Mysterious leaks under your car? Here’s how to diagnose them

You’re running out the door for work. You head out to the garage to jump in the car. As you pull out you notice a huge puddle on the floor, right under your engine. How do you know what it is? How do you know if it’s serious?

Sometimes cars leak and their ominous spots leave you wondering if your vehicle is dying a slow death. Here are a few ways to tell whether the leak is a harmless drip or a serious problem.

The Big Three

An easy way to “read” spots is to place newspaper or aluminum foil under your car in the evening and them check them the next day. That way you can better read the color and location of the spots. Plus, you can toss it in a ziplock and take it to your mechanic if you decide you need to bring your car in for service.

There are three main things to consider when it comes to leaks: color, consistency, and location (i.e. front or back of the car). This handy reference is a guide to five leaks you might encounter.

 

Engine Oil

Stains from engine oil will typically be light brown to black. Most of these leaks are caused by degraded engine gaskets, oil pan leaks, oil seals or bad connections. You should have these checked out as soon as possible.

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid is usually thin with a red tint, or a thick light brown, and dripping from the middle of the car. Low fluid levels are one of the most common causes of a transmission leak but, because transmissions are sealed, a leak could indicate a bigger problem. Transmission leaks could also be caused by a breach in the pan gasket or an axle seal leak.

Power Steering Fluid

If a leak is power steering fluid, it will be a thin red or light brown fluid coming from the front of the car. Power steering fluid is as vital to safe driving as oil is to continued engine prowess. A damaged power steering pump costs hundreds to repair, but it requires immediate attention.

Coolant

Coolant can be yellow, pink, or green and is usually slimy. There are several types of coolant leaks, but a crack in the coolant reservoir is the most common culprit of these spots. The coolant in the main system is what keeps the car engine cooled so the crack doesn’t usually cause the car to overheat, but you will see coolant pooling under your car when it sits for long stretches of time.

Brake Fluid

This is one of the most dangerous leaks to worry about. Brake fluid can range from clear to brown, but it will be slick- even more slippery to the touch than engine oil or transmission fluid. If you see a puddle like this under your car, don’t even try driving it. Call your mechanic and get it towed right away.

At V&F

If you notice any suspicious fluids or leaks, it’s time to take action. Using the latest diagnostic equipment, and high-quality CARQUEST auto parts, our mechanics can take care of all your automotive repair and maintenance services on all makes and models of foreign and domestic automobiles. From oil changes and brake repair to engine services and transmission repair, we’ve got you covered! All of our auto repair services are backed by an industry-leading 3 year / 36,000-mile warranty on parts and labor. Call us at (413) 314-2280 or schedule an appointment online.

Written by Nicole Palange

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