Identifying and addressing oil and coolant leaks in your vehicle

Two of the most common issues that can arise for any vehicle are oil and coolant leaks. While these can be resolved, the methods will differ depending on the type of leak, and the causes.  As a result, correctly identifying and addressing oil and coolant leaks in your vehicle is important to prevent potential engine damage and costly repairs.

What are the considerations when identifying and addressing oil and coolant leaks in your vehicle?

Leaks are a common problem in many vehicles and can be caused by either oil or coolant. Identifying whether a leak is an oil leak or a coolant leak however can be a little bit challenging, so you should consider:

  • The colour of the puddle beneath the car- One of the first indications that your car has a leak is often a puddle of liquid left behind when you have been parked. To find out whether this leak is an oil leak or a coolant leak, you can simply take a look at the colour. If the liquid is black or brown, and quite viscous, it is likely that this oil. Coolant, on the other hand, is typically green, orange, or pink in colour and has a sweet smell.
  • Inspect the engine compartment and radiator- Sometimes the puddle of liquid may be too dry to examine, or too small. In this case you can open the bonnet and examine the engine components for oil stains or wet spots. Common areas for oil leaks include the valve cover gasket, oil pan gasket, and the front or rear crankshaft seals.If you don’t notice any leaks around these points, check the radiator and hoses. Wet spots or stains around these can indicate a coolant leak, rather than an oil leak.
  • Check the level of oil- If you think you might have a leak, you can also check the level of the oil in your vehicle. If the oil level has dropped in a short space of time, this could indicate a leak somewhere in the system. You should also note the colour and consistency of the oil. If this appears to be milky or foamy, it may have been contaminated with coolant, which does indicate a more serious problem.  
  • Check the level of coolant- Similarly to the level of oil, a significant drop in coolant level without an apparent reason can signal a coolant leak.
  • Listen for unusual noises- If you have noticed a leak, but can’t identify whether this is caused by oil or coolant at the moment, you should listen to the engine for unusual noises. This is because a low level of oil pressure can cause knocking or tapping noises from the engine. 
  • Monitor the temperature gauge- Finally, if you think the leak might be caused by coolant, you should be sure to check your engine temperature. If the engine is consistently running hotter than usual or frequently overheats, this is a good indicator of a coolant leak or cooling system problem.

So what can cause a coolant leak?

There are a number of different factors that can cause a coolant leak and these include:

  • Damage to coolant hoses- One of the most common causes of coolant leaks is a broken coolant hose. This is because it is quite common for these hoses to experience wear and tear and to deteriorate over time, becoming brittle and cracking. 
  • Damage to the radiator- Physical damage or corrosion can cause the radiator to leak coolant.
  • Faulty water pump- A malfunctioning water pump may not circulate coolant effectively, leading to overheating and coolant leaks.
  • Head gasket failure- A more serious issue, a blown head gasket can cause coolant to mix with engine oil, resulting in milky oil and white exhaust smoke.

Here at MRS Heat Transfer we are radiator, car heater, oil cooler, and air conditioning experts, and we have the skills, knowledge and expertise to resolve any air conditioning or car heater problem. Why not get in touch today to find out more?