Engine Builder Shop Solutions: January 2009 - Engine Builder Magazine

Engine Builder Shop Solutions: January 2009

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 #6: Guerrilla Marketing

An unconventional system of promotions running on a low budget by relying on time, energy and imagination instead of a big marketing budget. Guerrilla marketing ideas from shop owners in the Midwest:

• IA:  This shop owner is active with the local tracks.  He attends each track’s year-end banquet and offers a door prize of One Dyno Session. He says that it’s a great way to spread the word about his dyno service to a targeted audience and the prize winners usually end up becoming regular customers.

• MO:  This performance shop owner bases his sales route on the weekly race results.  He says it’s a great conversation starter. Some advice: avoid the guy who lost!

• KS:  This shop owner negotiated a contingency sticker program with the local track.  Top finishers running his sticker earn labor credit at his shop.  The award draws the best racers to his shop.  The promotion also targets the audience with track signage and frequent mentions of his shop on the track PA system.

• NE:  This shop owner spends some of his idle hours participating in automotive forums.  He says it’s amazing how many people are looking for information on engine building.  He shares his knowledge and it has paid off with an increase in business.

• MN:  This enterprising shop owner pays car show participants to display a sign near their vehicle advertising his machine shop services.  He also makes a habit of walking the car show with business cards and brochures about his shop.

There are lots of ways to market on a low budget, but the NUMBER ONE Guerrilla Marketing technique that was brought up over and over by shop owners from all focus groups was – visit your customers! A South Dakota shop owner has a great idea: Tuesday through Friday mornings he begins with a trip to the donut shop where he grabs some coffee and a dozen long johns, which he delivers to a different garage, fleet or jobber store on his way to work. He says the sales call is great for business, but the donuts – “I don’t eat ‘em any more.”

Steve Rich

Sterling Bearing Warehouse

Kansas City, MO


Keeping Technical Articles For Future Reference

There are a lot of great articles in magazines like Engine Builder, but it can be hard to find what you’re looking for when you have a stack of them. I cut and staple the articles that are of interest to me or may help with a shop problem down the road. I put them in a file cabinet. The articles can be organized in whichever way works the best for you; e.g., block related, head, crank, rods, high performance, Chevy, Ford alternative fuels, etc.

Stuart Anderson

RPM Machine Shop

Sturgis, SD  


The ‘Kleen Hone Machine’

Here’s a great way to keep your cylinder and line honing machine sumps clean and also extend filter life. Line the bottom grate of the machine with blue paper shop towels. The towels act like a big pre-filter and trap the grit and particulate before it can drop into the tank and eventually the filter. This works exceptionally well in my line-honing machine where I do a lot of main cap boring and honing. It traps all the “squigglys” because I line the entire bottom of the machine.

For disposal, just roll up the towels and recycle them right along with your used oil filters. I converted my cylinder hone to use inexpensive automotive filters many years ago. I replace them much less often with the pre-filter system in place. Just try it once.  You’ll see the results after one month.

Reverend Ron Flood

Cedar Machine Service/

Toxic Cycle, Inc.

North Branch, MN


A Better Way To Degree A Camshaft

When degreeing a cam in our shop we only install the #1 piston. This allows virtually no drag while turning the crankshaft, making for easier and more accurate readings on the degree wheel and dial indicator.  Stopping at specified lifts (ie. .006?, .050? or max lift) of the cam grinder’s specs is very smooth without having to bump or jerk the crank to turn it. This method also seems to save time, which is money in your pocket!

Norm Johns

Norms Auto Machine

Petaluma, CA


Reusing Exhaust Header Manifold Gaskets

Soak both sides of the gasket in WD-40 or a similar product before installation. This keeps the gasket from sticking for easy removal and re-use.

Eric G. Weinrich


Placentia, CA


Removing Valve Seats

When removing a replaceable valve seat, lay a bead of weld on it and pry it out with a pry bar.  The weld shrinks the seat, and it almost falls out of the head.

Arus Kinney

Austin-Jordan Engines

Wyoming, MI

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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