Is There a Leak in Your Car? A Color Guide to Help You Figure Out Which Fluid It Is
You Park your car for a few minutes — or hours, or days — and return to see a puddle growing beneath it. That’s usually not a good thing. Perhaps it’s just moisture dripping down, but it’s more than likely a sign of a fluid leak.
Your car is a fascinating piece of machinery. For various functions, it makes use of a variety of fluids, including:
- Engine oil is used to keep the engine lubricated.
- Coolant is used to keep the engine at the ideal operating temperature.
- Transmission fluid is used to lubricate and run transmission.
- Brake fluid is used to control the brakes.
- Washer fluid is used to clean the windshield.
- It’s easier to steer with power steering fluid.
Any of these fluids can leak from your car and leave a distinct mark on the ground.
Color, texture, and odor can all be used to identify these fluids. Most of these will require immediate care from your mechanic to avoid being stuck on the side of the road. Let’s take a deeper look at the fluids that keep our cars, trucks, and SUVs running smoothly and how to identify them.
How To Check for a Fluid Leak in Your Car
A puddle under your car on the garage floor, driveway, or parking spot is often the result of a leak. Placing a large piece of cardboard under your car while it is parked overnight is one way to detect the amount and spot of fluid leaking. The next morning check the cardboard to see how much has spilled out, its color, and where it came from. This is crucial to know and discuss with your mechanic, so they can quickly work out which fluid is leaking and where it’s coming from.
If Your Leak Is Red,
Power steering fluid and automatic transmission fluid are two red fluids used in your car. They’re both hydraulic fluids, after all. Automatic transmission fluid is used in the power steering systems of some cars. Consult your owner’s manual for more info.
If the power steering fluid is old, it will be red, reddish-brown, or brown. It’s a thin substance and has an oily feel to it and a burnt marshmallow odor. Your power steering system can be checked by your mechanic.
Both automatic and manual transmission fluids start off red and gradually turn reddish-brown as the kilometers add up. It has an oily, slippery feel to it and is thinner than engine oil. It will have a petroleum odor. If you see this, get your transmission checked, especially if you notice other signs of transmission problems, such as delayed shifting while the engine is cold.
If Your Leak Is Orange,
Orange-colored leaks might come from two separate places in your vehicle:
Coolant fluid could signal that your cooling system has rusted, and the rust particles got mixed with the coolant fluid. Coolant has a slimy texture and a pleasant odor. Loss of coolant is the leading cause of severe engine damage. If your car is losing fluid regularly, get in touch with your mechanic right away. Make sure your cooling system is in good working order.
For automatic transmission: As the fluid ages, it may turn to an orange-ish tint. To be assured, get your transmission inspected by a professional.
If Your Leak Is Green, Yellow, or Pink,
It’s time to call a professional. Coolant is a liquid that comes in several bright hues and can leak in many ways throughout your cooling system. The coolant has a slimy texture and a pleasant odor. If you don’t solve the loss of coolant, the engine can overheat, leaving you stranded on the side of the road with a large repair bill. The source of the leak might be found by inspecting your cooling system.
If Your Leak Is Blue,
It’s time to change your windshield fluid. This is light and watery, with a window cleaner odor. It’s available in a variety of colors, including green. Check for cracks in your washer fluid tank, or have the seals and lines inspected by a mechanic.
If Your Leak Is a Light Yellow,
Brake fluid, this hydraulic fluid starts out light yellow, then darkens with time, eventually turning dark brown if not maintained. Brake fluid has an oily texture, is quite slippery, and may have a fishy odor.
IMPORTANT: It is not safe to drive your car if you notice this. Take it to a mechanic to have the braking system inspected. Brake lines or other parts may need to be repaired or replaced.
If Your Leak Is Brown,
Engine oil, when new, it’s a light brown color that darkens over time. Turning black as it picks up dirt and combustion residues as it flows through the engine. Engine oil has a very distinct odor. It feels thick and slippery.
If the leak is small, you can keep your oil level filled up, but even a minor oil leak must be investigated and repaired as soon as possible.
If Your Leak Isn’t Visible,
Water, it’s most likely condensation dripping from your air conditioner, and it’s nothing to be concerned about. The odor of fuel is the fastest way to identify it.
IMPORTANT: Do not drive your car if you see a fuel leak. For advice on how to proceed, contact your mechanic immediately.
You have now learned the colors of car fluids and how to detect them. Next, share your notes with your mechanic, and as a result, save your time and money.
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