Why It’s Important to Check Leaks in Your Vehicle
Your vehicle uses a lot of different components and systems to make it work. It also makes use of a number of important fluids: engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and power steering fluid. We also mustn’t forget the essential (but flammable and dangerous) fluid that makes it all go — petrol. Even the windscreen washer fluid has a crucial role to play in the safe running of your car on the road, though obviously that has no impact on how the engine or other mechanical components are working.
There are certain things that happen with your car which nearly always mean something is going wrong with those mechanical and fluid components. For your engine parts, excessive heat and noise are the most common signs of trouble. When it comes to liquids, however, the problem is leaks.
Where Do Leaks Happen in Vehicles?
Leaks are common enough in vehicles, but they’re never good news. A leak invariably means either that there are holes, cracks or other fractures somewhere, or that seals are broken and thus allowing liquid out. The fact is that none of the essential fluids that you use in your car should ever be leaking out. Where do these common leaks even occur?
Oil can leak from a number of places, including eroded gaskets, bad coolant lines, improperly secured oil plugs and more. Leaking oil means there’s mess engine oil to go around the various engine components, which if allowed to go on too long will see wear and tear increasing, and engine overheating becoming increasingly likely. If you notice a small oil leak, it should still be safe to drive your car to the garage and have a mechanic take a look. If it’s a large leak, perhaps going on overnight, and you’ve already lost a lot of oil, don’t drive the car.
Engine coolant, or antifreeze, comes in various colours depending on the brand of your car. Most is green, orange, or pink, but be prepared for other colours. The main distinguishing feature of engine coolant is its rather sweet smell. Leaks of engine coolant will result in drops in efficiency for the cooling system, which can subsequently lead to overheating.
Transmission fluid is a rich red colour when it goes in fresh, but gets contaminated turning darker and more brown as time goes on and it collects the various debris and other things that stain the fluid like engine debris does to engine oil. Leaking transmission fluid will be seen as liquid pooling under your car or within the engine bay. Keep an eye out in both areas.
Brake fluid has rather an oily consistency and is typically either yellow or clear in colour. Brake fluid leaks are among the most dangerous because they threaten the efficacy of your brakes, which presents obvious and potentially life-threatening safety issues. While all leaking fluids should be treated seriously, you shouldn’t even attempt to drive your car carefully if you have a brake fluid leak.
Power Steering Fluid
In most manual cars, power steering fluid is typically a yellow colour that becomes blacker over time. If you drive an automatic car, then you might instead be using rich red or pink transmission fluid (see above) instead of power steering fluid. Leaking power steering fluid will immediately impact the performance of the car, making steering more erratic and harder to keep under proper control.
If you experience such an issue, you should check your drive and/or garage floor (wherever the car is kept) for signs of the leaking power steering fluid.
Leaks of petrol are typically easy to detect because wherever it happens to be leaking there’s a good chance you’re going to smell it as soon as you get into the car. It could be a leak from the tank directly, or from somewhere else in the system. There are obviously serious dangers of fire and even deadly explosions if you try to start or drive cars with petrol leaks.
Why is It Important to Check For and Fix Leaks?
Potentially Deadly Consequences
Certain fluids when leaking have an immediate impact on the safety and viability of your vehicle. In particular, leaks of petrol and brake fluid are especially dangerous. Petrol is flammable and explosive, and while it’s very easy to detect that there is a leak from the petrol smell, it’s impossible to know how serious or dangerous it is just from that initial smell. The leak requires immediate attention from a mechanic to assess the damage and clear up excess petrol before any harm comes to anyone, or further damage to the vehicle.
Brake fluid is also a fluid leak that means your car is undrivable. While it might technically start up and you’d be able to drive, there’s no telling how much braking power you might lose on the road at any time. It would be like driving a time bomb.
Potentially Severe Consequences for the Vehicle
While not all leaks are threatening to you or your passengers’ personal safety, many of them still pose a serious risk to huge mechanical damage to your vehicle, and in not a very long time. Your car needs every drop of engine oil to run at peak efficiency. Every bit that it loses makes it less efficient, and the cooling/lubricating effect lessens.
The same can be said of coolant, too. Every bit of coolant lost means less antifreeze to carry away heat, leaving the engine ever more exposed to the dangers of overheating. An engine overheat is one that edges towards catastrophic failure and very expensive repairs.
The Longer You Leave a Leak, the Worse the Damage Will Be
Finally, a leak needs to be fixed right away for the simple reason that the longer you leave it, the more dangerous and damaging the consequences become. That means more expensive repairs, and possibly losing your car to the mechanic’s garage for long periods while it gets fixed. An even worse scenario is that your car breaks down beyond reasonable repair.
Therefore, be vigilant in checking your drive and garage floor, or the tarmac where you park on the street or space where you park at work — wherever the car is kept overnight or during the day — for signs of leaking liquids. They are bright coloured and viscous enough to leave their mark wherever they fall.