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Old 09-10-2003, 03:41 PM
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Are machine shops dying off?

I"d like to get some opinions and thoughts on something.

On my current rebuild, just for something to do, I started checking online for parts prices and found some real deals on eBay for pistons and valves and just about everything I needed. I bought a set of stainless valves for $60 and took them to the machine shop thats doing my heads. I had previously asked how much their valves were, same exact ones, $105! I told them where I got them and he said "well then, why don't you have eBay bore your block too!".

I asked him to price a set of Speed Pro Hyper/teflon coated pistons too, his price to me was $281, eBay everyday price is $169.

We had a long conversation on pricing and machine work. With all the mail order ( Summit and PAW etc.) and online sites and eBay, the machine shops cannot compete on parts anymore. He's not pissed at me, but at the way business is going with everyone bringing in their own parts, he's thinking about having 2 different labor rates, one for "bring your own parts" and one for "we supply the parts.". What do you think about all of this?


With the likes of Pep Boys and Checker and Auto Zone, the independent parts houses are dying off here in Phx faster than you can imagine. We had 11 good parts houses/machine shops 2 years ago in my area, all established and doing ok, but now we only have 3 and the one I'm using has been in the red for 2 years.



I really want to support my local machine shop because they are really good and have been there a long time, but price is a consideration. I don't mind a few bucks here and there, but a hundred bucks on pistons and fourty plus on the valves is enough to pay for balancing. I almost hate to get the bill for the rest of the parts when he's done! LOL

What kind of experiences have you guys had in this area?
Do your machine shops mind if you bring in your own parts?
Do they charge different labor rates?

My biggest concern is if we all start buying elsewhere, all the machine shops will die off and we'll all be screwed. Whaddyathink?

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Old 09-10-2003, 04:01 PM
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Our premier independent parts shop here in Bakersfield, Southern Auto, affiliated with Car Quest consortium a few years ago and it has been a great marriage. They still have the really good counter people, great independent machine shop and dingy old stores we all love but the Car Quest contribution has been competitive pricing and a great stocked warehouse. I rarely go to Auto Zone and Pep Boys with their slack-jawed mouth breather clerks 'cause Southern Auto has people, parts and prices.
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Old 09-10-2003, 04:18 PM
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we`ve got a few shops here in town, the one I use is united with Car Quest as they do the best work, they don`t mind if you bring them parts you got elsewhere, and they have your parts finished in a matter of a day or two. I used another shop here and it took them 2 months to finished my heads and even then I had to take them right back off since they screwed them up.
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Old 09-10-2003, 04:53 PM
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Here on the far east coast it is very hard to get any machine work done correctly and everything has to be checked , We use to do a lot of engine rebuilds in house but now most motor jobs are used or crate motors, to much turn around time on getting the work done right. I still have a man for our performance stuff if you are not in a hurry! and its 150 miles away!

Here on the far east coast it is very hard to get any machine work done correctly and everything has to be checked , We use to do a lot of engine rebuilds in house but now most motor jobs are used or crate motors, to much turn around time on getting the work done right. I still have a man for our performance stuff if you are not in a hurry! and its 150 miles away!

Last edited by roys63; 09-10-2003 at 04:53 PM.
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Old 09-10-2003, 04:54 PM
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I recently called the local NAPA machine shop. I had previously had a crank turned for $55. He said the turning would be $55, or $110 if I didn't buy their bearings! He mumbled that they were tired of being the machine shop ofr Autozone. My thought was it's better to have some work than none at all!
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Old 09-10-2003, 05:14 PM
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Hello,

I own a high performance machine and fabrication shop. I do almost all work in house. Boring, honing, balancing. crankshafts, flow testing, cyl head service, almost every engine machining need. I also di industrial balancing and fabrication ( tig welding, mid welding, plasma cutting, milling and lathe work etc..
I have been in business about 30 years, and yes almost all of these types of shops are closing.

In this area automotive machining rates are about half of the rate a dealer charges with minimal profit available on parts its about a break even deal.

