What can I learn from that stain on the garage floor?

Question:

Is it possible to diagnose my car’s problem by checking the color of the liquid that it leaks?

Answer:

Technically, the answer is no; but it can point you in the right direction. Fluid on a garage floor might be as simple as rainwater that continued to roll off the body after you drove the car in a storm. In the summer, condensation from an air-conditioner is common and essentially harmless. But if you’re not sure about the source of the fluid, we advise that you bring the vehicle to us for proper analysis.

Here are a few tips to help figure out what you might be looking at:

  • If it’s yellowish-brown it’s probably new oil; and if it’s dark brown, it’s probably old oil.
  • A lighter yellow (with medium thickness) indicates a possible leak in your brake fluid. And if it’s a dark yellow (with medium thickness), it’s probably power steering fluid.
  • Engine coolant is harder to detect with certainty, because it comes in many colors. Texture is a good indicator, because coolant is stickier (not as slippery) as oil; and it smells sweet.

There are a few other colors to watch for (reddish could be transmission fluid and light blue or green could be windshield washer solvent), and they are all worthy of some attention.

Bottom line: Take a picture of the garage floor stain and bring it to us. Also, make a note of the general location of the stain on the floor in relation to the position of the car (front, back, passenger side, etc.). We’re here to help!