DIY Car Care: Recognizing Common Engine Fluids on the Ground

posted in: Care and Maintenance | 0

When you back out of your garage or parking space, have you ever seen a spot and wondered, “Hey, what is that?” Well, in today’s DIY car care spotlight we’re going to teach you how to figure out what some common engine fluids may be leaking from your car simply by inspecting those spots left when your car sits for a bit. Here are some of the most likely engine fluids to end up on your pavement:

  • Engine Oil

This is a very common items to spot below your car. It’s amber to dark brown, sometimes blackish (though if it is, you should look into an oil change, buddy), and usually in a small teaspoon-sized spot below your front end. A little drop isn’t something to lose sleep over. Engine oil goes through a whole plethora of gaskets and seals, and any one of these could seep out a drop, but if you find your car is steadily leaking oil from somewhere, it’s probably worth having a mechanic check it out.

  • Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid can look pretty different from one car to another. Sometimes it’s brown and looks a bit like engine oil, but it’s thicker, and it’s usually back near the center of the vehicle rather than at the front like oil. However, some transmissions today have a thinner, red-hued fluid. If you find what you suspect to be transmission fluid leaking, it could be a sign of a bad transmission seal.

  • Power Steering Fluid

Power steering fluid can be a tricky one to spot, because it often looks identical to transmission fluid. It’s reddish and thin. To differentiate between the two, simply look at where the spots appear in relation to your car. If they’re near the center, the transmission is the likely culprit, whereas a reddish fluid found near the front end is most likely your power steering.

  • Brake Fluid

The key to spotting brake fluid isn’t necessarily its color, but it can help. New brake fluid is clear, but after some time in the system it can turn brown. The key thing to look for when trying to identify brake fluid is how slippery it is. Brake fluid is very slick – even more so than engine oil, in fact. If you spot what you consider to be brake fluid leaking from your car, it’s a serious issue that needs to be looked at right away. It may be nothing, but your brakes are critical to your safety, so don’t wait to have them checked if you suspect an issue.

  • Coolant

Coolant is far and away the easiest fluid to identify. If it’s bright green, yellow, or red, you can be sure it’s coolant. However, easy to spot doesn’t always mean it’s perfectly natural. Older cars tend to shed some coolant if the engine gets hot, so it can be a reminder to add some more, but if you have a newer car and you spot a coolant leak, then there’s an issue in your cooling system that needs to be fixed before it causes you to overheat.

  • Water

This may be the single most common cause of “what’s that spot?” If you see some water pooled after you’ve parked your car, particularly in the summer, don’t panic. Condensation from your A/C drips and usually forms a small puddle after a drive.

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