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How to Know What is Leaking Based on the Fluid Colour?

How to Know What is Leaking Based on the Fluid Colour?
09 May, 2022

The fluids that keep your vehicle lubricated and running in top condition usually stay in their place and work seamlessly to give you a smooth driving experience. Sometimes, though, things go wrong with the components that house the fluids, and it’s then that you get those pesky fluid leaks that begin as a mystery to you. After all, not every fluid in the vehicle is the same colour, and one leak is going to look very different from another one. This brief guide is here to show you the general colours of specific fluids that keep your car fed and running happily. And while there may be other types of fluid out there that you can discuss with your mechanic, these are the most common fluids that may begin to leak from your car.


Determining what type of fluid is leaking from your car is essential to identifying the part that needs repair. Colours can be helpful in letting you and your mechanic know what car part is responsible for the leak. If your car is suffering from a leak, look for these colours to learn what might be causing the leak.


There are two fluids used by your vehicle that are red. These are the automatic transmission fluid and the power steering. Both of these are hydraulic fluids. You’ll want to check your owner’s manual to see if your vehicle, like some others, actually uses automatic transmission fluid in the power steering system. The colour of your power steering fluid will be affected by time. If it is fresh, it will be red, but as time goes on it will turn reddish-brown before eventually settling into plain old brown.

You can identify the power steering fluid through other attributes like its oily feel and thin consistency. It also has the scent of burnt marshmallows.

The automatic transmission fluid is also red when it is new. As the kilometres roll on, it will turn to a red-brown colour. It is slick to the touch and smells like petroleum. If you suspect that your transmission fluid is leaking, you will need to schedule a transmission inspection.


If you see yellow fluid leaking from your vehicle, do not drive it. The fluid dripping from your car is probably brake fluid. When fresh, brake fluid is light yellow in colour but gets darker as it ages. If not maintained, it can even look like a dark brown. If you touch it, you’ll notice its oily, slippery feel. It also has quite a distinctive smell like fish oil. You’ll need to call your mechanic right away so the brake system can have a good once over. You may need to have your brake lines repaired or even replaced.


Coolant and automatic transmission fluid can be orange. When the coolant is orange is can be a sign that there’s been a build-up of rust in the cooling system of your car. If you smell something sweet and feel something slimy, there’s a good chance that your leaking fluid is the coolant. One of the major causes of engine damage is coolant loss, so if you have a coolant leak you’ll need to bring your car into your mechanic’s shop as soon as possible.

Your automatic transmission fluid shows up again on this list because as it ages it can become orange too. If you aren’t sure if you have an automatic transmission or a coolant link, giving your mechanic a call to inspect it can only help.


If you notice a leak that is pink, yellow, or green in colour, you are witnessing a coolant leak. Coolant can also leak from multiple areas of your car’s cooling system. Ignoring a coolant leak is not a wise choice, as it will ultimately result in your car’s engine overheating. Once the engine reaches that point you will be stuck with quite a large bill for repairs. It is always far more cost-effective to bring your car into the shop for preventative measures.


There is only one fluid that is blue and that is the windshield washer fluid. This thin watery fluid smells like your everyday window cleaner. It can come in other colours, like green, and while a cracked washer fluid reservoir does not spell out the end of days for your car, it is still a good idea to call your mechanic so they can check it out for you.


Engine oil has a light brown colour when it’s first used and becomes darker each time it moves through your car’s engine, collecting dirt and combustion by-products in the process. If a thick, slippery liquid is pooling under your car that looks brown or black, you’ve got a possible engine oil leak on your hands. If your car is only experiencing a small leak, you can stave off any issues by keeping the oil level topped off until you have time to bring your vehicle in for an inspection which we still recommend that you do sooner than later.


There are two different fluids that are both clear, water and gasoline. If you have water dripping from the underbelly of your car you will be able to identify it by its feel and by also taking a good sniff. Thankfully, if it’s only water gathering under your car you have no need to worry as it is most likely condensation simply draining from your air conditioner.

On the other hand, a clear fluid could also be gasoline. Now if you can see gasoline leaking from your car, you’ll need to call your mechanic right away. Do not drive the vehicle until you have been able to speak to a professional.

Any type of fluid leaking from your car is going to rightly cause alarm on your part, and we don’t blame you for being alarmed. If you continue to let the fluid leak out and don’t fix the origin of the problem, you can do massive amounts of even permanent damage to your vehicle’s important components. Letting a leak go on is just asking for trouble, and we highly recommend that you report the leak to your certified mechanic as soon as possible so that they can fix the problem before it damages your car’s components.

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