What Should you Ask Shops When you Call Them?

About the Shop

Is the shop an FAA Certified Repair Station? FAA certification increases cost and requires checks and balances. Some non-certified shops still comply with standards but don’t want the hassle or the liability. Generally, FAA certified shops have better record keeping and are more likely to comply with SB’s than non-certified shops.

Are all employees A&P’s? Most shops don’t have all certified mechanics.

How many employees does the shop have? 3-5 is a typical size of a piston overhaul shop. But it ranges from 1 to 50+

What’s the average experience level of the employees? Ask them about their most senior and junior employees. The best shops have most employees with 15+ years experience and very low turnover.

Are the employees subject to random drug testing?

Does the shop carry product liability insurance? This is not ‘hangar-keepers’ insurance. It’s worse case scenario liability coverage. Only big shops can afford these policies which often top 6 figures annually.

How many engines do they do a year? 60 engines per year is what an average piston overhaul shop puts out. Only a handful do more than 200/yr

What goes into the engine?

Do they use all factory genuine parts or do they save money with PMA (non-factory) parts? Most shops will use some PMA parts. You might be able to specify what you want.

Does the overhaul NOT include anything that the shop would recommend you have done? Discuss these components with this question: Prop Governor, Oil Cooler, Alternator, New Camshaft, and Turbocharger.

Do they comply with all AD’s and SB’s? Quality shops will tell you they comply with both. Some shops only comply with AD’s to save money.

Shop Processes

What processes does the shop outsource? Most shops do all engine processes in-house except crank and case repair. Accessories are often sent out.

How does the shop test the engine? Most put the engine on a dyno. Some have million dollar machines and a few will test fly them. Ask them if they put a ‘thrust load’ on the bearings during testing.

Does the shop offer any special processes, STC’s, or upgrades? Are there any that they would recommend considering for your specific model?

Do they balance the engine? Dynamic, Static, or both? Continental and Lycoming don’t balance either way. They consider 20 gram spreads statically balanced. Quality shops take their parts and improve them with balancing.


Is the overhaul subject to sales tax? On parts, labor, or BOTH?

What makes the shop different from other engine shops? This is my favorite question.


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