Not all machine shops are the same just as not all engine builds are the same.

When selecting a machine shop, the engine builder should consider the things that are most important.

If you are looking for a quick turn around time, a close machine shop that has less of a back log is probably a better selection or deserves more consideration in the selection process.  A machine shop that has less of a back log in work deserves a little more investigation.  Don’t automatically assume that a shop that is less busy than others in the local area does bad work.  The shop may be newer and has not built it’s reputation yet.  Most machine shops do very little advertising and rely on word of mouth advertising between racers to help their business.

Find a machine shop that is familiar with the equipment that you are working work. Checking specs and knowing the tolerances is extremely important. This is what you are paying for, expertise.

Ask Questions

Find out about the machine shops in your area.  Experience says a lot about machinists, and those that have good reputations have very loyal customers that are only too happy to tell you how great their machine shop is.  Ask around about the type of engine builds that the shop normally performs.  A shop that is dedicated to doing machine work on daily driver 4 cylinder street cars may not be on the cutting edge of top fuel dragster engine technology.  Likewise, a machine shop a couple of hours drive away may not be aware of the rules at your local track.  Through lack of familiarity or experience, they may machine your engine outside of the rules and cause you a great deal of grief when you get disqualified from an event.  This can be prevented by asking if the machine shop has experience in your type engine application.

Take a Look

Before committing to a machine shop, it would be prudent to visit the shop and take a look around.  A shop that is in disarray is a warning sign, especially if you are bringing your own parts for the build.  Parts can be misplaced or lost causing delays in your engine build and damaging the trust between you and your machinist.  Organization in a  machine shop is a big deal.  A dirty shop can also alert you to problems.  Ideally, a machine shop will have separate areas for disassembly, cleaning, machining and assembly.  In the assembly area, the shop should be neat and clean.  Dirt is an engines worst enemy.  A machine shop that has a dirty assembly area is asking for shortened life span on your internal engine components.

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Engine Machining
Engine Machining

There are some clear advantages to understanding what services you are paying your machinist for and it is obvious to us that talking with your machine shop operator will help you avoid some common pitfalls that can be real show stoppers.