Identifying Car Leaks

If you see a puddle of fluid under your car, you have a leak. Next look at its texture, odor and color. Then you will be able to narrow down the source and properly identify the problem.

If you see a puddle of fluid when you pull your car out of your parking spot you must first identify what your car is leaking. It may just be water from your air conditioner or it may mean a potentially deadly brake fluid or power steering fluid leak. How can you tell?

The first step to identifying the fluid is to place a large sheet of white cardboard under your car in approximately the same spot you noticed the leak. Leave the car in place for a few hours or even better, overnight. Carefully slide the cardboard out from under the car and look at the fluid. You need to take note of the color, texture and odor in order to properly identify it.

If the leak is oily and black then it is most likely engine oil. You can confirm this by removing the oil dipstick from your car and allowing a few drops to splash on the cardboard. Compare the texture and color. If it is an oil leak, watch it for the next few days. If the engine continues to leak or if the puddle is larger than a silver dollar, call your mechanic.



If the leak is oily and red then it is most likely transmission fluid. This is the fluid that creates the pressure that allows your transmission to work properly You can also verify that this is transmission fluid the same way you did with the oil. Compare the two samples. If your leak is transmission fluid, fill the fluid and re-check in a few days. If the level has dropped or if you have noticed a significant amount of fluid on the cardboard contact your mechanic right away. If you are leaking fluid it can cause the transmission to slip and cause damage to the transmission itself

If the leak is slightly oily and yellow or green then it is most likely a coolant system leak. Look for a small black rubber hose attached to the top of the radiator, follow this hose to the coolant recovery tank. If the coolant recovery tank is empty then you have diagnosed the problem. Have your mechanic pressure test the cooling system to pin point the leak.

If the leak is clear and oily it is most likely brake fluid. You will have to touch the fluid with your fingers to determine if this is oily. These leaks are most commonly found near one of the wheels or directly under the area by the brake pedal. These leaks should be taken very seriously as they can lead to brake failure. Have your mechanic check your brake system for leaks.

If the leak is clear but not oily there are two possible sources. You will have to smell the fluid to determine if this is water that has condensed in the air conditioning unit or if it is windshield washer fluid. If it is windshield washer fluid, fill your tank and watch for drips. You can have leaks in the hoses or in the tank itself.

Remember, you car may run with low or no fluids, but very expensive damage can occur. Take the time to prevent a costly repair by taking leaks seriously.

© High Speed Ventures 2011