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post #1 of 154 (permalink) Old 12-18-2016, 07:50 PM Thread Starter
 
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Greetings from Nebraska

Hello everyone. I want to extend a very warm thank you to each and every one of you who have posted all the how-to threads and diy info on here. I've spent so much time reading and learning over the past few weeks I feel like my head is going to explode.

I'm a severe DIY'er finding that if I approach life by taking everyone's throwaways, and fixing it for myself, I get so much more enjoyment out of it plus I save so much money. I've built my own bed for my wife and I, buy other people's junk cars and and fix them up and drive them around, fix lawn mowers, chainsaws, air-cooled VWs, and love anything that flies.

I've had an affinity for the quirky vehicle and the better mileage it gets, the more I'm game. Since my VW addiction has led to a collection of them, I've naturally eye-balled the Smart ever since it became available in the states, but true to form I had to wait until I found the right price on one before I spelunkered the cash down on one. I believe I have found a deal.

A guy advertised a 2008 Smart with 100K miles - starts up and runs - but it just won't go when put into gear. It has a salvage title as well. All that title malarky doesn't bother me - anything can get a salvage title at the drop of a hat and I guess as long as it hasn't had an electrical fire or been in a flood, I'm not too worried. Salvage titles are calculated based upon retail price of parts and full labor costs. Even cars with no titles can have a new title acquired by using a titling company or a friend in a bill-of-sale state. I know a cop who will run VINs for me to make sure the item isn't hot. Anyway, where I live nobody wants small cars - thinking they are a bit of a joke I guess, but I'm willing to tackle anything.

The guy claims he can't trailer the car and it needs a transmission reprogram. Fair enough and after reading the forums, I see the clutch actuator is the cause of many problems. Even people whose dealerships say the actuater is seized - I'd love to get my hands on the part because I have yet to run across anything that I can't fix. The actuators in these cars remind me of the German actuators on a paint shaker machine I've used at work. When they go bad, it's a 400 dollar part plus shipping from Germany. So in the case of a car that won't go, I figure with 100K miles, it's more than likely the actuator or a worn clutch that can be remedied enough by moving the actuator away from the clutch. Worse case scenario will have me tipping the engine down and pulling off the transmission so get into it to replace the clutch. Looks like I need to invest in a set of those E-sockets (reverse torx is what I call them) and get ready to dive-in and go for it. The guy wants under $2000 for it and if it starts and runs good, I think I'll dive in and join the ranks. My Aussie bride commutes 60 miles round trip to work, and she'll be the main driver of this Smart and is all excited. I hope this car is as easy to fix as I think it will be. I plan to go through the brakes, change all fluids, and make it safe for her to drive. I'll even overhaul the engine if I have to. Kits are cheap and the local machine shop and I will work together to make it happen.

It shocks me to see how much the dealers are charging for repairs. I know they gotta make a profit, but I live by the adage if you see a rich mechanic, he's a crook. You gotta be able to sleep at night by helping people - not raping them financially.

I'm open to any tips, warnings, beware of this n thats, etc. I'm new, but love the thrill of learning something new to fix.

Thanks again.

-silent
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post #2 of 154 (permalink) Old 12-19-2016, 04:24 AM
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Welcome to SCoA!
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post #3 of 154 (permalink) Old 12-19-2016, 05:54 AM Thread Starter
 
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Thank you jwight! If I indeed acquire the Smart Car then I will make sure and post pictures of whatever I do it. Maybe I can be of some help to others that way.

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post #4 of 154 (permalink) Old 12-19-2016, 07:59 AM
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If the car will start and idle, I have my doubts about the clutch actuator being the issue. The reason I say that, is the smart goes through a start up sequence. It disengages the clutch before attempting to start the engine. If it doesn't sense the clutch is disengaged, I don't beleive it will try and start the car.

The smart you are looking at may have a gear selector motor issue. If that is the case, your can first try and clean the selector motors. Hopefully that may cure it. If not, you may just need to swap out the trans. smart doesn't service any part of the trans besides the clutch actuator. A good used one shouldn't be too tough to find...
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post #5 of 154 (permalink) Old 12-19-2016, 08:35 AM
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even if you don't acquire the car, welcome to the site!!
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post #6 of 154 (permalink) Old 12-19-2016, 05:11 PM Thread Starter
 
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This is good information to know so thanks for letting me know. Is it possible that the clutch might be shot and when the actuator tries to engage the clutch, the car shifts but just doesn't go? I'll know more when I get to start the car because I can look for error codes and so forth. I'm planning to go look at the car tomorrow so I'll know more and post accordingly at that time. Thanks!

