What’s That Spot Under My Car?

Sun Devil Auto Expert, published on 02/12/2016

If you notice fluid leaking from underneath your car, truck or van, it may be an indication of a serious problem. Unless you’re extremely well-versed in deciphering different leaks and determining how to fix them, it’s always a good idea to have a professional check things out to make sure the leak isn’t a sign of a costly issue. There are a few key signs that can help you determine exactly what is leaking and what you need to do about it. Here’s an overview of some of the most common automotive fluid leaks so you can learn to identify them on your own.

Engine Oil

You may be familiar with what engine oil looks like, but if not, you should know that it’s a fluid that typically appears black or brown in color and is considerably thicker than water. Most engines tend to develop leaks as they age and the gaskets dry and flatten. It’s a good idea to have any apparent engine oil leaks that are dripping onto the ground checked out to ensure they aren’t indications of larger problems. A substantial leak is also more likely to signal a problem than a minor one, but it’s wise to have any leakage of engine oil assessed to help put your mind at ease.

Condensation/Water

If you see a relatively clear, thin substance accumulating under your car in your garage or a parking lot and you’ve been running your car’s air conditioner, don’t panic. Water tends to condensate underneath the air conditioning system, and this water can drip down underneath your car and create a small puddle or pool. A tube specifically for water drainage is a part of your air conditioner, so this is actually supposed to happen and, unlike many fluid leaks, should not be cause for alarm. 

Gas

The easiest way to determine whether a fluid leaking from your car is gas is simply to smell the substance. If it smells like gas and occurs near the back of your car, it’s probably fuel. Since fuel is flammable it isn’t something that you should ignore, and should be inspected right away.

Coolant/Antifreeze

Engine coolant, or antifreeze can vary in color and consistency. Most of the time leaks originate from the front of the engine area and although in the past, the fluid was traditionally green in color, vehicles from different manufacturers now have orange, red, yellow, and even blue colored antifreeze. Because this fluid serves as the main function of keeping your engine from getting too hot, it is important to get this leak inspected. If your vehicle is starting to run hot on the temperature gauge, you may consider having your vehicle towed for service, as overheating engines can quickly turn into costly repairs beyond the initial antifreeze leak.

There are many things that may cause fluid to leak from your vehicle. If you aren’t sure about what’s leaking from yours, it’s worth making a call to a knowledgeable automotive professional.