I just saw an older BMW in the parking garage had leaked quite a large
volume of amber/brownish fluid (a quart or so). Quite a mess.
The question is this - what could this be? Engine oil? Power steering
fluid? Transmission oil?
Reason I'm asking is that I assume oil leaks are fairly rare these
days, but if it's power steering fluid shouldn't it be red??
Could be water from the cooling system.
Oil - translucent amber (typical new) to black (old) - artificial oils may
Water - clear, can be coloured with anti-freeze (blue / green ...) and gets
brown with rust after a while.
Transmission & PSU fluid - pink getting grey as it ages.
Brakes - thin translucent and yellowy.
Well it sure >looks< like dirty engine oil (dark amber with some black
streaks around the edges of the puddles), but I'm at a loss as to how
the car could dump such a quantity in a matter of hours. Being in the
city, it's unlikely the guy ripped open his sump on anything (but never
That's why I assume it could be a leak in the steering reservoir - this
seems like a BMW weak spot.
If it IS engine oil (still not sure), what sort of event could cause a
BM to start shedding large amounts of it in that manner?
This amount of fluid should cause a noticable level fall in whatever is
Another thing that might leak is washer fluid, if the non return valves fail
the fluid can just run out via the headlight washers. Normally clear or
blue (if you put in deicer) though.
I once dropped my 735i off at a park and fly outfit at Heathrow airport.
On my return, they sent a bloke to get it. He must have thrashed it from
stone cold, because I noticed a track of oil ending underneath it when they
brought it out. I noticed another track of oil when I reversed to turn
around. Looking underneath I noticed oil pouring out of the bottom. I
called the AA. They discovered that the seal on the filter had blown out,
so they put it back in place, screwed it up tight and put some more oil in.
I then drove it gingerly to Altwood in Slough, where I was able to call in a
favour (my service guy had been promoted to manager) and get it on a ramp
late on a Friday afternoon! No problem and the car went on for may years
More recently I had a small leak on a 740i. This was because the filter top
wasn't quite screwed up tight.
Nah, it's definitely not water. For one thing, none of it has
evaporated in the last 48 hrs - still a huge puddle.
Had another look - it actualy does have a slight reddish tint to it,
but it still looks like engine oil.
Dip the engine and see a) what the level is (could have been overfilled and
be coming out of the labyrinth) and b) what colour it is.
If it is not engine oil and it is pink (blot some with white paper) then the
quantity suggests that either all the PSU fluid has run out due to a blown
hose or similar (power steering will not work and the brakes will be very
heavy), however the car will be drivable to repair place OR the auto gearbox
has a major leak (it is auto isn't it?). In this case the torque converter
will not work, the car should not be driven (or you will quickly burn out
bands etc.) and should be towed off for repair.
You should also look for where it is coming from. Rear of the engine low
down implies gearbox. Front of the engine from a pump with a fan belt or
the steering rack implies PSU.
Probably engine oil. Oil leaks on old bimmers are not all that rare.
The valve cover gasket design (especially on the V8's) is wont to harden
(it's made of rubber) and allow seepage to occur which pools in certain
places so it can dribble out later on the driveway. Don't ask me how I
know this... ;-)
Most older bimmers used a variety of Pentosin hydraulic fluid for
power steering fluid which is clear or greenish color. Transmission
fluid is either clear or red on the way in, but who knows what color
after 100k miles...
Not necessarily. Power Steering Fluid and Automatic Transmission Fluid were
once the same thing, but that is not always the case these days. But, yes if
it is the same thing, it should be red. UNLESS it is very old and poorly
maintained, then it will turn brown.
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