Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What You Pay For

I had been playing around (in my head) with a new slogan to use in my shop. Its based on the old saying "you get what you pay for". Obviously that works to use with persons who think my prices are too high. But, I think there is a danger in having my prices too low (besides not making a living). That would be the perception that if my prices are too low, my workmanship may not be as good as could be obtained at a higher priced shop.

A good example is the "Bare Bones" porting job I offer for Twin Cams. At $499, it is one of the best performance buys on the market for Harleys. When I developed this porting job, it offered outstanding flow for a very reasonable price. With the addition of the knowledge I gained during my week of school with Joe Mondello, they are probably some of the best heads available anywhere for any price! But that still doesn't stop some customers from wanting to upgrade to a more expensive porting job, even though they may not really be in the market for the higher performance potential that the more expensive porting job makes possible.

But now I have seen the other side of the coin. I recently had the displeasure of disassembling a Knucklehead engine that had been "rebuilt/restored" elsewhere. This engine had not been run since its "rebuild", so all of the sins of the rebuilder were plain to see. Though I have never met the person who performed this "restoration", it still nearly made me sick to my stomach to see his workmanship. If there ever was a case of not getting what you payed for, this was it!

Upon pulling the heads, the first problem was apparent. Rust pits in the fresh bore. I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt on this one. Maybe the oil consumption would not be too bad, and perhaps one could justify leaving the bore as small as possible, since it is for a restoration. Yeah, I'd be willing to give him that one, if that was the only thing I found. Pulling the cam cover, though, really told the story. The pinion shaft looked as though it had spent 50 years laying in a swamp before being bead blasted and then sanded. The shaft had deep rust pits over the entire surface. There was a good .002" wear on the end of the shaft that fits in the cam cover pinion bushing. That combined with a pinion bushing that had never been replaced (this was a 1938 engine) came to a grand total of .009" clearance. The factory service manual calls for .0005" (half a thou) to .0012" for that bushing clearance. Nearly 9 times too big!

Bushing end of pinion shaft

Splitting the cases revealed that the roller bearing surface of the pinion shaft was just as rust pitted as the rest of the shaft. It may have lasted a few hundred miles before disintegrating, but other things would have prevented the engine from ever running that long.

Roller bearing surface of pinion shaft

The cam was in similar shape. Lots of pitting on the cam lobes, along with .009" bushing clearance on one end and .006" on the other. Pulling the oil pump revealed a decent body and gears, but a pressure relief spring that may have come out of a ball point pen rather than the correct one. The check valve spring looked to be 70 years old, and in case it never dawned on you, springs do tend to loose some pressure with time.

About the only clearance that I found that was not way too big, was the valve to guide. And that was way too small! All four valves were fit at .001 clearance. Now, with the huge pinion bushing clearance and the way too weak pressure relief spring, there is no chance that the oil pump could have built enough pressure to get any oil to the heads, so the valves would have stuck anyway. However, at .001" valve to guide clearance on a Knuckle, it would not have mattered if the valves were submerged in oil, they would have stuck!

And then there are the rocker arms. New standard shafts in worn out rocker arm bores. One of the rockers is worn so badly that a +.010 shaft will not save it. That and rocker pads that show 70 years worth of grooving.

Wear on rocker pad

Like I said, it is enough to make me sick to my stomach. Work like this goes far beyond incompetent. Its is down right theft to charge any amount of money for this type of work!

You get what you pay for. Well, that is not always true. The person who did this to this engine proves that sometimes, no matter how low the price, you will not get any value for your money. I try to be at the opposite end of the spectrum. I do my very best to give the customer his money's worth and more no matter how high (or low) the price.


Anonymous said...

How about good work is not cheap and cheap work is not good-----------or some variation thereof

St. Lee said...

That's not bad, as long as one keeps in mind that it is a "proverb" or "rule of thumb" and not a hard and fast rule.

There are also those who brag up their work to extreme, charge all the market will bear, and then deliver substandard workmanship. Unfortunate, but true.