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What’s That Puddle Under my Car?

Monday, July 24 2017 8:00 AM
By 360 Administrator
What’s That Puddle Under my Car?

Seeing spots on your driveway every day can be alarming if you don’t know where they are coming from on your vehicle or what’s causing them. Here’s how to tell whether the fluid leak is a sign of normal wear-and-tear or an indication of a serious problem.

As your car ages, the gaskets and seals tend to slightly shrink and allow small amounts of fluids to come through. What you want to watch for is the “crack in the dam.” When you first see a spot on the driveway, you should watch for two things. First, what type of fluid is it? And second, is it a harmless drip or a puddle?

When you initially start to see fresh drips on your driveway, place sheets of newspaper or aluminum foil under your car in the evening. Some people prefer the aluminum foil because it doesn’t absorb the fluids, but both options are good. The next day you can get a good “reading” of the color, consistency and location of the spots.

What Car Fluid Colors Mean

Most vehicles have at least six different fluids that can be causing puddles on your driveway: engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, coolant and water. Although brake fluid is the most critical, all leaks should be investigated.

Light Brown or Black - Medium Consistency
This may be the easiest fluid to distinguish - engine oil. Engine oil tends to be the most frequent leak because of the many gaskets, heat that weakens gaskets, as well as being one of the largest fluid capacities. A little leak may not be a problem but it’s always wise to replace a gasket.

Reddish, Light Brown or Black - Thick Consistency
These drps look similar to engine oil but are actually transmission oil. They are located near the center of the car and are thicker to the touch. This may mean you have a deteriorating transmission seal or gasket.

Reddish or Light Brown - Thin Consistency
This one is power steering and it’s almost identical to automatic transmission fluid. The way to tell the difference is by the drip location. In the case of power steering, it's near the front of the car.

Clear, Slightly Brown and Slick - Medium Consistency
This is your brake hydraulic system fluid. When the car is new, it usually appears clear or tinted brown. As the car ages and collects dust and rust, it turns entirely brown. It is also slippery to the touch.

Yellow, Green Pink and Slimy - Thin Consistency
The coolant fluid is easy to spot as well because it comes in bright colors. Today’s cars have coolant recovery reservoirs that capture and recycle any blow-off coolant. So you shouldn’t see any coolant on your driveway. If so, you may have a leaky water pump or hose.

Clear, Shiny - Very Thin Consistency
This fluid is like water and located near the front passenger side of the car. If you have been running your air conditioner, then the spot is most likely water that has condensed on the hardware and is harmless. The air conditioner is set up with a drain tube that drips water out on the road.

Regardless of the fluid type, the trick is to catch the leak before the problem gets bigger. If you’re concerned about a puddle under your vehicle, make an appointment with our Service Center for a diagnostic check.