There much more profit in the industrial side of this buis.. I build a lot of drag racing and lower class stockcar motors for, that I enjoy but its not very profitable. I really don't see how anyone new (and young) has a chance starting out. A new crankshaft balancer is $20 to $30 grand. And you still need at least a tig welder, mill, lathe. disc grinder, and many precision tools. And a shop to house the equipment, raw material and considerable skill.
The average price to balance a rotating assembly ( pistons, rods, crank, flywheel and balancer) is about $150.00 and takes an average of about 2 to 3 hours (holding very tight tolerances).
That averages out to about $50.00 an hour. Throw in utilities and other expenses and its a no win situation.

I try to be optimistic but some days its kinda tough. IM not complaining i really enjoy the racing and the freedom I have and no one held a gun to my head to enter this field. Im just an a addicted racer and having all the equipment to bud my owns cars, engines, trans, and diffs makes it fun. but not profitable.

Thanks
Jeff
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Old 09-10-2003, 05:18 PM
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Ouch, I didn't realize it was that bad for your guys stock...
Now I see why my machinist was so pissed when he found out that my crank clearances were off...
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Old 09-10-2003, 05:33 PM
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Supply and demand it's the basis for a capitalist market.
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Old 09-10-2003, 06:14 PM
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I agree Bigmark thats why i dont blame Jegs or Summit I would have done the same thing if I were them.

The only draw back is that when most of the local HP shops fold the market also looses a lot of expertise and convience.

Having said that Im as bad as anyone.
Do im but lures and tacke to fish with at the local bait shop? No I usually buy that at wallmart. JUst live bait at the local shop. but Im reall going to miss his knowledge of fishing when hes gone.

Do i buy tools locally? Nothing big its Menards, Wallmart, Lowes etc..But I reallyt miss all all those hardware store real harware stores when I need that "special allen head cap screw" when i need it. Forget the big chains theres no profit in that much inventory. Sell 1 every 2 years, I dont think so.

It goes on and on and it is just capitalisam. I have no problem with it but I do miss all that knowledge. I dont know what I would have done when I was 16 (Im 50 now) with out all the local speed shops arround, meeting racers asking info. and getting some to actually LOOK at my problems. Those days are almost gone. Thats why web sites like this are valuable. But i still cant get those Holley parts when i really need them because no one is arround that can afford to stock them.

I spend more on shipping charges now than i used to spend on All my small items. Add in what I forced to keep on hand and Im not sure Im saving any thing (assuming I can find what I have in my shop!).


But it is supply and demand and eventually everthing works out.

Thanks
Jeff
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Old 09-10-2003, 06:35 PM
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I think the point I made with out realizing it with my above dissertation on Southern Auto is that ANY business must constantly adapt and change or go obsolete. Southern Auto saw the handwriting on the wall that the chain auto parts stores were going to revolutionize how people buy auto parts so they found a way to keep their local shop advantage and still adapt to the volume 'chain' buying power to keep prices down by associating with a buying consortium. Very creative and profitable solution that is a win-win for everyone. I'ts the old buggy whip manufacturer's story we have all heard. One day buggy whips were in huge demand but with the advancement of technology, one day no one wanted a buggy whip.

