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Media post: Lets Play: What’s My Leak?

Today’s cars and trucks use a lot of fluids. You have radiator coolant, brake fluid, engine oil, power steering fluid and windshield-washing solution. While automotive engineers work hard to keep these fluids inside their respective systems, we all know that sometimes they end up on the floor. And thats when you, as the car’s owner, get to play: Whats that leak.

In this article, we will look at the most common things that leak in automobiles —from the leaks that mean that something is failing, to the leaks that mean very little nothing. Let’s try to figure out what fluid is leaking from your car and what you should do about it.

An Old Trick

Helping us with this article, Apple Valley Hyundai (Winchester, VA)noted that an old trick is to identify leaks is to slide a sheet of white poster board under your car and let it collect drips overnight. The next day, not only will see the color of the fluid, you’ll see the location of where its dripping from.

Water leaks

Is it summertime where you are? If you see water, it may just be condensate from your cars’s AC system. Air conditioners take the warm air inside the passenger compartment and blow it through an evaporator core which cools it down. When they do this, water condenses out of the humid air and drains under the car. This is a fluid leak that you don’t have to do anything about.

Oil Leaks

Engine oil is generally dark brown. Engine oil leaks aren’t terribly serious unless a lot of oil is dripping out. If that is the case, get your car to a mechanic for evaluation. One kind of leak – engine oil leaks from the rear main seal of an engine- can cause problems in cars with standard transmissions. Even though the oil leak itself can be very minor, the oil can get flung around onto the clutch disc and cause it to slip.

Coolant Leaks

Radiator coolant is usually a 50-50 mixture of antifreeze and water. In the old days, this mixture was a light green color. Today, it comes in all sorts of colors. The main component of antifreeze is a chemical called ethylene glycol and it has a sweet smell and also a sweet taste.

Transmission Fluid Leaks

Automatic transmissions use a red, oily fluid. The most common place for a transmission fluid leak on a front-wheel drive car is by the two opposing axle seals. On a rear-wheel-drive car it is on the output shaft seal. If you see red, oily fluid under your car, it’s a good idea to check the level of your transmission fluid.

Power Steering Fluid Leaks

Power steering fluid can be hard to describe because some manufacturers use transmission fluid (which is red) and some use their own brand of power steering fluid (which can be many colors.) If you think you might have a power steering fluid leak, the first place you should look is at the power steering reservoir. It should be easy to see whether the fluid is low.

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