Engine Builder Shop Solutions: December 2008 - Engine Builder Magazine

Engine Builder Shop Solutions: December 2008

Top 10 Machine Shop Business Tips

Engine Pro recently held a series of 8 focus-group meetings in the Midwest. Each meeting consisted of 8 to 10 machine shop owners and a moderator. Three questions were asked during the meeting.  “What’s working? What’s not working? What do you need most to help you ‘make it’ for the next 10 years?” After talking with 70+ machine shop owners, the Shop Solutions Top 10 owner tips was created. Here is Tip #5:

Tip #5 – Charge More Than the Appliance Repairman Does

Here is how Jerry, a Minnesota machine shop owner, increased his net profit by 10 percent. Jerry was forced to stay home one morning to meet the clothes drier repairman. The technician arrived in a new pickup truck with his hand out for his $75 “tailgate fee” (See Tip #3).  The tech grabbed a tester from his belt and diagnosed the problem in 2 minutes – a faulty fuse. The fuse and installation cost $50 on top of the service call. Jerry could have driven across town to purchase the $2 fuse and installed it himself. The repairman left 20 minutes later with $125.

Jerry was upset that the repairman could walk out of his house with more money in 20 minutes than Jerry’s business earns in two hours.  And Jerry drove a 15 year old truck.  Jerry realized that he had a bigger investment in his cylinder head department than this guy had in his whole repair operation.  It was time for a change.

Two areas for improvement were addressed: Cost control and pricing strategy. On the cost side, Jerry made lots of little changes that added up to a 15 percent reduction in expenses.  He swapped incandescent bulbs for florescents, installed electronic thermostats and he shopped all his services, such as insurance. He even disconnected his land-line phone in favor of using a cell phone, eliminating the redundant charges while reducing his long distance bill. 

Adjusting his selling price was the big factor in increasing his net profit. In the past, Jerry set prices based on his perception of the market. His hourly rate was set at $55 years ago because his competition charges that rate. With the help of his accountant, he created a budget and a realistic sales projection. Jerry determined how much he needed to earn every day to reach his goal of sending two kids to college and retiring at age 65. Jerry started selling machine work packages (See Tip #4) and he raised his hourly rate from $55 to $100.

He made personal visits to his regular customers, reintroducing himself and explaining his pricing and service policies. His business increased and so did his profit.

Bottom line:  Don’t be afraid to price your services at what they are worth, and be willing to seek professional help.

Steve Rich

Sterling Bearing Warehouse

Kansas City, MO



Removing Honda Intake Manifold Gaskets

If you’ve ever struggled with the removal of 4-cylinder Honda intake gaskets, you’ll really appreciate this tip.  Buffing pads are dangerous to aluminum and won’t reach around the manifold studs on the head. Scraping takes about 30 minutes and extreme care not to damage the head. Instead of scraping, take about 3 minutes to heat the gasket around all ports and studs with an acetylene torch and the gasket lifts right off the head.  This has saved us a lot of time and frustration. Be careful not to overheat the head, which can cause the aluminum to anneal.

Jim Keever, Jr.

Keever Auto & Machine, Inc.

Hutchinson, KS



Removing Ball Bearing Oil Galley Plugs

Ball bearing oil galley plugs are tough to remove from a blind passage. The easiest way I’ve found is by using a body shop welding gun. These guns are advertised in most tool magazines for about $150.  The gun welds a stud similar to a dowel onto the steel ball. Use a slide hammer to collect the stud and pull it out.

Scott Turf

Lee Auto Parts

Waukegan, IL



Installing Ford Powerstroke Injector Tubes

Not all injector tubes require expensive tooling to install properly.  Ford/Navistar Powerstroke injector tubes, for example, are easy and profitable to replace. First, thread the ID of the old tube with a tap, and using a punch, drive it out from the deck side. Then clean the tube bore, seal the mating surface and drive in the new tube. The head must be pressure tested. Some tubes also seal fuel and oil, so be certain to also test these passages.

Mike Oxbig

All Pro Truck & Sales

Rockford, IL



2.0L and 2.4L Chrysler Crankshaft Sprocket Removal

When a 2.0L or 2.4L Chrysler crank sprocket is stuck beyond a puller’s capability to remove it from the crankshaft, I drill the accessory pulley bolt hole out to the edge of the sprocket. Then I insert a tapered punch and strike it. The weakened gear easily splits and slides off causing no damage to the small snout of the crank.

Buying a new sprocket is a lot cheaper than the time it takes fighting to remove and save the old one.

Mike Simon

Engine Parts Group

Chicago, IL


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.


Additional Tech Tips>>


You May Also Like

Shop Solutions February 2023

Check out February’s shop tips and tricks.

Engine and machine shop tips and tricks.

Dowel Removal

This is an easy and clean way to remove hollow dowel pins found in connecting rods or mains. Start tapping the I.D of the dowel with an NPT tap. Once it starts to cut, it will spin the dowel, and with upward pressure, the dowel can be removed and reused.

Shop Solutions January 2023

Next time you have set of large journal small block Chevy connecting rods to resize, consider honing the big ends of them for a +.002” outside diameter bearing that the LS engines with fracture cap rods use.

Shop Solutions December 2022

Everyone misses occasionally, and this helps avoid dents and damage.

November 2022 Shop Solutions

November tricks and tips for the shop!

Shop Solutions October 2022

When machining on the CNC mill, it’s necessary to blow the flood coolant and chips off the parts for inspection. I tried a tool holder mounted fan, but it wouldn’t get all the chips and coolant out of the deeper areas.

Other Posts

September 2022 Shop Solutions

September tricks and tips for the shop!

Shop Solutions
August 2022 Shop Solutions

August tips and tricks for the shop!

Shop Solutions July 2022

When the timing cover or block has no dowel pins, or the dowel holes do not fit snug on the pins. Take an old damper and hone the center so that it is now a slip fit onto the crank snout. Use it to hold the cover in place while tightening the bolts.

Shop Solutions June 2022

I needed a narrow grooving tool to quickly clean carbon from piston ring grooves for an engine restoration project. All the usual grooving tools were too wide.