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What's That Spot? Get Prepared for Fall Car Care Month with Car Fluid Facts

Published Sep 13th 2021, 5:00pm by Kaeli Gardner in Featured Articles

Fall Car Care Month is coming up this October, and it's a great time for us all to brush up on some simple car maintenance knowledge - and one of the best things you can know about your car is how to identify when you're leaking an important fluid!  This Fall, familiarize yourself with some of the most common fluids that can drip and drop onto your parking space, so you can stop wondering "What's that spot?" and get something done about it, if necessary.  Here's the list!

First up, it's motor oil.  This fluid tends to drip right in the middle of the front of your car, and has a dark brown to black appearance.  An oil leak could develop around the filter, or in aging parts.  If you suspect you have an oil leak, you should check your oil levels regularly and make sure you don't let it run dry - and look into having it fixed when you can.

Red fluids are generally more serious, and this one is no exception - transmission fluid is bright red, and can turn brown as it ages. This fluid is pretty important, because it helps your car's transmission to work!  A leak here should be addressed quickly.  Check your car's owner's manual to find out how to check your transmission fluid levels.

Our second red fluid is Power Steering Fluid.  Typically located on the passenger side of the vehicle, the power steering reservoir holds the fluid that makes your power steering work.  Some power steering fluids are clear, but most today are still red.  If you're running low on this fluid, your first clue may be losing power steering when making a sharp turn.  Running try will make it rather difficult to steer your car, so having this leak addressed is a good idea.

Yellowish to brown, brake fluid's reservoir is usually located near the back of the engine, but leaking brake fluid is more likely to show up near your tires.  A brake fluid leak is a serious issue - do not pass Go, get this checked out right away!  Driving without brakes is a serious safety issue (obviously), so you do not want to risk it.  Some other signs of low brake fluid include brakes feeling "spongy" when you press the pedal down.  

Brightly colored fluid, typically found under the front end of the vehicle, is almost certainly engine coolant, also known as antifreeze.  Despire the seeming contradiction, coolant and antifreeze are the same thing.  This liquid keeps your engine from overheating, and also prevents freezing in the winter.  Though this fluid is housed in the radiator, it should not be filled here.  Instead, find a coolant reservoir usually on the passenger side of the engine.  Fill this if needed, and after driving a bit, check to see if the reservoir has been drained.  If it has, fill it again, and repeat until the reservoir stays full.  The car's cooling system will draw more coolant from the reservoir as it needs it.  Oh, and despire what you may have seen in movies, don't ever pour pure water into your engine's cooling system.  Besides freezing, water is corrosive, and will rust your engine's water pump, leading to larger leaks, overheating engines, and generally bigger problems.

If you see something that looks a lot like water dripping from under your car, leaving a trail when you enter or leave a parking space, especially on a hot summer day, chances are water is exactly what it is!  This is probably condensation which builds up on the AC compressor, which drips off harmlessly.  So, this isn't actually a leak - a spot of water just means your AC is working.

We hope this series of fluid facts will help you this Fall!  Stay tuned for more Fall Car Care updates as we head closer to Fall Car Care Month in October!

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