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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Background: Owner of two 2008 ForTwos, Pure & Passion Cabrio since about 2010. Changed own oil, filters, plugs, coils, pads & rotors, lamps. Fixed the simpler problems, like fuel pump, muffler, seat track lock-up due to penny in track, convertible top gear drive. When I see the same exact problem appear in both my units, I know its broadly affecting the 2008-09 owner population. I feel for us, as we haven't been embraced by the parent of this step-child, like folks highly likely for upward mobility into the pricier choices. No rewriting that history, we accept it, make future choices accordingly, life is short.

Briefly: My 2008 Cabrio with 95K miles began running poorly, coded cylinder #3 misfire, fresh coil no affect, fresh spark plugs the fix. The poor running, combined with progressively less success engaging reverse gear had me down, thinking sell. Running strong again, I wanted to explore some REVERSE GEAR FIX solutions posted here & there in these forums. What can be done, if anything, short of getting out the tools, or asking a dealer for a diagnosis & costs?

Here are 3 things I learned reading about inconsistent reverse gear from this community. Will try to apply them to verify benefit, if any. Not suggesting a simple band-aid solves a catastrophic failure. But if engaging reverse works only sometimes, can I improve the success rate with a simple change in my behavior? I hope the MODs will chime in to clarify any misunderstandings of the processes on my part.

(1) I've read here that performing a transmission re-train, or re-learn (or what is the right process label?) may help address the REVERSE-sometimes-works issue. If I understood the process correctly: foot continuously on the brake, turn key to ON but not start, slowly move gear shifter from P to R & wait (time X, 5-15 seconds?), slowly move shifter R to N & wait (time?), slowly move gear shifter N to D & wait (time?), move shifter leftward into manual mode & wait (time?), continuing the gear shift movement steps rightward to D (auto mode), up to N, up to R, up to P, careful to wait X-time in each position. When finally back to P & waiting X-time, turn key to OFF, release foot from brake, process is complete. I think battery healthy & fully charged may be important here. How long is time X ? I have the impression there is something to hear with some of these gear shifter movements, so X is the time that is required for the transmission to react to each shift movement? MODs, how long is time X ? I attempted this process last night, shivering & wind howling, not really hearing anything, not 100% sure I accomplished anything. Can a MOD clarify how slowly to move shifter gear-to-gear, what should be heard in each move, if anything, how long to wait in each shifter position, & is there anything visual or audible to indicate we completed this process correctly? Any added clarity greatly appreciated.

(2) I've read some have solved or greatly improved REVERSE behavior by consistently adopting use of the Emergency brake, applied in (I guess) a prescribed manner. Surprises me, but desperate & willing to try the plausible: Again, if I've interpreted right, at your destination, engine running, gear in D, foot on brake, I engage the E-brake, move gear selector to P, turn engine off. Next time to go, foot on brake, start engine, gear selector from P to R, R should engage, release E-brake, complete motion in reverse, foot on brake, then shift R to D & go. Is this really going to help? I understand this is good guidance & I've rarely ever used the E-brake, with 99.99% of the time parked near-flat. Yesterday was day #1 trying this & REVERSE WORKED 1st try, sitting 2 hours after a 90-minute drive into Chicago - hooray. Today is day #2, time will tell if this solves, helps, or is nonsense with respect to engaging reverse. MODs, can you add any clarity to this? I plan to adhere to this E-brake use & note the success rate, report it later. Thoughts, Miss Mercedes?

(3) I've read a transmission software update supposedly improved gear selection reliability. My impression is that delays were introduced in how certain events happened internally within the transmission. Electric motors engage & disengage the clutch according to a update-able program (like firmware). Update never mandated by recall, so owner experience getting it varied from happy-courtesy-free to pony-up $300 for a diagnostic fee. Those determined to get the update ranged from got-it-free to paying the diagnostic fee at the dealer, some then learning the update had been applied previously. If I understood the process for how to verify I have the transmission update applied, by holding a (+?) paddle-shifter until the gear display toggles from D (auto) to 1 (manual), allowing a shift-mode change I thought required moving the gear selector LEFT from D.... then I don't have the update. I assume I start the engine, foot on brake, move the gear selector from P to D, then hold-in the + paddle until D toggles to a 1. If I have the process right, my D remains a D, indicating I don't have the update. While some here might urge I request the firmware update to solve a known problem, I kinda dread pleading a case to the parent of my abandoned stepchild. My pleas have been rejected for other worthy 451 issues in the past, so I'm gun-shy. Feel free to encourage me, though. Would the update help? Who knows...

LOL, the $300 diagnostic fee is some magic dealer cash-flow tool that was usually pretty effective at discouraging me from seeking a factory solution. Early on, my driver-side seat belt stopped latching. Push the metal tongue into the receiver like I had the last year, but now it won't latch, just pops back out. Took it to the local dealer in Florida, service insisted they MUST run a diagnostic to help resolve my seat belt issue. Nothing electronic could have influence whether the mechanical operation of the latch worked or not, I tried to point out. I'm an engineer, I said. I don't want to disassemble it to find a dime in the mechanism if I can get it addressed under the extended warranty of the safety restraint system. Would you believe I had to escalate it over a couple days, then they agreed to waive the diagnostic fee, but I was required to pay for the part, not labor, I got it in writing. Job done & settling up, they showed me a bill for parts + labor, held my car hostage. I had to re-escalate it to clarify my bill would be parts only. Like humans everywhere, some will do the right thing first... Live & learn.

