Vehicle Leaks

Tips to Finding Source of Vehicle Leak


  1. Vehicle leaks can be elusive as there are a number of fluids in your vehicle and they can come from a variety of areas.  Matching the color, odor, consistency, and location of the leak will give you a very good indication of its source.  Here are some tips from the experts to help you in your search:
  2. Get a piece of white cardboard or use a white paper towel over cardboard and place it under your vehicle where you see the fluid stains or suspect a leak (often a 2' x 4' section works best).
  3. Let the cardboard sit for several hours or over night
  4. Check the fluid color, consistency, and location with the indicator chart.
  5. Search online with the make, model, and year of your car along with the leak information to narrow the possibilities and help determine the issue
  6. Take your vehicle to a mechanic and provide the information you know example- "I think I have a transmission leak based on the color, location, and consistency of the fluid I found under my car."
Vehicle Leaks

Color Chart Document

Color & Consistency


Brown to Black with Thick Consistency = Oil


Check to find exactly where the oil is coming from (could be engine, sump, filter, driveshafts or gearbox) and try to trace all leaks to their source (often oil will pool in one area but will originate from above).  Clear away any dirt and grime to determine the actual leak (most leaks come from failed plugs, seals, or gaskets).

Neon Green, Orange, Blue, or Red = Antifreeze


This liquid is usually neon blue-green in color and will be found leaking from the front of your vehicle (water pump, radiator, or thermostat housing).  It often has a sweet smell.

Light Clear Brown or Think Black = Brake Fluid


Brake fluid will be found leaking from around the wheels.

Thick Reddish or Clear = Power Steering Fluid


Will most likely be found leaking from the pipe connections on the steering rack.

Reddish Pink = Transmission Fluid


Transmission fluid will often have a burnt smell.  Be aware that mechanics sometimes use transmission fluid interchangeably with power steering fluid.

Amber Color with Strong Fuel Smell = Fuel Leak


Strong, distinctive odor will tell you if you are leaking fuel.  This is very dangerous and must be taken care of immediately!

Get Leaks Checked Quickly


Leaks can quickly turn expensive if not repaired immediately.  Gaskets are cheap and can usually be replaced for under $5.  Some leaks may come from a loose part or filter which only needs to be tightened!  Taking the time for proper repairs and maintenance will add years to the life of your vehicle and will help protect our streams for future generations.

For more information and a list of local mechanics please visit the Fix Car Leaks website.