Almost every driver has asked this question. When you walk out to get in your car and notice a leak, it is not a pleasant experience. But you don’t have to panic. We will discuss different types of leaks and what they mean for your car so that you can deal with the leak with confidence and make the right decisions depending on the leak.

Before you do anything else, keep in mind that many leaks are oil-based and will last for a while. You should get down and check that the leak was coming from your car and didn’t come from a parked vehicle in that spot before your car was. If you don’t see any leaks under your vehicle, then you are in the clear. If you do find a leak, you will need more information.

The next step is to place a piece of paper or cardboard under the leak to get an idea of the color of the leak. Paper is the best option since the color will show more clearly against the white. The color of the leak and the location will help you know what type of leak you are dealing with.

Car Fluid Leaks, What's Leaking from My Car? Northwest Auto Center of Houston

So, What is Leaking from Your Car?

Engine Oil Leak

Engine oil is the most common vehicle leak. An engine oil leak will happen toward the front of your car, where the engine is located. The leak will be a shade of brown, ranging from dark brown to amber, depending on how often you change your oil. 

If you do have an engine oil leak, your car will still be drive-able for short distances. The important thing is to check your oil frequently to make sure you have enough. If it leaks so much that you run low, your engine can overheat, causing a head gasket to blow, crack an engine head or even cause the engine to seize up. This would be a costly repair or possibly the end of your engine. 

You will want to get an engine oil leak fixed before going back to regular driving habits and keep checking the soil frequently until you get it repaired.

Antifreeze Leak

Another common leak is an antifreeze or coolant leak. The antifreeze will most likely be located in the front of your vehicle, near the engine. It can also leak from the tailpipe. Antifreeze can be many different colors; bright green, pink, red, orange, or turquoise. It will have a sweet smell.  

An antifreeze leak is another leak that you can still drive with for very short distances, but you will need to keep a close eye on your vehicle and pull over immediately if it starts to overheat. Again, if you let your car overheat before dealing with this leak, you are looking at some severe damage and expensive repairs. You should not drive for more than a couple of days with an antifreeze or coolant leak, and you should be topping the coolant off with water until you get it fixed. 

Transmission Fluid Leak

This leak will be near the middle or front of your car, and it will most likely be red, with an oily consistency, differentiating it from antifreeze, which can also be red. Transmission fluid may smell burnt if it is leaking. 

If your car is leaking transmission fluid, you should get it to a mechanic as quickly as possible. It will not be dangerous to drive, but it will be more expensive to fix if you leave the leak to get worse. And your vehicle will not function correctly without enough transmission fluid. 

Brake Fluid Leak

This is a severe leak since driving without brakes is unsafe. Brake fluid will most likely be leaking near or on the wheels. But it can also spread from the brake lines and be closer to the engine block. Brake fluid can be yellow or clear but will get darker with age, becoming browner in color. It will have a rancid smell. It has an oily consistency. 

This leak needs to be repaired as quickly as possible, and do not drive with a brake fluid leak because you are risking your safety and the safety of other drivers on the road. 

Power Steering Fluid Leak

This is an often overlooked leak because it is simple and works well most of the time. This leak will be at the front of your car, near the power steering rack or the hoses attached. It will most likely be red, and it might have a sweet, burnt smell to it. You can drive with this leak, but it won’t be easy to steer your car, and many times, it may be a simple repair.  

Water Leak

One common leak that you don’t need to worry about at all is water. Your car’s air conditioning system will create condensation that will then drip under your vehicle. This is completely normal and safe. If you see a leak and it looks and feels like water, you can drive without concern. 


A leak could be many things, and it is essential to identify it so you can drive safely. If you have any concerns or questions, don’t hesitate to take your car to your trusted mechanicNorthwest Auto Center of Houston is here to help; give us a call at 280-894-8880.