AUTO Q AND A: What's leaking from car? Color should tell
Q: I have a 2001 Buick Century with 74,000 miles on it. For the past few months I have noticed spots on the garage floor--mostly in the right front area. I put newspaper down, then took the paper to two different garages. They said it was not oil...
Q: I have a 2001 Buick Century with 74,000 miles on it. For the past few months I have noticed spots on the garage floor--mostly in the right front area. I put newspaper down, then took the paper to two different garages. They said it was not oil. I thought it might be windshield wiper fluid but it's not leaking. It's a puzzle. Any idea what it could be?
A: My best guess is coolant, but color should help solve the mystery. Here are the possibilities:
Engine oil: Brownish black in color, very slippery
Transmission fluid: Pink to reddish brown in color, very slippery
Engine coolant: Green or orange in color and watery, not as slippery as oil
Brake fluid: Clear to yellowish in color, thin and slightly slippery
Differential fluid: Blackish brown, thicker than oil, very slippery
Power steering fluid: Clear to reddish, like transmission fluid
CV (constant velocity) joint grease: Thick, black, less likely to drip
Windshield washer solvent: Bluish, thin like water, not slippery
Are the spots landing in the area behind and inboard of the right front wheel? If so, they may be from the air conditioner evaporator housing, which would be normal after driving with the A/C on.
Q: My '97 Dodge Caravan needed a new timing belt after I drove it home one day and the next morning it wouldn't start. My mechanic replaced the timing belt, but it still won't start. There is no spark and no power in the wires leading into the distributor. What happened?
A: Start by checking the auto shutdown relay in the power distribution center under the hood next to the battery. This relay supplies voltage to the injectors, ignition coil and heating elements in the oxygen sensors. If this key relay has been removed during service or has failed, there will be no spark.
For readers who reside in northern climes, it's time to park our toys for the winter. For the six months of long-term parking ahead, make sure the fuel tank is full of non-oxygenated fuel with SeaFoam, the battery is fully charged and disconnected or removed (or connect a battery charger once a month or so to keep the battery topped up), the tires are inflated a bit above 35 psi and the interior is clean and dry. Place dryer sheets on the carpets, fabric seats, cargo area and engine compartment.
Make sure all scheduled maintenance is up to date. If an oil change or cooling system flush is due shortly, do it now so the vehicle is filled with fresh fluids and ready to go in the spring. A light aerosol lube spray on brake rotors, drums and exposed unpainted metal on the undercarriage will protect against light rust. If the vehicle will be parked indoors, make sure the windows are open a fraction to allow air circulation and cover the vehicle with a light, breathable cover to keep it clean. If the vehicle is going to spend the winter outdoors, give the paint a fresh coat of wax and leave the vehicle uncovered so the paint won't be dulled by the material constantly flapping against the bodywork in the wind.