Most people know that their cars contain fluids like gasoline, oil, and wiper fluid. You may be less familiar with some of the many other fluids that help to lubricate, cool, and protect engine parts, as well as fulfill other functions, like ensuring that brakes work.
In time, all of the fluids in your car will become dirty, depleted, and otherwise in need of topping off and eventually, replacement. In the meantime, it's not unusual to experience a bit of leaking here and there (or a lot, if something is broken).
When you spot fluid leaks on your garage floor, you may be worried. It's understandable, especially if you have no idea what might be leaking. That said, you can learn a lot by simply looking at the color of the fluid. Here's what the colors on your garage floor can communicate.
Clear or Blue
If it looks like water is leaking from your car, it probably is. One of the most common fluids to fall from your car is condensation that forms when you run your AC. As a result, you're most likely to see this clear fluid during hot summer months. Blue is the color of wiper fluid.
Brown or Black
When engine oil is relatively new and clean, it's an amber or light brown color, and as it gets dirty, it can change to darker brown and even black. Gear lubricant is also light brown, but it has a terrible, sulfurous smell, so you should be able to identify it fairly readily. Brake fluid can have a dark brown appearance if it's old (it's closer to golden when new) so it's probably best to check in with your mechanic if you're not sure.
Red or Pink
If you're seeing red, or even pink, chances are you're dealing with transmission fluid, which has red coloring added to it so it's easy to identify. Power steering fluid also tends to fall in this range of hues, however, so give it a sniff. If it smells sweetish, it may be transmission fluid, although power steering fluid has also been described as having a "burnt marshmallow" aroma. Since power steering fluid is flammable and poses a high risk of combustion, this is another one you should have checked immediately.
Bright Yellow or Green
Antifreeze, or coolant, is cleverly produced in day-glow hues so you can identify it immediately. This is especially important in households with small children and pets, as it is extremely toxic but has a sweet taste that appeals to youngsters and animals in your home.
No matter what colors of fluid you find on your garage floor are, it's always wise to identify them as quickly as possible to determine if you need to make an emergency trip to your local auto shop. With a bit of sleuthing, you can often figure out what fluids are by color and sometimes odor.