Uh-oh. You just found a fresh puddle of [some type of liquid] underneath your car. But what is it? Is it serious? Are puddles always indicative of a problem?
Sorry to say it, but puddles are usually not a good sign. The one exception is A/C condensation, which is just clear water and totally fine. The rest probably warrant a quick call to your mechanic.
You can generally identify a leak by its color and consistency, as well as where it’s coming from. In this post, we’ll name the most common leaks and some of their identifying characteristics.
We know you’re busy and need to be on your way, so without further ado, here they are:
7 Common Car Leaks & How to Identify Them
1. Brake Fluid
Color: Clear to yellowish to light brownish with medium thickness and a super slick consistency
Location: Near the wheels or directly under the brake pedal
Brake fluid leaks aren’t all that common (thank goodness), but we’re starting with them because they can be extremely dangerous. A brake fluid leak can result in brake failure. If you suspect a brake fluid leak, don’t even attempt to drive your car to the mechanic — have it towed.
2. Transmission Fluid
Color: Red-brown, orange, or pink with a thick, oil-like consistency
Location: Front or middle of the car
Transmission fluid leaks can be caused by a faulty transmission seal or a hole in the return line that runs fluid between systems. These leaks can destroy your transmission, which is a very costly repair. If you suspect a transmission fluid leak, don’t wait — call your mechanic right away.
Note: If you drive a manual transmission (stick shift), your car probably doesn’t have transmission fluid. Most stick shifts use gear oil instead. Gear oil is usually light brown in color and has a bad odor.
3. Power Steering Fluid
Color: Red, orange, pink with a thick, oil-like consistency (many cars use transmission fluid for the power steering system); otherwise it’s yellow (for new power steering fluid) or brown (for older power steering fluid) with medium thickness — your owner’s manual will tell you which fluid is used
Location: Front of the car
If you’re having a hard time turning your steering wheel, your power steering might be to blame.
4. Motor Oil
Color: Dark brown (for older motor oil) or yellow-light brown (for newer motor oil)
Location: Front of the car, under the engine
Neglecting a motor oil (also called engine oil) leak can lead to engine failure and costly repairs.
Color: Green (sometimes orange or pink) with a sticky consistency
Location: Front of the car, under the radiator area
Antifreeze or coolant leaks are one of the most common leaks on cars. If you have a coolant leak, your car may overheat. Click here to learn how you can tell if your car is overheating, and what to do about it.
Caution! Antifreeze/coolant has a sweet smell and taste and is attractive to pets — but it is extremely toxic! So get that leak taken care of ASAP if you have pets.
6. Windshield Wiper Fluid
Color: Blue (sometimes green or orange); thin, water-like consistency
Location: Check the fluid reservoir under the hood and the tubes that run up through the wiper blades
Windshield wiper fluid leaks are caused either by the degradation of the fluid reservoir, or the tubing that runs through the wiper blades. They aren’t serious, just annoying if you can’t wash your windshield!
Color: Brown, watery consistency and smells like gasoline
Location: Rear of car or front of car
Rear-of-the-car gas puddles usually indicate a leak in the gas tank. Front-of-the-car gas puddles could mean a problem with the fuel pump.
JL Motorworks specializes in identifying and repairing leaks of all kinds in your vehicle. Our quick and accurate diagnostics and efficient turnaround time will ensure you get your car back and running smoothly in no time!