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Common auto leaks and how to recognize them

Posted On Fri, November 15, 2013

A fresh stain on your driveway is never a welcome sight. Generally, any fluid that is leaking from your car is a sign of something gone awry in your engine. However, some leaks are more serious than others. The good news is that it is easy enough to identify what kind of fluid is leaking so you can take the appropriate next step.

It's easy enough to identify gasoline, especially if it is fresh. It has an extremely distinctive odor that will stick around for a while. The gas is usually leaking from either the gas tank itself, the fuel pump or the fuel lines. While leaking fuel isn't likely to do a great deal of damage to your car, it is extremely flammable, so it's important to get the issue taken care of quickly. Plus, gas isn't cheap, and it's a waste of money to leave your gas in a puddle on your driveway.

Also known as antifreeze, coolant is easy to spot, as it's usually bright green, orange or pink. Though a coolant link isn't likely to be devastating to your car, it's important to get it taken care of for a couple of reasons. First of all, coolant is there to regulate the temperature of your engine. If the levels get too low, your car is likely to overheat and shut down. In addition, the fluid is extremely toxic, any stains should be cleaned up as soon as possible if you have pets. Unfortunately, coolant smells and tastes a bit sweet, making it a magnet for all kinds of critters. 

It's fairly common to see an oil stain underneath a car. Newer oil is a yellowish color, while older oil is dark brown or black. An oil leak is definitely an issue you want to have addressed quickly by a mechanic - if the oil levels get too low in your car, the engine can sustain damage. There are plenty of sources of an oil leak - a worn oil gasket, corrosion, high oil pressure or the oil plug or filter being improperly attached. High-mileage cars will often have oil seeping out of their engines, which may not be a cause for concern. However, if you notice the oil starts to drip out, it's time to bring your vehicle in to the mechanic.

Automatic Transmission Fluid
If it looks like your car is bleeding to death, it may just be the transmission fluid, which is a light or dark red color. This is a problem you should address as soon as you notice it. Automatic transmission fluid works as a lubricant in your car's transmission, allowing it to shift gears smoothly. Transmission that need to be replaced can be as expensive as $1,800, unless it's covered by certain auto insurance quotes

Windshield washer fluid
Possibly the least serious of all fluid leaks, the washer fluid will be thin and blue. Usually, if the fluid is leaking, it's because of a crack in the reservoir or the tubes that move the fluid to your windshield. Unless you just can't keep the reservoir full, it's probably all right to let this particular leak slide for a while.

While it may be distressing to see water dripping out of your car, it's probably not a serious issue. Likely, you'll see water under your car if it's hot out and you've been running the air conditioning at full blast. As it turns out, the water probably isn't a leak at all, but condensation gathering on the underside of your car and dripping to the ground.

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