You pull out of your parking spot and you see it, a puddle of fluid has built up under your car. This is not a good feeling. Thankfully, with a little know how, you can easily determine if these spots are a harmless leak, or something that you should have fixed right away.
Analyzing the location, color, and consistency of the spot will help you determine the cause and severity of your leak problem. There are six fluids that are the usual leak suspects.
- Engine Oil
Light Brown to Black with Medium Consistency
Due to the many gaskets and seals where a drop can seep out, spotting a little bit of this amber-to-brown/blackish fluid is probably not a big deal. However, if the spots are frequent or are becoming larger, it’s probably a good idea to track down the origin and have it fixed before a tiny leak becomes a big issue. Have your vehicle looked at right away if you initially found a larger spot as this could be a sign of a serious issue.
- Transmission Fluid
Reddish and Thin or Brown and Thick
These stains, drips, or puddles may look similar to engine oil leaks, but are usually thicker and are located near the center of the car. Some newer model vehicles transmission fluids are thinner, but easy to identify due to their reddish color. Transmission leaks should be looked at right away as they are most likely coming from a failing gasket or seal.
- Power Steering Fluid
Reddish or Light Brown and Thin
Because transmission fluid can also be reddish and thin, you may be thinking that you will get these two confused. However, they can be identified easily based on their location. The power steering fluid will be found near the front of your vehicle, whereas transmission fluid will be located at the center of the vehicle.
Yellow, Pink, or Green and Slimy
Because of its bright colors, coolant is probably the easiest fluid leak to identify. With late model cars, you shouldn’t ever see coolant on the driveway. If you do, this spells trouble and you should have it looked at right away. You could have a leaky water pump or leaking hoses. Failing to check and replace your coolant levels and repairing leaks can leave you stranded and overheating on the side of the road.
- Brake Fluid
Clear, Slightly Brown and Slick
Brake fluid is one of the most dangerous leaks to worry about. Have your vehicle looked at right away if you notice a brake fluid leak. New brake fluid will be clear, almost like mineral oil. After time, though, due to dust, rust, and other contaminates it can turn a brownish color. If this is the case, to help distinguish it from other fluids, you will need to remember that it is much more slippery to the touch than transmission fluid or engine oil would be.
Clear, Shiny and Very Thin… it’s water
Have you ever driven to the store and when you come back to your car after shopping notice a puddle of water under the front, passenger side of the vehicle? If so, you had most likely been running the air conditioner. The spot is most likely water that has condensed on the air conditioning hardware and is totally harmless.
If you notice a leak, you should bring your vehicle in for an inspection and repair to avoid causing further, and costlier damage to your vehicle. You should also make sure that before you take any long road trips, you have any leaks looked at and repaired. If you are concerned with your vehicles performance, you can call Virginia Auto Service at 602-266-0200 or schedule an appointment online.