What’s That Leak?

There are many kinds of fluids in every vehicle. They all have important jobs to perform. When there is a leak found underneath a vehicle, knowing what the fluid is, and what system is affected, are very important. If a leak is found, putting a piece of paper under the spot you suspect of leaking and making a note of approximately where the leak is coming from can help in putting the puzzle together.

Here is a breakdown of vehicle fluids:

Engine oil
Engine oil is typically brown or black in color. Its job is to keep all of the engine parts lubricated. Without motor oil your engine can seize up. If you find a couple drops underneath your vehicle the first couple days after an oil change has been preformed, it could be that a small amount had been spilled during the servicing and nothing to worry about as a general rule. On the other hand, if you ever see a puddle of engine oil under your vehicle, it could be a sign of something very serious and you should have it checked out.

Antifreeze is also known as coolant. Coolant is critical to keep the engine block and cylinder heads cool. Without it you engine can quickly overheat and be ruined. Antifreeze comes in the colors green, yellow, or red depending on the vehicle manufacturer. It has a sweet smell to it. Since the main function of antifreeze is to maintain proper engine temperature, if you notice a leak of this type, you may also notice an overheating problem or a vehicle that doesn’t seem to get warm in the cold weather.

Clear water
If the liquid that you find underneath your vehicle is clear water it is probably caused from condensation from you running your air conditioning system. There is nothing to worry about here. This is the best fluid to find underneath your vehicle.

Brake Fluid
Brake fluid is clear in color and oily to the touch. It flows through the brake lines that go from the master cylinder to all of the wheels where the calipers or wheel cylinders are located. A broken or rusted brake line would be the most common cause for a brake fluid leak. If a leakage in the break line were to occur, the brake pedal would most likely feel soft or spongy and should be looked at as soon as possible.

Transmission Fluid
Transmission fluid is red or amber in color, although some kinds are clear. If the fluid becomes contaminated the fluid can look milky pink. If the fluid leaking from the transmission is brown, that is a sign that the fluid is overheated and should be changed as soon as possible.

Power Steering Fluid
Power steering fluid can come in red, amber or clear in color. It allows you to turn the wheel freely. Leaks are typically found in the lines that carry the fluid.

Windshield Washer Fluid
Windshield washer fluid is typically blue, but can also be found in pink. The fluid reservoir or one of the lines would be the areas to check for a leak.

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