Where’s That Leak Coming From? Identifying And Diagnosing Vehicle Leaks

Vehicle leaks are common but pesky problems. They usually occur in older vehicles but can be seen in newer vehicles as well. Now, if you see a vehicle leak, you should be concerned. Without proper information on different types of leaks, you may end up ignoring a major problem in your vehicle – simply because of not knowing better.

But there is no need to worry; this article is going to equip you with the information you need to be able to identify the leaks that can occur in your vehicle. You will find out which leaks are a serious cause for concern and which ones you don’t have to take seriously. 

Oil Leaks

Oil leaks are a common problem in older vehicles. But some new vehicles may also become a victim of this. The way to identify an engine oil leak is first by identifying the position of the leak. If the leak is right under the engine, then it is most probably an engine oil leak.

Secondly, check the color of the leak. The color can vary from light brown to black. Engine oil that is new will have a light brown color, whereas older engine oil will be dark brown or even black. Another characteristic of engine oil is that it is sticky in nature. So by feeling the oil’s texture and seeing its color, you can identify the health of the engine oil. 

Engine oil leaks can occur from gaskets, valves or a damaged seal in the engine. It is recommended to get it checked immediately by a mechanic.

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid will always be found in the middle area of the car. Transmission fluid is usually red or orange in color and has a very strong petroleum-like smell. The color and smell will help you in identifying transmission fluid. 

Transmission fluid leakage can occur from the transmission itself or from fluid lines running to the cooler or radiator.

Interestingly, only automatic transmissions are lubricated by transmission fluid; manual transmissions are lubricated by gear oil. To check the fluid level for the automatic transmission, you need to keep the car running with the car in neutral or parked gear. The gear oil can be checked from underneath manual cars by putting the car on a lift.

If you diagnose that the leak from your car is transmission fluid, then it is important to get it checked immediately by a professional. Another indicator of leakage is the performance of the transmission; if you feel your transmission starts slowly, then definitely the level of fluid is low, and a potential leakage may need to be discovered.

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid leakage can almost always be seen near a wheel. This will be the first identification for brake fluid leakage. Secondly, the brake fluid color can range from clear to dark brown, and it will have a slippery consistency. 

Brake fluid is important because it is the fluid that ensures that your car’s braking system operates at its optimum level. Brake fluid leakage can be serious and should be looked into immediately. If you notice a leak, drive very carefully even to the mechanic because your brakes won’t be operating at their optimum level, and this could potentially lead to an accident.


Coolant leakage is easy to identify. The color of the coolant is very distinct; it can either be yellow, pink or green, depending on the type of coolant you use.

You can even diagnose coolant leakage if your engine overheats easily and if the coolant levels in the reservoir are low. 

When checking coolant levels, always ensure the engine isn’t hot, and carefully remove the radiator’s cap or coolant reservoir. 

To manage coolant leakage, you can always use a radiator stop leak to seal the leakage or take the vehicle to a mechanic and get it done by a professional.

Power Steering Fluid

Power steering fluid will always be seen in front of the vehicle. It will have an amber to light brown color. And you may confuse power steering fluid with transmission fluid due to the similarity in color.

Because of the location of the power steering fluid, which is in the front of the vehicle, you can identify it easily. It is also not as thick as transmission fluid. Transmission fluid has an odor to it which is not present in power steering fluid.

Power steering fluid leakage can be hazardous as it will restrict the function of the steering wheel. You can also check the power steering fluid; just make sure you don’t check it while the vehicle is running. Once you’ve identified the leak, you should take your vehicle to a mechanic to get the problem fixed.

Fuel Leak

A fuel leak is extremely dangerous because fuel is flammable. Fuel leaks can occur anywhere underneath the vehicle because even though the fuel tank is at the back of the car, the fuel lines run all across the vehicle providing fuel all the way to the engine. 

Fuel leaks can be easily identified through their strong smell. When the fuel is on the ground, it will appear to be clear. But you can smell it, and it’ll have the distinct smell of gas.

Once identified that you have a fuel leak, you should immediately visit a service station and get the problem fixed.


This is one leak that you don’t need to worry about. This occurs mainly because of condensation in the car’s air-conditioning system.

Your car’s air-conditioning system will collect this condensed water and drain it underneath the car through a tube. This is normal and can be seen mostly on a hot day. There is nothing to worry about because this is normal.

Final Thoughts

Seeing leaks underneath the car can be alarming. As mentioned above, some leaks may need immediate attention, while others aren’t that serious. Hopefully, now you will be able to identify the common leaks that occur and resolve the issue a lot faster.