What Is Leaking From Your Car? - Veenstra's Garage

What Is Leaking From Your Car?

August 21,2013

You back out of your driveway, and you see a stain on the pavement where your car just was.  What is it – water, oil, coolant?  Something else?  Engines utilize a number of different fluids to operate, and it’s not so easy for the average driver to know just what that stain is and whether it’s a serious matter that should be addressed immediately or not.  Looking under the hood doesn’t help help either.  There are no helpful signs stating, “This is the one that’s leaking,” and there’s all kinds of unidentifiable gunk in various places.  So how can you tell the difference between various fluids?  By sight and smell, usually.  Let’s review the usual suspects together.

Is it red, thick and odd smelling?  This is transmission fluid.  It lubricates your transmission so the gears shift easily; it also cools your transmission.  You do not want to run out of transmission fluid because a transmission is a pricey thing to replace.

Is it yellow, of medium thickness and dull smelling?  This is hydraulic fluid, either a power steering leak or a brake fluid leak.  You really want your brakes to work, so this is one that you should see a professional about right away.

Is it blue (or green or orange), watery and sweet smelling?  That’s windshield wiper fluid.  You can stick some more in yourself.  Stock up when you get gas.

Is it green or pink, sticky, and sweet smelling?  You’ve got yourself a coolant leak.  Coolant is important to your engine because it keeps it from overheating, but it’s not a fluid you want to check if you’ve been running your engine.  It can splash all over you and burn.  Leaking coolant is also a danger for animals as it is sweet and tempting to drink, but very, very toxic.  Address coolant leaks promptly for both reasons.  You really don’t want your car to overheat and leave you standing by the side of the road.

Is it dark brown and a bit gassy smelling?  That’s oil.  Oil is the most common thing to leak from an engine.  Many older cars have small oil leaks and still run fine, but this is the kind of leak you would want to ask a professional about.  Oil is an engine’s life blood, and you do not want to replace your engine – that’s an expensive repair.  A very expensive repair.  On that note, remember to change your oil and your oil filter regularly.

Is it light brown and does it smell like gas?  It’s a gas leak.  If it’s near the back of your car, your gas tank is likely the culprit.  If it’s nearer to the engine, you’ve got fuel pump trouble.  Gas leaks can be fairly simple to fix, but gasoline is quite flammable, so get this taken care of.

Is it watery and smells like nothing much?  This is water from your air conditioning unit and not something to worry about at all.

As you can see, some of the above leaks are ones you can easily address (or not) yourself.  For the ones you need professional attention for, come to Veenstra’s Garage today.