When it comes to leaks in your vehicle these can take on many different forms. These can range from leaks caused by broken seals all the way to something more serious especially when it comes to your car’s engine. However, these leaks can be traced and in some cases even be dealt with on your own with a bit of DIY and seal. However, it is still highly recommended that you bring your vehicle to a service center to have these leaks, in whatever form they take, dealt with professionally. With that said we have created a quick guide to help you understand what can cause leaks and where to find them.
As a bit of a summary here are the common types of leaks you can encounter with your vehicle. These can be caused by a number of factors but you can read on to find out what these are.
Common types of leaks
These kinds of leaks show up during the rainy season or just after a hard rain shower. It can be caused by a number of factors which include dried rubber seals or rust holes letting water in. Finding water in your vehicle isn’t particularly hard as it will always collect in the lowest parts, however, diagnosing where the leaks are coming from is a different story. These can be very difficult especially if the source of the leak is very small. With that in mind, we have narrowed down a few key locations to look at to see if your car has leaks. It is important to note to always look in the areas near or around the area in your vehicle where the water collects as the source of the leak will often be close by.
Key locations to check in your vehicle’s interior
This is the rubber gasket around the edge of a car door, which can often be the cause of leaks. If the seal itself is damaged or dries out it can let water into the cabin of the vehicle. This is easier to spot as you can physically inspect the seals without much hassle. If the door seal is damaged bring your car to a service center to have it fixed.
Similar to that of door seals, window seals act much in the same way. It stops water from getting into the vehicle as well as into the doors. If this seal fails or begins to loosen, water will be able to enter the vehicle, it can even soak the door membrane creating a foul odor or worse soaking the interior of your doors. In order to prevent this from happening it is best to get a visual inspection done for your window seals every time your vehicle enters a service center. This will ensure that your seals are still good and if not, a replacement can be easily found and installed.
When it comes to leaks caused by your air conditioning system, the tell-tale sign of this happening is from wet floor mats. This can occur when the drain tube is clogged and causes the water to collect and find its way into the cabin of your car. When this happens there is no easy fix as you will need to bring your vehicle to an air conditioning specialist shop to have the drain cleaned and to check the other parts of the system to see if any other parts were damaged.
While not a common feature in vehicles available in the Philippines today, sunroofs can be a common cause of leaks inside a car's cabin. The seals of the sunroof are more exposed to the sun as well as to UV rays that could increase the degradation of the rubber used for the seals.
Often a leak only occurs when the car is parked on a slope or when the drain tubes are blocked. To test if your seals are still ok, open your sunroof and pour a little bit of water near the seals and see if it will go into the drain tube, if the water doesn’t go down, or if the water drains away too slowly then it is a good indication that that tube is blocked. The result of this is that the water could accumulate near the drain channel and find its way into the cabin.
In order to find the source of the leak, if it isn’t a faulty seal, you will need to snoop around your sunroof’s drain tubes. These will typically be around the A-pillar area of your vehicle, and you can choose to clean it out yourself. However, some interior disassembly may be required. If you choose to do it on your own you will need to disconnect the tubes and blow into them to clear them of any dirt or clogs. Having compressed air at the ready can also be a useful tool to have to speed up the process.
However, it is still highly recommended you bring your vehicle to a service center to have the clogged drain tubes fixed and let a professional handle the situation. In this manner, it will ensure that any disassembly required will be done correctly and with no damage done to parts.
Much in the same way seals work, the rubber around your car’s windshield prevents water from entering the cabin of the vehicle. A leak will only occur if the rubber has become brittle and has cracks or if it shrinks over time. You can check to see if the rubber seal is still ok by a simple visual inspection.
In the event that your vehicle has gotten a new windshield and there are signs of leaks near the windshield area, this could mean that the seals have not been fitted properly or that they are still in the process of curing. If this is the case return your vehicle to the service center and have a new seal put into place.
What to do when you find the source of the leak?
There isn’t much to do once you have found the source of especially if it's something you can’t fix on your own especially if it is still raining. However, once the rain stops you can do a few things to help get your car’s interior nice and dry.
