How to Determine What’s Leaking Based on Fluid Color

How to Determine What's Leaking Based on Fluid Color

Uh, oh. There’s a leak on the driveway coming from your vehicle, but you don’t know exactly what it is. There could be several possibilities, but how do you know? Not everyone is a car expert, but there are few tricks on how to determine what’s leaking based on fluid color.

Amber, Brown or Black: Engine Oil

Engine oil can be amber when still fresh, brown or, if it hasn’t been changed for 10,000 miles or more, black. Engine oil leaves a slickness on your fingers and it’s hard to wipe off. This is the most common of leaks to find, but if it’s happening in large puddles, you should definitely get it checked out.

Clear, Yellow, Light Brown, or Brown: Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is clear when new, yellow, light brown, or brown because it generally darkens as it ages. It’s very slick and is important to treat as an emergency if you see this leak, as it’s vital to helping stop your vehicle. Get this checked immediately.

Red or Reddish: Power-steering Fluid

Power-steering fluid is normally reddish. On some vehicles, it’s the same fluid that goes into the transmission. You can check the fluid level in the power-steering reservoir and look for leaks from the hoses coming from it.

Bright to Dark Red (Sometimes Orange): Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid is usually a hue of red from bright to dark and is slick. In some vehicles, it’s the same fluid that is used for power-steering. Some transmission fluids come in other colors like orange, and most are around the consistency of engine oil.

Green, Yellow, or Pink: Engine Coolant

Engine coolant can be green, yellow, or pink. Some coolants are another color, so be sure to check your coolant overflow tank- that way you can see what’s in your radiator. Coolant mostly feels like slimy water, but another attribute is that it has a sweet smell.

Blue: Windshield Washer Fluid

Windshield washer fluid is generally always a blue color. Over time and usage, the tubes from the reservoir can degrade and cause leaking. Make sure to get this checked during your regular oil changes and check-ups.

Clear: Water

Water is a trick fluid and it depends on location. If you’ve ever seen a puddle of clear water-looking substance and it’s located under the passenger side towards the front- don’t worry. This is simply condensation buildup from the air-conditioner, so if you’re running the AC on a hot summer day and see a puddle later, this is why.