It’s understandable that seeing any kind of spot under your car, truck, or SUV may elicit feelings of concern. Your vehicle possesses a rainbow of colors when it comes to the fluid it requires and identifying which one is leaking, may be difficult to decipher. For example, many people may naturally assume that a brown spot on the ground is the cause of a car leaking oil. While it is entirely possible, brown spots can be the result of leaks from other major components as well.
You may immediately assume that the cause of any leak is going to be expensive to fix. However, not all fluid coming from your vehicle is indicative of trouble. For instance, you may see a small puddle of water under your vehicle and think that a car leaking water can’t be good, right? On the contrary, it’s completely normal. A collection of water on the ground is most often created by the condensation from your car’s air conditioning compressor. In addition to color, the location of the leak plays a role as to what the cause may be. By the end of this article, you should be able to identify leaks based on color and location, and how to resolve them properly.
A Rainbow of Color
For many years, fluid colors were the same no matter where they were produced. Recently, though, vehicle manufacturers have adjusted the colors of their fluids. You may find that some vehicle manufacturers utilize a different color transmission fluid that was the previous standard, red. In fact, some fluids such as power steering, transmission, and brake fluids are completely colorless and are just plain, clear. While colors may vary, these are the colors most often associated with their fluids:
Red –Transmission or Power Steering Fluid.
The transmission is made up of many moving components that are lubricated by the transmission fluid. Without this fluid to keep parts lubricated and cool, the transmission will fail, resulting in a costly repair or replacement. Transmission fluid leaks are often found near the front or middle of the car.
Power steering fluid uses hydraulic pressure to ease the effort in turning the steering wheel. Steering becomes much more difficult without this fluid. Additionally, running this system low may cause damage to steering parts. Power Steering fluid leaks are found under the engine area of the vehicle.
Pink, Yellow, Orange, or Green – Radiator Coolant or Power Steering (yellow, only).
A car leaking antifreeze or radiator coolant can be dangerous. It is a highly toxic poison to humans and pets. If you see this kind of leak, it is important to clean it up immediately. Coolant runs through the engine’s cooling system, including the radiator, to keep the engine cool, lubricate components, and prevents it from freezing. A car leaking coolant will typically have spots on the ground at the front of the car, near the radiator or under the engine area. An orange colored leak is often caused by radiator coolant from rust within the radiator.
Blue – Wiper Fluid or Radiator Coolant
Wiper fluid or windshield washer fluid leak can be unfavorable should you need to use the fluid to clean the windshield to drive. Dirty windshields can impede your ability to see the road. Plastic reservoirs often crack over time due to heat. Check the fluid level often for safety. Leaks are most often found in the front of the vehicle but can vary based on where the reservoir is located.
Brown – Used Engine Oil, Dirty Brake Fluid, Dirty Power Steering Fluid, Burnt Transmission Fluid
Engine oil serves a similar purpose as transmission fluid for the engine. With all the moving parts of an engine, it is vital to have the proper amount of oil to lubricate them. Without lubrication, engine parts get overheated which may permanently damage internal components. Engine oil leaks are found under the engine, between the front wheels.
Unlike engine or antifreeze, brake fluid is colorless, with a consistency of vegetable oil. However, dirty brake fluid is caused by contaminants and residual moisture that need to be flushed out. If the brake pedal feels soft when applied, check the brake fluid reservoir. A nearly empty tank is cause for concern, as it has likely been leaking for a while. Be sure to add fluid before driving anywhere. Leaks from the brake system are usually found near the wheels or in the area under the brake pedal.
Don’t Ignore Leaks
Leaks are often the result of old, worn, dried out, or cracked O-rings, gaskets, hoses, or reservoirs. It’s very important that leaks be inspected as soon as they’re identified. Leaks are from fluids that are used to lubricate, protect, cool, and create hydraulic pressure in vehicles. If you notice a leak, of any color, beneath your vehicle, take it to a trusted mechanic to determine the cause. The mechanic will be able to provide information as to how severe the leak is and the urgency in getting it repaired.
Call in the Experts
When you see fluid on the ground from your car, from a leak, it’s best to take your vehicle to an expert who can help you remedy the situation before it causes major complications. Sun Devil Auto Technicians are your professional leak detectors! They’ll be able to identify where the leak is coming from using specialized tools and techniques and they’ll work hard to resolve the leak to get you back on the road as fast as possible. Have a question about the color or location of a leak on your car? No problem! We’re always available to answer any question you may have. Find a location near you and give us a call, schedule an appointment online, or stop into any of our Phoenix area locations. We’re here to help!