>>>*This is going to be a little long, sorry. But there is no other way to make the points. Your questions are exceptional and fit right in with the theme of the original piece I wrote.
I do understand the concerns of any machine shop on warrenty/guarantees when the consumer is doing their own assembly. There are many different levels of skill out there, the problem becomes compounded when we are in a situation where a complete powerplant is shipped over a long distance.
There is simply no way to control what happens once the unit is out of our care and keeping. Sure, just plain silly things can happen, a rod bolt not properly torqued, a fastner not installed, the 1/2" end wrench left in the intake valley of a 460" Ford engine...(..Yea, I did that one, I got my wrench back 7 years later when I did the freshen at 208,000..*LOL**...).
Sometimes a piece of metal just plain breaks.
But far more likely is the situation where the engine is started out of time and run that way, wires and connections hooked up wrong, the gentleman who chooses to "retorque everything" just to make "sure" and goes "just a little bit" more.
This accounts for over 98% of all returns. The national average for returns of an assembled long block is around 8-10% for all reasons, one company I know of finds 16% acceptable...???. So this means that out of 100 comebacks, about 98 of them are diagnosed as consumer caused out in the field. I could write a very long and very funny book on just this subject. I mean no disrespect when I refer to skill, because I make mistakes myself. But when we are dealing with specific clearences and they matter, skill does come into play.
So the term "defects in workmanship and materials" becomes a requirement for any engine rebuilder or machinist. 98% of the returns for all reasons just can't be absorbed and allow them to stay in business. Now my son Tod holds right at around .2% on his heads and in the 2% range for his engine work, which as a Dad I am understandably proud of. Perhaps slightly better than I used to manage, and a big reason for that is most of the work is piecework or ready to assemble packages. If he did a lot of longblocks, that number would increase, I am sure. Yes, I did more longblocks than he does.
Understanding the reason for a limited warrenty, the next term we must change is the power output. Note I carefully used the word "potential", and there is a reason. No one, and I mean no one can gaurantee a power output unless they build, install, and tune the engine themselves, and then test to make sure.
All of us in the field get the common question, "How much power will your (insert item here) make?"
There is no accurate answer to the question.
We do already offer what we call a "143 H/P" kit, and have for many years. Note the term "H/P" could mean horsepower, or it could mean high performance, they are one and the same.
Now having tested the assembly, or I should say I sat in on some tests done by some techs with tuning skills and equipment far exceeding my own, I saw a documented 143 horsepower as a best in real world dyno tests under perfect conditions. Note that even that was computer corrected for temperature, etc. So by the term "143 H/P" I mean the assembly will have that potential, still the actual results could be less, skill in the field comes into play.
Since that time we found a few tiny tricks with cam lobes and flow angles that math says adds 5-6 ponies. I have no test results, and I am too danged old to sit on a plane to go check myself, but I would be tickled to get the charts sent to me.
My son Tod does build a few engines for the local market, the 143 H/P is the most popular option by far. I don't even know what he gets for those right now, I do know he uses new cranks and rods, and all new everything except for the block itself.
He never has chosen to ship them because of the problem of distance and levels of skill in the field. He prefers to look the customer in the eye and ask questions, because everything that they will do will reflect on what he does. I did the same, the last engine I actually did ship was to Josh down in Arizona, that was a specialty high altitude engine, and I will be frank when I say the job made me nervous. But Josh proved to be very talented and fine, and the engine still runs since of course he has treated it gently and with great care....*LOL**...But even that one required some assembly since it shipped as a short block, the head and assembly kit seperate.
Here is an example of what can happen, this is a true story regarding a 302" Ford Marine engine I built myself inhouse for a customer about 8 years ago.
This was a longblock, which means no sheet metal installed.
A week after delivery, my phone rang, someone I didn't know said, "YOUR engine won't turn over." He was quite angry, a common situation. He turned out to be the installer, not the customer.
Now I had rolled it over myself, built it with my own hands, I knew better. I also always took great care with marine engines, often someone's life can depend on that, I built Volvos for the coast fishing fleet for many years.
Plus fishermen have arms like trash cans, it is best to NOT make them unhappy.
I asked the usual questions, the answer to the one about preoiling was "Oh, we don't do that here."
I gave up at that, had him return it. He had installed the wrong oil pump eccentric, so of course the timing cover jammed the engine and it cracked the cover. I found a correct oil pump eccentric, installed it, sent it back with a note to replace the timing cover, it was damaged.
The engine was back in two days, it leaked water into the bilge and "Damned near sunk the boat!" The demand was for a refund, I was tickled to give it to them.
Yep, the same cracked timing cover was installed, I bolted on a new one and sold it the next day. I got an email from the customer's wife a day or so later, actually calling me names because the engine leaked water, and demanding "16 hours of labor at $60 per hour."
This time another installer had put on the wrong intake gasket, there are two designs for the 302. I had supplied the gasket kit which contains both, of course.
The customer changed the intake gaskets over himself, his installer refused to do it, insisting that he was right and I was wrong. The customer was also a gentleman and apologized.
Just one set of incidents out of literally thousands over the years. So you see, even offering a complete assembled long block will leave the builder at the complete mercy of what happens in the field.
Still most folks who tackle a do it yourself job do have the skill and ability, and there are few problems.
It is usually the beginners who have problems, and I don't mind trying to help them because there was a time when I was learning myself so I understand.
Just last night a nice polite young man emailed me to ask which way the thrust washer goes on his new 22R engine. I explained, his next email asked why the oil rings were bending when he tried to install them.
Now a piston is cracked, oil rings are ruined. I advised him to get help with it, and I will see if I have a spare piston and some spare oil rings to ship to him for free.
Like I said, most errors happen out in the field, even when just sending a rebuild kit we are at the complete mercy of a machine shop somewhere. Most are very good, but sometimes.....
It is the way of this business. When things go wrong, I just try to help them fix it ang get things going, perhaps I am a bit different in that respect.
On building some long blocks? I have actually been thinking of wandering back there, I kinda miss doing that. Guess I need to invest in some 2X glasses, though.
*Good questions, thank you......*EB
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