How to Identify Your Car’s Fluids and Common Leaks

It’s never a great feeling — backing out of the garage or a parking space and seeing a puddle where your car used to be. Is your car leaking oil? Or, is it some other automotive fluid?

Here are some helpful tips from Just7 for identifying common car fluids and the potential source of a leak.

Light Brown to Black: Engine Oil

If you see a spot that is amber to dark brown or black in color, it’s likely engine oil. The oil that is older will likely look dark brown or black and you’ll typically notice oil leaks directly under where the engine was.

Oil leaks often come from gaskets or seals in the engine, valve covers, or the oil pan, according to It’s a good idea to have a mechanic fix the issue before a small leak becomes a bigger one.

Red or Brown: Transmission Fluid

Sometimes transmission fluid looks similar to engine oil. However, manufacturers add a red dye to transmission fluid so you can identify it. As it ages, though, it can turn a darker red or brown.

Transmission fluid leaks can come from the transmission or the lines going to the radiator or cooler. Regardless of where the leak is, it’s important to have a potential transmission fluid leak fixed quickly.

Clear, Red or Brown: Power Steering Fluid

New power steering fluid is typically clear or red, while it turns brownish when it gets older. It can be easy to confuse it with transmission fluid, and some vehicles use the same fluid for both the power steering system and the transmission, says

Since it can be hard to tell these fluids apart, it can be helpful to identify where the spots are. If they’re near the front, left side of the car, it’s likely power steering fluid. Check the power-steering reservoir and hoses to see if you notice cracks or leaks or if the fluid is low.

Transparent Yellow to Brown: Brake Fluid

New brake fluid is a transparent yellow (almost clear) but can turn brown as it breaks down over time. The key characteristic to look for is its slickness. You can also check the brake fluid reservoir to see if the fluid is above the required minimum level (see your owner’s manual if you are not sure how to locate the reservoir).

Green, Orange, Pink or Blue-Green: Coolant

Coolant is usually easy to identify, as it typically comes in any number of bright colors. Manufacturers use bright colored dyes to make it easy to identify coolant and differentiate it from other automotive fluids. Coolant has a watery consistency and may also have a sweet smell.

The obvious signs of coolant leaks include lime-green, orange, pink, or bluish-green puddles under your car. You may also notice a sweet smell after you’ve driven the car, or that the car is running hot or overheating while in use.

The issue could be an easy fix, such as a loose clamp, but it could be also mean something more complicated, like a broken water pump or leak within the heater. It’s important to have coolant leaks fixed soon as these problems tend to get worse quickly.

Clear: Water

If you’ve ever seen a small puddle of water as you leave a parking spot, you don’t need to panic — especially if you were running the air conditioner.  Condensation builds up in the car’s air conditioning as it runs. The system collects the water and then drains it through a small tube under the car, which is why it’s common to see drips or puddles of water on your driveway or parking spot on hot days. It’s usually nothing to worry about.

Now that you have some answers to “Why is my car leaking?”, you should have a better idea about whether the leak is a serious problem or just a common occurrence like condensation. If you suspect that your car is leaking something other than water, make sure to bring it into the Just7. While you’re getting your leak fixed, we can also teach you how to identify cooling system failures, what you do when your car overheats, whether to use premium or regular gas and show you why tire pressure is so important. No matter how big your problem is, you can contact Just 7 oil change & more to get back on the road in no time.