How to Clean up an Antifreeze Leak

Finding a leak on your garage floor or driveway usually means your vehicle needs maintenance or minor repairs. A stain with a colorful hue and sticky appearance can be indicative of an antifreeze leak.

You may have a blown head gasket, a hole in the radiator, or worn sealing gaskets causing the problem. While it’s essential to seek the advice of a certified mechanic, it is equally important to clean up an antifreeze leak.

If left unattended, the messy spill can create hazardous slip-and-fall conditions for you, your family, and visitors to your home. The following tips will help you clean up an antifreeze leak quickly and efficiently to prevent further problems.

How to find out if you have an antifreeze leak

A person pouring antifreeze that could possibly have to clean up an antifreeze leak,
Antifreeze poured in a vehicle | Getty Images

An antifreeze leak is easily identifiable because of its color. If you discover a black or gold puddle under your car, it is typically related to an oil leak. A dark red liquid means your vehicle is leaking transmission fluid, and you should contact a mechanic as soon as possible to remedy the problem.

If the leak under your car is lime-green, orange, pink, or bluish-green, then you most likely have an antifreeze leak. The substance is also usually sticky. Any puddle with these characteristics is indicative of an antifreeze leak. Product manufacturers commonly use bright colors for antifreeze and coolants, making it easier to determine if the problem is with the antifreeze instead of other fluids. 

Another sure sign of an antifreeze leak is noticing a sweet smell resonating from underneath the hood when you turn off the car. Car and Driver advise, “If the smell is stronger inside your vehicle than outside of it, the problem could be inside the heater” and not related to your radiator or other crucial components of the engine. A qualified mechanic can quickly differentiate where the problem originates from and repair the issue before it becomes worse.

Since antifreeze protects your vehicle from overheating and helps keep the engine cool in hotter summer months, it is essential to keep the fluid at optimal levels. Most auto manufacturers recommend changing the antifreeze out every 30,000 miles. It is crucial to have an antifreeze leak diagnosed as soon as possible to prevent costly damage to your vehicle’s engine.

How to clean up an antifreeze leak 

If you discover an antifreeze leak, it is essential to clean it up quickly, as the chemicals can be toxic to pets and children if ingested.

Access Insurance claims the easiest way to clean up an antifreeze leak is by covering the spill with kitty litter, sand, or a professional-grade absorbent. They recommend taking proper precautions, such as wearing rubber gloves during the cleanup process, since “coolant can be harmful to your skin.”

Once the antifreeze is fully absorbed, wipe the material with paper towels or old shop rags until the liquid spill is gone. Place the used towels and rubber gloves in a separate trash bag to avoid contamination.

Potential causes

Antifreeze can start leaking from your car for several reasons. There could be corrosion on your radiator tubes or damage caused by road debris while driving. You may have a defective expansion tank or failed water pump. The problem could be as simple as a worn-out hose or as serious as a blown head gasket, costing upwards of $2,000.

It is essential to contact a local mechanic at the first sign of a leak to diagnose the problem. According to Mechanic Base, repairing an antifreeze leak can cost between $10 and $3,000. “The easiest way to save money is get your coolant leak repaired at the first sign of trouble before it turns into something more significant.”

RELATED: How Do You Check Your Car’s Antifreeze?