Car Problems You Don’t Need to Worry About – Part 1

When it comes to our vehicles, when something looks bad, it usually is. However, there are times when things look bad, but you don’t need to worry that much about them. Sometimes something may give the appearance of being a problem when there is really nothing to worry about. In Part 1 (this article) we will examine just a few of these problems that have to do with finding puddles of fluid under your car. In future articles, we will examine other problems that are likely not real problems.

A Puddle Under the Car

Wait! Are you serious?! Often people get upset when they see a puddle of some fluid under the car. Yes, there are times when this is bad, really bad. However, a puddle of fluid is not always a bad thing. For example, it could be water runoff from the air conditioning. Air conditioners not only create cooler air, but they often take moisture out of the cabin of the vehicle. This is like a dehumidifier. That water must go somewhere. So, most cars have a tube or channel that allows the water to collect and leak out of the bottom of the car. So, if you see water under your car and you were running the air conditioning (especially on a humid day), don’t be surprised.

Besides water, some small amounts of oil or other fluids (such as radiator fluid) may be normal. Of course, large puddles of fluid are often bad, and you should have the car checked by a competent mechanic. But remember that when fluids are replaced or topped off, you will often have some amount of spillage or runoff. Sometimes that collects on the floor of your garage or parking space. If it’s a small amount and does not happen often, it’s usually not worth worrying about it.

Checking the Puddle

When it comes to finding a puddle under your car, how do you know what kind of fluid it is? The easiest way to test this is to dip your finger into the puddle after making sure it’s not hot. Rub the fluid between your fingers to see how it feels, and then smell it.

If it’s water, it will feel like, well, water. This is an easy one. If it feels oily and smells like oil, then, you guessed it, it’s oil. If it is a brownish red, it could be power steering fluid or transmission fluid. Radiator fluid is usually a bright neon green or yellow. Again, if there is a lot of fluid, contact your mechanic.

Another way to test the puddle, especially if it keeps occurring, is to put a piece of white paper or cardboard under the car where the puddle usually appears. I like to use white foamboard that I can get at the local dollar store. Put the board under the car right after you pull it into your driveway or parking space. Let it sit for several hours, and then come back and check it. Again, look for the color, feel, and smell of the liquid. Contact a mechanic, if needed.

What Is “Normal”

When it comes to fluids, clear water is rarely a problem. Oil can be a problem if there is a lot of it. Other fluids can be an issue if there is more than about a tablespoon of liquid. Just remember not to panic. It may be nothing to worry about. But when in doubt, ask your mechanic.

Written by Gary Pradel