How to identify car leaks

It’s rarely a good sign that your car is leaking. Before you lose all your fluids, you need to get those issues addressed. However, cars are complex, and finding the solution to a problem could be hard or even be impossible without the proper knowledge of what’s wrong.

Maintenance is a chore that every car owner must attend to. Here’s a list of fluids that you need to be able to identify.

Brake Fluid Filler Cap

When it is new, brake fluid is clear, but as time passes, you can expect it to turn light brown. If your car has sprung a leak, it will be either of these two colors depending on when your fluid was last changed. As for its texture, it will have a mineral oil-like texture. It’s oily to the touch. 

You may typically find the fluid near the brake reservoir under the hood of your car. There is just one since one pedal actuates the entire system. Other areas where you may find this leak will be on your brake calipers, wheels, tires, and your brake lines. 

You definitely should get your car over to a mechanic if this happens. Either that or you should top up your fluid immediately if your brake lines are leaking. If you cannot bring your car to a stop, you will get into an accident, so take action immediately if you spot this kind of leak. 

Engine oil dip stick

Possibly the most common leak of them all. To identify engine oil, you need to look for a light brown to a black-colored fluid that is definitely oily to the touch with the viscosity of syrup. If your oil is on the older side, meaning you’re probably close to your next oil change, you should expect a darker fluid. If your vehicle just got an oil change, then expect a lighter fluid to leak out if ever there is a leak. 

Usually, you will find an oil leak on the road or on the floor. You may also develop oil leaks from your oil pan which is the most exposed part of your car. You can check your oil lines as well as your gaskets to see where the leak is stemming from. 

While oil is important in a car’s engine, it’s nothing to be overly alarmed about given a few drops. A simple band-aid solution is to pack a bottle of oil with you in order to top up your car’s level just in case it dips below the recommended amount. Be sure to read your car’s dipstick properly to understand if your oil level is dangerously low. For a more permanent solution or a bigger leak, be sure to take your car to a mechanic to have them inspect your engine and trace the origin of the leak. 

However, if you are noticing alarming amounts of oil on the floor after only short intervals, either call a towing service to prevent your engine from seizing, or call a mechanic. 

Powersteering fluid reservoir

Depending on the car you have, you may still have a system that requires power steering fluid. Most modern vehicles use an electronic power steering pump, but there are some exceptions to this like some SUVs and quite a few commercial vehicles in the market. 

To identify this fluid, you are looking for something that is red to brown in color. Power steering fluid is rather thin, and you may leak toward the front of the car between the firewall of your engine bay and the front wheels. 

Should this leak be left unchecked, you could run the risk of ruining your power steering pump along with making your drive a lot harder. Topping off with fluid is easy and rather affordable, but a broken power steering pump will lead to some costly repairs. 

Transmission fluid

Transmission fluid is vital for your car to move and change gears seamlessly. Depending on your vehicle, the transmission could be located in different places. 

The fluid is thick and either red to brownish in color depending on the type of transmission fluid you went with. Like your engine oil, transmission fluid prevents the gears in your car from grinding down, and it also acts as a coolant for your transmission. You may want to check the floor where your car is parked. 

If your vehicle is a four-wheel-drive, an all-wheel-drive, or a rear-wheel-drive, expect leaks in between the front and the rear. If your car is front-wheel-drive, then the leaks will be in the front of the car. In the case of most SUVs, it’s common to have a rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drivetrain. Most crossovers, hatchbacks, and sedans have a front-wheel-drive layout. 

Leaks can be either small or big depending on the damage. If your car sprung a small leak, take it to a mechanic who can identify and remedy the problem. If you’re leaking buckets of oil on the ground, and you’ve ascertained that it is from your transmission, commission a tow truck in order to bring your car to the shop without any issue. 

Automotive Engine Coolant Reservoir

Modern engines require water cooling to keep their temperatures in check. Most modern cars come from the factory with coolant in them. There is a specific coolant that manufacturers recommend. 

Usually green, pink, or yellow in color, coolant is usually diluted in distilled water if it’s sold as a concentrate, or put right into the system if sold as a pre-mix. You may find the leaks towards the front of your car where the radiator sits. The liquid may feel like water with a tinge of color. 

If you do see that your coolant is leaking take your car to a mechanic. It’s a sign that one of your hoses, or your radiator has a hole in it that either needs to be plugged or will necessitate replacement. Small leaks are nothing to worry about, but be cautious about your coolant level and check it often if you don’t have the time to visit your mechanic to have the issue sorted. 

A band-aid solution will be to fill your radiator with only distilled water, and not tap, mineral, or purified. If you are leaking a lot of fluid, it goes without saying, but contact a towing service to bring your car to a mechanic to avoid overheating issues on the way. 

Car Leaks

Finally, we have good old H-2-O, otherwise known as water. If you see water leaking from the bottom of your car, no need to be alarmed unless it is from the cooling system of your car. Even then, however, it would be best to keep tabs on your radiator. 

No need to panic, as leaking water from your car could be a sign that your car is actually in good condition. Usually, the air conditioning system in your car might develop condensation on it and start to drip. If, however, water continues to leak, but not from the car’s air conditioning system, then you might want to check your coolant levels if you’ve filled it with nothing but distilled water. 

No need to take your car to a mechanic if it’s from the air conditioner, but if the leak is coming from the front of your car and you’ve filled your cooling system with nothing but water, you may want to have it inspected. 

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