Fluids in your car act like blood in your body. Without enough clean fluid, a vehicle can’t perform. So, when worn out parts cause a leak, you need to find the source and fix the leak pronto. Fortunately, variations in color and consistency can point you in the direction of the damage. Here’s a quick breakdown:
Thick Brown or Thin Red Puddle
If you notice one of these under your car, it’s probably transmission fluid–bad news for drivability. To be safe, you should have the car towed to a shop as soon as possible. In some cases, the car might drive but will struggle more than usual.
Slippery Clear or Brown Puddle
A leak that appears light brown usually points to the brakes, and like a transmission leak, the car shouldn’t be driven. Since the brakes rely on hydraulic pressure to function, a leak can cause them to fail, and the risk isn’t worth it. Have the car towed to a professional right away.
If you find a black puddle under the car, you likely have a motor oil leak. Depending on the size of the puddle, you might be able to drive to the shop, but check the oil level before you take the risk.
Coolants usually look green or yellow but can also appear pink or orange. A coolant leak can mean loose hoses or damaged radiator. Either way, your car can overheat easily if it lacks coolant, so your safest bet is to have it serviced as soon as possible.
Light Brown or Red Puddle
If a leak appears near the front of the vehicle and seems thin and reddish brown, it’s usually power steering fluid. To check power steering levels, you can open the hood and use a dipstick, but understand that too little fluid can make steering difficult. Once again, having the car towed to a trusted technician is the best way to handle a leak.
Blue Thin Puddle
The only blue fluid in your vehicle belongs to the windshield wipers, which means you might need a new set (time and use can weaken the tubing and cause a leak).
Clear Thin Puddle
Clear fluid means you have a water leak, which usually means excess condensation from the air conditioner. Fortunately, this isn’t a big deal and having the system checked and serviced should be all it takes to remedy the issue.