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What is Leaking From My Car?








At some point, we have all experienced the fear of unknown fluids under the car. When this happens, you’re probably going to worry about what fluid is leaking and what the newfound leak means for your day. You might worry if your car is safe to drive, and how much the repairs will cost. Before you get too worried, let's get an idea of how to identify the fluid leaking from your car. 

First of all, let's break the fluids down into two groups; oil-based and water-based fluids. The oil-based fluid category will include Motor oil, Transmission Fluid, Differential Fluid, Power Steering Fluid, Brake Fluid, and Fuel. To tell the difference most oil-based fluids will leave a rainbow on wet surfaces and have a noticeably oily feel. 

To help you further determine the fluid in question see if you can tell the color and location of the fluid.






The fuel tank in most cars and trucks is in the rear with fuel lines running up to the engine. The texture is thin and watery although the odor is notable. If you suspect a fuel leak the car should not be driven. 

Brake Fluid:

Brake fluid has a distinct feel on the fingertips and a fish oil-type odor. Good brake fluid is a yellow honey color and old contaminated brake fluid can be very dark brown to black. Brake fluid leaks tend to show up at the wheels and along the driver's side frame rail where the lines usually route. If you suspect a brake fluid leak the car should not be driven. 


The most common coolants are green and yellow. Although there are also blue, pink, orange and others. Coolant flows like water although feels very slimy to the touch. The odor is sweet but pungent.  Coolant leaks tend to show up just behind the grille or under the center of the hood. If you suspect a coolant leak check the fluid level before attempting to drive. 

Transmission Fluid:

Transmission fluid is a specialized hydraulic oil. It can be easily confused with motor oil by feel with a more distinct odor and a thinner feel than engine oil. Good transmission fluid is cherry red, broken down fluid can be a dark maroon to brown. Transmission fluid leaks tend to show up under the transmission or near the radiator behind the grille. If you suspect a transmission leak check the fluid level before attempting to drive. 

Engine Oil:

Engine oil is a dark honey color when new and brown to black with age and contamination. It is thick and slippery and has an odor similar to cooking oil. Engine oil leaks are typically found directly under the engine. If you suspect an engine oil leak check the fluid level before attempting to drive. 

Power Steering Fluid:

Power steering fluid looks and feels almost identical to transmission fluid and leaks in the same area. The color of the steering fluid is reddish-brown. If you suspect a power steering leak check the fluid level before attempting to drive. 

Windshield Washer Solvent:

Windshield Washer Solvent looks like water with blue food coloring. It has an alcohol odor similar to glass cleaner. Leaks are usually directly under the washer solvent reservoir. Washer solvent will not affect the drivability of your car. 


Water?? Yes, water leaking out of your car is a normal operation. When it is hot and humid out your car's air conditioner will drip condensation on the passenger's side near the footwell. The more hot and humid the more condensation that will drip. Also, water will drip from the tailpipe and muffler condensate drains. These are all normal condensation drips and do not affect the operation of the car. 

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