| Kidney Cars

What is Leaking from Your Vehicle?

November 27, 2018, 12:47pm EST

car leak

Have you ever found an ominous puddle or spot on the ground from your car after it’s been parked a while? It might seem like your car is dying a slow death. Not to worry, you can learn to decipher those mysterious spots and whether or not the leak is an innocent drip or an urgent issue that needs addressing right away.



There are three key items to recognize when looking at vehicle leaks: location, consistency and color. You can try putting aluminum foil or newspaper underneath your car at night and then analyze the spots in the morning.

Here is a guide to help you read your car’s leak and know if you need to get it fixed sooner rather than later. Please note that locations given are examples and may not match every make and car model.  

Coolant Leak

Location:  Radiator, hoses, water pump (Front end of the vehicle)

Consistency & Color: Slimy green, pink or yellow

Fluid:  Coolant

Priority: Low. Fill up your coolant and keep an extra gallon in your vehicle. Pick up a new thermostat on your next trip out.


Water Leak

Location: A/C or exhaust condensation (Front end just behind radiator)

Consistency & Color: Thin, clear liquid - Harmless

Fluid:  Water

Priority: Low. If you have no A/C running, check to make sure it really is water.


Windshield Wiper Fluid Leak

Location: Cracked wiper fluid reservoir, wiper fluid lines (Under hood to one side)

Consistency & Color: Thin, bluish color

Fluid:  Windshield wiper fluid

Priority: Low. Refill and check for any wiper fluid leaks.


Power Steering Fluid Leak

Location: Power steering reservoir, power steering pump, hoses (Under hood to one side)

Consistency & Color:  Thin, red or light brown fluid

Fluid:  Power steering fluid

Priority: High. Take your car in to be diagnosed and repaired.


Brake Fluid Leak

Location: Master cylinder seal, brakes lines, wheel cylinder or piston seal (by wheels or directly under brake pedal)

Consistency & Color: Medium consistency, slippery fluid, yellowish/slightly brown

Fluid: Brake fluid

Priority: High. Consider getting your car towed right away to be fixed


Oil Leak

Location: Oil pan, valve covers, oil filter (under engine)

Consistency & Color: Medium consistency, light brown or black

Fluid: Motor oil

Priority: Low. Check oil level and fill. Get fixed when convenient. Put something under your car to catch the oil. Top off oil when you get gas.


Transmission Fluid Leak

Location: Transmission pan, gasket, torque converter, fluid lines, seals (Under transmission area)

Consistency & Color: Thinner than engine oil and reddish -or- thicker than engine oil and light brown/black

Fluid: Transmission fluid

Priority: Medium. Check your transmission level and fill. Schedule service for your car within  24-48 hours to track down and fix the leak.


Differential Fluid Leak

Location: Pinion seal or other seals (under middle back end of car)

Consistency & Color:  Thicker than engine oil and light brown/black

Fluid: Differential fluid

Priority: Medium. Take it in to be diagnosed within 24-48 hours.


Fuel Leak

Location: fuel tank, fuel pump, fuel lines, injectors (back end of car)

Consistency & Color: smells light fuel

Fluid:  Fuel

Priority: Medium. If the puddle is near the rear of your car, it’s likely the tank you will need to replace or repair. If it’s near the front, it likely something wrong with your fuel pump. Take it in for repairs.


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