How to Identify Leaking Car Fluids
Leaking car fluids is easily one of the top reasons clients come rushing in to the auto shop, flinching at the impending bill. Sometimes, they’re right to freak out a bit; leaking fluids can be big trouble. On many occasions, repairs are minor; sometimes even optional. A puddle below your car should never be ignored but having an idea of what you’re looking at can save you stress and, in some cases, money.
The Many Varieties of Oil Leaks
One fluid that certainly demands your attention is oil. We frequently see engine oil leaks and while it’s not always an emergency, it can become a costly repair if put off. If the puddle beneath your car is a yellow ochre color, you may be looking at relatively new oil leaking. However, a deep, dark brown color could be older oil. There are quite a few reasons your car has sprung an oil leak so it pays to get your car into a mechanic right away if you notice a puddle fitting this description. In a best case scenario, your car is simply experiencing oil seepage which doesn’t necessarily require any repairs. But in a worst case scenario, the oil leak is killing your engine and the sooner you get it fixed, the cheaper the bill.
Brake Fluid: The Most Dangerous of the Leaks
Not nearly as common as an oil leak but even more crucial to repair, leaking brake fluid will look somewhat thick and oily with a slightly yellow coloring. While that may sound similar to oil, placement of this leak can tip you off: it’s usually located beneath the brake pedal or near the wheels. If you suspect that your car is suffering from a leakage of brake fluid, it’s integral that you get it to a mechanic immediately (preferably by towing). A leak in brake fluid can lead to failure of your brake system so this is easily the most hazardous leak of the bunch.
Automatic Transmission Fluid Issues Require Immediate Attention
Not quite as much a risk to your safety but definitely a risk to your wallet, automatic transmission fluid has a reddish amber color if its new fluid versus a dark brown color if it’s older. Since transmission fluid is often used as a lubricant for your transmission, a leak can find you slowly (or rapidly depending on the leak) destroying your transmission. Since transmission repair can reach into thousands of dollars, repairing a transmission fluid leak is one of the most urgent repairs for leaking car fluids. If you have a transmission fluid leak, you can typically find the fluid puddling beneath the transmission filler tube or near the front middle of your car in general.
The Colorful Leaking of Coolant
Possibly the most visible and easily identifiable of the car fluids is coolant. It varies in shades of green but can actually be a pinkish color. While not quite as critical as the leaks described above, coolant is responsible for keeping your engine at a reasonable temperature. To avoid overheating your engine (which can cause some particularly annoying roadside memories), it’s best to get that coolant leak fixed as soon as you notice it. Coolant is also attractive but simultaneously lethal to animals so fixing this leak helps more than just yourself.
Leaking Car Fluids That Aren’t as Crucial
While power steering fluid is important (and if you disagree, try driving your car without it), you can still manage a lot easier without power steering than you can without brakes, engine, or transmission. Power steering fluid is red in color and is usually paired with increased difficulty in controlling your steering wheel. A gas leak is probably easier to identify by smell than sight. When you drive with a gas leak, you’re hemorrhaging money spent at the gas pump. These leaks are usually easy to patch and affordable to fix. One of the most common car fluids to “leak” doesn’t actually require any repairs. We’ve had several clients turn up with what they assume is leaking car fluid of some importance but is simply water condensation dripping from their air conditioning. This is particularly common in the summer months.
It’s safe to say that all car fluids are important to some degree or our cars wouldn’t be using them. However, some are more important than others. As a general rule of thumb, the sooner you can get any auto issues fixed, the better. But knowing how to identify the car fluids puddling beneath your car can give you peace of mind or at least run the alarm that you need to visit your local mechanic immediately.