Have you spotted a puddle under your car when parked?
If you're a new driver or you've seldom seen fluid leaking from under your vehicle, the sight can be worrying. In most cases, however, the leaking from your car does not indicate a serious issue.
Is your car leaking coolant?
If the fluid turns out to be coolant leaking from the bottom of your car rather than water, you could have a serious problem.
Coolant is usually green, blue or yellow and has a sweetish smell. Normal water will of course be clear and odourless.
How can you determine if it is coolant?
If your car is parked in a dark location or the ground is dark, it may be difficult to determine if the puddle of fluid under your car is coolant or water. Try dabbing a piece of paper or an old cloth in the puddle so you can have a closer look.
Unless someone mistakenly put straight water into the coolant chamber, the presence of clear water does not suggest that your car has a coolant leak.
Click here to learn which coolant you should be using.
Causes of a coolant leak
Coolant may leak from a car for a number of reasons. The most common reasons for a car leaking coolant are:
- radiator corrosion:
- a damaged coolant hose;
- or a water pump with a leaky gasket.
Unless you have mechanical expertise, if you spot an engine coolant leak you should take your car to your garage. They will be able to pinpoint the issue and replace the damaged component.
How serious is a coolant leak?
Any coolant leak suggests your car has a serious problem - since your engine depends on coolant for its cooling system to work.
Can I drive my car if it has a coolant leak?
You should be able to drive your car a short distance (to the garage, for instance) if you first top up the coolant level.
Or: Is your car leaking oil?
How can I tell if my car is leaking oil? - it’s a common question.
The most obvious sign will be a patch of liquid on the ground under your engine block or elsewhere. But your first task is to determine if the leakage is indeed oil.
Get some tissue paper and absorb the liquid: if it’s black or brown, it's likely oil.
My car is leaking oil from the front
If your engine is located in the front of your vehicle, chances are any oil leak will appear on the ground underneath. Conversely, with rear-engine cars, leaks will probably appear under the back area.
That said, with a front-motor car, it’s still possible to get a leak appearing under the rear - this could be due to issues with the rear differential pinion flange or rear axle oil seals, for instance.
Car leaks oil when parked
If oil is leaking from your vehicle, it will likely do so whether you’re driving or not.
When parked for a sustained period, oil patches can develop - which is when you’ll notice an oil leak from your car. Naturally, you won’t spot an oil leak while you’re on the road.
What causes an oil leak?
Oil leaks can have many possible causes. It might be a faulty gasket, blown O-ring, damaged timing cover seal or an oil pan leak. Gaskets and seals will become deformed and damaged given long enough, leading to an oil leak.
Specialised oil leak-stopping fluids are available which might provide a short/medium term solution. However, visit a trusted mechanic for a long-term fix.
Is it safe to drive my car with an oil leak?
No, driving your car with an oil leak poses some risk to you and other road users. Once oil reaches a high temperature it can become flammable which, when parts of your engine become very hot, can result in a fire. Oil can also damage rubber hoses and seals, which can cause a breakdown.
However, while it's not advisable to drive with an oil leak, going a short distance to your home or a garage should be OK.
There are a number of signs you might experience if your car is low on oil.
Why is my car leaking water?
Condensation from the air conditioning system
You may wonder is it normal for water to drip from under your car? In the vast majority of cases, your car leaking water is usually condensation from the air conditioning system, or from the exhaust.
If you see water dripping from under your car when ac is on around the rear of the engine compartment, it's likely going to be just AC condensation.
This is normal and is nothing to worry about.
Water dripping from under car, ac not on: Does my car have a serious problem?
If water is dripping under your car and your ac is not on, then as explained above, the water leak can also be attributed to exhaust condensation if the water leaking from your car is solely around the exhaust.
How serious is water leaking from your exhaust?
Water around the exhaust suggests exhaust condensation. In most cases, exhaust condensation is also nothing to worry about, unless there are very large clouds of white condensation coming from the exhaust.
Such a large volume of condensation suggests coolant has found its way into the combustion chambers and is burning alongside the air-fuel mixture. This in turn may mean the head gasket has blown.
Just about to go on a long drive and noticed that your car is leaking water?
If you spot water under your car just before you set off on a long drive, you may wonder whether you should postpone your trip.
If you think there is a coolant leak, it is advisable to visit your nearest garage. But if there is water under the rear of the engine compartment, it is most likely just condensation from the AC unit - and you can continue your journey as planned.
In the case of a leak around the exhaust, as long as your coolant levels are good, it doesn't suggest a problem.
Having a suitable breakdown cover policy in place will give you peace of mind, should you experience any issues with your car.
Why not get a quote today?
For more details on the car breakdown cover options we offer visit our car breakdown cover page.