Sometimes one of the first signs of a car trouble is a mysterious puddle of fluid under the vehicle on the driveway. The first instinct for many car owners is to assume an oil leak, but that may or may not be the case. In fact, there are several different kinds of common leaks, each with its own auto repair implication (and some that don’t require repair at all!). Next time you notice fluid under the car, consult this post to get an idea of the possible cause. Then call American Pride Automotive for official vehicle diagnosis and repair.
What to Look For
You should be able to get an idea of the source of the leak based on the liquid’s color, location and consistency.
When you encounter a fluid leak, it’s likely that the surface (a concrete or gravel driveway, asphalt, etc) will obscure the color of said fluid. Since color is the most indicative aspect of fluids in a vehicle, you’ll want to put a light colored material under the car and check again the next day. Newspaper or white cardboard are ideal. Once you have the color profile, you can compare it to the following descriptions:
Black or Light Brown
Black or light brown fluid with a moderate consistency generally indicates an oil leak. The color may vary based on how long it’s been since your last oil change. A little drip of oil here or there isn’t critical, but if you notice significant puddles, get the vehicle into an ASE certified mechanic ASAP. It could indicate a bad gasket, improperly secured oil filter or oil plug, or another old/corroded part of the oil system. Ultimately, if a car loses too much oil, it will have adverse effects on the engine and vehicle as a whole.
Light to Dark Red/Reddish Brown
Thick fluid of varying shades of red is almost certainly transmission fluid. You’ll find this leak under the middle-front of the vehicle. You most likely have a loose pan or drain plug, cracked gasket or a corroded seal. Because transmission fluid is such an essential component of keeping the transmission cool, lubricated and functional, it’s important to locate the source of the problem quickly. Neglecting to do so will can lead to transmission failure and a need for repair or replacement. Sidenote: Some power steering systems use transmission fluid as lubricant (while others use a dedicated fluid). If the leak is directly under the wheel and you are having trouble turning the steering wheel, you may have a power steering fluid leak.
Green, Yellow, Pink or Blue
Brightly colored leaks are almost always engine coolant. These indicate a problem with the cooling system and are often caused by a blown gasket, cracked radiator hoses and seals, or a broken engine block. Unless you have an older model vehicle (older cars blow off excess coolant when the engine gets especially hot…so in that case a “leak” might just be excess fluid), you should get the vehicle into a mechanic right away.
Clear or Yellowish
If you notice clear or yellow fluid of a moderate thickness near the wheels or under the brake pedal, you may have a dangerous brake fluid leak. Don’t try to drive your car if you suspect a brake fluid leak, as insufficient fluid can lead to brake failure.
Especially during summer when running a car’s AC frequently, you may notice consistent, clear, watery fluid that appears to be a leak. Don’t panic. This is almost certainly water–condensation from the air conditioner and does not signal a problem.
For quick info, consult this chart:
No matter the nature of your leak, the expert auto technicians at American Pride Automotive are here to help. We specialize in engine repair, cooling system service, brake repair and replacement, and transmission repair. Call or contact us today to schedule an appointment.