How to check if your car is leaking

On the Road 2 min read

Seeing puddles or pools of liquid on the ground under your car can certainly indicate a leak. The next step is to check the fluid levels in your car, according to Jaime Boucher, an ASE-certified master technician and the shop foreman at Cantin Chevrolet in Laconia, New Hampshire. “That’ll give you an indication if one is running low [and] can help point you in a direction, based on what you might be seeing.”

Your owner’s manual should show you where to check coolant levels, engine oil, wiper fluid, and more. A quick online search could yield videos, expert tips, and more. Finding a low fluid level can strongly indicate that you’ve found the source of your leakage issue.

How to identify car leaks

It’s never good to see green fluid under your car, clear oil under your car, or pretty much any other automotive liquid pooling that shouldn’t be there. But while some fluids defy classification on a car fluid color chart, you can make some informed guesses about leaks under cars with a little knowledge, your owner’s manual, and some classic do-it-yourself car maintenance tips.

Antifreeze

Antifreeze leaks generally appear at the front of the car, under the engine compartment, but there are exceptions. Boucher notes that SUVs with rear heating or rear air conditioning can see antifreeze leaks under the rear of the vehicle as well.

Wiper fluid

Wiper fluid also comes in different colors, depending on its formulations. It can be mistaken for similar colors of antifreeze or coolant. Clear formulations can be mistaken for water or even brake fluid.

Engine oil

“All kinds of gaskets and seals can leak on an engine,” Boucher says, making engine oil another common car leak culprit. Usually, the darkest of all fluids in your car, engine oil ranges from deep brown to black. While you might see evidence of a leak on the driveway underneath the engine compartment, you can also find signs of engine fluid leaks under the hood, on the engine itself, or on nearby parts. After you diagnose your leak, learn how to remove oil stains from your driveway.

What to do if your car leaks

Choosing a good mechanic is important to get an accurate diagnosis. And it’s best to discuss the symptoms, not your conclusions. You may want to describe where the fluid seems to be leaking from and what its color is. That way, you’ll lessen the risk of accidentally directing your mechanic away from what can be the actual problem. Remember that you can always take precautionary steps regarding leaks and stay on top of things yourself.

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