With over twenty years in the automotive crankshaft business, Joe Castillo, owner of Castillo's Crankshaft Service located in La Mirada, California, has established himself and his modest sized machine shop as a global powerhouse within the motorsports industry. For those not familiar with the name, Castillo has worked with such notables as Skunk2 Racing, Darrel Cox Racing, and Intrinsic Performance Solutions (IPS) - not to mention the hundreds of pro stock and NHRA drag race teams who take their high performance crankshafts to Southern California's premiere crankshaft machine shop.
The journey began in the fall of 1977 when Castillo was officially bitten by the automotive bug at the ripe age of 18 while attending an automotive machining class at a local community college. "The more knowledge I gained through my instructional classes about the internal workings of the engine, the more the crankshaft fascinated me," Castillo said. Taking a wide range of classes, Joe quickly absorbed the knowledge and know-how to begin working within the industry, quickly landing him a job at LA Billet Crankshafts. At the time, LA Billet specialized in sprint car and NASCAR crankshafts. "I worked there for seven years before I decided to open my own shop in 1986. We started Castillo's off with four simple machines: one crankshaft grinder, an air compressor, a tiny sized lathe and a magna-flux machine. In the back of the shop was what was called a zero blaster, which was used to shot peen," Castillo said.
Whether you need to repair your crankshaft's journals due to a spun bearing mishap, or you're simply a horsepower junky looking to stroke or destroke your custom crankshaft for that ultimate short rod or long rod combination, Castillo's can do it all: "It's relatively similar for both repair and custom crank work because you're welding material onto the crankshaft. For those who are easily scared off with the idea of welding, I can honestly say the integrity of the crank when welding material onto the journals is just a strong as prior to the process. We've had real good success with it."
As the grinders continually work at full blast in the machine shop, Castillo points out some key problems that overshadow the crankshaft industry, many of which are serviced by mass production crankshaft service centers: "The main reason why these altered or repaired units encounter premature cracks is the lack of stress relieve. Yes, you can straighten out a crank but when you go to finish grinding it out, the crankshaft can bend again. The problem is that same crank you're working on will keep relieving because it has internal stress within the metal from not stress relieving it. I wouldn't call stress relieving a secret but more of a common sense notion than anything. If I can help improve what some of these shops are handing back to the customers then I feel I'm contributing to the automotive world. The problem is so many of these guys won't stress relieve the crank because it's another procedure and considered time consuming. Some of them aren't willing to take the time to go through that process. They will cut that out of the process and cut corners ultimately affecting the quality of workmanship."
We asked Joe for the secret to his success. He smiled a big grin and said, "Do it right the first time so you don't have to come back to fix your screw-up. The biggest thing in my life is there's a procedure of doing things. You follow that basic procedure and fundamental in machining and I don't think you'll ever have a problem. You'll have a problem when you start taking shortcuts and deviating from your goals in order to get the job done faster. It will catch you in the end and cause problems, turning things into a big mess. Ultimately it's the customers who dictate your reputation. But that's how your quality of work stands up to your competitors. Any crankshaft we service for any customer gets the same treatment. For twenty years, all the crankshafts have been ground the same and treated the same whether it's a top fuel dragster guy, Honda guy or an individual looking to repair his crank on his minivan. The grinds are the same, the procedures are the same. We don't take any shortcuts. It doesn't matter who sends us work. We don't give any preferential treatment. And that's the way we've always done business. Once that crankshaft comes through that door it receives a work order and it gets done."