I think we have all been there before. We wake up early in the morning so we can beat the morning traffic. Coffee in hand we stroll down the sidewalk to our cars, underneath something catches our eyes. A large puddle. Panic sets in and we begin to worry will it be okay to drive to work today.
So, why does your car leak water? There are many reasons, using years of experience as a mechanic I am going to share more about this situation and whether you need to panic the next time you experience this situation.
Where is the Water Coming from?
The first thing that you need to make sure of when you notice a large puddle underneath the vehicle is to ensure that it is water. A quick check with your fingers will tell you right away whether that fluid is slippery or is water-like consistency. Thankfully most of the important fluids in a vehicle are oily and have a distinctive feel to them.
As we continue, we are also going to realize that there are many different areas of the vehicle that water could be leaking from as well.
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Is Water Leaking from the Exhaust Normal?
This is a very common area of a vehicle to leak water. But why? The exhaust is warm. To understand this situation, we need to learn a little bit more about how a vehicle works.
The engine of a vehicle takes air into the engine, mixes it with fuel, and is then burned in the cylinder before being released through the exhaust system.
The exhaust system in the vehicle is a series of pipes that travel from the front of the vehicle to a tailpipe that exits at the rear of the vehicle. The exhaust gases that are expelled from the engine are not good for your health so releasing the exhaust gases to the rear of the vehicle provides safer operation of the vehicle.
As the hot gases from the engine travel through the exhaust working their way towards the exit the moisture begins to condensate. Meaning the vapor turns into droplets. These droplets of condensation then will leak from the exhaust. The water that is leaking from the exhaust tends to have a yellow color to it as it leaks from the exhaust system.
If you live in a cold climate where there is snow it is very normal to wake up on a winter day and find yellow-colored snow under the vehicle.
Oh, and by the way, this yellow covered snow under your vehicle is from the exhaust and not the neighbour’s dog.
There are many points in the exhaust that can leak water as well. All the joints where 2 pipes make a connection have the potential to leak water onto the ground when the vehicle is shut off.
The other areas to look for are mufflers and resonators, which both have drain holes. These drain holes allow the moisture to drain from the muffler to ensure that it does not stay inside of the muffler assembly. If these drain holes didn’t exist, the water inside the muffler would quickly cause it to become severely corroded and require premature replacement.
Water can also be noticed exiting the tailpipe when the vehicle is running, this is more likely to be noticed on a cool day. This again is just from the reaction of the warm exhaust meeting the cool outside air and forming condensation.
What is Leaking from my Vehicle on a Hot Day?
Many drivers I am sure have noticed that on hot days there seems to be a steady dripping of water coming from the center area of the vehicle. You may have also noticed that this dripping seems to only happen when the air conditioner is engaged.
This is also a normal condition for your vehicle to experience. The air conditioning system on a modern vehicle has many sophisticated components and is very hard to understand in a very simple explanation. But let’s see if we can help you understand what is going on inside of your dash to cause that water.
Inside the passenger compartment of your vehicle underneath all the components in your dash is an item known as an evaporator. An evaporator’s job in the air conditioning system is to change the refrigerant from a liquid to a vapor. To complete this job, it needs to absorb heat. This works well as we also need to remove the heat from the vehicle’s passenger compartment.
When this heat is absorbed from the passenger compartment it is cooled. This cool air is what we feel coming from the passenger vents of our vehicles when the air conditioning is turned to the on position.
But why does your car leak water?
As the evaporator absorbs the heat from the passenger compartment of your vehicle is also dries the air that is going through it. This drying effect is basically removing the humidity from the air as it passes through the evaporator. As the air is being dried it causes condensation to build upon the evaporator. Once this condensation forms droplets it drops down and accumulates.
This water is then removed from the passenger compartment of the vehicle to the outside through the evaporator drain. This drain removes the water from the vehicle onto the ground outside of the vehicle. You will normally find this drain located on the firewall of the vehicle.
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Water Leaking from Random Areas of Your Vehicle
The two above areas are common areas for water to be noticed leaking from your vehicle. There are also points of the vehicle that may not leak water normally. It is important to understand the difference of a normal water leak and an abnormal water leak.
If you have determined that the water leaking from your vehicle is neither coming from the exhaust or the air conditioning system we have to investigate a little bit further.
Now is the time to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and poke and prod around your vehicle to find out where this water leak could be coming from.
If there is water leak from your vehicle that means water has leaked into your vehicle at some point in time.
This water could be leaking from multiple areas of your vehicle. The most common area is your sunroof, as rain falls on your vehicle a small amount of water can seep around sunroof seals. This water needs to be removed before it leaks into your passenger compartment. The sunroof drains the water with a series of 4 drain hoses that exit the bottom of the vehicle, if these drain holes become plugged, they can cause water to leak into and out of your vehicle.
The other area for common water leaks are from body seams. When two pieces of your vehicle are installed together at your factory, they are sealed with a sealer known as seam sealer. This seam sealer prevents water from getting into your vehicle, and after it accumulates, water leaking out of your car as well.
If your vehicle has a water leak you should look out for moisture that is collecting on the inside of your windshield as your vehicle is parked.
Water is Coming from my Exhaust, will it Hurt my Engine?
No, do not panic. This is a question I get asked a lot as an automotive technician.
Observant car owners tend to notice this situation the most as they are walking around their vehicles, inspecting before a trip. It is important to remember that this is a normal situation for your vehicle to experience. You do not need to worry about this situation.
Can You Drive when Your Car is Leaking Water?
Yes, you can. This situation though requires a little bit of understanding of where the water is coming from. If the water that is leaking from the vehicle is coming from the evaporator drain or the exhaust that is okay.
However, if you have water leaking from random places on the vehicle this can be a situation that you will want to get inspected by an experienced mechanic. If water is building up inside the vehicle to the point where it is leaking out it can cause severe damage to the interior of the vehicle. Mold can be a serious concern as it builds up in damp and dark locations, under the carpet of your vehicle is perfect for this.
The other damaging item can be corrosion. Under the carpets of modern vehicles is a network of wiring harnesses. Once these harnesses are exposed to water they can begin to corrode and cause various issues with your vehicle.
How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Water Leak?
Some of the reasons above do not need to be fixed as they are completely normal.
The other water leak situation can be very expensive to repair. A technician first needs to locate the water leak and than repair correctly. Once this is completed, they than need to figure out how much damage occurred to the vehicle and repair properly.
This is the main reason why it is important to understand where the water from your vehicle is leaking from. If you get it looked at as soon as possible you can ensure you limit the amount of damage completed and the cost of the repair bill to fix the damage.