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Fluid leakage in cars and how to identify them?

Are you seeing oil leaking from the top of your engine? Or are you smelling burning oil? The most likely cause is damage to the valve cover gasket. The first thing you should do is check your oil as you may have been losing oil for a while and it is never good to drive the vehicle if it is low on oil.

Valve Cover Gasket Leak Inspection

Valve cover gasket leak

Your car needs a number of fluids to work like oil, coolant, power steering fluid, and many more. Each fluid satisfies a different purpose and is thus integral to the car’s functioning. However, fluid leakage is a mess and calls for a maintenance schedule. These liquids have their own properties, some are highly volatile and inflammable. While it’s true that not everything dripping from the car is dangerous, are you really willing to take that bet? Thus, it is a wise call to inspect any kind of leakage from the car, especially after knowing that it can be potentially dangerous and downright destructive.



But with so many fluids harmonically existing in a car, how can one identify which one is leaking? Well, a little inspection here can help you figure it out.

  • Determine the position of the leaked component simply by locating the puddle of the fluid below your car. All thanks to gravity, here the fluid falls directly below our targeted site. If the liquid is red it’s probably transmission fluid. If the liquid is green or orange and has a sweet smell, coolant is the culprit. Brown fluid indicates an engine oil leak.
  • Differentiate the liquid with respect to their colour. Drip the liquid on a cardboard and note the colour of the result. Another easy way, right?

With such ease, inspection shouldn’t be a problem. However, just inspecting the leakage won’t solve the problem. One must know the importance of each fluid, the reasons for its leakage and also know the other ways to detect their leakage.

Power Steering Fluid Leak

Power steering fluid goes through the power steering hydraulic system. The system is pressurized by the power steering pump. By the way of pistons, valves, or plungers, it decreases the efforts needed by the driver in controlling the steering wheel. The pressure drops and the power steering system loses its hydraulic pressure when the pump stops pumping.

Metal particles contaminate the fluid as components in the steering system erode. This causes seals in the system to leak and components to eventually fail. Checking the fluid level and changing the fluid at regular intervals as recommended by the manufacturer is important for the life of the hoses, pistons, valves, seals, and the power steering pump itself.

Power steering leaks are typically located towards the front of the vehicle and can be identified by their red or brown appearance.


What causes power steering fluid to leak?

  • Power steering pump: The power steering pump is driven off the car’s engine. Pump seals can become damaged because of the contact with dirty fluid or they can become worn-out from thousands of miles of use. 
  • Power steering hoses: Another possible problem area are the lines that run from the pump to the steering rack, or gear, particularly where the high-pressure hose is connected with the metal fittings. 
  • Power steering rack or gear: The steering rack itself can lose fluid from its own seals. 
  • Power steering cooler: Some assisted steering mechanisms have coolers, which complicate the matter and bring additional plumbing and potential for leaks. These coolers are often attached in the front of the car, where damage can occur.

Is your car’s power steering fluid leaking? 

Look out for these signs:


  • Hearing a siren-like or whirring sound from the steering pump. A steering pump is presumably a silent component. Any kind of sudden or unnatural sound it makes can be a sign of damage.
  • Difficulty in steering the wheel. Power steering’s primary role is to ease the movement of the steering wheel. Without it, the steering is tough and hard to rotate. If you’re facing difficulty in steering the wheel, you know what to check first. 

How important is this service?

  • Leaking power steering fluid can result in difficulty while driving. This can cause unsafe situations on the road, especially during turning. Moreover, getting it fixed at a sooner stage is financially advantageous rather than letting it degrade further.

Coolant Leak

Coolant is likewise referred to as antifreeze. It is a radiant yellow, pink or green fluid that blends with the water in varieties of vehicles to maintain the radiators from getting too cold or getting too hot. It is made from either propylene glycol or ethylene glycol. Antifreeze alters the freezing and boiling points of water. Coolant elevates the boiling point of the liquid in the engine to avoid overheating.

What causes coolant leak?

  • Perforated radiator tank or core. This is rather very easy to detect as there will certainly be indications of leakage around the radiator.
  • Poor conditioned radiator hoses. The hoses attaching the radiator to the engine can also weaken as well as generate leakages from as small as a pinprick puncture to a full-on ruptured wall surface. Hoses normally end up being fragile and weak as they get old, making them susceptible to failure. If they are discovered as malfunctioning, hoses will certainly be required to be changed.
  • Damaged water pump. Coolant can also break loose from the water pump housing. Typically, the pump seals fall short adhering to the bearing of failing. This occurs mainly when the pump is running, so the mechanic will look for this with the engine operating. The pump will surely be required to be changed if this is the source of the leakage.
  • Defective radiator cap. It is also feasible for the radiator cap to shed its capacity to keep its system pressure. This will enable the coolant to reach its boiling point at a reduced level of temperature than intended, as well as potentially permit the vapor to get away, which presents dampness to the system.

Is your car’s coolant leaking? Look out for these signs:


  • Engine is overheating. A damaged water pump causes the engine to overheat. Even though there are multiple reasons for this to happen, getting your engine checked for a faulty water pump would be a good call. A damaged water pump impeller will reduce or stop the flow of coolant, overheating the engine.
  • Engine failure. Overheating can cause permanent damage to the engine. This may result in engine failure.


How important is this service?

When engines get too hot as a result of a failing cooling system, it can lead to disastrous engine damage. It is certainly important to have the automobile inspected immediately if you observe an unusual level of temperature or even see liquids on the ground under the engine compartment of your vehicle.

Water pump leakage

The water pump is an engine accessory bolted to the engine, above the crankshaft pulley. It is driven by a belt or chain and circulates engine coolant through the cooling system passageways in the engine block and cylinder head, on to the radiator, where the coolant temperature is reduced. Once the coolant is reduced, it flows back to the water inlet on the engine and the water pump continues the cycle. This mechanism keeps the engine from overheating.