Our town is currently fighting WalMart building 3 super stores in town. They have been successful in keeping them out so far but it will eventually happen and that will unquestionably put a lot of veteran retailers out of business. However, there will be several who prosper under the shadow of the big guy. Staying in business requires all of the creativity it required to start the business in the first place. Just ask Montgomery Ward, The Saturday Evening Post, Texaco Oil, Gulf Oil, Oldsmobile, etc. You either move forward or die.
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Old 09-10-2003, 06:46 PM
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As most of you know, I own business and it's mainly auto repair related, but I also have a small machine shop.
First off Jmark, always remember that no matter who is providing you service, it is the service you are paying for. Regardless if it's automotive machining or repair, the facility has to make money on PARTS AND LABOR. You cannot make a go of it on labor only. Generally speaking, if you are not making 35 per cent profit on parts, then you are pissing in the wind. I don't always charge this much mark-up, but look at the sheer expense of the equipment in a machine shop. It's astronomical what the stuff costs, and to get only 11 bucks a hole to bore and hone, it's no wonder machine shops are going down the drain.
I think the only shops that are going to flourish will be involved in specialty stuff like diesel engines and industrial type stuff or very specialized areas like flow-tested cylinder heads, etc. The general automotive machine shops are shutting down because modern cars run forever, and not too many people overhaul engines anymore unless it's for a hobby car of some kind.
I know it seems foreign to you to pay more for parts, but you are merely paying for service. You wouldn't take a hamburger into Pizza Hut, sit down and eat it would you? It's no different for your machinist, he needs to sell parts along with his labor to make enough money to survive.
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Old 09-10-2003, 08:00 PM
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Well stated NAIRB, All the machine shops are feeling the pinch. In this area we have lost over half a dozen shops in the last couple of years, costs are ever rising and the income levels in this part of Michigan are on the decline because of lower pay scales in the southern states and foreign outsourcing, and just plain relocation of the auto plants.
If you remember back ( 60's-70's) a car used to be a real fine piece if it went over a hundred thousand miles of everyday use. Now even the lowly bottom of the line cars go well over that with little problems(Quad 4's and 2.2 chevy's are the exception). Even then it's usually a head repair and they are out there again. Overdrive tranny's and modern parts all help for longevity. But the long life of a component doesn't help machine shops!
We do lots of resto's , tractor stuff, and specialty work, but the small block Chevy is the biggest income producer, thanks to GM's use of thin head castings on a workhorse of a motor.
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Old 09-10-2003, 08:11 PM
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In the spirit of supporting the local machine shop.....

since a bunch of machine experts are reading this thread, what is the going price to have a block machined? Is there anything special that needs to be done? how about a crank?
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Old 09-10-2003, 08:21 PM
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Well said Bob, The problem is now, here in the South, we got all these foreign auto makers pouring into Alabama, and the gov. welcomes them with open arms, they come here for 1 reason, cheap labour, there turning my state and my city into a hell hole, people are pouring in all over, more and more arrive everyday. I was born and raised here, and town used to be small, everything closed at 8 to 9 at the latest and the population wasn`t more than about 30,000, now it`s 95,000 and increaseing more and more. and the clowns in the mayor`s office say that`s what we need, and I say "who`s we? you mean YOU" a example is, Wal Mart came here in the early 80`s, the city owned the building, paid for 99 years rent in advance, so how much we talking here? about 5 million for 99 years rent as a example, the store decided it didn`t like the location, so after about 8 years it moves, then at the new location another mini mall is built, and again, the city owns it, gets paid in advance for 99 years rent, they decide after 7 years "we want to have a super wal mart" and close that one, only to move a block, that`s right, a BLOCK away from the old building. so I have to ask the mayors office "where did that 10 million go?" and you`ll hear "uhh,, ohh,, I don`t know, I`ll have to get the books" it lined there pockets. Lowe`s did the exact same thing, they moved a mile and a half away from the old building which was 6 years old, and these buildings are now abandoned. it`s all about money now, that`s all they care about, there gonna turn my city into the next Detoilet, and it`s gonna get flushed when the cost of living and labour goes up, the buisnesses will split and go to the next state they can sucker, and the only thing left here will be nothing but abandoned buildings and a city full of smog, trash and pollution, a huge amount of people will be stuck here cause they won`t be able to find work, the crime rate will go through the ceiling, and the companies that just split will say "hey we made Millions off those suckers and there cheap labour, worked them to death and now I don`t gotta pay them retirement cause we fired them before they could retire ha ha ha" greed will be the gov`s and the city`s own undoing down here.
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Old 09-10-2003, 08:37 PM
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Hi Snowicki.

It varies greatly with what you specifically need. Bored? Honed? Align honed? Decked? Balanced? you get the point.

The application is the most important thing to consider and discussed with your local shop. "Freshening" a bock can run from
a couple hundred to a couple grand depending on what is desired. For an extreme example, an NHRA stocker (to be competitive) 305 with all the tricks sonic testing, special cyl wall finish, bushing the lifter bores, assembling for measurements etc. can cost a few grand but takes about 40 hrs and many special operations and tooling. But this is a rarity its usually much less.

Just talk it over with your machine shop and don't be afraid to ask questions most engine builders will go out of their way to help you obtain the best combination of work and compatible parts.

Most really want satisfied customers as word of mouth is by far the best advertising in the performance market.

Good Luck.
Jeff
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