Noticing puddles under your car seems like a pretty clear sign that some vehicle system is not working well. In some cases this is true, and the leak should be addressed to preserve your vehicle's value. In other cases, the leak may be a normal occurrence in a well-working vehicle. But how can you know when to bring your car into a St. George auto repair shop for fixing?
First, identify the type of liquid forming the puddle under your car. Is it dark brown or amber-colored oil that's staining your driveway or garage? Is it coolant, a yellow, orange, blue, green or clear-colored liquid? Or are the puddles made from dripping water? The answer will help determine where the problem lies and just how serious it may be.
If the Liquid is Water
In most cases when water is the liquid that is dripping from under your vehicle, it's actually a sign that your car is working properly.
1. A/C Condensation
When you find water leaking out of your vehicle, this isn't a cause for concern. It just means that you've been running your vehicle's A/C. When hot air from inside your car hits the air conditioner's evaporator core, it vaporizes liquid refrigerant in the system so that cool air comes out. Condensation begins to form from the trapped hot, humid air, eventually dripping and draining out under your car. The same goes when using the defroster as that collected moisture drains in the same spot under your car. That water puddle is a good sign that your A/C is working as it should! But if it starts leaking refrigerant oil, then your air conditioner won't be able to run as efficiently and should be repaired.
If the Liquid is Coolant
Coolant comes in many colors, depending on the make of the vehicle. Different manufacturers use different coolants so it's difficult to say for sure which coolant you're seeing without knowing the car's manufacturer. But its basic purpose is to help keep your engine from overheating. If that coolant is leaking, it may cause big issues fast.
2. Radiator Coolant Leak
After the coolant moves through the engine, it goes to the radiator where it begins to cool down before beginning the cycle all over again. Sometimes, a corroding radiator, though, may be prone to coolant leaks.
While you may find coolant leaking from other hoses, usually the source will be the radiator. You should be able to see where the coolant level is at by peeking at the coolant overflow tank under the hood. Be careful to keep watch of your engine temperature if the coolant is low and leaking when you bring the car into an auto repair shop. It may even be safer to have a towing company bring it for you, to prevent an overheated engine.
If the Liquid is Oil
An oil leak can turn into a serious problem, especially if you wait to bring the car into an auto shop or take proper precautions.
3. Engine Oil Leak
Check to see if the oil leak is coming from the general area where your engine is located. If it is, keep an eye on your oil dipstick. Make sure that that oil doesn't drop to a dangerous level, otherwise driving the car may damage it.
Often the engine oil leak can be due to a worn gasket that is a pretty easy fix. What's tricky about an oil leak, though, is that sometime the leak may not even be near the engine. An auto mechanic can help you find the exact location of the oil leak and what will be the best way to address it.
4. Differential Fluid/Gear Oil Leak
In other cases, that dark oil isn't from your engine at all, but from the vehicle's differential. This oil has a very strong smell you should notice fairly quickly. It's used to keep gears in your differential well lubricated so they run smoothly. Without it, gears will rub against one another and wear down faster.
You might find this oil dripping from your standard transmission, rear differential or from wheel bearing and axle seals. When gear oil is dripping from an axle seal (either front or rear for 4WD vehicles), it shouldn't leave a puddle under your car. Instead the oil will spray around the wheel rim when in drive. Generally, you should notice the smell first, but a dirty rim will also be a sign that axle seal needs a repair or replacement.
Other Liquid Leaks
Keep in mind that while water, coolant and oil are some of the most common fluids that will drip from your car, they aren't the only liquids that make your car run. You've also got brake fluid, transmission fluid (which may leak from the axle seal like differential oil), power steering fluid and so on. But each fluid is essential for keeping your car in its best condition.
When you notice a leak, bring your vehicle into St. George Transmission & Automotive. Our expert technicians know how to provide the solution your car needs to stop the leaking and keep all vehicle fluids at their satisfactory levels. Call or contact us to schedule an appointment today.