Leaking Fluids Could be a Vehicle’s Way of Saying Something’s Wrong

When you see a patch of liquid on the floor where your delivery van has been parked, it can be tempting to just ignore it, hoping it came from someone else’s vehicle instead. But ignoring problems with your engine’s vital fluids can be a dangerous decision: a leak left unchecked can lead to much more expensive damage to your engine.

Know What to Look For

The modern delivery van engine can be a confusing place with all the new technology which now runs the systems of most vehicles, but there are still some parts of the engine which have not changed. It is still relatively simple to check a vehicle’s oil and transmission fluid fairly regularly and these two fluids can tell you a great deal about the health of your motor.

Engine Oil

The condition of the oil in your delivery van is a good indication of what’s going on in your engine. You know what it looks like when you pour it in fresh from the bottle, and that it can turn black with age, but did you know that rubbing a bit of oil from your dipstick between your finger and thumb could tell you a great deal more?

Look out for:

• Sludge in your Oil – If the oil on your dipstick is lumpy and forms globules, it could be forming sludge in your engine which will block oil ways and prevent lubrication.
• Grit or Metal in Your Oil – If, when you rub it between your finger and thumb, you feel grit or large metal flakes in the oil you may have a problem. The grit could mean your oil filter is blocked. The metal could indicate a serious problem so get it checked as soon as possible.
• Cloudy Oil – If you notice the oil is milky then most likely you have water in your system, which could indicate a serious crack in the engine or head gasket.
• Oil Appears Foamy – This usual indicates that you have too much oil in the system.

Transmission Fluid

If you’re driving an automatic, then it’s also a good idea to check your transmission fluid regularly. As with the oil, metal flakes in the fluid can be a sign of a serious problem. Other things to look out for include black fluid, which would indicate the clutch in the transmission is slipping, or overly pink fluid, which could mean that coolant is leaking into it.

Puddles on the Ground

Okay, so the last thing you probably want to do is get down on your hands and knees and inspect strange puddles under your vehicle; but, believe me, it can be worth the aching joints to identify an engine problem before it gets too expensive to fix.

Things to look out for:

• Oil Leaks – If the puddle is golden brown or black, dip your finger in. If it’s oil, you probably have a leaking gasket.
• Red Puddles – Don’t put your finger in this one! It’s most likely transmission fluid or from a brake component.
• Water – This is most likely nothing to worry about. Following rain it is probably just from the car’s drainage channels and in hot weather is most likely from the air conditioning.

If your delivery van could talk it would probably tell you all kinds of things that need checking and fixing, but until that kind of Knight Rider technology becomes available, you just need to read the signs they give you in their fluids.

Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier and delivery van work in the in the express freight exchange industry. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.