Imagine this: You are walking toward your parking spot when, suddenly, you notice a large puddle dripping from underneath your vehicle. Your heart sinks. “What is it? The hell did I do? How much will it cost to fix? Will it crank?” You get down on your knees and stare at the unidentified liquid, which now seems like a sight of disaster. One of the questions Drive Revolve receives the most is, “What should I do when I see water leaking from car?”.  Although some fluid leaks are serious, in many cases, this is a common occurrence and can be resolved by even the most novice car owner. 

Read on, and I will reveal some tips to troubleshoot the problems and instructions on how to stop the leakage! 

Is It Normal For A Car To Leak Water? 

Is It Normal For Car To Leak Water
Water leaking from car is usually condensation from the A/C – Source: Bullock’s Buzz

The short answer is yes. 

During the summertime, when the weather is unbearably hot, you need to have the air conditioner on full blast to keep you and everyone inside from melting down like ice cream. Thus, the cooling system is working harder than usual. 

To function, the A/C extracts the moisture from the humidity. This moisture is put through the evaporator core, which transforms it from liquid form to gas. 

However, the excess liquid that isn’t converted to gas needs to go elsewhere. It follows the evaporator drain and drips on the ground beneath your vehicle. 

Water Leaking From Car: First Thing You Should Do

Now you know that a few drops of water dripping under car is no big deal. Problems will arise only when there is other fluid involved. 

Sometimes, though, it’s really challenging to tell what kind of liquid is leaking. Before you panic, the first thing to do is to identify the cause. Just follow these simple steps:

  • Check where the leak is located under the vehicle. 
  • It’s hard to check the color of the fluid against a concrete background. Get a sheet of white paper or cardboard, and put it under the dripping area to get a clearer picture. 
  • If the fluid has no color or strange smell, it’s just water, and you don’t have to worry. In case it’s brown, yellow, or some other colors or has an oily texture, you might have some problems to deal with. 

How to diagnose leaks under your car?

Different Kinds Of Car Leakage

Leaking Fluid’s ColorPossible Issue
Dark brownEngine oil leak
RedTransmission fluid leak/power steering leak
Light brownBrake fluid leak
YellowBrake fluid leak/antifreeze leak
Green/pinkAntifreeze leak

Oil Leaking 

Car leaking oil when parked is one of the most common problems car owners can face. If you see a puddle of yellow or dark brown liquid beneath your vehicle, it’s probably leaking oil. Following are some possible causes: 

  • An engine’s gasket has worn out 
  • You have a cracked oil pan. 
  • The oil filter is degraded 
  • Malfunctioning or missing filler cap 
  • Oil seal failure
  • Poor connection on the valve gasket

Most of these issues can be detected by yourself if you check beneath the vehicle, or you can contact a mechanic for assistance. Prepare yourself, though, because if there is a problem with your engine’s gasket or valve gasket, the cost of repairing can be pretty high. 

In most cases, you can still drive your car even when it’s leaking oil. While it’s not advisable, a short distance drive of fewer than 10 miles to get the car to an auto repair shop should be fine. 

By routinely checking and changing your car’s oil, you can prevent the problems above and avoid getting an oil leak. What’s more, it’s crucial to invest in high-quality oil from a reliable brand. Since it can damage car parts, cheap oil poses a higher risk of leaking.  

Transmission Fluid Leak 

Transmission Fluid Leaks
If you see a red liquid dripping from the car, it can be a transmission fluid leak – Source: Benoni City Times

If you see a red fluid leaking from car, it may be a transmission fluid leak. When you park the vehicle, you can see a transmission fluid leak on the ground in the middle of the car. This is often the result of the following:

  • A leaky oil pan gasket 
  • Road debris 
  • Problems with the torque converter 
  • The pan isn’t secured properly after changing the transmission fluid

Usually, transmission fluid leaks will come with a burning smell. Simply take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible, and you will want to seek help from a tow truck. Continuing driving can severely damage the car’s transmission, resulting in expensive repairs or replacements. 

Brake Fluid Leak 

Thanks to the dashboard alert system, it’s easy to tell if your car has a low brake fluid level and requires topping up. However, diagnosing a brake fluid leak is more challenging for someone new to cars. 

That’s because the liquid’s color can either be light yellow or light brown and seem almost clear under poor lighting. It has a thin and greasy texture, and you can see it leaking near the car’s passenger side. 

Here are some of the most common culprits behind brake fluid leaks: 

  • A leaking brake caliper, rubber hose, wheel cylinder, or master cylinder 
  • A worn-out brake pad, show, rotor, or drum leads to caliper seal failure
  • Damaged or loose bleeder valves
  • Faulty ABS module 

Having a brake fluid leak is a scenario no car owner wants to be in. Since this is a serious issue, you should refrain from driving and seek help from a tow truck. 

Even when you have yet to see leaking fluid, if you have a mushy feeling when you press the pedals or difficulty stopping, get your car checked as soon as possible. These are the tell-tale signs of a brake fluid leak. 

Antifreeze Leak 

Called antifreeze in the winter and engine coolant in the summer, this liquid prevents the radiator from freezing in extremely cold and overheating in extreme heat. Unlike brake fluid leaks, antifreeze leaks are not hard to tell. 

Coolant Leak
Coolant has a distinctive color – Source: VEHQ

When this happens, you can spot around or under the car a pink, green, or yellow substance with a sticky texture. Depending on the cause, the issue can range from moderate to severe. Either way, it should be addressed as soon as possible. 

Some factors that can lead to antifreeze leaks are: 

  • A loosened cap, belt, or clamp. 
  • A blown head gasket 
  • Radiator corrosion
  • Broken radiator 
  • A damaged coolant hose 
  • Damages on the sealing gasket 

You can stop the leak by yourself if the problem is just adjusting the belt, cap, or clamp. If you find no cracks and the coolant level is low, all you need to do is to lift the cap and add more engine coolant into the radiator. Make sure you don’t go over the full line because adding too much coolant can also lead to leaks. 

If you add more coolant to the car only to see a more significant leak, it’s time to seek help. Since this liquid protects your vehicle from temperature, leaving a coolant leak unfixed for a long time will result in serious complications, such as overheating and engine failure.

Power Steering Leak 

Last but not least, a power steering leak can also be troublesome if left unattended. Usually seen towards the front of the car, this fluid is red. Potential reasons for a power steering leak include: 

  • Deformed o-ring and seals due to age 
  • Worn down o-rings 

Usually, power steering leaks occur in older and higher-mileage vehicles. If you experience trouble turning the wheel while driving, this may be another sign. That’s because the level of power steering fluid is insufficient. Another indication is a low squeaking when you turn the wheel. 

Dealing with power steering leaks can be as simple as pouring additives into the fluid reservoir. Also known as power steering stop leak additives,  this product can solve the issue without requiring expensive mechanical service. Leaving it unattended for a long time can damage the pump and complicate the problem. 

The Bottom Line

Now you know what to do when you see water leaking from car! Following the tips I’ve provided, you will have a better idea about whether the leak is a serious case or just a common occurrence. 

Don’t forget that regular check-ups can prevent all the issues above. By getting oil changes and checking other fluid levels, you can spot any problem early on. Not only does it save you bucks, it also ensures the car’s safety, getting you ready for any fun driving ahead! 

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