Is it time to change your car’s water pump? Look out for these signs:


  • Engine is overheating: A damaged water pump causes the engine to overheat. Even though there are multiple reasons for this to happen, getting your engine checked for a faulty water pump would be a good call. A damaged water pump impeller will reduce or stop the flow of coolant, overheating the engine.


  • Noises from the water pump: Due to disruption in the running of water in the shaft of the water pump, the bearing wears out gradually. Therefore, while in use, it makes excessive noise. This is a good sign that the pump needs to be repaired or replaced.

Is it safe to drive with a water pump problem?

It depends on the amount of damage the water pump has suffered. If the leak is small, it’s fine to drive the car whereas large leakage can cause significant overheating to the car’s engine. However, a small leakage can, in no time, enlarge and damage the engine. So it is advisable to get the pump repaired before using the car again.

Engine Oil Leak

The Engine Oil in a car has many functions, and one of these functions is removing the deposits of sludge and gunk in the engine keeping it clean. Engine oil that is unused has an amber color; however, it changes to black over time after being exposed to heat and dirt from the engine. Engine oil is critical for the proper function of your engine and an engine oil leak should be addressed right away to avoid engine damage.

It can be identified by a dark brown or yellow colour puddle below your car.


What causes Engine Oil leak?


  • The Oil Filter. Over time, the oil filter from the vehicle’s filtration system breaks down or gets misaligned. 
  • The Oil Drain Plug. The drain plug is located at the base of the oil pan and is accessible from the underside of your car. Loose or worn out plugs can be a reason for oil leak.
  • The Oil Filler Cap.  Missing, broken or loose oil filler caps can be a reason for oil leakage in a car. The engine’s pressure can push the oil out while the car is running.
  • The Valve Gasket. With the buildup of sludge, the pressure inside the valve gasket increases. This is the reason for oil leaks in most of the cases.

Is your car’s engine oil leaking? Look out for these signs:


  • Oil dipstick. To check for engine oil leaks keep a close eye on your oil dipstick. If the level drops over time, you’re losing oil.
  • Blue smoke from the tailpipe. While driving, check and see if blue smoke is coming from the tailpipe. Blue smoke means oil might be leaking into the engine itself.
  • Burning oil smell. After a drive, you may notice a burning oil smell. This could mean oil is leaking onto hot components of the engine itself. 

How important is this service?

If you notice signs of an oil leak, get your car inspected right away. Engine oil leaks are a fire risk in your engine compartment and can result in catastrophic engine failure. However, if the leak is small, you may drive to the mechanic. But in case of a large leak, tow the car to the repair station.

Valve Cover Gasket Leak

Commonly, the engine valve cover is the top most part of an engine and is labeled with either the name of the manufacturer or the size of the engine. A valve cover gasket is put in place because the metal of the valve cover does not seal tightly enough against the metal of the top of the engine. The cork material or rubber of the valve cover gasket safeguards a good seal, and helps stop oil from spilling out of the top of the engine.

Valve cover gaskets unusually last the life of a vehicle and must be monitored at the time of every service. For vehicles with four-cylinder engines, checking for oil around the valve cover is especially important because of an increased chance that oil could leak into spark plug tubes, causing misfires.


What causes valve cover gasket leaks?

  • Blown Valve Cover Gaskets: The tremendous heat an engine produces can result in valve cover gaskets to become brittle and break down over time.
  • Damaged Valve Covers: A mechanic must also inspect your valve cover(s) to make sure they are still intact when replacing your valve cover gasket. Damage to a valve cover could also result in an oil leak.

Is your car’s valve cover gasket leaking? Look out for these signs:


  • Burning oil smell. After a drive, you may notice a burning oil smell. This could mean oil is leaking onto hot components of the engine itself. 
  • Valve cover is dirty.  Oil attracts dirt and debris under the hood and will appear to be dirty. 
  • Engine is low on oil. When oil leaks from the valve cover gasket, obviously the engine will be low on oil. This nudges the oil indicator on the car’s dashboard.
  • Engine is running rough and causing misfires. Oil leaking into the car’s system is bound to cause misfires. These misfires can be catastrophic in nature or they’ll simply damage the ignition system of the vehicle.


Is it safe to drive with a water pump problem?

No, it is not safe. A damaged valve cover gasket causes oil leaks in the car. Oil is a highly inflammatory fluid, which can ignite and cause fire. This makes regular inspection for oil leak and valve cover gasket leak mandatory due to precautionary reasons.

Brake Fluid Leak

The movement and force created on pressing the brake pedal is transferred with the help of brake fluid. This results in the car’s halt or lower speed. Even though the mechanism of brake is easier, it’s thin, oily and almost transparent texture makes it harder to spot. Leaking brake fluid will hamper the ability of a car to stop, making it extremely dangerous to drive a car.


What causes valve brake fluid leaks?


  • Brake lines. Rusting and pitting of brake lines over time causes leakage.
  • Brake components. Hyperextended pistons due to worn brake pads, shoes, rotors and drums can also cause brake fluid leaks.

Is your car’s brake fluid leaking? Look out for these signs:


  • Softer brake pedal. A softer brake pedal, or any such change in the pedal can be a sign of brake fluid leaking.
  • Dirt accumulation. By nature, dirt accumulates on oil. In case of any such thing being noticed, wipe the dirt off and inspect for leakage.

How important is this service?

Everyday, thousands of people lose their lives in road accidents where either of the parties had a failed brake. In case you notice leakage in your car’s brake, reach out to a mechanic as soon as possible. Meanwhile, do not drive the car.

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