Oil leak from under a car here on Long Island, NY.

What to Do When You See Fluid Under Your Parked Car

Posted at Fri, Nov 1, 2019 12:00 PM

Wear and tear happens to all vehicles eventually, and it’s not uncommon as this happens to encounter problems every now and then. A frequent issue found in older cars comes in the form of fluid leaks, usually noticed as puddles that have formed under the vehicle when it’s been parked for a period of time. While it is concerning to find fluid under your parked car, it may not necessarily be a crisis.

Still, there are certain steps you should take to be able to identify what type of fluid is leaking. Once you’ve figured it out, you can decide upon a course of action, whether it be simple maintenance or a matter of repair. To help you with fluid leak identification, our knowledgeable staff here at Westbury Toyota has put together a quick and comprehensive guide.

Find the Source of the Leak

Identifying

You don’t have to be a mechanic to find the source of the fluid leak. All you need is a flashlight that you can use to get a good look at the underside of your car. If it’s a slow leak, says the writers of Axle Addict, grab a piece of plywood or cardboard and slide it under your car in order to pinpoint where the leak is. Once you’ve got the board in place, check the spots where the fluid is falling. Without removing the board, look directly above to liquid spots to determine the precise location of where the leak is. In addition, this method will let you see the color of the fluid, which is also something you need to know to determine just what the problem is.

Check the Color

One of the easiest ways to tell what kind of leak you’ve got going on is to check the color of the fluid, explains the experts over at Pep Boys. (Note: this might be tough to do if you notice the fluid at night or if it’s already dried). If you use the aforementioned method of catching the leaking fluid on a piece of cardboard or plywood, however, it should be easy to see the color. The different fluid colors are described below:

  • Orange: If the fluid you’re seeing is orange, it could be one of two things. If there’s any rust in your radiator, it can tint condensation or leaking antifreeze orange. In addition, transmission fluid that’s quite old can also fade to orange.
  • Yellow: Typically, if you’ve got yellow fluid leaking out of your car, it’s indicative of a radiator fluid leak. This can be caused from a malfunctioning O-ring or a worn or loose hose.
  • Red/Pink: If your vehicle is leaking red or pink fluid, it is likely power steering fluid or transmission fluid. The cause can be a couple of things such as holes in lines and/or hoses, or a damaged transmission seal.
  • Blue: Blue fluid is probably windshield wiper fluid, usually caused by holes worn into the fluid reservoir or the tubing that carries the fluid to the wiper blades.
  • Green: If you find green fluid beneath your car, it’s a sign that you’ve got an antifreeze leak. The most common places that antifreeze leaks form are the water hoses, pumps, or the radiator itself when a fitting or a clamp is either damaged or in need of replacing.
  • Light Brown/Dark Brown: Dark brown fluid can either be motor oil that’s aged, or it could be brake fluid leaking from damaged brake lines. Light brown fluid could be gear lubricant or newer motor oil.
  • Clear: Clear fluid is not a bad thing as it is usually just condensation that has formed from the air-conditioning system.

Decide on the Fix

If you’ve got the knowledge, the time, and the know-how, you can probably fix the leak yourself if it’s not something too complicated. If you’re not all that mechanically inclined or you suspect it’s a bigger issue than you can handle yourself, it’s probably a good idea to bring your vehicle in to one of our expert technicians in order to get it looked at. It’s not recommended that you drive your car when it’s leaking fluid, as in some circumstances driving it can exacerbate the problem, leading to a more costly fix down the road.

Taking the Right Steps

As you can see from our guide, leaking fluid can be the symptom of a number of different problems, but you can narrow down the origin of the leak by checking both the liquid color and where it’s coming from. Once you’ve got that narrowed down, you can fix it yourself or take your car in to a professional. It’s important to address a fluid leak as soon as you notice it in case it’s an indicator of a more severe problem.

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