There’s nothing quite like that sinking sensation you get when you pull out of a parking space to notice a big puddle where your car was parked. Your mind races through the possibilities—is it brake fluid? Oil? Maybe it’s just water? We’re here to help you identify your vehicle’s fluids and leaks to help determine whether you need to visit an auto shop pronto!
Brown to Black
A fluid anywhere from amber to black is most likely motor oil. Fresh oil has a lighter hue, while older oil takes on a dark brown or black color. Another way to help determine that it’s motor oil is to note what part of your car was above the leak—if the fluid is directly under the engine, that’s a good sign of a motor oil leak.
While this issue isn’t as dire as some others, you should still bring your car to the shop to avoid a more significant problem down the road.
Coolant leaks are the most obvious to identify, since your coolant likely comes in a bright color, from green to orange to pink. Coolant leaks aren’t dangerous, but they can result in expensive repairs if left untreated.
Yellow to Brown
If you haven’t changed your brake fluid in a while, you may notice brown liquid when your brakes are leaking. For freshly changed brake fluid, instead look for a yellow, almost clear color. A smart way to tell this fluid apart from others is to look for slipperiness—brake fluid is very slick. Finally, check your brake fluid reservoir. If it’s low, you’ve probably identified the problem.
We recommend having your car towed to the nearest repair shop—you don’t want to drive if your brakes are failing.
A leaky exhaust downpipe is never good, but it’s easier to spot than some of these other cracks in your system. There are several signs to look out for, but one of the most obvious are droplets falling from the connector between the exhaust manifold and cylinder head.
Now that you have a sense of how to identify your vehicle’s fluids and leaks, keep your car in tip-top shape and take it in, just to be safe.