• Ambre Guterl

What's leaking under your car?

What's leaking under your car? This can be a loaded question for someone unfamiliar with cars and the fluids that make them function properly. There are seven different fluids in a car that could be leaking and forming that small or large puddle you see underneath your car. In this article, we will talk about the seven different fluids and what they look and smell like so you can better identify what may be the problem. Let's jump in!


Oil is the most common fluid and the most clearly identified. The leak may be found near the engine area of the vehicle and could smell like cooking oil. The liquid could look one of two ways. The first, which is the most well known, is the multi-colored oil-slick fluid. It can resemble what neo chrome looks like but in liquid form. The second would be brown to almost black fluid. Small oil leaks can be a quick and easy fix but, they can also be very hazardous and should be checked out by your trusted mechanic as soon as possible to prevent any further damage to your vehicle. It is also a good idea to keep up with regular oil changes to keep your vehicle's engine clean and lubricated.


If you notice a leak in the front of the car near the front bumper, then it is most likely a coolant leak. Coolant can be a variety of different colors depending on the specific manufacturer, but typically is a neon yellow or green slimy fluid that usually has a sweet smell to it. If there is a predominant leak, you may notice that the car is running hot or overheating altogether. If the leak is small, you may notice a smell after driving. Either way, coolant leaks should be repaired as soon as possible because coolant leaks tend to get worse quickly and be catastrophic to your engine.

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid can look pink, red, or even brown. Manufacturers add red dyes to the fluid so it is easily identified, but as the fluid ages, it turns brown and can be mistaken for engine oil. Transmission fluid lubricates and cools the components of your transmission and smells like petroleum. When your transmission fluid has broken down this can lead to an increase in friction, giving off a strong burnt smell. Transmission cooler lines, located in the front of the car near the radiator, can become rotted and leak, causing lowered fluid levels. This type of leak should be fixed quickly to prevent further transmission damage.

Power Steering Fluid

Power steering fluid is clear or red, but like transmission fluid, it turns brown with age. Weirdly enough, it also tends to smell like burnt marshmallows. This fluid can be very easy to misidentify as transmission fluid. Since it can commonly be used for both transmission and power steering purposes. The power steering lines run all through the front end of your car, in various patterns depending on the type of vehicle you have. This can make diagnosing the problem very difficult for an untrained eye. You may notice squealing when turning the steering wheel, or it may become difficult to steer the vehicle altogether. If that's the case your may have a leak and could have little to no fluid left.

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid leaks are NO joking matter and should be taken care of immediately. Without brake fluid, your brakes could fail and you could be seriously harmed. Brake fluid is yellow but like most other fluids, it turns brown as it starts to break down from use. It's also known to be a very slippery liquid and smells like fish oil. These characteristics, along with a low brake pedal, make it easier to determine if it's brake fluid or something else.

Windshield Washer Fluid

Windshield washer fluid is important to see clearly while driving and although it may not be something as urgent as the other fluids, it can be hazardous if you don't have any when you need it. Washer fluid is usually blue and has a watery consistency. It also smells like glass cleaner which is a quick identifier if you can't find the leak. Washer fluid leaks can be caused by faulty or degrading tubes from the reservoir or a cracked reservoir bottle and are found rather quickly.


Lastly, gasoline. This well-known fluid in a car has an amber-colored liquid that is thin and has a watery consistency. Gas evaporates so a standing puddle is not always visible, but leaks are normally super easy to identify because of the pungent gas smell alone. If you smell gas in or around your car either before or after filling up at a gas station, you may have an issue somewhere. Nowadays gas prices have risen significantly, not to mention the safety factor involved, so gas leaks should be fixed quickly.

All of these fluids work together to make driving a comfortable and safe experience. So, keeping up with changing them and getting regular services on your vehicle, is crucial to make sure these fluids can perform the way they were made to. Watching your fluid levels and changing them out when it's due time will also save other components of your vehicle from facing untimely repairs. Which, in the long run, will save you time and money. Everyone likes saving money, right? At Quality Automotive, all of our customers' vehicles are given a FREE 47-point digital inspection which includes fluid analysis to determine the quality and health of all the fluids in your car. If you feel you may have one of the leaks listed above or are due for a fluid change, give us a call at 908-362-9555, or reserve an appointment on our website.

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