Ask Gary’s | Identifying Car Fluid Leaks
Our vehicles are filled with several different types of fluids and sometimes they manage to escape their rightful places and cause a bit of concern to the driver. If you see that your vehicle has a fluid leak chances are you should be able to top it up and continue driving safely. However, the odd time these fluid leaks can be dangerous and need immediate attention. There are two determining factors that help you decide whether or not you should take your car in to be serviced – how big the leak is and what is leaking.
Most vehicle fluids have fairly different colours and can be identified fairly easily with a quick visual inspection. If the size of the puddle under your car is 3 inches or wider, you should see a professional technician immediately as this is considered to be a serious leak. If the leak is between 1-2 inches wide or smaller it’s considered as a drip or fluid seepage and usually isn’t as concerning.
But how do you tell what fluid is which? We’ll help you differentiate the types of common fluid leaks by colour and risk level.
Red – Automatic Transmission Fluid
Usually a reddish brown colour, transmission fluid is not usually a common fluid leak, however it can happen from time to time. If you find a red leak under the front end of your vehicle, see if the fluid level is low on the dipstick and top the fluid up and continue driving as usual. If after a few short rides the levels are low again, you should have your car serviced as soon as possible.
Risk level: Low to medium
Yellow – Power Steering Fluid
If you’ve noticed that your steering wheel is binding up and hard to turn, there’s a chance you could have a power steering fluid leak. If you suspect this is the case, it’s important to act fast in order to be able to keep driving safely without the risk of losing control of the vehicle. Typically power steering fluid is a yellowish colour and can easily be topped up if you think it’s running low. If the problem persists and you feel like your steering wheel is slipping, visit your mechanic to make sure you’re in tip top shape.
Risk Level: Medium
Blue – Wind Shield Washer Fluid
Believe it or not, wind shield washer fluid leaks are more common than you’d think simply because we use it often – especially in the winter. With more top-offs and frequent use, there’s a higher chance of the fluid spilling over while you fill it or seeping downwards to the base of your vehicle after frequent use while driving. If you see blue fluid below your car, it’s the least of your worries.
Risk Level: Low
Green/Pink – Coolant (Antifreeze)
Coolant/antifreeze fluid leaks are one of the most common leaks experienced by drivers second to oil. If your vehicle is leaking coolant, it puts the engine at risk of overheating. In addition to depleting the engine, antifreeze is extremely deadly to animals even in small amounts. Look for a bright green or pink coloured leak and get your vehicle checked out by your mechanic as soon as you can. Vehicles with aluminium heater cores can experience a devastating mess if coolant fluid leaks go undetected for a while as it will cause corrosion to the cooling system.
Risk Level: Medium-High
Light Yellow – Brake Fluid
Brake fluid leaks are the most serious leak of all since it can have a deadly outcome if not properly taken care of. Brake fluid is usually a light yellow colour, similar to white wine, and is sometimes mistaken for power steering fluid. If the master cylinder of the braking fluid is low, you can top it off yourself, but it’s safe to get it checked out my a professional. If you’re certain the brake fluid is leaking, do not drive your vehicle and have it towed to your local garage right away. Malfunctioning breaks can not only put you in danger, but everyone else around you as well.
Risk Level: High