There are three key items to recognize when looking at vehicle leaks: location, consistency and color. You can try putting aluminum foil or newspaper underneath your car at night and then analyze the spots in the morning.
Here is a guide to help you read your car’s leak and know if you need to get it fixed sooner rather than later. Please note that locations given are examples and may not match every make and car model.
Location: Radiator, hoses, water pump (Front end of the vehicle)
Consistency & Color: Slimy green, pink or yellow
Priority: Low. Fill up your coolant and keep an extra gallon in your vehicle. Pick up a new thermostat on your next trip out.
Location: A/C or exhaust condensation (Front end just behind radiator)
Consistency & Color: Thin, clear liquid – Harmless
Priority: Low. If you have no A/C running, check to make sure it really is water.
Windshield Wiper Fluid Leak
Location: Cracked wiper fluid reservoir, wiper fluid lines (Under hood to one side)
Consistency & Color: Thin, bluish color
Fluid: Windshield wiper fluid
Priority: Low. Refill and check for any wiper fluid leaks.
Power Steering Fluid Leak
Location: Power steering reservoir, power steering pump, hoses (Under hood to one side)
Consistency & Color: Thin, red or light brown fluid
Fluid: Power steering fluid
Priority: High. Take your car in to be diagnosed and repaired.
Brake Fluid Leak
Location: Master cylinder seal, brakes lines, wheel cylinder or piston seal (by wheels or directly under brake pedal)
Consistency & Color: Medium consistency, slippery fluid, yellowish/slightly brown
Fluid: Brake fluid
Priority: High. Consider getting your car towed right away to be fixed
Location: Oil pan, valve covers, oil filter (under engine)
Consistency & Color: Medium consistency, light brown or black
Fluid: Motor oil
Priority: Low. Check oil level and fill. Get fixed when convenient. Put something under your car to catch the oil. Top off oil when you get gas.
Transmission Fluid Leak
Location: Transmission pan, gasket, torque converter, fluid lines, seals (Under transmission area)
Consistency & Color: Thinner than engine oil and reddish -or- thicker than engine oil and light brown/black
Fluid: Transmission fluid
Priority: Medium. Check your transmission level and fill. Schedule service for your car within 24-48 hours to track down and fix the leak.
Differential Fluid Leak
Location: Pinion seal or other seals (under middle back end of car)
Consistency & Color: Thicker than engine oil and light brown/black
Fluid: Differential fluid
Priority: Medium. Take it in to be diagnosed within 24-48 hours.
Location: fuel tank, fuel pump, fuel lines, injectors (back end of car)
Consistency & Color: smells light fuel
Priority: Medium. If the puddle is near the rear of your car, it’s likely the tank you will need to replace or repair. If it’s near the front, it likely something wrong with your fuel pump. Take it in for repairs.
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