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 It's happened to all of us. You're minding your own business, driving along and enjoying the scenery, when you notice a strange fluid leaking from underneath your car. But what is that fluid? And more importantly, what does it mean for your vehicle? 

There are a few valuable steps to take that will get you started on your fluid leak diagnostic. First, take a look at the color of the fluid. If it's clear or light-colored, it's probably just water from your car's air conditioning system or exhaust system. No need to worry about that! However, if the fluid is dark-colored or oily, it could be anything from engine oil to transmission fluid. Here, we will review the three most common fluids that tend to leak from cars, and what those leaks might mean for your vehicle.


Motor Oil:
The most common type of fluid leak is motor oil. If you notice a dark brown or black fluid leaking from your car, it's most likely motor oil. While a small amount of oil seepage is normal, excessive oil leakage is a sure sign of trouble for your engine. You don't want the heart of your vehicle to run out of fluid to pump.

If you notice an excessive oil leak, the first thing you should do is check your oil level using the dipstick. If the level is low, top it off and see if the leak stops. If it doesn't, or if you don't have any oil in the engine at all, there could be a serious problem with your engine and you should take it or tow it to a mechanic as soon as possible.

Schedule NowOil leakCoolant:
Another common fluid leak is coolant. Coolant is usually bright green or pink and has a sweet smell to it. If you see this type of fluid leaking from your car, it's likely that there's a problem with your cooling system. We recommend taking your car to a mechanic to have it diagnosed as soon as possible; if left unchecked, a cooling system issue could cause your engine to overheat and suffer severe damage.
Brake Fluid:
The last common type of fluid leak is brake fluid. Brake fluid is usually clear or slightly yellowish, and has a slightly oily feel to it. If this type of fluid is leaking from your car, it means there's probably a problem with your brakes or your braking system. This is another issue that we recommend taking to a mechanic right away; if your brakes fail while you're driving, it is very dangerous.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of fluids that can leak from your vehicle; for more specific advice about diagnosing leaks in your own car, contact us here at DeBoer's and one of our ASE Certified Technicians can help.

Bill DeBoer

Written by Bill DeBoer

William J. DeBoer (Bill Jr.) is Co-owner and Vice President at DeBoer’s Auto. As the company’s General Manager, Bill has been responsible for bringing innovations in daily operations to the full-service, high-tech auto repair facility for 20+ years. Passionate about computers from an early age, Bill’s interest in technology gravitated to cars while he was in college. By obtaining a Certificate in Automotive Technology followed by a B.S. in Business Management from Penn State, Bill was able to fuse his interests into a car technology specialization and join the family business shortly thereafter.