Shop Solutions: August 2008 - Engine Builder Magazine

Shop Solutions: August 2008

Top 10 Machine Shop Business Tips

We recently held a series of 8 focus meetings in the Midwest.  Each meeting consisted of 8 to 10 machine shop owners and a moderator.  Three questions were asked during the meeting: 1) What’s working? 2) What’s not working? and 3) What do you need most to help you “make it” for the next 10 years?  After talking with over 70 machine shop owners we created the Shop Solutions Top 10 owner tips.  Here is tip #1.

Tip #1: Make It Easy For Your Customer To Remit: Shop owners reported that sales increased and bad debt decreased when they began accepting credit cards and started using a check guarantee company.  In today’s electronic age there is no reason to send a customer packing because he wants to pay you with plastic.  Sure, the 3% or 4% you pay the bankcard processor or check guarantor stings, but if you add this “cost of business” to the expense of the job, maintaining your current (or maybe even greater) gross profit, it’s not you who pays the fee.  If you can’t get another $50 bucks on that complete engine job to cover the bankcard fee, then you had better examine your customer.

Aggressive shops reported that they marketed the fact that they accept any form of payment. One forward thinking shop owner in Iowa said he got his credit card processor to give him 20 “We take MC/Visa” door signs. He sent one along with a short note to his local installer customers saying “Engines Overhauled – Dating Terms.” Of course the terms were provided by Visa.

Bottom Line For The Savvy Owner:  Advertise and brag about your payment flexibility and be sure to add those fees back into the cost of the job.


Steve Rich

Sterling Bearing Warehouse

Kansas City, MO



Removing Stubborn Bolts and Plugs

When removing stubborn bolts and pipe plugs, here is an easy way to do it. Using your torch, put heat to the bolt or plug until it turns semi-red. Remove the heat immediately and give the area a dose of motor oil. Walk away for five to ten minutes. What happens is that the bolt or plug expands from the heat and then shrinks as it cools. When it shrinks, the oil oozes in around the bolt or plug allowing removal without using an easy-out.


Angela Bolla  

Dave’s Engine Machining

Newark, CA


Installation Tips: Neoprene And Rubber Gaskets  

Improper installation of oil pan and other neoprene and rubber gaskets can result in a split gasket, elongated boltholes or parts of the gasket thrust outside of the sealing area.  Any one of these problems will result in an oil leak.

To avoid these problems, fit the gasket clean and dry. Do not use sealant as sealant can act as a lubricant, reducing friction between the surfaces allowing the gasket to extrude and split. Do not overtorque bolts. Torque bolts to the manufacturers specifications.


Engine Pro Technical Committee



Vintage Engine Valvetrain Geometry

When rebuilding GM or other engines from the 1950s, it is important to check the pushrod seat height or the pushrod height. These engines have probably been built before, and some creative machine shops have discovered that later model lifters will work in some older engines, if matched with the correct length pushrod.

The supply of vintage engine parts has increased over the years.  You may get the correct original lifters from a supplier only to find that when matched with the old pushrods, the valves will hang open.  This problem may be compounded by “stacking” machined block and head tolerances.

A good way of checking to see if there is a problem is to place the pushrod you plan to use into both the new lifter and the old lifter and take a total length measurement.  The total length of the new and old combinations should be relatively close to prevent any valvetrain related problems.  Correct application pushrods or custom length pushrods should be obtained to correct any problems.


Dave Sutton  

Sterling Engine Parts

Minneapolis, MN



Removing Non-Roller Pilot Bearings

(In previous columns we have printed suggestions for various methods and materials to remove pilot bearings. Here is yet another way.)  

The easiest and cleanest way that I have found to remove a non-roller pilot bearing is to simply use a coarse thread tap.  Find a coarse tap that will thread into the bearing and start cutting threads.  When the tap hits the crank, just keep on going, and the bearing will be jacked out.

This will leave time to play with your clay and Play-Doh and you can use the TP for – well, you know!


Vic Brown

Trader Vic’s Speed Shop

Tipton, IN



Engine Builder Shop Solutions is sponsored by Engine Pro,
a consortium of 14 engine parts specialist WDs operating 33 branch
locations serving engine builders/rebuilders across the U.S.
Solutions published in each issue of Engine Builder Magazine are
awarded a $100 Visa Gift Card. Winners will be chosen by
the staff of Engine Builder Magazine and the Engine Pro Technical

To submit a Shop Solution simply mail your entry
to Engine Builder Magazine, Shop Solutions, 3550 Embassy Parkway,
Akron, OH 44333; or email to Shop [email protected] Shop
Solutions may also be
emailed to [email protected].You must include
your name, shop name, shop address and shop telephone number. Submitted
Shop Solutions not published will be kept on file and reevaluated for
publication with each month’s new entries. If you include your email
address you will be emailed notification of publication if your Shop
Solution is chosen.


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