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You back out of your driveway, and there it is. The small pool of liquid that has seeped out of somewhere. You’ve got a leak. But what is it, and where did it come from? Hopefully, with this basic color guide, we can point you in the right direction. It’s important to remember that this is not a definitive list of your vehicle’s fluid colors. We’re simply offering you a helping hand to begin to track down the stains on your precious driveway.

BROWN or BLACK

Light to amber brown fluid leaking from your vehicle could very well be fresh oil. Whereas, darker brown or black liquids could be used or dirty oil. In either case, an oil leak can lead to some serious problems, so it’s important to get the leak checked out as soon as possible.

RED

Generally, transmission fluid is bright red and has a slightly sweet smell. Interestingly, in its natural state transmission fluid is normally brown and looks similar to engine oil, but manufacturers add red dye to it so that it’s easy to identify in the case of leaks or spills. A transmission leak can come from the transmission itself or the lines going to the radiator. This is another case where locating and repairing a potential transmission leak would be a priority

CLEAR, RED, OR BROWN 

Here’s where it starts to get tricky. Power steering fluid will normally be clear or…..red. Now while both will turn brownish as they age, it can be easy to get a red-colored power steering fluid confused with transmission fluid. The key to telling the two apart is the location of the spot. Generally, the power steering fluid will be near the front left of the car where transmission fluid will be more centrally located under the car.

TRANSPARENT YELLOW

New brake fluid is transparent yellow (and actually almost clear). Like many of these fluids though, it tends to turn brown as it gets used over time. The trick with brake fluid is that it will always be very slick and slippery. Checking your brake fluid reservoir is also an easy way to see if you have a brake fluid issue. The reservoir itself may be a good indicator of a leak, so take a close look (and check your car’s manual if you have trouble locating the brake fluid reservoir).

GREEN, ORANGE, PINK OR BLUE-GREEN

Coolant! The kooky uncle of all the vehicle fluids. Depending on the formula, you may see coolant in lime-green, orange, blue-green, or bright pink! Normally sweet-smelling, with a watery consistency, manufacturers use the bright colors to distinguish it from other fluids and to identify individual formulas (for more on coolant formulas, check out this Popular Mechanics article). Technicolor stains in the driveway aren’t the only indicators of a coolant leak. A sweet smell after driving, or consistent overheating issues may point to a leak. Like most of the other fluid issues, it’s important to find and fix coolant leak issues as soon as possible. 

CLEAR

It’s probably just water! Water spots on the driveway, especially in the summer months, are normally nothing to panic about. As your vehicle’s air conditioner works, condensation builds up which is then drained through a small tube under your car. As we mentioned earlier, power steering fluid can be clear as well. So if you’re concerned, you’ll want to check that your clear puddle is just plain old water and not slippery power steering fluid. But in most cases, small water spots are nothing to worry about.

One last word about automotive fluids: most of these fluids that are very good for your car are very bad for your pets. And in some cases, your pets may be attracted to the sweet smell of these fluids. So if you have concerns about vehicle leaks and you have pets, take particular care to protect your furry family members.

If you have any other automotive questions or need the best collision, glass, or dent repair in Nebraska contact us or stop by any of our six Eustis Body Shop locations throughout the state. 

Reference links:

https://trueautomotive.com/automotive-fluid-color-guide/

https://www.allstate.com/tr/car-insurance/identifying-car-fluids-and-leaks.aspx