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What are the different types of fluid leaks?

After starting your car and backing out of your parking space one day, you might notice a strange puddle left behind by your vehicle and wonder what it is. There are a lot of different types of fluids that your vehicle can leak, each meaning something different. Thankfully, these fluids are easy to identify by color.

Leaking Power Steering Fluid

Puddles of power steering fluid typically look and smell similar to the reddish transmission fluid, and characteristically leak from manual cars with power steering because of failing gaskets or joints. These leaks typically originate from the engine bay, and is accompanied by a symptomatic difficulty in steering the vehicle.

Leaking Oil

A black puddle or stain is typically an oil leak. These leaks usually happen around the oil pan or gaskets of the engine, and tend to be small and localized occurrences. They are typically the result of a failed gasket, which would need replaced quickly. Other common causes can include a crack in the oil drain pan, stripped threads in the oil pan where the bolt is inserted, or a missing washer on the oil pan drain bolt. Low levels of oil can lead to engine damage, so repair should be a priority.

Leaking Brake Fluid

Amber-tinted clear puddles of liquid that smell like fish oil are typically brake fluid, which is essential in your car. This fluid is necessary for your vehicle to stop. Do not drive your car if you have a brake fluid leak, and seek repair immediately. Brake fluid commonly leaks from the flex lines (around the wheel) and master cylinder (around the brake pedal).

Leaking Transmission Fluid

Puddles of pink, red, or dark red fluid typically means that your car with an automatic transmission is leaking transmission fluid. You should compare this with a chart of transmission fluid colors to assess the quality of the fluid. Leaks of transmission fluid typically originate from where the transmission seals onto the car's axles, and repairs for this should typically be done by mechanics capable of removing the transmission. If you decide to perform the repair itself, you should purchase the proprietary transmission fluid manufactured for your specific car.

Leaking Wiper Fluid

Bright blue or pink liquid under your car is typically leaking wiper fluid. This usually occurs because the reservoir or its connecting tubes are cracked or damaged, but can also happen because the washer fluid resevoir cap wasn't fully attached.

Leaking Coolant

A bright orange, pink, or green puddle typically means that coolant is leaking from your vehicle. Coolant, also known as antifreeze, is extremely toxic and dangerous to animals and children. You should use an absorbent material like cat litter to remove and dispose of the coolant as a safety precaution. Typically, leaking coolant means that your car's coolant system has a leak — and excessively low levels of coolant can seriously damage your engine. You should inspect your car's coolant system for leaks as soon as possible.

Leaking Gear Oil

Thick, honey-like globs of fluid under your car typically mean that gear oil is leaking. This occurs in cars with manual transmission or with a differential axle. Gear oil typically leaks from damaged gaskets on the transmission, but can leak from near the wheel itself on some four-wheel drive cars.

Leaking Gasoline

Gasoline is easily identifiable by its characteristic strong odor and vibrant appearance. The fumes can be dangerous to breathe in and the liquid itself is highly flammable, so you should exercise caution and seek repair soon. The most common origin of a gasoline leak is typically the gasket around your gas cap.

It might just be water

If the liquid underneath your car is colorless and odorless, it might just be water. This is typically from the air conditioning, which causes condensation underneath the vehicle. Water puddles are no cause for concern.

Knowing how to identify leaks from your vehicle is important for proper maintenance and your safety. If you've identified your leak and your car needs repair, we invite you to bring your vehicle into Oswald Service Inc today!