Car Leaking Oil? How to Identify and Fix Leaks

By: Motor Easy
Engine coolant leak

Often we’ll come back to our parked car to find there is a mysterious puddle below it, and then our minds start to wonder. What’s causing the leak? Is it serious? What is it? But don’t let panic set in too quickly as it could be nothing of concern. Here at MotorEasy, we have put together a guide to help you deal with those cryptic pool underneath your car.


What To Do If You Spot A Leak?

Before you can start rectifying the potential leak, you need to decipher where it’s coming from. The colour of the leak is usually the most tell-tale sign of what’s causing it.

To start, place a piece of white cardboard or newspaper underneath your car, overnight, and let the fluid drip. From here you’ll be able to identify the colour and smell so the issue can be rectified. Make sure you’re also checking underneath the car for any wet components, which usually give away the source of the leak.

Car Leaking Water?

If your vehicle is leaking water than it'll be clear and odour-less. It's a leak you shouldn't worry about as it's usualy caused by condensation in your air conditioning unit. The puddle can also occur through your exhaust pipe or windcsreen washers.

Plan of action: Nothing, you’re absolutely fine driving your vehicle as normal!


Diesel or Petrol Leak

A petrol or diesel leak can be spotted by the colour and smell. If the puddle looks multicoloured and it smells like you're at a petrol station then it's most likely a fuel leak you've encountered. It is usually caused by the fuel tank cracking, as a result of old age.

Plan of action: Don’t ignore it! You'll have to stop driving your vehicle until the leak is fixed as fuel is higly flammable. Take your vehicle to a mechanic and they’ll get you back on the road in no time.

A fuel leak can have a massive effect on your fuel economy, amongst other factors. Read our money saving tips on how to be more fuel efficient.

Brake Fluid Leak

A brown fluid teamed with the smell of fish usually means a brake fluid leak and is deemed the most serious of them all. It can have a detrimental affect on your safety as you brakes won't be working to their full potential.

Plan of action: Stop driving your car and contact a garage straight away! Driving with this issue can result in control loss and a large increase in stopping distance.

 Making sure your breaks are up to scratch and working properly is very important, read our guide on how to keep your brakes in tip top condition.

Car Leaking Oil?

If your leak is slimy to touch, isn't easily washed away and has a dark brown/black colour then your vehicle is leaking oil.

Plan of action: A few drops now and then is usually expected in older mileage cars, and as long as the oil is topped up to the appropriate level then there's nothing to worry about. If you don't keep an eye on your oil then you could experience lasting damage to your vehicle. If the leak looks more serious, it's best to take it to the garage to ensure that the issue is sorted.

Need some advice on car oil maintencance? Take a read of our tips on everything car oil.

Power Steering Fluid Leak

Power steering fluid or transmission fluid has been described to have the smell similar to burnt marshmallows and is usually red/brown in appearance. The leak can usually be caused through a crack in the return pipe to the steering, and is usually more common in automatic than manual cars.

Plan of action: Although driving might feel normal with a power steering leak, continued use of the vehicle without a fix can result in damage to the pump due to increased friction and heat.

Engine Coolant Leak

Coolant leaks appear in a range of colours, the most common is green but can also be orange or yellow. If you can't decipher this particular leak from the colour, then coolant has a distinctive sweet smell. The origin can be from anywhere in your car, but if your coolant is leaking, then your engine could be at risk of overheating.

Plan of action: Any large coolant leaks should be identified early and the car taken to the garage, if not there could be lasting damage to your engine.

Need to change your coolant but not sure how? Read our handy how to tips!

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