Engine Builder Shop Solutions: April 2009 - Engine Builder Magazine

Engine Builder Shop Solutions: April 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 the next tip.

Tip #9: Who do you “ASSOCIATE” with?

The topic of association membership was discussed at nearly every focus group meeting. It seems that most machine shops associate with one or more groups.  

Here are examples provided by shop owners, broken down into 4 categories:

1) Technical Services – Many shops are members of the Engine Builders Association (AERA), for their library of technical knowledge. Shops also subscribe to technical manual services like All Data.

2) Trust/Confidence – Progressive shops have mandated that their machinists become ASE “Engine Machinist” certified.  Automotive Service Excellence testing proves competence to the employer and the ASE Blue Seal of Excellence is a sign of trust to most customers. Another great way shop owners bolster customer perception is by promoting their local Better Business Bureau.  

3) Networking – Industry associations offer a great venue for visiting with current customers and for meeting prospects. ASA, Automotive Service Association, caters to professional mechanics and has chapters throughout the USA.  Car clubs are populated with enthusiasts who generally love engine work and who make great customers.

4) Industry – Much like the hotels in Las Vegas that join together to promote “Only Vegas” or the dairy farmers who promote the “Got Milk” campaign, forward thinking shops join and promote the Engine Repower Council (ERC), a not-for-profit organization that promotes engine rebuilding to the motoring public.

Most associations are inexpensive to join and provide great value, IF you promote the partnership.  Associations usually offer free marketing material and some even have referral services.

Savvy shop owners budget a little time and money to take advantage of the great opportunities good associations can bring their business.

Steve Rich

Sterling Bearing, Inc.



Head Gasket Failures: Part I

Head gasket failures still plague many machine shops across the country. Many of these failures can be avoided by following the manufacturer’s recommendations, and by making sure the cooling system is in top performance.

The cooling system is the biggest cause of head gasket failures, and many times is ignored when rebuilding or replacing an engine. Today’s cooling systems are designed to do the job and not much more. If a radiator has as little as 0.25? of sediment it can reduce the cooling up to 40 percent! A $10 thermostat or a $10 hose can cause thousands of dollars damage. Recommend that a new engine have a new radiator and hoses as well.

Also remember that with today’s engines using cast iron and aluminum expansion and contraction rates can vary depending on ambient conditions. Extreme weather conditions can increase a problem because of the (thermal shock theory) which is very cold coolant coming in contact with hot metals. So make sure that all the air is out of the system, and if possible start and warm up engine under controlled conditions.

Bill Crum

Engine Pro Technical Committee



Are You In Time?

How many of you have installed a new harmonic balancer on your small block Chevrolet only to find that you can’t set the timing correctly? Don’t worry; there are a few steps you can take to prevent this problem.

Keep these facts in mind when choosing a balancer, timing cover and pointer for your small block Chevrolet.

1) 1986 -1992 the timing mark is 40° to the left of the keyway centerline.

2) 1969 to 1985 engines the timing mark is 10° to the left of the keyway centerline.

3) Pre- 1969 engines have the timing mark located 2° to the left of the keyway centerline.

The first thing to remember; if you change the diameter of the balancer the timing mark changes, so you will need to get a timing cover and an adjustable pointer to compensate for this change. Just make sure your new balancer has the same configuration with respect to the TDC marks as your original balancer. You will have to do a physical check of top dead center so you know where the mark is supposed to be, and then adjust the pointer to TDC and you are good to go.

Dave Sutton

Hard Parts Warehouse

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.

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