What Is This Auto Fluid Leak?

An oil spill on asphalt.

If you own a vehicle you have likely encountered a situation where you find a mysterious puddle lurking under your car. Fortunately, finding a fluid leak is not the end of the road for your beloved vehicle. From oil to transmission fluid, here is everything you need to know about identifying auto fluid leaks and how to fix them.

Fixing the Leak

The first step in fixing a leak is finding its origin. Start from the puddle and draw a straight line up to the nearest engine component. This should give you a general idea of where the leak is coming from. To find the exact location, wipe the area clean with a rag until it is completely dry.

Then, spray a coat of foot powder on the area and wait for the fluid to start leaking. You may need to start your car for a short period to initiate the leak. Once you find the breach, replace the line or part and repeat the process until the leak goes away.

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid flowing from a bottle against a white background.

Transmission fluid generally has a red or brown color and is usually thick and slick like oil. If you discover a red or brownish-colored leak, your power steering or transmission system has a breach. You probably have a hole in a line or a transmission seal that needs to be repaired. A transmission leak typically occurs near the front of the car or in the engine bay.

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is usually dark yellow to brown in appearance and has an oily texture. If you suspect your car is leaking brake fluid, then you will need to get it towed immediately. Driving with leaky brake lines is a recipe for disaster and can lead to serious injury. Luckily, brake leaks are not that common and are usually located near the wheels or underneath the brake pedal.

Antifreeze Fluid

A car with a hood up and a bottle of antifreeze on the engine.

Antifreeze or coolant leaks are generally easy to spot because of their light green color. Coolant liquid will feel sticky to the touch and sometimes comes in pink or bright orange varieties. These leaks are very common and do not pose an immediate threat to the engine. They should, however, be fixed in a timely manner to avoid overheating, especially during hot months.


While discovering a fluid leak under your vehicle is never fun, it isn’t always a serious situation. In fact, water is a common leak during warm seasons and happens from condensation on the air conditioner. If you find water under your vehicle then you likely have nothing to worry about.


A bottle of oil being poured into a car engine.

An oil leak is another popular fluid discharge found in vehicles. Oil leaks are very serious and should be fixed immediately to prevent engine problems. The color of the oil may vary depending on its age: newer oil appears yellow while older oil is dark brown or sometimes black. If you are unsure if it's oil, check the smell. Oil should not give off an odor, while gear lubricants smell bad.

Power Steering Fluid

Power steering plays an important role in the handling of your vehicle. If you notice that turning has become more difficult, then you might have a power steering fluid leak. This fluid is usually a brownish-red color, though it can appear darker when old. The key to identifying this leak is a change in the steering and location of the leak.


Fueling a car with a gas pump.

Gas is probably the easiest liquid to identify because of its smell. If you have a large puddle under your car and it smells like gas, then you probably have a gas leak. Fortunately, a gas leak doesn’t mean your vehicle is about to catch on fire.

Still, you should repair these leaks as soon as possible, especially given the price of gas these days. A leak at the rear of the vehicle indicates a puncture in the tank while gas at the front usually means a faulty fuel line.