If you MODs can corroborate these processes, or set straight any of my misunderstandings, & add clarity where needed, we 2008-09 owners might stretch a little more useful life out of our units before we let-it-go. Maybe you or others know some additional band-aids? What fun these are when working. Be happy. Best, Denny
 

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Interesting post Denny. I never heard of the parking brake fix before, but if it is helping, keep doing it. The software
update may help, and I think your are right about determining if you have it already. The easiest, quickest is the tranny relearn, and I am not sure of the time X, for each position. I always waited a few seconds, and it seemed to help.
So, before you go and pay for the software update, can any one help you with a star system??? For me, the cluch actuator R&R with cleaning and greasing, made a lot of difference. After that I also changed out the tranny fluid as I was doing the R&R on the gear shift motors. Since doing all that, car has shifted much better, although I am a fan of paddle shifting. keep us informed!
 

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I don't use the paddles too much, but I mostly do driving to and from work on country roads with little traffic. I have had the no-reverse problem a few times and have done the trans re-teach, I usually shift and wait until the trans quits making noise before I shift to the next gear, until I hit all the gears.
Hard to justify getting a starr computer for use on just one car. If it could be used on other cars I own, then I would bite the bullet. Otherwise a trip to the dealer is about the only option unless you find a local shop or smart owner with one.
 

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My 2009 has the software update, but still on occasion it will not go into reverse. What typically works for me is to shift first into D then back to R. I suspect a bit of clutch drag which putting it into D stops.

~toaster
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My 2009 has the software update, but still on occasion it will not go into reverse. What typically works for me is to shift first into D then back to R. I suspect a bit of clutch drag which putting it into D stops.

~toaster
There have been past times I've spent minutes in every possible variation of getting into R from elsewhere with no luck. I'm 2 for 2 so far getting into reverse using the set-parking-brake approach. But there is zero chance I'll ever try to parallel park it again, knowing I may need to get in/out of reverse several times, jockeying the car into/out of a slot. Right now, if I can't park then pull through, I just don't park, period.
 

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When I had my 08 pure, setting the hand brake to prevent the car from rocking on the park pawl pin when it was shifted in P helped immensely. Usually always found R next time I got in. BUT,If I forgot and shifted to park before setting the hand brake, it usually couldn't go into reverse after next startup, and R showed as N on the dash with and sometimes without beeps. But then I would go to D, and I'd creep forward a tiny bit, shift to R, and it would then usually (but not always) find R, and I could back up. Keeping the tranny from resting on the pawl pin was important, iirc it's even mentioned in the owners manual.
 

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There have been past times I've spent minutes in every possible variation of getting into R from elsewhere with no luck. I'm 2 for 2 so far getting into reverse using the set-parking-brake approach. But there is zero chance I'll ever try to parallel park it again, knowing I may need to get in/out of reverse several times, jockeying the car into/out of a slot. Right now, if I can't park then pull through, I just don't park, period.
Not really handy for a car many people bought because it could be parked anywhere.
 

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I had a 1965 corvair convert that had no reverse. it would chew up the reverse gear and I drove for a long time without reverse. I would drive part way up a hill next to my parents house, coast down the hill backwards and make a 90 degree turn to roll backwards into the driveway, and into the garage. Then I could drive straight out in the morning. Only missed once or twice, I used the garage so I wouldn't have to put the top up overnight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
(not really) SOLVED, but a pretty good problematic reverse gear work-around. In about 20 out of 20 tries, I can successfully get into REVERSE gear from PARK on the initial try by FIRST always setting the Emergency brake while in DRIVE, then moving the selector to PARK, then turning the ignition off. Later returning to the car, foot on brake, turn ignition to START, engine running, move gear selector to REVERSE, REVERSE engages, then release the parking brake & move the car rearward. It works 20 of 20 times for me. The exact why... I could only speculate on, but won't. I still look for pull-through parking spots because, with this car, it's just prudent. Zero chance I want to parallel park this baby, because I dread the possibility that repeated attempts to get into reverse will be disappointing. But I'm thrilled that I seem to get into REVERSE on the initial try 100% of the time. I'm closer to selling it & feeling good about being able to talk about the unreliable reverse gear, explaining to the prospective new owner that following these steps, reverse is 100% reliable (once). Maybe I can write a STICKY that others can benefit from, I'll start a new thread with these results so it gets the necessary attention.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Many of us with the 2008-2009 451 models have developed trouble at one time or another, getting into reverse gear. Various solutions, including a transmission software update addressed this problem, with varying degrees of success. My warranty period had long expired before the reverse gear issue was a problem. No recall ever drove the update. Some sought & paid for the update. Based on info in these forums, I understand that my ForTwo never got the software update. Fast-forward to 95K miles. I had no confidence that reverse gear would work without luck, a minute shifter-fiddling, maybe turn car off & on again. Frustrated to thinking about letting the 1st of my 2 smarties find a new home, but lamenting how my iffy reverse gear devalues the car.

Then I read everything I could read in these forums about how to cope with iffy reverse. