As you’re backing out of your garage you see a large puddle a suspicious fluid where your car was parked. What is that? What did I do? Is my car broken? How much is it going to cost to fix this? 

Before you start to assume the worst, find out what the fluid is. Some automotive fluid leaks are serious, however, a lot of them aren’t a big deal and can be fixed right at home by the owner. 

If you notice a puddle where your car was parked, chances are it’s one of the fluids listed below. Here are some tips for identifying those fluids and how to stop the leak. 

Light Brown to Black: Engine Oil

If you notice that there is a puddle where the front of your car was, dip your finger or paper towel into the liquid to see what color it is. If it is light brown or black, it’s your engine oil. This is the most common type of fluid leak. 

When you first notice this leak, look underneath your vehicle and make sure that the oil plug is properly in place and that the oil filter is secured. If both of these parts are correctly placed, you may need to take your vehicle to a mechanic or a quick oil change garage and have your oil pan inspected. A crack in your oil pan could be causing the leak. Until you can get your car looked at, add a quart of the appropriate engine oil to replace any that has been lost. 

Red or Brown: Transmission Fluid

If you have a red or brown liquid leak, it’s your transmission fluid. These leaks are typically toward the center of your car. If you notice that your vehicle is leaking transmission fluid, take it to a mechanic as soon as possible. The transmission fluid may need to be replaced or the leak could be caused by a more serious engine problem. Until you can get it fixed, drive your vehicle as little as possible. 

Clear, Red, Or Brown: Power Steering Fluid

If you notice liquid near the front half of your car and it is clear, red, or brown, chances are it’s your power steering fluid. Power steering fluid is slightly thinner than engine oil. If you think that the fluid is power steering fluid, take your vehicle to a mechanic to address the problem because this could be a significant safety hazard. 

Transparent Yellow to Brown: Brake Fluid

It can often be hard to tell the difference between power steering fluid and brake fluid because they can be the same color and have the same texture. Brake fluid leaks can be found anywhere under your vehicle. Like power steering fluid leaks, this leak should be taken care of by a mechanic as soon as possible. 

Green, Orange, Pink, or Bue-Green: Coolant

Coolant leaks are easy to identify because they are often a bright color. The leak can also be identified by having a sweet smell. If you’re going to smell the fluid, make sure you don’t touch it anywhere near your mouth or eyes. Coolant leaks can be both an easy or complicated fix. If you notice a coolant leak, take your vehicle to a mechanic to get it fixed soon as problems tend to get worse quickly. 

Blue or Bright Color: Windshield wiper fluid

Windshield wiper fluid is the one leak that won’t affect the operation of your vehicle. To fix this leak, make sure the cap is properly in place and refill any lost fluid. 

Gasoline

Gasoline is the easiest fluid to identify, and the most problematic. If your vehicle is leaking gasoline you have a faulty fuel injector or fuel line. Not only will you lose money from losing gas, but fuel leaks are often caused by major problems. 

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Sources

https://driving-tests.org/beginner-drivers/handle-fluid-leaking-from-car/

https://www.allstate.com/blog/find-the-fluid-identifying-your-cars-drips/