Every gas powered vehicle will have at least four things in common (other than windshield wiper fluid):
1) They use gasoline
2) They use oil
3) They use coolant
4) They use brake fluid
Depending on your vehicle, you may also use power steering fluid and automatic transmission fluid, as well.
When a hose has developed a crack, a gasket is leaky or your vehicle is dripping oil, there are simple ways to tell. While some leaks are quite obvious, like the engine light coming on in traffic as the vehicle begins to buck and billow something similar to rolling fog from under the hood – usually signaling a ruptured radiator hose other leaks may not be so apparent. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of popping the hood and having a good look around at least once a month, twice a month is even better. Some are keen on inspecting when they wash their cars, while others are fastidious about the process each time they fill up at the pump. Whatever the routine, here are some things to look for:
1. Most leaks are easily detectable by just looking at the engine. If you see anything wet, sticky or slick that wasn’t there the last time, it calls for further inspection. Try to track the leak back to where it seems to begin.
2. Note any pools or wet areas underneath the vehicle, especially if your vehicle has been sitting overnight. Pools and wet areas are usually located on the ground directly beneath the engine and can be clear, black, red, green, light brown or brown in color. Note when you pull out of a parking space if the ground seems wet. If you open up your hood and smell gasoline around the engine, it could be a sign of a leaky gas line. If you see wet areas around your wheels which appear to be light brown in color (or sometimes clear), it may signal a leak in the brake line or braking system. This is dangerous and should be repaired immediately.
3. Keep in mind that when you are using the air conditioning in your vehicle, condensation is normal and you may see wet areas of clear fluid directly under your engine. In fact, when you turn off the engine after a drive on a hot and humid day when you’ve been running the air conditioning, you may step out and see clear drips immediately. Remember, fluid of this nature is normal and nothing to worry about. If you haven’t been using the air conditioning, it may also be a leak in the windshield washer component.
If you are ever in doubt or believe your vehicle may have a leak, don’t wait until the last minute to seek an opinion from your local mechanic or service garage. Most leaks can be repaired at a minimal cost; however some signify more significant trouble areas which may need immediate attention.