Tips, Pointers & Questions to Ask - How To Find the Right Shop

Decisions, Decisions

Ernie Macias
May 1, 2007
Photographers: MT Staff
Photo 4/17   |   find A Shop proper Tools
How many times have you heard your buddy complain about the crappy 'bag job on his truck? Or what about the shop down the street that always seems to be fixing all of the hack jobs coming in from other shops? You've all seen it and heard it, but how do you protect yourself from this same fate? Homework! You have to be a top-notch consumer. If you're going to spend the big bucks, then you need to get the best work possible. After all, the saying "you get what you pay for," is true! So, you need to be realistic when looking for a shop and keep your budget in mind. Don't settle for less quality, just save some money and look when your wallet is ready. On this point, what do you look for in a shop? Well, here are a few things that we came up with that might point you in the right direction.
Photo 8/17   |   find A Shop drill Press
First and foremost are tools. If you walk into a shop and their tools consist of a bucket with a chainsaw and a leaf blower, the chances are, you're in the wrong place. Having the right tools isn't only a good idea, it's damn-right necessary.
Basic handtools are a must. A crescent wrench and two screw drivers isn't enough.
-A good MIG welder is obvious.
-A Torch. This should be used for removing old brackets, not for making tabs or drilling holes.
-4-inch or larger grinder. So you can clean up your torch slag.
-Drill press. And drill bits to go with it are not a bad idea.
-Bandsaw, because using the torch to make brackets won't look good.
-Belt sander
These are just some of the more common tools that you may find in a good shop. Tools such as a TIG welder, a lathe, and a plasma cutter are a few more tools that make for better custom jobs.
Photo 9/17   |   find A Shop custom Shop
If you walk into a shop and the most exciting thing going on is watching the paint dry on the wall, then chances are, this isn't the right shop for you. Most shops can juggle two or three jobs at a time, depending on the time of the season, or the size of their facility. Inspect everything closely. Now would be a good time to check things out like airline placement, appearance of welds, and overall appearance of the work. Another good sign is a wall of fame. A wall of fame is previous work that has been featured in magazines or print. It could be their own rides or customers' rides. Not every shop is going to have a wall of fame, but having one is a good sign of pride and workmanship; after all, you're not going to find too much unsafe and hacked work in the magazines.
Photo 10/17   |   find A Shop custom Shop Showroom
Photo 11/17   |   find A Shop custom Shop Showroom
A shop's appearance is not always a good way to see what you're getting into. If a shop looks like a tornado just came buzzing through, it can mean a couple of things, either they are really busy, or they're slobs. If another shop looks like Chip Foose is the manager and there's hidden cameras filming a show, that doesn't mean they are cranking out top-notch minis either. Some shops may be located in industrial warehouse areas and some may be in the backyard of their parent's homes; either style of shop may be doing killer work. A good showroom is always nice to see, but every shop doesn't have one, and it shouldn't be used as a determination of quality. The best way to distinguish what's going to work best for you is by asking the five major questions listed, and using your best judgment, too.
Photo 12/17   |   find A Shop sketchy Work
Photo 13/17   |   find A Shop sketchy Work
A good friend once told me, "There's more to a good shop than snazzy tools and a nice shirt. Knowledge is the key." Without the know -how you can have a shop that looks like a Snap On truck exploded into a doctor's office and you're still going to turn out turds. At the same time, some kid might be building the next cover truck in a dirt hole behind a barn in Podunk, Oklahoma. All shops are unique and all shops need to be checked out before work is done. A good shop will stand behind their work no matter what. Some shops stand behind their work even if the truck has been sold off to a new owner. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask how they're going to do the work and why. You want to make sure they are confident in their methods.
Photo 14/17   |   find A Shop good Weld
Photo 15/17   |   find A Shop bad Weld
Another important thing to remember is most shops will specialize in one area. You don't want a tint shop to suicide your doors, and you don't want a chassis shop to build your stereo system. Some shops specialize in everything, so you need to research the right shop for what you're looking for at a particular time. Even though a shop may say they can do it all, it doesn't mean they'll be better than a shop that only specializes in certain areas. The chances are, a stereo shop will be better than the do-it-all shop at giving you a banging system.

The right shop for you is out there, you just have to know where to look. Hopefully, we shed some light on a subject that we feel is very important. Nobody likes to get ripped off, and more importantly: safety is at stake.
Photo 16/17   |   find A Shop shop Photo Album
TOP FIVE QUESTIONS
1. How long have you been in business?
-This is important because those fly-by night shops may end up hacking your ride and leave you paying to do it all over again.-The reason good shops stay open is due to repeat business, so having been around for, say, ten years is a good sign.
2. What is your warranty, and does it include parts and labor?
-Will a shop stand behind its work? You need to know this, you don't want to drive out of the shop and break a four-link tab only to find out they won't fix it. Always, make sure you get everything in writing; this could be the most important thing you'll need to remember.
Photo 17/17   |   find A Shop welding
3. How much are they going to charge you? Is it a flat rate or hourly?
-Again, getting this in writing is super important. If the shop says it will be $4,500 to 'bag your ride, what does this include? Will this include a four-link? Will all parts and labor will be included in that price? You may be surprised when you show up, only to find out that you owe an additional $2,000 towards parts, and can't take your ride until it's paid off-which is illegal in many states.-When it comes to the price, you really need to do your homework. If you get four quotes, three of those match, and one is really cheap, chances are, the cheap one will reflect in quality. Your get what you pay for. Remember that because it's 100-percent true.
4. Who will be performing the job?
-If you were going to get a tattoo, you would look at the artist's book and check out his work before you let him ink on you. You may like one guy at a shop and not another. Much like getting a tattoo, every fabricator is different. You may like a shop's work, but who in the shop did the work? This is important when you're dealing with a shop with more than one fabricator.
-Check to see if they have a photo album with some work and don't be afraid to ask who did what. You may even see a few ideas for your ride that you will like.
5. What products are they going to use on your ride?
-What type of 'bags are being put into your truck? Are you familiar with the brand of compressors and their warranty? Also, make sure that these products are new. Ask to see them before they are installed. Second-hand air bags may have been damaged in previous installs. And that beat-up

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