My Car Is Leaking Fluid and I Don’t Know What it Is?

“This is John Smith. How may I help you?” “Honey, there is a puddle of fluid where your car was parked in the garage…” This is a phone call nobody wants to receive from their significant other. You’ve driven to work, you’re in the office, and your wife calls to tell you she sees automobile fluid on the garage floor. Which fluid is leaking from your car? Heath’s Auto Repair offers the following guide.

Brown to Black

Motor oil changes colors throughout its life. When it’s first poured into your engine it is an amber/light brown color. As it gets older, it turns darker brown. Really old or dirty motor oil can be black. If the puddle on your garage floor is light brown to black, it could be motor oil. Check your levels and add oil if needed. Then, drive your vehicle to a mechanic to have the source of the leak inspected.

Brown to Red

Transmission fluid is also called transmission oil and it can look like motor oil when it’s dirty. New transmission oil is usually red, although sometimes it can also have a pink hue. If the oil gets dirty, which is nearly impossible if your transmission is sealed properly, it can turn brown. Transmission fluid that is overheated might be brown, as well, or dark red. Get this leak fixed ASAP to avoid transmission damage.

Another red or brown fluid in your vehicle is your power steering fluid. As with transmission oil, new power steering fluid is red but it can turn brown over time. If both transmission and power steering fluids are the same color, how do you tell the difference between the two? If the leak is toward the front of your parked car, it is likely power steering fluid. If it’s toward the center, it could be transmission oil.

Yellow to Brown

Brake fluid is yellow or light brown when it’s fresh. Over time, it will turn dark brown. Don’t throw your hands up in the air in frustration over all the brown leaking fluid in your car, truck, or SUV. Dab some of the fluid onto your finger and see if it’s slick. Brake fluid is slippery, oily, whereas the other fluids discussed above are more viscous. Check your brake fluid reservoir to see if your fluid is low.

Blue or Blue-Green, Green, Orange, or Pink

That’s quite a rainbow of colors and all of them could be coolant. Your coolant might also be red. To determine your coolant’s color, pop the hood and look at your radiator reservoir tank. It’s clear so you can see the fluid color easily. If that color has leaked onto your garage floor, head to the auto repair shop. Coolant leaks can overheat your engine and cause expensive damage.

Heath’s Auto Repair is located in Flagstaff, AZ, and we’d be happy to inspect your vehicle fluid leak. 


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