Leaking Automotive Fluids Can Be Dangerous Too

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Everyone knows that leaking automotive fluids make a mess, but they can also be dangerous. This article shows how.

Submitted: January 12, 2016

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Submitted: January 12, 2016

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Much like your body your vehicle runs on some vital fluids. Without them, your vehicle will run hot, fail to stop or quit running altogether depending on the missing fluid. The properties of automotive fluids can pose some safety concerns as well, so here are some tips about the fluids that are essential to your car’s operation.

Brake fluid

This hydraulic fluid is clear, oily and both toxic and corrosive. The liquid is so corrosive that Ford recently recalled nearly 250,000 Ford Escape SUV’s because the caps on their brake master cylinders don’t seal properly and the company fears that brake fluid will spill onto a wiring harnesses and start fires. Advisories about spilling brake fluid on a vehicle’s paint are well known in both the mechanical and body repair communities due the damage it causes to a vehicle’s finish.

Gasoline

You only have to talk to firemen to hear stories about the dangers of your car’s fuel. Any gas odor should be explored to disclose its source. Remember that the vapors can be more volatile than the fluid. Do not drive a car that has even the slightest gas leak. If it’s under the hood, the numerous electrical connections and wiring harnesses can serve as ignition sources. If the fuel is leaking externally from the tank a discarded cigarette would be enough to start a blaze and there are environmental concerns too since the gas could end up in the community’s stormwater management system.

Coolant/Anti-Freeze

Ethylene glycol is commonly used as coolant/anti-freeze. It presents some problems for both humans and pets since it is highly toxic if ingested.  There are substitutes that are propylene glycol or methyl alcohol based products, but they too have health consequences. So the best precaution is to be vigilant over both your vehicle’s supply of coolant and any stores of anti-freeze you might have on hand. Make sure your car has not developed a leak which could attract a family pet. You don’t have to swallow anti-freeze for it to take a toll on your body since the stuff becomes a slip and fall hazard when it gets on the floor, as anybody who has worked around an auto repair shop can attest. I knew a radiator shop owner who had to take over his family’s business after his father suffered a severe head injury in such an accident.  

Motor oil

Motor oil has a higher flash point than gasoline, but that doesn’t mean that you can ignore oil that is leaking under your hood. Abundantly leaking oil can ignite if your engine runs hot enough. The good thing is that oil leaking on the top of the engine is usually accompanied by smoking under the hood and an odor, which usually gets the attention of the driver and the occupants of the vehicle. Valve cover gaskets or leaking oil pressure switches may be the source of the leaks. These conditions are the reason why it is important to monitor your vehicle's oil consumption and also do periodic inspections around the perimeter of your car to check for leakage.

Keep in mind that all the functional fluids used in your car operate in closed looped systems and are not intended to overflow and spill onto the pavement. So any spots, drips, puddles or pools are signs that your vehicle needs attention. The only exception is the condensation that forms from your HVAC system and drains water onto the ground, which is not leakage of a fluid but actually a by-product of the system’s process.


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