Car Fluid Leaks: What to Do
If something has metal parts and moves, then fluid is most likely lubricating it. There are lots of moving parts in a car and many kinds of fluids. Fortunately, fluids differ in color, texture, and smell. Once you know what to look for, finding the source of your leak is much easier.
General Fluid Leak Tips
A puddle that is 3 inches or wider under your car is considered a serious leak and requires immediate attention.
A puddle between 1 and 2 inches wide is referred to as "seepage" or a "drip." Unless it’s brake fluid, the condition isn’t as serious.
The morning after your vehicle is serviced, check underneath the car for fresh fluid. If any exists, immediately call the repair facility.
Common Fluids Found Beneath Your Car
Water from the AC or defroster system is one of the most common fluids you may find. Water is formed when moisture in the air comes into contact with the system and condenses. It usually drips under the center right or center left of the vehicle. This is a normal byproduct, and seeing this under your car is no cause for alarm.
Commonly light to dark brown or black in color, engine oil feels slippery and may have a dirty, burnt-rubber smell. To check the engine oil level in your car, see your owner’s manual to locate the engine oil dipstick. If the oil level is low, but still registers on the dipstick, top off the oil at your earliest opportunity. Be sure to mention the leak at your next scheduled service. If the oil level does not register on the dipstick—before you drive the vehicle—add enough engine oil to reach the full level on the dipstick.
Note: Do not overfill. Too much oil can cause more harm than too little oil. Contact your service center as soon as possible.
Engine coolant is usually watery and slippery to the touch. It may be light green, yellow, pink, blue, or even purple. It usually drips near the front of the engine or beneath the radiator. After the engine has cooled down (we hope you’re reading this first!), check the fluid levels in the radiator and coolant reservoir tank. If either is low, top them off with distilled water. Do not use tap water—it contains minerals that can lead to cooling system corrosion. The number one cause of serious engine damage is loss of coolant. If your car consistently loses fluid, contact your repair facility immediately