What is my car leaking? A Wear Master detection guide

Have you ever found fluid when moving your car from its’ parking spot? If so, you could very likely have a fluid leak. Don’t panic, but keep in mind, the longer you wait the more costly the repair will be. There are certain types of fluid leaks, that when seen should be addressed immediately.  We’ll address the common and uncommon types of fluid leaks, how to detect them, and the level of risk they pose to your car.

Any time you see a puddle of liquid underneath your car, you should investigate the color.   The color and viscosity alone can tell you a great deal about the type of liquid.   Relate this information to your mechanic , and they can locate the leak a lot faster.  Another important thing to notice is the relationship to where your car is parked and where the leak is spotted.   If the leak is coming from  the engine area when you’re parked,  a light brown liquid leak could be oil, but the same color liquid found at the rear of the car could be axle or transmission fluid.

Here is a table of the common and uncommon fluids that you can find leaking from your car, their colors and viscosities.

Bright Green or yellow-ish green:  Radiator coolant, this is also very slippery to the touch.
Light or Dark Brown:  If you change the oil often it will be a light brown, if not the fluid will be a darker brown. Make sure to change your engine oil every 3-5000 miles.
Bright Blue: Windshield washer fluid. (Winter washer fluids can be orange, pink or yellow).
Light Brown: If there is also a strong odor of rotten eggs, this is 90 weight or gear lube. It may be leaking from the rear axle center section or the manual transmission.
Red Fluid: Automatic transmission fluid or power steering fluid. Note where the fluid is coming from .
Clear:  Power steering fluid or water from the condenser on the A/C unit.
Light Yellow: Brake fluid is light yellow when new as it absorbs water the fluid becomes a dark muddy brown. Brake fluid absorbs 2% water over a one year period under normal braking conditions. This is a very important fluid and should be changed every other year.
Amber: Gasoline, but there will be a distinct odor.

 The most common types of leaks are coolant leaks, oil leaks, and water leaks from the Air Conditioning condenser.  A puddle that is 3 inches or wider under your car is considered a serious leak and requires immediate attention.  (In reality, that goes for any leak). 

When you see leaks that are bright green, dark brown or clear color liquids, with a puddle between 1 and 2 inches wide, it is referred to as “seepage” or a “drip.” Unless it’s brake fluid, the condition isn’t as serious.  But again, waiting too long to address the problem will only lead to it getting worse.

The more uncommon types of fluid leaks, which should be checked out immediately, are brake fluid leaks which will be a light yellow or dark brown (depending on when you had your brake fluid changed), transmission fluid leaks which are red in color, power steering fluid leaks which are also red in color, and gasoline leaks which are amber in color but have the distinct smell of gasoline.  If you notice any leaks of this type you should immediately bring your car in to a mechanic.

Quick detection is important for major leaks and quick action is important for all leaks.  Making note of the color and size of the leak can increase awareness of the importance,  which could save your wallet in the end.

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