One of the benefits of continually parking in the same parking spot is you can keep an eye on your car’s performance.
Notice fluid stains on your driveway? They’re trying to tell you something about your car.
Today’s modern cars are filled with various fluids to keep it operating well. Even if your car is brand new, you should monitor these fluids regularly to ensure your car remains operational and in good running condition. Noticing a small spot on your driveway early could help you save thousands of dollars on car repair bills down the road.
When you look at the stains on your driveway, you may notice different colors and textures. There might even be different smells associated with each one. How do you know what fluid is leaking? Is there a way to tell which you should take immediate action with? Read on.
Motor oil is one of the most common fluids you’ll see on your driveway. It’s also one of the most frequently serviced and replaced fluids you’ll change regularly. When you first notice a fresh oil leak on your driveway, you’ll know it by its reddish-brown color. If you’re not sure if it’s motor oil, touching it with your fingers will reveal a tacky, sticky consistency. Pinpointing where the leak is coming from can be difficult. It may be a worn out gasket, seal, or valve cover. Once you have an oil leak, it’s important to have your car serviced, find the root cause, and fix it before it has more impact on your engine.
Coolant or antifreeze
Coolant, also known as antifreeze, circulates throughout the system to ensure your engine stays cool as it operates. Coolant comes in a variety of colors; most are pinkish or greenish tints. You can also recognize coolant by its sweet smell, and its thin consistency. Coolant leaks are one of the most common leaks on a car. While most leaks aren’t serious if caught early, ignoring this telltale sign can run the risk of lowering the coolant in the system, which can lead to your car’s engine overheating. Leaks can come from the radiator, reservoir, or the head gasket; it’s important to let a trained professional follow the signs and make adjustments accordingly. Be aware that because of its sweet smell, it can attract kids and animals to it. It’s deadly if ingested.
It’s safe to say that a leak in your brake system isn’t something to ignore. If you notice brake fluid on your driveway, have your car towed and fix it without climbing behind the wheel. Brake fluid is clear or has a yellowish tint. It will feel oily, slicker than motor oil, with a medium thickness if you touch it. You can check the brake fluid reservoir, usually found on the driver’s side underneath the hood, but this is something you should leave to the professionals. Brake fluid controls hydraulic pressure within the brake system. Leaking brake fluid can cause a pressure drop, which could ultimately lead to brake failure.
Power steering fluid
Power steering fluid has a medium viscosity, and will appear yellowish in color. You may also notice it takes on a mechanical smell. Power steering systems also use hydraulics, to make it easy to turn and control the way your car moves. As you turn the wheel, power steering fluid fills a cylinder in the system, which allows pressure to control the wheel. Leaks can cause power steering fluid to lower the pressure, making your steering wheel harder to turn.
Power steering fluid and transmission fluid are essentially the same things. Both are hydraulic fluids, and in some cases, car manufacturers will use them interchangeably. It’s always best to consult your owner’s manual first before repairs. The biggest difference is transmission fluid contains detergents for cleaning, and friction modifiers to reduce friction. If you have a transmission fluid leak, it will have a reddish color, and be a slippery substance. The problem can arise from several different areas, including a broken seal, a cracked fluid line, or a pan gasket failure. Bringing your vehicle in will allow one of our mechanics to find and fix the problem.
Windshield washer fluid
Windshield washer fluid might not impact the way your car operates, but not having it can be a hindrance to the way you drive. Try moving down a messy highway after a snowstorm without it. A leak could leave you finding windshield washer fluid on your driveway, sporting a blue, green, or orange color. It’s very thin, feeling almost like water, but has a distinct slightly sweet smell. It can soak into the concrete and disappear quickly because of its consistency, which makes it important to pay attention to what happens underneath your vehicle no matter how long you’re parked.
How to track fluid levels before you notice them on your driveway
Most drivers are familiar with the 3,000 rule for motor oil. As a rule of thumb, have your vehicle’s oil changed every 3,000 miles to ensure it’s clean and provide optimal coverage for your engine. As long as you keep oil changes on your calendar, and have your car serviced regularly, your chances of seeing oil on the driveway are low.
You can do so with the other fluids too.
If you haven’t spent time reading your car’s owner’s manual, now is the time. Take some time to understand the fluids mentioned above, how they impact your vehicle, and when they should be checked to ensure they are still in good working condition. Even lifetime fluids can be compromised; when should you have your car inspected to ensure it’s still operating efficiently?
The best way to keep your car operating well is to pay attention to what’s happening underneath your vehicle. Check out the driveway from time to time. It’s the best indicator of what’s happening on the inside. It allows you to make repairs quickly, avoiding damage and higher repair bills in the weeks and months to come.