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What is Leaking? Top Fluid Leaks in Old Cars and What to Do About Them

Old cars come with unique benefits, like not having to pay a car payment for example. They also require a bit more maintenance and know-how than you would need if you were purchasing a new car. 

Their parts wear out faster, and you need to understand how to care for them when a problem presents itself. So, what do you do when you see a puddle of fluid creeping out from under your car? Can you still drive your car, or do you need to call in a tow truck and junk your car

We have created this guide for you to understand how to diagnose an automobile fluid leak and what to do when you find one under your vehicle. 

Oil Leak

The most common type of fluid leak is an oil leak, mostly because there are so many places where oil can leak from. If you find the oil leak near the front of your car, you most likely have an engine oil leak. 

You can tell the leak is engine oil by examining its contents. Dip a paper towel or your fingers into the puddle. Engine oil will feel slick, look black or brown, and smell slightly burnt. 

If you suspect you have an oil leak, look under your vehicle for your oil pan plug. If you see a securely in-place plug and secure oil filter, you have an engine oil leak. At this point, you need to take your engine to the mechanic or an oil-change garage. 

Before your head to the mechanic, though, check your oil levels. You may need to put oil in before you drive so you can protect your engine. Then drive to the mechanic. 

The oil leak could come from a cracked oil pan or faulty engine valves.

If you do have a failing engine and the repairs will cost more than your car is worth, you can always junk your car. Ultimately your good spare parts on the car may be worth more than you think. You could receive solid compensation when you junk your car

Antifreeze Leak

Antifreeze is a close second when it comes to common leaks. You will find an antifreeze puddle in the front part of your car similar to an oil leak. You can also find it leaking from the exhaust pipe at the back of your vehicle. 

It’s worth noting that antifreeze is extremely toxic, so keep pets and children away from the puddle. 

Antifreeze looks much different than oil. It is thicker than water, but thinner than oil. It’s also green or red, and it smells sweet. 

An antifreeze leak requires immediate attention. The radiator or water pump is most likely malfunctioning. If you do not take your vehicle to a mechanic to fix the leak, your engine will overheat, and you will ruin the engine completely. 

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid comes from the center of your car, not the front like oil and antifreeze. This fluid looks like oil at first glance, but it does differ. It will be red and smell somewhat like gasoline. 

If you suspect your vehicle is leaking transmission fluid, go to a mechanic immediately. You most likely have a serious engine problem or a transmission problem. When your transmission fails, your engine will no longer shift gears. 

Ultimately, you can ruin your engine when you attempt to drive with a failing transmission, so seek professional help immediately if you suspect you have a transmission fluid leak. 

Brake Fluid

You can find brake fluid just about anywhere under your vehicle. It’s thinner than engine oil but similar in texture. Keep an eye open for a brake light on your dash panel. 

If you suspect you have a brake fluid leak, seek a mechanic immediately. Failing to address this leak could lead to failing brakes and a serious accident. 

Power Steering Fluid

Power steering fluid looks much like brake fluid, but you will this fluid generally in the front half of your car. Low power steering fluid will cause a squealing noise when you turn your steering wheel, and the wheels turn. 

Low power steering fluid could cause your power steering to fail. Such a failure could cause a serious accident, so address this leak immediately. Power steering makes your car more steerable, and without it, you’ll have a difficult time turning your steering wheel and maintaining control over your vehicle. 


A fuel leak such as a gasoline leak is problematic for a variety of reasons. First, your car cannot run without it. Second, it is an environmental and safety hazard because of its high flammability. 

A gasoline leak comes from a faulty fuel line, fuel tank, or fuel injectors. If you have a gasoline leak, you’re leaking money as well. Address this leak immediately by taking your car to a mechanic. 

Windshield Wiper Fluid

The least troublesome leak of all is a windshield wiper fluid leak. This leak will not affect the operation of your car. You will find a windshield wiper fluid leak near the front of your vehicle. 

Windshield wiper fluid is thin like water and brightly colored. You may have a crack in your wiper fluid reservoir, or a loose cap. Check the reservoir, and then refill the tank so you have adequate fluid. 

Responding to a Fluid Leak

The moment you see that telltale puddle of fluid under your car, keep pets and children away from the puddle. If you suspect either a child or pet has consumed the mysterious fluid, contact Poison Control immediately. 

When you clean up the fluid, dispose of the rags that you use for clean-up so you can avoid the same problem. If you’re concerned about the toxicity or quantity of the fluid altogether, you may need a professional to conduct the cleanup job. Check your parking space regularly for fluid so you can catch the leak before it causes a bigger problem both for your car and the environment. 

Diagnosing Old Cars Intelligently

Now that you know how to diagnose fluid leaks in old cars, you can determine best if the car is worth keeping. A basic windshield wiper fluid leak, for example, isn’t a cause for concern, but a transmission leak or an engine oil leak may lead you to consider junking your car altogether. 

Are you looking for a place for your old car? If so, contact us. Our junk car buyers will give you a fair price for your old car today.