Have you ever gone outside only to notice a large pool of liquid forming underneath your vehicle? If so, you probably experienced an immediate ping of fear, followed by a moment of nervousness.
Before you panic, you should know that not all vehicle fluid leaks are equal. You should take notice of: colour, consistency, and location. While some leakage is harmless, certain fluid leaks can point to a bigger problem.
To help calm your nerves, this guide covers the most common types of leaks, their causes, and how to handle them.
If you notice that there’s a dark brown or black pool of liquid on the ground beneath your vehicle, it’s probably an oil leak. In addition to the puddle of fluid, you may smell burning rubber or see smoke coming from the engine. While there are several reasons why a vehicle is leaking oil, a few of the most common causes include degraded engine gaskets, a corroded or broken oil seal, or a cracked oil pan. Before heading to the repair shop, you may want to crawl underneath the vehicle to ensure that the oil plug is in place and the oil filter is secure. If these parts look okay, you may need to make an appointment with your mechanic.
Transmission Fluid Leak
If your vehicle is leaking transmission fluid, you may see a pinkish-red, gasoline-smelling liquid or stain underneath the centre of your vehicle. Other telltale signs of a transmission fluid leak include a slow or delayed start or a low transmission fluid level. Although transmission leaks are common and easy to deal with, they could be the result of a serious engine problem. If you suspect that your vehicle is leaking transmission fluid, call your mechanic immediately—driving a vehicle with a transmission fluid leak could lead to permanent damage and costly repairs.
Unlike transmission fluid, antifreeze is a sticky, sweet-smelling substance that’s lime-green or yellow in colour. While an antifreeze leak (sometimes referred to as a coolant leak) can appear towards the front end of your vehicle, antifreeze may also leak from the exhaust pipe. A few things that can lead to an antifreeze leak include a blown head gasket or a hole in the radiator. If left unresolved, an antifreeze leak can lead to serious issues, including engine failure or overheating.
Brake Fluid Leak
Brake fluid is a tricky one to identify. Brake fluid appears clear or light brown in colour and has a slight resemblance to power steering fluid. Although this type of leak can be located anywhere underneath a vehicle, brake fluid leaks are often found near the wheels or passenger side of the vehicle. Common causes of a brake fluid leak include damaged brake lines, loose bleeder valves, or worn-out brake pads. If your vehicle is leaking brake fluid, you should get it checked out ASAP, as a brake fluid leak could result in a serious (or even fatal) accident. To ensure your safety, and the safety of other drivers, stop driving the vehicle and call a tow truck.
Water leaks are one of the most common types of vehicle fluid leaks, especially during the summer months. If you notice a puddle of water forming underneath your vehicle, it’s probably nothing to worry about. Most water leaks are caused by condensation and come from a vehicle’s air conditioning system or exhaust pipe.
If you’re ever unsure or are having trouble identifying a fluid leak, give your mechanic a call.