A Guide to Identifying Common Car Fluid Leakage Problems.

It is never a good sign when you approach your car and notice a puddle of suspicious liquid on the ground beneath it. A car leakage is one of the first symptoms of a severe malfunction under your hood. 

A car fluid leak, if not taken seriously, can lead to grave consequences – including, but not limited to steering and braking issues and even total engine failure. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you spot the unidentified leak from your car and pinpoint its source.

Before we dive into the technicalities, make a note of the color of the liquid underneath your car, and refer to our comprehensive guide to check what it means, and how to fix it.

Identify the Leaked Fluid by Color

Red An indication that your power steering system is leaking. Check for a faulty transmission seal or a hole in the return line that transfers fluid between systems.
Orange Can be one of many things. The radiator’s rust can cause leaking antifreeze that appears orange. Transmission fluid can appear orange depending on its age.
Yellow Radiator coolant is generally the culprit. It might be because of a loose hose clamp or a damaged o-ring. Ensure that you’re using the coolant specified by your vehicle’s manufacturer. 
Green Most likely an antifreeze leak. It generally happens when the water pump, hose, or radiator, and other components have worn out. Use the antifreeze according to your vehicle’s manual. 
Blue Probably windshield wiper fluid. The fluid reservoir and tubing that carries fluid through your wiper blades slowly degrades. This results in leaks. Have your windshield wiper components evaluated.
Dark Brown Could be coming from within your vehicle. Motor oil, on aging, becomes thick, dark brown/black, and is emitted. Brake fluid also has a similar texture and appearance.
Light Brown Generally either gear lubricant or newer motor oil. If the liquid smells bad, it is gear lubricant, as they tend to have a foul smell. Motor oil, on the other hand, produces odor only if it is burning. 
Pink Likely either power steering fluid or transmission fluid. Generally caused by a worn seal or a hole in the return line.
Clear A clear fluid means that you are in great shape! That clear fluid is just condensation from your air conditioning system

With that settled, let’s look at some of the most common leakage fluids and what they could mean.

Engine Oil Leakage

It is one of the most common types of auto fluid leaks. Since engine oil is more viscous than most other fluids in the car, in the event of a leakage, it seeps or crawls through different parts of the engine. 

When enough oil has accumulated, it drips onto the garage floor or parking space and becomes a serious concern. A car oil leak usually forms a puddle towards the front end of the vehicle, near the engine. The fluid is black or light brown, slick and thick (when touched), and has a slightly burnt odor. The most common causes of engine oil leak could be a cracked oil pan, improperly placed oil pan plug, faulty gaskets, degraded engine seals, or defective valve covers. It is best to have a mechanic look at the issue before a minor leak takes a turn for the worse.

Coolant Leakage

The radiators of a car take an incredible pounding as the coolant circulates through the engine to dissipate the heat generated. The cooling system must be in its best shape to handle the beating. Otherwise, your car may overheat, damaging the engine, thermostat, gaskets, and even the radiator. Thus, it is crucial to identify a car radiator leak before the vehicle overheats. A malfunctioning water pump or radiator usually manifests in the form of leaking coolants, and it is quite easy to identify – coolants have a watery consistency, a sweet smell, and are brightly colored. Hence, you will notice orange, pink, bluish-green, or lime-green puddles underneath your car. However, a coolant leak is not limited to the front end of the vehicle where the engine is; it may also be seen near the exhaust pipe.

Transmission Fluid Leakage

The location of a transmission fluid leak is almost always consistent – you will generally find it close to the centre of the vehicle. It is quite easy to identify a leaky transmission system due to the characteristics of the transmission fluid that sets it apart from other vehicle fluid leaks. Generally, the transmission fluid is red; it is less sticky than motor oil and smells like gasoline. However, older transmission fluids may be brown with a thicker consistency. A cracked, broken, or damaged transmission seal or fluid line are the most common causes that lead to a leakage of transmission fluids.

Power Steering Fluid Leakage

A leakage of power steering fluids can be quite tricky to identify from appearance alone. Since most car owners use the transmission fluid to drive the steering pump, the power steering fluid leak that you see may resemble a transmission fluid leak. However, if you are using a dedicated fluid for the power steering, watch out for the color of the liquid that you are using – a power steering fluid that is new will be clear or red, while older ones turn a brownish shade. Since most often it can be difficult to tell the transmission fluid apart from the power steering fluid, if the leak is near the front left side of your car, it is likely that the power steering fluid is leaking. Like engine oil, the power steering fluid is slick but slightly thinner.

Brake Fluid Leakage

Brake fluids are similar in color and texture to power steering fluids. Leakage of brake fluid can occur anywhere underneath your car and calls for an immediate professional fix. Brake fluids are transparent yellow to brown, with a slick and slippery feel. You may find the stain of a brake fluid seepage corresponding to the position of the brake pedals, hoses, or the brake fluid reservoir. Since the brake system of the car has a connection to the wheels, the leak may also appear near the tires. Damaged brake lines or hoses are the most common causes of this type of leakage. Since the brake fluid is essential for the operation of your brake system calipers, it is best not to drive around with draining brake fluid.

Fuel Leakage

A recurrent problem among car owners is regarding car fluid leaks among which fuel leaks are a common concern. Faulty fuel lines or fuel injectors often cause the gasoline to leak from your car. The leak can be easily identified from the typical smell of gasoline. The gas leak usually takes on a watery consistency and a brownish color. If the leakage is occurring in the rear end of your car, there is a possible problem with the gas tank. A stain towards the front end indicates a defective fuel pump. However, a fuel leak may occur anywhere along the entire length of the fuel system of the car.

With all of this information, you should be able to identify the leaking liquid. If you’re still stuck wondering, please reach out to Instant Car Repair Calgary for professional mechanical assistance.

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