Diagnosing 6 auto fluid leaks

February 22 2018


Automobiles require a variety of fluids for smooth operation. Unfortunately, whether due to old age or damage, leaks can happen. These fluids you find puddled beneath your car can give clues as to what needs repair. Here's how to identify six such leaks and react accordingly:

  1. Coolant or antifreeze: Available in shades of orange, pink and green, coolant helps control engine temperature and prevent overheating. Don't let this leak linger. (Note: This fluid can be deadly to animals, so be sure to clean it up.)
  2. Oil: Depending on age, oil can appear light brown to black, and leakage is often accompanied by a burning smell or even smoke. If oil levels get too low, the engine can lock up and fail.
  3. Transmission: This thick, reddish fluid acts as a lubricant for your car's transmission. Leakage can occur for a variety of reasons and should be addressed as soon as possible.
  4. Power steering: This hydraulic fluid can resemble transmission fluid but is usually thinner with more of a yellowish tint. As fluid is lost and pressure drops, steering can become difficult, creating a safety hazard.
  5. Brake: This rare fluid leak will appear around the wheels or master cylinder and produce a thin, yellowish fluid. If you suspect leakage, have the car towed for immediate attention.
  6. Gas: You'll probably smell a gas leak before you see it. Leakage usually surfaces near the tank or fuel pump and should be addressed immediately, as it is a fire hazard.

Keep in mind that some leaks are small, slow and initially undetectable. To ensure your vehicle has the fluids it needs, check your levels regularly.

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