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George Rode | Stadium AutomotiveGeorge Rode is known in the Eugene/Springfield area as the "Auto Expert". George owns three automotive repair shops in Eugene, has been a master technician for over 35 years, and currently hosts two radio shows on KKNX and KPNW and a newspaper guest column in the Register Guard each month. Look here for answers to the most common questions George is asked daily and view the blog for even more. Have a question for George? Ask him by clicking here.

Should I Clean My Engine?

Beware of “bathing” your engine. We had an Audi towed into our shop last week that had the engine compartment “steam cleaned.” This turned out to be a very expensive mistake — to the tune of $3,000. The moisture got into some of the electronics and ruined them.

Unfortunately, the owner was told to drive the car until the heat of the engine dried out the compartment. Well, driving didn’t dry it out but did “melt” down both catalytic convertors, which contributed to more than half of the ultimate repair costs.

If you want your engine compartment to look clean, just take a damp cloth and maybe a little cleaner and wipe down the dirty parts. Do not put a hose or any quantity of water in the area; electronics and water do not mix. And if your “check engine” light is on and your vehicle is running poorly, don’t drive it. It could be a costly mistake.

When Should Brakes be Replaced?

Brakes play a very important part in the safe operation of your vehicle. Not having brakes in tip-top shape can lead to an accident and possible bodily harm.

Most repair shops rate brakes by a number indicating the percent of brake material that remains. That is, new brakes have 100 percent and every time you use them, a small percent is used up. The biggest misconception is that when you are told, for example, that you have 20 percent of your brakes left, they are working 20 percent as well as brakes in new condition. Actually, they still work as well as brakes at 100 percent; it is just that the material is getting thinner.

We recommend brakes be replaced when they get to 10 percent or less. The 10 percent leaves a safety margin of many miles but you still get your money’s worth out of your brakes. Some German cars turn on their brake warning light at about 15 percent to allow the customer ample time to get them repaired.

We have a lot of customers who come in and ask about new brakes, only to have us inspect them and find that they have many miles of safe braking left. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to your safety and that of your loved ones.