Fluid leaks are an inevitable part of car ownership and can show a serious mechanical problem. The leaks location and the appearance can help narrow down the cause and the severity of the problem. Most leaks should be examined by a mechanic.
Engine oil keeps the car’s engine lubricated to decrease wear and reduce friction. An oil leak will be in the car’s front or near the oil pan. The fluid will be amber to dark brown or even black and will feel slick with a burned odor. Several things cause oil leaks such as degrading seals or gaskets or even an oil filter that’s incorrectly attached.
Power Steering Fluid
The power steering pump uses a special fluid or transmission fluid to help with steering. Fluid leaks of this type will be in the front of the car and may look like oil at a glance. Power steering fluid is thinner and more viscous than oil and will be clear to brown depending on its age. A groaning sound or stiffness while turning the steering wheel means your leak is probably power steering fluid rather than oil or transmission fluid.
Transmission fluid helps lubricate the transmissions gears and catch contaminants. These leaks will be near the center of the car, smell like fuel, and be from red to brown in color. A loss in fuel efficiency, irregular revving of the motor, or slipping gears is a sign that your leak is transmission fluid.
Coolant or antifreeze combined with water keeps your engine cool year-round while being freeze-resistant in the winter. Coolant leaks will often be in the car’s front between the radiator and the coolant reservoir and will be bright green, blue, orange, or pink. It has a sweet smell and taste so should be kept away from children and pets. An overheating engine is a good indicator of this kind of leak.
Brake fluid is used in the braking system and can attract water, which causes lines to corrode. These fluid leaks will be yellow to brown and have the same consistency as transmission fluid. The leaks often occur near the firewall between the cab and the engine, but can also happen near the wheels. Unreliable braking or a stiff brake pedal suggests your leak is likely brake fluid.
Gasoline is thin in consistency like water and has a strong smell. You should seek a mechanic immediately if you have a fuel leak. Leaks near the rear of the car are likely from the gas tank or a fuel line. Leaks near the front of the car mean it’s likely a fuel pump or the fuel injector.
Two other common leaks are water and windshield wiper fluid. Water is usually from the condensation of the car’s air conditioner. Windshield wiper fluid is typically blue and doesn’t have the sweet smell of coolant. It isn’t necessary for the car to run but will still need a mechanic’s attention to repair.