Boosted Coyote: When Machine Work Goes Wrong

Whether it be the remedy to a blown engine or a desired upgrade, at some point most of us need machine work done to our engines. The problem with machine work is that it can be incredibly messy and the room for error is enormous. In the event machine work goes wrong, who is really at fault?

Recently, the Power & Performance project car, Boosted Coyote, had some machine work done to the heads after it suffered a mishap at Memphis International Raceway during a Test N’ Tune event. Ivan Korda noticed some traction issues and lost some speed between his first and second pass, but on the third pass, disaster struck.

The incident led to a readend rebuild and alignment, however, on his way to get the car aligned Ivan noticed the car was eating coolant. He performed a compression test, a leak down test, and had the engine bored scoped.

Ivan discovered water sitting on top of the pistons which prompted him to replace the head gaskets. He also took the heads to a local machine shop to check the cylinder head deck surface to make sure he had a suitable sealing surface to work with.

“While I had the heads off for the head gasket replacement I decided to use ARP head studs to keep the head from lifting again,” Ivan said, adding the ARP studs do a great job of securing the head to the block whereas the stock head bolts stretch with a lot of boost.

After the work was performed and Ivan had it all back together he heard a terrible noise when he attempted to start the car. “I did some investigating with a local performance shop to see what was causing some of the issues I was having while trying to start the engine,” Ivan said.

He pulled the valve covers off and noticed the cylinder head on the passengers’ side wasn’t getting oil. He removed the cam caps and saw the heads and cams were damaged. According to Ivan, metal shavings had been left throughout the oil passages of the cylinder heads which starved the top end of motor oil.  

Ivan has had machine work done by various shops with his previous builds though this was his first time using this particular machine shop. He decided to use them because they had a good track record and he knew people who had used them for other projects. Additionally, the shop came with an A+ rating from the Better Business Beuro and high ratings on Google, Yelp, and Facebook.

Ivan noted the heads looked clean and there was not any visible metal. Before assembly, he cleaned the heads with brake cleaner and compressed air.  

“It’s clear the heads were not hot tanked after the machining process, which is the best way to make sure metal is removed,” Ivan said. He added that when you pay for machine work it’s typical the parts are cleaned by the shop before they are given back. In this case, the shop did not mention if they had cleaned the parts, but they were returned to Ivan in a sealed bag to keep contaminants from getting in the parts during transport.

“Once I spoke to the shop who did the machine work, they offered to give my money back but would not replace the parts that were damaged. Two weeks later I got a check,” Ivan said.

With the engine plagued with metal shavings throughout, Ivan says he is annoyed with the ordeal because he is wasting so much time and money rebuilding the engine when he could be enjoying the car.

For others who find themselves in a similar situation, Ivan recommends asking the shop performing the work a lot of questions and making sure you have a complete understanding of the work being done as well as the processes.

After a few minutes with the shop operator, you will be able to tell if they are pushing parts or really applying professional machining techniques in every job. The more questions you ask will give you a sense of their experience and how they handle a situation. Any machinist that lacks communication or is unwilling to discuss the engine process with you should be a red flag.

Ask about the type of machines the shop uses, the cleaning processes, and if they are willing to guarantee their work. Take note of the cleanliness of the shop as it will typically reflect the machinist’s work. A shop that is clean will have machinery that is clean.

Whats next for the Boosted Coyote? We are working with Livernois Motorsports to build a new engine capable of producing 1,000 horsepower at the wheels. Tons of upgrades are coming up!

Stay tuned because we can’t give away too much yet and drop us a comment if you have had machine work go wrong – tell us about your experience.

About the author

Nicole Ellan James

As an automotive journalist and avid car enthusiast, Nicole Ellan James has a passion for automotive that is reflected in every aspect of her lifestyle. Follow Nicole on Instagram and Facebook - @nicoleeellan
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