Interpreting puddle colors

When the tractor engine leaks and you see liquid under the machine, it’s time to investigate.

John Nowatzki is an ag machine systems specialist at North Dakota State University. He says the color of the puddle is a clue. Engine oil is amber-colored when it goes in, but if it comes out as a leak, it's dark brown-to-black. If there is water in the oil, you might see a milky-white puddle. There are a variety of colors with different fluids.

"The color of anti-freeze is actually red or green, but it could also be an orange, amber-orange color in some of them. If you have transmission fluid coming out of a tractor, it's generally a reddish color. Its consistency though, is going to be similar to engine oil," says Nowatzki.  

Tractors with cabs might dribble windshield washer solution, which is usually blue or pink. Water that drips from an air conditioner condenser can leave a large puddle under the tractor – as much as a pint. Nowatzki says some people are alarmed when they see it, but it's completely normal.

Don't be afraid to use your nose as well as your eyes. Leaking gasoline will evaporate and you may not see anything on the ground, but the lingering smell should tell you something was there.

"Now in the case of a diesel engine, you would certainly have a unique odor from diesel fuel that you wouldn't have from gas. Plus, if you had diesel leaking it would puddle or at least you would notice it wet on the ground, and there would be a real thin consistency unless it was really cold out.  It would almost be like water," he says. "But the odor again, would be there that would be different from oil, and different from anti-freeze."

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