Fluid Leaking from Your Car: 7 Common Causes

fluid being poured into car

Fluid leaking from your car is never a good sign. Luckily, car leaks don’t automatically mean that you’re in for an expensive repair.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t give their vehicle a second thought before hopping in, turning the key and driving off, then you may want to pay closer attention. It’s not hard to spot a leak, and in this article, we’re going to explain to you how to identify a leak by their individual characteristics.

Keep reading to learn more. 

Is Fluid Leaking From Your Car?

You don’t have to be mechanically inclined to notice a leak coming from somewhere underneath your car. Having said that, a mystery leak is also not something that you should ignore. One minute there’s a bit of brownish-yellow fluid dripping ever so slightly from a corner of your car and the next—your brakes are out. 

One small leak can lead to one giant problem. The last thing you want is to get into an accident caused by something that could have been an easy fix. You could end up totaling your car, getting seriously injured, and face higher insurance costs. Even when you get a free auto insurance quote from a new vender, they’ll still take these things into consideration.

Luckily, there are a handful of common car leaks that can be easily identified by their color, thickness, and location. So, if you see fluid leaking from your car, it’s most likely one of the following:

Antifreeze (Coolant)

Antifreeze—or coolant—is what helps to regulate your engine’s temperature while you’re in motion. Coolant leaks are one of the most common and easily addressed leaks you’ll find under your car. 

You’ll notice this leak right away, especially if it’s a big leak. Mainly because the leak will happen right under the front of your car where the radiator is located. Also because it will be either bright green or bright orange. It also has a slightly sweet scent and flavor, and it’s extremely toxic to animals. 

Antifreeze leaks aren’t usually that serious unless you spot a large puddle under your vehicle or consistent small puddles. If you drive your car while it’s low on antifreeze, your engine could overheat, causing extensive damage. So, if you see a type of liquid that looks like it came out of a Ghost Busters movie under your car, bring it on over to your mechanic.

Power Steering Fluid

If you notice that your steering wheel is a bit hard to turn, you may have a power steering fluid leak. You’ll notice this leak right underneath your steering system. It comes in a few colors, including red, pink, orange, yellow (if it’s new) or brown (if it’s old). 

It also has a thick, oil-like consistency. Many cars take transmission fluid in the power steering reservoir, but newer cars typically use the yellow type. You’ll want to check your owner’s manual if you’re unsure which type your car takes.

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid leaks aren’t super common—but they are super dangerous. A brake fluid leak will show up near the wheels of your car, or directly under the brake pedal. The fluid is usually yellowish to brownish in color. It’s slightly thick and very slick. 

If you spot a brake fluid leak, DO NOT attempt to drive your car. 

Motor Oil

The oil in your engine is the lifeblood of your car. Your car absolutely cannot survive without it. Oil leaks pool up right below the engine. Newer oil will be yellowish in color and older oil will be dark brown in color. 

There are a few spots that oil can leak from on your engine, so if you notice a leak, call your mechanic. You don’t want to drive with an oil leak. Without the proper oil pressure and lubrication, the moving parts in your engine can become severely damaged—not to mention costly to repair.

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid leaks—or gear oil, if you drive a stick-shift—are typically caused by a faulty seal or hole in the return line. The leak will happen towards the middle of your car, and it’ll be reddish-brown, orange, or pink in color. Gear oil is usually a light brown color and has a pretty bad odor.

Your transmission is second to your engine in terms of extremely costly repairs. If you spot a transmission leak, don’t drive. Don’t even look at your car. 

Differential Fluid

Depending on the type of car you have, you could have front, rear, or both differentials. The leak will appear under one of your axles, and it will cause your car to produce a whirring noise while driving. 

The fluid is thick and ranges from dark yellow to black in color. It also has a funny smell to it. The fix for a differential leak can range from a gasket or an entire replacement. So, if you spot a differential fluid leak, bring your car in right away to get checked. It could mean the difference between a $200 and a $1500 repair. 


A fuel—or gas—leak will happen by the rear or front of your car. If you notice a leak by the rear, it could mean a hole in your gas tank. Front of the car gas puddles could be an indicator of a bad or failing fuel pump or a hole in your fuel line. Regardless of the cause, it’s pretty dangerous to drive around while leaking fuel

You’ll be able to spot this leak right away. It’ll have a brown, watery color and consistency, and it’ll smell like, well, gasoline.

Car Leaks Are Never Good

If you notice fluid leaking from your car, don’t hesitate to get it checked out by a trusted mechanic. Even the slightest leak can turn into the most expensive repair. Or worse, they could cause a major accident. On the plus side being able to identify these issues will save you money on diagnostics.

If you found this article informative and interesting, you should check out our other articles on auto mechanics, travel, and lifestyle.