Most of us take it for granted that when we head out to our vehicles every morning, and then return to them after work or school, they will start up immediately and get us where we need to go every time.
The Auto Maintenance Task You May be Overlooking
In an ideal world that would be the case, but cars and trucks are machines, and in order to keep them in tip-top condition they need proper – and regular – maintenance. While most car and truck owners are pretty good about things like checking basic systems – brakes, engine, tires etc. – one of the things that does tend to get overlooked by even diligent motorists are fluid checks. And as many of a vehicle’s fluids are crucial to its efficient performance, and in some cases to it running at all, such checks are essential.
There is more to checking a vehicle’s fluids than just topping them off as needed though. Small leaks are often the cause of quickly dissipating fluids and they can be hard to spot on an everyday basis. Fluid leaks of any kind quickly lead to performance problems and need to be addressed by a professional as soon as possible.
Tracking Down Fluid Leaks
But how do you even know you have a leak? Stains on your garage floor or your driveway are one way to do so and, if you know what you are looking for then they can even help you ‘pre-diagnose’ a problem before you head to the auto repair shop:
A pool of bright green fluid leaks often indicates that the leak is coming from the radiator as that is the color of most common radiator coolants (although some red, purple or orange, but these are usually the high performance liquids used in new model, higher end vehicles.
A radiator fluid leak will, rather obviously, eventually lead to the radiator breaking down. The fluid is a coolant and without its existence the system will simply overheat. A blown radiator will cost you a lot more to fix than a preventive auto maintenance trip to the mechanic shop, so a green leak should be checked out by a professional right away.
Dark to Light Brown
The probable cause of this kind of stain is an engine oil leak. The stain itself may be lighter or darker depending upon just how recently you had the oil changed. Such leaks are not always easy for an amateur to diagnose either. The culprit could be something as simple as a poorly tightened oil filter, something that for a pro is a very quick fix. On the other hand an oil leak could be coming from a cracked oil pan, a gar more serious issue that should never be ignored.
Light Yellow to Dark Muddy Brown
When brake fluid first goes in it’s a nice clear yellow but then as it ages it turns a muddy brown but if you see these stains then the chances are good that you have a brake fluid leak. The leak could be from one of several places, but given how crucial your brakes are to your safety if you think you have a leak then take the vehicle in for a professional service right away. One word of caution; brake fluid is also very corrosive, so be careful how you handle any stains.
Amber fluid normally often indicates gas is leaking from someplace, but gas has a distinctive smell you should recognize easily as well. Some small leaks of petrol may be caused by something as simple as a gas cap that was not properly tightened, which is an easily solved problem, but it can also mean that there are pinholes, even cracks in the fuel tank or in the fuel filter lines, so a gas leak should be investigated right away as well.
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