While it's still highly recommended to bring your vehicle to a service center to have them professionally deal with the leak, you can still try to clean out your vehicle on your own. Start by mopping up as much liquid as possible from the vehicle with an absorbent cloth. It is also best to remove all the affected interior bits that have been affected by the leak. This can be a difficult task to do especially if the leak has affected your car’s seats and carpets, as these can be difficult to clean. Once removed from the vehicle, however, simply let these parts dry under the sun. As a final step, you can also plug in a dehumidifier into your vehicle and let it run for at least 24-hours to ensure that the interior is completely dry.
Tire leaks or punctures are the most common kind of leaks as they can happen at any time. These are also one of the easiest kinds of leaks to repair as there are kits readily available to help solve the problem. These can happen when a sharp object punctures a tire causing it to either rapidly or slowly lose air. Whatever the case may be these can be fixed by a professional or can be done by yourself.
To spot a tire leak a visual inspection of your tires is needed. This may require the vehicle to be lifted into the air or for you to jack up your vehicle one side at a time. Check for any sharp objects in the tread of the tire or along its sidewall. You can also fill up your tire with air then check up on it a day later to see if the pressures remain the same. If the air pressure has decreased there is a probable chance that a leak is present.
In order to fix a leak, you can use a tire repair kit that can come in many different forms. One is a foam that will coat the inner section of the tire, while the other comes in rubber strips that you can use to plug the hole itself. Either one you choose will only act as a temporary measure as the tire itself has already been compromised. You can also choose to bring your punctured tire to a tire repair shop to let a professional handle the problem for a longer-lasting solution.
Engine oil leaks
Another common type of leak especially for older vehicles is oil leaking from the engine. These are normally caused by failing seals that can be anywhere in the engine of the vehicle. Common places that leaks can come from are the oil filter, oil drain plug, oil filler cap, and valve gasket.
A leak from your car’s oil filter can be a case-to-case basis, this can be caused by the seal around the filter wearing out, or by improper installation. Whatever the case may be it's time to take a trip to your preferred service center and have the filter replaced and properly installed.
Oil Drain plug
Similar to that of the oil filter, leaks from the oil drain plug can be caused by worn-out seals or by improper installation. It is also easy to spot as fresh oil will on the drain plug or in the area next to it. Again in order to fix the leak, you will need to go to a service center to have the plug replaced with a new one and for it to be properly installed.
One of the common forms of leaks especially when it comes to older vehicles is a valve gasket leak. This is the part of the car that seals the joints between the head of the engine to its block. Over time the seal will break down or shrink allowing oil to escape from the engine or allowing oil to enter areas where it shouldn’t. The valve gasket can also prematurely fail due to poor maintenance and oil sludge in the engine bay causing an increase in pressure. Whatever the case may be once this seal goes, your car will need to be brought to a service center. There they will go through the tedious process of separating the engine head from the block and reinstalling the seal. It can be a lengthy repair so expect your vehicle to be at the shop for quite some time.
How to stop engine leaks?
You can stop engine leaks from occurring by giving your vehicle the proper maintenance it needs. This ensures that the parts are always fresh and are up to the task. It also ensures that the fluids inside the engine are new and are ready to take on the daily wear and tear of driving. Conversely, if the leak is oil-related you can add additives that will help soften the old seals of your engine helping give them new life. These won’t be detrimental to your engine, however, it is important to note that these are just temporary repairs and for longer-lasting solutions, your vehicle should be brought to a shop.
Exhaust leaks are one of the harder leaks to spot as the exhaust system is located underneath the vehicle. These can be caused by a range of serious problems that can make your car sound louder than normal. Exhaust leaks can be very dangerous as they can let exhaust gases into the cabin of your vehicle. If you inhale exhaust fumes it can not only make you uncomfortable in the short term but may also lead to more serious health problems down the line. If at any point during your driving experience you smell exhaust fumes entering your vehicle, we highly recommend that you bring your car to a repair shop to have it fixed immediately.
In order to find out where an exhaust leak might be you will need to first let your vehicle cool down for a few hours. This will ensure that you can touch the exhaust piping under the car for a better inspection. Your journey of diagnosis will first start with the exhaust manifold and end with the muffler at the rear. The exhaust manifold will look like a series of tubes that will slowly converge into one large one. From there you will need to follow the rest of the exhaust piping making sure that there are no holes or cracks in the metal. Make sure to also inspect each of the exhaust components as you go through the exhaust system, make a note of any dents or creases in the metal as this could be a weak point in which a leak could form.
