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Picking a shop 101: A good one will make your day, a bad one can ruin your year


Choosing a bad shop will get you about this far.

Hotrodders by nature are independent do-it-yourselfers, and they rarely have the money to go farming work out to other people. But inevitably there are projects that just cannot be completed in the home shop—whether it be turning a set of worn rotors, pressing on some axle bearings or installing tires—and trustworthy shop will be needed to get the job done right.

The value of a reliable shop cannot be underestimated, and taking your parts to be knocked around just anywhere can cause a surprising amount of heartache and frustration, and I was recently reminded of this fact.

I don’t take my rotors to be destroyed by the hacks at chain parts stores, and I trust my tires and alignments to local independents like Tech One in San Francisco’s Dogpatch. I go by word of mouth and do my research to make sure the job gets done right, but sometimes that just ain't enough.

I have been fighting with a nagging highway speed vibration problem for about a year and a half, and I could not figure it out for the life of me. I tried everything to no avail: adjusting pinion angles, transmission mounts, replacing axle bearings, harmonic balancer, and I had the driveshaft balanced twice just to be sure that wasn’t the problem.

After replacing an axle bearing for the third time and swapping out the center section with a friend’s (even though mine is new), I was at my wit’s end and I focused back on the twice-balanced driveshaft. Like a dying patient that could not be cured, I took my driveshaft to a different shop for a third opinion.

The log ended up at Driveshafts by Frank Wallace in San Francisco, and right away they noticed that there was way too much weight on it from the previous balance. While it was there, I had them replace the (6-month-old) front u-joint that had become loose from the relentless vibration.

Frank’s balanced and straightened my driveshaft and replaced the u-joint in less than a day, and they did it all for just $85. And they did the work on a Saturday, when these types of joints are usually closed.

The moment of truth came when I put the driveshaft in and took the car on the highway. 70mph came up, smooth as butter, quickly followed by 80, 90, 100-plus and no vibration at all! I damn near started sobbing, I was so freaking happy that it was over—and at the same time furious at the other shop for screwing up the balance job TWICE and causing me almost two years of grief. But mostly, I was completely overwhelmed by the joy of being able to drive my musclecar without having to baby-foot it around vibration that started below the speed limit.

If you have any driveline work that needs to be done, make Driveshafts By Frank Wallace your first choice. He also has a huge selection of differential and transmission yokes, so he is a good source for driveline parts too. You won’t be sorry. Just be sure to bring cash, ‘cause he doesn’t take plastic.

While I make it my business to promote great local shops, I have to tell you that it was Bayshore Truck Equipment Co. in South San Francisco that botched the balance and straighten work the first few times. I don’t like to badmouth anyone, but seeing that I paid them good money twice to screw up my car and make it undriveable for almost two years, I will have to recommend that you don’t go there and make Frank’s your first choice.

And even though Lon at BTEC knows my story well (I came in over and over looking for advice while I had their crap work under my car) I still have to wait for a regional manager to come by, and go out of my way to fight for my money back for BTECs shoddy work.

I have to admit, that Lon did not do the work and he has been nothing but helpful so far; it’s nothing personal against him. However, I will accept nothing but a full refund and an apology for putting me through a year of hot rod hell.

And that reminds me, I have to bring a twelve-pack to the guys at Driveshafts by Frank Wallace and give them all high-freaking-fives for a job well done.

Driveshafts by Frank Wallace
1830 Burrows St. @ Gambier
San Francisco, CA 94134

Tech One Automotive
1460 Illinois @ 24th
San Francisco, CA 94107


Photo by Bengt-re, Flickr CC


  • 5 years ago

    Con-freakin-grats! Finally! Thanks Frank for making this sob story go away from my ear.

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