Do you have a fluid leak under your car or truck? If you're not sure whether you're losing oil, transmission fluid, coolant or brake fluid, here is a simple but effective method for finding who or what caused it.
Place an old sheet or large piece of white cardboard under the vehicle overnight. In the morning you will have your answer. Each fluid is a different color to help you diagnose the answers.
If the leaks have the following color, you have a good indication of what fluid you are leaking.
Bright green is radiator coolant; this is also very slippery to the touch. Coolant can be red or other colors so be sure to check your owner's manual or talk to a technician.
Light or dark brown: if you change the oil often it will be light brown, if not the fluid will take on the color of darker brown. Make sure to change your engine oil every three to 5,000 miles.
Bright blue: windshield washer fluid. Winter washer fluids can also be orange, pink or yellow.
Light brown: if there is also an odor of rotten eggs, this is 90 weight or gear lube. It may be leaking from the rear axle center section of the manual transmission.
Red: fluid automatic transmission fluid or power steering fluid. Note where the fluid is coming from, it could be long life coolant.
Clear: power steering fluid or water from the condenser or a/c unit.
Light yellow: brake fluid is light yellow when new as it absorbs water, the fluid becomes a dark muddy-brown. Brake fluid absorbs two percent water over a one year period under normal braking conditions. This is a very important fluid and should be changed every other year.
Amber: gasoline and it will have a very distinct odor.
The location of the leak could also be a dead giveaway. Being a good sleuth makes it obvious to conclude that there will not likely be an anti-freeze leak in the back of the vehicle.
The government tints different fluids different colors for safety reasons. This will assist you during maintenance schedules too.
Keep a sharp eye on your vehicle leaks can be frustrating and even dangerous. If you're unsure, go to a professional certified mechanic and ask for help.