-silent
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post #7 of 154 (permalink) Old 12-19-2016, 11:52 PM
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2008 did have an update for the transmission software and it was one of the symptoms that it would drop out of gear and not move. Happened to mine back in 2008. You may not see an error code as it takes a STARR computer to read the transmission codes, and most of them are at MB dealerships, except for a few.

We have seen clutch actuators with broken components in them, and just plain dried out that have caused problems so it is hard to guess what you might find. Parts are available at salvage yards and Ebay. I got a complete front end repair kit from the guys in California, for just under $1000, roughly $3000 worth of parts so they are out there!

Not sure about my red passion getting a white front end but that is what paint is for...
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post #8 of 154 (permalink) Old 12-20-2016, 08:01 AM Thread Starter
 
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Yes Jim I'm with you here. I've been scanning e-bay and found some good deals on good used transmissions. One guy has the entire rear sub-assembly (engine and all) from a car that was wrecked. Fortunately enough smarts have been out there and wrecked that there are good used parts available with a little bit of effort of looking. My nearest dealer is about 2 hours away, but I have a car trailer and friends with trailers that love road tripping so hauling it up there isn't the end of the world. I can't seem to find a definitive answer on flat towing - some say yes and some say no. I'd love to find a bonafide answer, because I could tow it behind my car with a tow bar which would be the simplest of all options.

I took the day off from work and am heading out shortly with my wife to go have a look. I'm going to really pay attention to what I see on the dash and try to get a look underneath at the clutch actuator for starters. I'm going to listen to the engine for any noises, watch for oil smoke, check oil and fluids, check the speedometer for any wrench signs and 3 bars, check the tires, and really scrutinize it. It's sitting at a repair shop in the parking lot and I suspect in part that it's just too different of a car for this mechanic to work on. It sounds like the customer doesn't want to put any money in it (or can't) and just wants to take the money and buy something domestic they can afford to have fixed. I just can't imagine there is anything that majorly wrong if it starts up. It's gotta be clutch, actuator, or that shifting motor. I'll also try to investigate why it has a salvage title on it by looking for concealed crash damage.

Thanks for your replies - they are always appreciated.

-silent
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post #9 of 154 (permalink) Old 12-20-2016, 08:10 AM
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The sad truth is that these cars originally sold for a low price, and went down in value quickly so it doesn't take much for insurance companies to 'total' them because of the cost to repair them. My 2008 hit a deer this last fall and the repair estimate came to over 3,000. just about the 'value' for the insurance company. I drove it home and plans are to install the front end and keep driving!

Be careful about a cylinder miss as those get mighty expensive if it is valve work (a common problem)
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post #10 of 154 (permalink) Old 12-20-2016, 08:23 AM Thread Starter
 
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Yeah Jim that's one reason I want to really listen close as a car with this many miles on it is a bit of a gamble. I don't really feel like doing a rebuild right off the bat either. When people say a car starts and runs, they don't ever say how many cylinders it's running on! I work on lawn mowers regularly and I've had people bring me riding mowers that said it just wasn't cutting very good. I start it up and right off the bat I hear it running on just one cylinder (on the 2 cylinder models). Usually a fouled plug is the issue from leaving the choke on too long and once I put in a fresh set of plugs, it cuts fine because before it wasn't turning with enough RPMs to cut the grass.

I would really like to do a compression test on the car, but people don't usually let you do those things. They only want $1500 for the car and I'm going to try to get 'em down and offer cash. Then it will give me more wiggle room if I do end up working on the engine a bit. I think you're right about the salvage title thing and the low cost of the car. It's got 100K miles on it and a cracked front bumper. It also doesn't move. The repair bill for that with labor at the dealership probably puts it in salvage status just like that.

BTW: Were you ever on a email list called vintagvw years ago? I ask because of your handle on here.

-silent
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