Liquids leaking from under your car could be symptoms of an engine problem.
To identify the source of the leak, you must carefully examine the color of the liquid, the frequency, and the location of the drip. If your car was parked in a public place, it may be difficult to distinguish whether the leaks came from your car or from a previously parked car.
The next time you park your car, you can place a newspaper or plastic wrap near the source of the leak. To fix the problem, you must identify the type of liquid.
Liquids that may drip underneath your car
Here are six common car liquid leaks to watch out for:
1. Engine oil
Engine oil is more viscous than the transmission fluid and you will not find it creating a puddle when it does know your engine is in serious trouble.
If there is an engine oil leak, it will be located under the engine. It often appears as a brown or gold color, but can be darker depending on use. Engine oil provides lubrication for the various moving engine parts such as the crankshaft and combustion chambers. The head gasket may also have cracked, hence the leaks.
A low engine oil level increases the friction between the moving parts of the engine and will eventually destroy your engine if it is not repaired. You can confirm the presence of engine oil leaks by checking the dipstick – if it is low, do not attempt to drive the car until the leak is sealed.
Engine oil is more viscous than transmission fluid, and you won’t usually notice it forming a puddle; if it does, your engine is in serious trouble.
2. Coolant/Antifreeze fluid
The coolant is used to transfer heat from the hot engine to the radiator. The radiator has a number of tubes that often crack over time and allow the coolant to leak. Coolant leaks are identified by the color of the coolant, which is usually green, yellow, orange, or red. The color depends on the brand, but these are the most common colors.
A coolant leak is often located under the radiator or the pipes connecting the radiator. You can usually see the markings for minimum and maximum coolant levels. If you have previously filled the radiator to its full capacity and notice that the level has fallen, this is a sure sign of a coolant leak.
3. Brake fluid
You cannot drive a car with faulty brakes. Brake fluid is identified as brown fluid; it is more slippery than engine or transmission fluid. The brake fluid leak can be seen under the brake fluid reservoir, the brake pedal, and sometimes under the tires where the brake system is connected to the wheels.
As soon as the brake fluid is used up, you will have problems with the caliper and the brake pads will no longer enclose the rotors firmly.
4. Transmission fluid leak
The transmission fluid has a red color and is located under the gearbox. If you have not changed it for a long time, you will notice that it is brownish in color and thicker. It is also less viscous than the engine oil. On automatic cars, the first sign that your transmission fluid is leaking is when you notice that the car is turning without having engaged the gear.
To detect a transmission fluid leak, place a white paper or newspaper under the axle seals on front-wheel-drive cars and on the output shaft seals on rear-wheel-drive cars. You should notice either a pink or red liquid underneath. New transmission fluid is less viscous, so it is reddish in color and accompanied by a faint stain around it.
Transmission fluid is similar to engine oil, but the location of the leak will distinguish the two.
5. Power steering fluid leak
Diagnosing the leak in the power steering fluid is a bit difficult because some cars use the transmission instead. When using the transmission fluid, look for a distinct reddish color. The power steering fluid ensures that you can control the steering with minimum effort. If you find that it takes more effort to turn the steering wheel over time, check for leaks. Follow the hoses connecting the steering wheel to identify the leak.
Power steering fluid smells of burnt oil and is an amber color for most brands. Check the reservoir for signs of leakage. The reservoir has low and high marks. Most of the power steering fluid is located at the steering rack. Check for seals at both ends.
6. Water Leaks
Water has various uses in the car. It is common to find some water droplets under the exhaust system in the morning when you power the car. The combustion engine produces water and carbon dioxide as by-products. This water condenses in the exhaust system and is eliminated when the engine warms up. However, if you find water droplets under the car’s hood, there could be a leak in the cooling system or problems with the air conditioning.
When it is extremely hot and humid, the car’s cabin produces a lot of moisture. The moisture is released from the car into the atmosphere through a hose located under the passenger seat. This is normal and should not be a cause for concern. In cars that use water in the radiator with some coolant, you will notice a red, green, or pink colored water. In the case of cracks, you should follow the radiator hose connection.
Check the seals that connect the hose. There are cases where your radiator may be leaking. You can check this by adding water to the radiator and observing its position after a few kilometers. Never open the radiator cap while the engine is still hot. Wait until it has cooled down and open it with a damp cloth.
A fluid leak could be a signal of further engine problems. It is dangerous to drive a car with little brake fluid or engine oil. As soon as you notice that fluid is leaking, stop driving, and determine the source of the leak. You may need to call your mechanic for further inspection. Some leaks, such as water leaks in air conditioning systems, are normal.