Listen for unusual noises
If a visual inspection doesn’t cut it you can use your auditory senses to help you find the leak. With your vehicle running, start with its engine bay, see if you can hear any distinct noise coming from the exhaust manifold if there are no unusual noises proceed with the rest of the exhaust system. Make sure not to touch any of the metal as the exhaust piping will now be hot.
Listen for any unusual humming, buzzing, ticking, or puffing noises that come from the exhaust system. You can also ask your friend to help you by revving the engine intermittently to see if it amplifies any of the noises. If the leak is coming from the exhaust manifold or any of the joints, a replacement of the gasket in the area should do the trick. However, if this still doesn’t work then we highly recommend bringing your car to an exhaust shop for a better diagnosis.
Repairing an exhaust leak
If you have found out that your exhaust system has a break or hole in it then fixing it on your own will be a difficult task. You might be able to replace the section of the exhaust that is broken, however, the part itself could be hard to source or be expensive in general to replace. The best thing you can do is take your vehicle to an exhaust repair shop or to a muffler repair shop so that they can weld in a new section of piping or fabricate a new section for you.
Another common type of leak you will encounter at least once during your vehicle ownership experience is a radiator leak. These can happen at any time and are often caused by poor cooling system maintenance or fatigue over time. If left untreated, leaks in the radiator can lead to your vehicle overheating or worse damage to other engine components.
How to check for a radiator leak
There are several ways to check if your radiator has a leak. The first and easiest way to check is via the temperature gauge on your dashboard. If the engine is operating above its normal temperature this could be a sign that the radiator has a slow leak. However, it could also be a sign that there isn’t enough coolant in the cooling system and your car simply needs a quick refill.
Another way to check is visually after your vehicle has been parked for a while. Check for any sort of puddles that form under the car. If the liquid is clear then you are fine and it could be residual condensation from the vehicle’s air conditioning system. Make sure to take note of the color of the liquid on the ground as coolant is usually colored. Compare the color of the liquid on the ground with that of the color of your car’s coolant, if they both match then your vehicle has a radiator leak.
You can also use your coolant reservoir as a way to check for any leaks. Mark off where your coolant level is before a drive and check it again after to see if the coolant level is below where you marked it off. Remember if the coolant level doesn’t change then your car has no radiator leaks, if it is lower than what it was before, then a leak is present somewhere in the cooling system.
Checking your engine bay is another option you can do. Looking for any rust or discoloration along with the parts that surround your radiator. Rust around these parts could be an indicator that the coolant or water is escaping from the radiator while.
Finding the leak
If you are confident there is a leak with your radiator, you will first need to clean it in order to help you locate the source of the leak. This will wash away the dirt and old coolant that will inhibit you from spotting the leak. If necessary you can even use paper towels and soap to wash excessive grime from the engine bay.
Once your radiator has been cleaned, start the engine and look for new signs of leaks. With the engine running pay close attention to the radiator and at the other parts surrounding it for any fluid. You may see steam or fluid spraying out of a leak, or coolant, or water dripping down from the piping near the radiator. Make sure to also listen for any hissing noises as this is another tell-tale sign of a leak.
Repairing a radiator leak
Now that you have spotted where the leak is coming from, you can now fix it. There are a number of products available on the market that can help you with this task, while there are many brands to choose from the methodology on how to use them remains relatively the same.
Make sure that your engine is off and is cool, then remove the radiator cap and pour the contents of the sealant solution into the radiator. Once this is done make sure to top off your cooling system with extra coolant. Replace your old radiator cap and then turn off the engine to allow the seal solution to circulate around the radiator. It is important to note that using sealant solutions isn’t a permanent solution and going to a radiator repair shop is still the best and more permanent solution to the problem. Allow the engine to run for 5 to 10 minutes before you shut it off and rest for an entire night. This will give the sealant time to set and do its job effectively.
The next day, run the engine again and go for a quick drive to see if your repair holds. If it doesn’t bring your vehicle to the nearest radiator repair shop so they can more permanently fix the problem. Note that it may require you to buy a whole new radiator so be prepared to spend money on it.