What’s Leaking? Identifying 7 Car Fluids Based on Color

Have you ever backed out of your parking spot and noticed a liquid pooling on the ground? For most of us car owners, this can create a momentary sense of panic. However, knowing your car’s fluids based on their colors can either save you some panic or get you to be proactive about taking your car into the mechanic’s shop. If it’s clear and thin, it’s just water (which can happen when you run your AC in warm weather), but there are seven car fluids you should know about and their associated colors. Read on to learn these associations and what could be causing these fluids to leak.

Light Brown or Black

If you notice a puddle of brown or black liquid, chances are that this is engine oil. You might not notice a leak right away if it is a small, slow drip. This leak happens in the front of the car, underneath the engine and is often caused by corroded engine gaskets, oil pan leaks, faulty connections, or oil seals. If you do not repair an engine oil leak, your engine could eventually break down, and, as many of us are all too aware, engine repairs are costly.

Thin and Reddish or Thick and Brown

A thin red or thick brown drip could be indicative of a transmission fluid leak. You can generally find this leak in the front middle of the car. A transmission fluid leak can be caused by a gap in the transmission, a pan leak, broken or loosened seals, or loose debris in the road hitting your car. While you can drive for a short while with a slow transmission fluid leak, you will need to get it repaired as soon as possible to prevent your transmission from being destroyed. If your transmission gets damaged, you might be looking at spending several thousand dollars on the repairs or having to buy another vehicle.

Light Brown or Reddish and Thin

Power steering fluid generally leaks from the front of your car and will be a thin light brown or reddish tint. In addition to a leak, you might notice that your steering wheel is stiff to turn. A leak can be caused by the power steering hoses, pump, cooler, or rack. If you fail to repair this leak in time, you could be looking at a time- and money-consuming trip to the mechanic.

Clear to Brown and Slick

Brake fluid leaks generally come out as a slick clear to brownish hue and fall either under the brake pedals or below the wheels. Brake fluid leaks should be taken seriously and repaired immediately since they lead to brake failure. If you think your brake fluid is leaking, call a tow truck and have them haul it to your mechanic’s shop. Do not attempt to drive it there yourself, as your brakes could fail along the way.

Pink, Green, or Yellow and Slimy

Antifreeze and coolant generally come out in a pink, yellow, or green hue and are slimy to the touch. Coolant leaks are generally easy to locate since drips tend to be visible from the part they’re leaking from when you check under the hood. These types of leaks are incredibly common, and you can sometimes tell when they’re happening since your car will indicate that it is overheating.

Brown and Watery

Gasoline generally comes out as you would expect—brown and watery. And you will smell it. It can drip from the front or rear of the car, and you might even smell gas while driving. If the leak is in the car’s gas tank, you will see dripping from the rear. If it’s happening in the front, you might have a fuel pump issue. This isn’t an emergency repair, but if you let it go long enough, you might have to shell out a hefty chunk of change to replace your fuel pump.

Blue and Watery

Windshield wiper fluid leaks are generally non-threatening, but if you have one, you will notice a blue watery substance. These leaks can be caused by fluid reservoir corrosion or problems with the tubing. You can easily check the fluid reservoir for yourself to ensure your fluid is at an appropriate level.

When you notice a leak, don’t be reactive; get proactive. Knowing which fluid leaks need immediate repairs and which can wait a little while can save you a lot of time and money spent at the mechanic’s shop. It’s a good rule-of-thumb to regularly check coolant, oil, and wiper fluid and to check under the hood and rear of the car for slow drips that might not be hitting the ground.

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