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If you’re reading this article, it’s likely you’ve seen a puddle or spot under your vehicle. The first question to ask is, “What fluid is that?” There are several types of fluids in your vehicle, most of which are colored to aid in their identification.

  • Engine oil is usually brown or amber. The older it gets, the blacker it seems to turn. If you see a blackish fluid under your vehicle, it’s likely to be engine oil.
  • Automatic transmission fluid is usually red. As it gets older, it can appear brown or a very dark brown, depending on how old it is.
  • Manual transmission fluid can come in a variety of colors. I cover this topic more in the section on manual transmissions below.
  • Coolant can also be a variety of colors these days. Traditionally, it’s been green, but we now have red, orange, yellow, and blue as possible coolant colors. I’ll talk more about this in the section on coolant leaks below.
  • Power steering fluid is often a light amber, but some systems use automatic transmission fluid. It can be confusing if you have automatic transmission fluid in your power steering system. As with most leaks, you would need to put your eyes on the source to know its true origin.

No matter what fluid you find, you’ll likely have to go on a search to find where it’s coming from. Identifying the color of the fluid is only the first step, as it gives you an idea of where to start looking. For now, let’s start with engine oil.