts manual Make sure all your shop guys have read the manual as well. Be ready when the sales rep shows up for the training.

Tooling is probably one of the items that is easiest to overlook when you are getting ready to accept the summer rush of business. It worked last time, so it should work this time, right? Not necessarily. Take a little time now to go through each and every piece of tooling and inspect it for wear and you’ll save yourself more time down the road.

I’ve developed a Spring Checklist for shop maintenance. Check off each item as you complete it and add it to your shop maintenance log.



o Levels

o Micrometers

o Torque Wrenches

o Spring Testers

o Dial Bore Gauges

o Dial Indicators

o Straight Edges

o Calipers

o Ra Measuring Gauges

o Temperature Gauges

Each of these tools need to be calibrated and dead-on accurate when you are using them to make critical decision about where and what to machine. If you can’t calibrate them yourself, send them to a company that offers this service.



o Gasket Scrapers

o Gloves, Aprons, Eye Protection

o Rinse Hoses

o Tear Down Bench


o Chemical

o Thermostat

o Gas/Electric Heating System

o Parts Baskets


o Nozzles

o Air fittings

o Gloves

o Air Regulator/Water Trap

o Cabinet Glass



o Grinding wheels

o Dresser

o Belts

o Bearings

o Chuck Run out

o Oil

o Coolant Pump

o Button, Knobs, Dials, Switches


o Core Drills

o Core Reamers

o Valve Guide Reamers

o Counter Bore Cutter Tips

o 3-Angle Cutter Tips

o Pilots

o Tool Setting Fixtures

o Level

o Wipe Down

o Organize all Tooling


o Sealing Rubbers

o Air Regulator

o Organize all Plates and Tooling


o Stone Holders

o Dressers Diamonds

o Pilots

o Seat Grinding Stones

o Electric or Air Drivers



o Head Clamps

o Spring Adapters

o Seal Pullers/Installers

o Magnets

o Keeper Tools

o Air Regulator (if equipped)

o Lapping Tools

o Assembly Lubricants


o Jaws

o Frame

o Air Fittings

o Air Regulator/Oiler

o Buttons


o Gear Box Oil

o Way Oil

o Grinding Solution

o Stone Dresser

o Grinding Stones

o Cutter Tips (Carbide, CBN, PCD)

o Fixturing/Set Up Tooling

o Level

o Depth Indicators

o Button, Knobs, Dials, Switches



o Gear Box Oil

o Tool Setting Fixtures

o Cutter Tips

o Cutter Holders

o Air/Oiler Regulator

o Air Fittings


o Honing Oil

o Honing Oil Filters

o Filter Mat Paper

o Drive Belts

o Dial Bore Gauges

o Buttons, Knobs, Dials, Switches

o Workpiece Set Up Fixturing


o Oil

o Filters

o Calibrate Rod Measuring Gauge

o Hone Mandrels

o Drive Belts

o Buttons, Knobs, Dial, Switches


o Hydraulic Oil

o Pressure Gauge

o Check for Leaks

o Organize and Deburr Tooling


o Coolants

o Gear Oil

o Way Oil

o Belt Adjustment

o Air/Oiler/Regulator

o Sizing Gauge

o Grinding Wheels

o Grinding Wheel Blotters

o Diamond Dressers

o Micrometers


o Electronics Test

o Bobweights

o Scales

o Rod Weighing Device

o Data Sheets/Log


o Chuck (jaws)

o Bull Nose Center (Deburr)

o Variable Speed Motor (Shear Gear)

o Polishing Belts

o Polishing Rouge

o Electrical Switches


o Coolant

o Table Oil

o Wheel Dresser

o Grinding Wheels

o Depth Gauge

o Dowel Pin Puller

o Deburr Tooling


o Drain Water

o Air/Oiler Regulator

o Belts

o Guards

o Compressor Oils

o All Air Lines and Fittings

o All Air Piping and Air Stations

Anything that runs on electricity such as your drill press, seat grinding guns, hone drill or crankshaft polisher will become contaminated by all of the abrasive dust floating in the air in your shop. Test run them all and do the service work now to keep them in top working condition.

Aerosols have a shelf life. Test each product to ensure it sprays and has not lost its ability to do what it is supposed to do. Be sure to replace them  if any of your aerosols aren’t performing up to snuff.

Remember, a clean shop is a productive shop. Be proud of what you have to offer your customers. Show them your quality by being organized and ready to do the engine work they pay you to do.   

See ya in the shop!Spring is a great time to spruce up the inside as well as the outside of your shop. Keep in mind, you probably won
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