Car Leaking Fluid: Decoding the Colors

  • By Lea Naiz
  • 26 Jun, 2017
It’s never fun to discover that your car is leaking fluid. Your first instinct is likely to use a flashlight to try to find the source of the leak, but leaking fluid changes directions so many times that the location of the drip is often not the location of the source. A much easier and more accurate way to diagnose the leak is to check the color of the fluid.
spots of gasoline on wet asphalt with yellow autumn leaves

If the fluid is clear, you’re in luck. A clear leak is almost always caused by condensation, typically from running the air conditioner on a hot day. You will notice this most often when you return to your car after a short errand to find a clear puddle beneath it. When you park for several hours, the condensation stops as the car heats up, and the puddle has time to evaporate.

Red or Pink
Red or pink fluid is either power steering fluid or transmission fluid. You can try to diagnose which by looking at where the ground stain is compared to your parked car. If it’s closer to the front of the car, it’s probably power steering fluid. If it’s more towards the center of the car, suspect the transmission. Either way, it is worth having the car checked out by a professional as soon as possible.

Orange fluid is a bit trickier to diagnose, because there are a couple of different possibilities. Transmission fluid can look a rusty orange as it starts to age, but actual rust somewhere in your car can cause condensation to appear orange. Have this one checked out as soon as possible.

Yellow or Green
Bright yellow or green fluid is antifreeze, also known as coolant. This typically means that something in your car’s coolant system has become worn out or detached, but using the wrong type of antifreeze for your vehicle can also cause leaking. Have the system checked by a professional to avoid overheating.

Blue fluid is windshield washer fluid. A leak in this system will not affect the operation of your vehicle, but a good supply of windshield washer fluid is important for maintaining visibility through your windshield.

Brown fluid can be tough to figure out, because there are a few things it could be. Check the consistency of the fluid for clues. Slick brown fluid is likely brake fluid, while an oily brown to black is probably motor oil. Smelly light brown fluid may be gear lubricant. Because there are so many different possibilities, it is important to have a mechanic take a look as soon as possible.

Fluid leaks are never fun, but learning the different colors can help you figure out what’s going on. Except for clear condensation, though, all leaks represent a problem that must be addressed.

If you are tired of getting the runaround and being treated like you haven’t got a clue, we invite you to try  Colchin Automotive  instead. Give us a call at 303-431-5421 for all of your automotive needs!

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