Common Car Leaks – What do They Mean?
Auckland Vehicle Service – Car Leaks
How many times have you come back to your car only to discover a puddle underneath it? Are you the sort of person who looks into it, or do you ignore it and just hope it doesn’t mean anything sinister?
Some car leaks are normal, while others demand attention. Let’s take a closer look at why your car may leak and what you should do about it.
Different types of car fluids
It’s important to understand that your vehicle relies on a number of fluids to operate efficiently. A bit like the human body, your car is powered by fluids. These include:
- engine oil
- brake fluid
- transmission fluid
- windshield wiper/washer fluid
- hydraulic fluid
- steering fluid
- air conditioning refrigerant
Is it normal or safe for any of these fluids to leak from your car? Well, it depends. It’s easiest to identify car leaks by their colour:
Brown or black
Puddles or circles under your car that are black, brown or amber in colour are usually oil stains. Modern vehicles should not leak oil. If yours does, you may have seals or gaskets that are worn or damaged. Bring your vehicle in to see us and we can assess what needs to be repaired or replaced.
Red or brown
This is likely a stain caused by leaking transmission fluid. New transmission fluid is red in colour (which is why you’ll hear some mechanics refer to it as the blood of your vehicle). It gets darker over time, changing from its original bright red colour to a brown (then possibly black) appearance.
Transmission fluid should not leak from your vehicle. It helps keep your engine lubricated and keeps all of the moving parts of your transmission running smoothly. So if your car is leaking transmission fluid, you’ll want to bring your vehicle in to see us. We can assess the cause of the leak and put a stop to it before any damage is caused.
Blue, green, pink, orange
It’s very common to see a colourful, almost rainbow-like puddle under a vehicle. This often is a sign of a coolant fluid leak. You may also notice a sweet smell to the leak. Manufacturers use these bright colours so that coolant leaks are easily identifiable. Some coolants have a watery consistency and when they leak onto hot surfaces (hot pavement, a hot exhaust pipe), they can create noticeable steam.
A coolant leak can be a sign of loose clamps, a leaking water pump or radiator failure. It may also be the result of an overheating issue, which is causing the coolant to overflow. It’s best to address any of these issues as soon as possible. Running out of coolant may lead to your engine overheating which, in turn, can cause serious (and costly) engine damage.
Yellow or brown
Brake and clutch fluids are usually yellow or clear. You definitely don’t want either of these fluids leaking from your car, as they help your gears and brakes to work properly. You can check these fluid levels by lifting the bonnet and checking their reservoirs. If they’re low, and you see yellow or brown stains under your car, you may be leaking brake or clutch fluid. This is another leak you’ll want to have fixed right away. Get in touch and we can help.
Clear liquid, water
If there is a clear, wet patch beneath your vehicle, it may be just water (especially if you notice it after you park on a hot day, after you’ve had the air conditioning on in the car). What sometimes happens is that the liquid is coming from the condensation from the car’s air conditioning system. The system collects the water in a drip tray below the evaporator and the tray is then drained through a small tube under the car.
If this is all it is, then it’s nothing to worry about. If, however, the fluid starts to leak into the inside of the vehicle, then the system isn’t draining properly. You’ll need to get it unblocked to avoid damaging your car’s internal electrical components.
If you see a soapy puddle underneath your vehicle, probably near the front (and you haven’t washed your car recently), it may be from a leak of washer fluid. If your vehicle has been involved in an accident, even just a seemingly minor bump to the bonnet, the fluid reservoir may be damaged or the hose may be dislodged.
It’s not a major issue, but you’ll want to have it looked at and, if necessary, repaired. Driving around with no washer fluid may not seem like a big deal, but it actually does present a significant danger. Poor visibility, especially during the winter months, is one of the leading causes of vehicle accidents. It’s easy to prevent – just get that washer fluid reservoir checked out.
In summary, your vehicle needs all of the fluids you put into it. You shouldn’t be experiencing any car leaks other than perhaps water from your air conditioning system. If you notice any puddles or spots under your car, get in touch with us at Roskill Auto Mechanical and we can help.