Fluid Is Leaking from Your Car

There are a number of fluids that help your car run properly, and we probably don't have to tell you that they're supposed to stay inside your vehicle (with the exception of windshield wiper fluid, of course). Since these fluids are so important, any leak could spell serious trouble. Finding a leak can be difficult, which is why we strongly recommend that you let a certified technician diagnose and repair your vehicle. That being said, each fluid is different, which means they are often identifiable, and that'll help narrow down what to look for. Below, we look at five of the most common automotive fluids and offer a few things we think are good to know about them.

If you spot drops under your vehicle and you're unsure whether they're actually a leak, or if you want to get a better look at the fluid's color (something we recommend), put a white paper plate under the part of your car where you've noticed the leak. If your vehicle is indeed leaking fluid, it will drip onto the plate, and the color will stand out much better than it would against pavement.

Engine oil leaks can show up as dark drips under your car 

5. Engine Oil

The oil in your engine serves to lubricate the moving parts, preventing them from being destroyed due to friction. Because of this, an engine oil leak can put your engine at risk. If you notice drops of fluid under your vehicle's engine, take a closer look. Engine oil can be a number of colors, ranging from yellow to brown to black, depending on how recently you've had it changed. It has a texture that's thick and, unsurprisingly, oily.

However, not all oil leaks reach the ground. Your engine may still be leaking oil even if there aren't any telltale puddles. In cases like this, it can leak directly onto the engine while it's running, burning and hardening before it ever reaches the ground. Oil can also escape through the combustion chambers without leaving much behind. Because of this, it's best to regularly check your oil levels.

 
A gasoline leak can leave you stranded 

4. Gasoline

A fuel leak may not damage your engine like an oil leak could, but it can leave you stranded. What's more, it's a fire hazard. Though gasoline can leak from just about anywhere along the underside of your vehicle, it's more likely to be found under the fuel tank. Gasoline may be a little harder to identify by sight or feel: it's a thin, watery liquid that's either clear or pale in color. However, it does have a distinctive smell that makes it relatively easy to identify.

3. Coolant

Just as you might expect, coolant helps keep your engine from overheating. It's a vital component of the cooling system, and is also known as antifreeze (due to the fact that most coolant is a mixture of water and antifreeze). Coolant is often brightly colored, and can be green, orange, yellow, pink, or other colors. Usually, you'll find coolant leaking from the very front end of your vehicle. In addition to its bright coloration, coolant is also identifiable by its sweet smell and slimy texture.

Brake fluid can leak from the area around the master cylinder or elsewhere 

2. Windshield Wiper Fluid

Of course, windshield wiper fluid is the only one of these that's designed to regularly exit your vehicle entirely! But it's also possible for the fluid to leak when you don't want it to. Windshield wiper fluid can sometimes be mistaken for coolant. Both leak from near the front of the vehicle (though wiper fluid will generally leak from a little farther back), and both are usually brightly colored. Though blue is one of the more common colors for wiper fluid, we've also seen it come in green, purple, orange, and more. However, it lacks the sweet smell of coolant, and instead usually smells like glass cleaner. In addition, rather than feeling slimy, it has a watery and thin feel.

1. Brake Fluid

The braking system in your vehicle uses hydraulic fluid that transfers brake force. Without this fluid, you're going to have a difficult time bringing your vehicle to a stop. Brake fluid itself can look very similar to engine oil: its color ranges from pale yellowish to brown, and it has an oily feel. It can even seem like it's leaking from the same general area as engine oil, particularly if the leak comes from the area of the master cylinder. However, there are other areas where brake fluid can leak, areas where you won't find engine oil. Your braking system may spring a leak anywhere along the length of your vehicle, including along the brake lines and near the wheels. Brake fluid also has a strikingly rancid or fishy smell, which also sets it apart from engine oil.

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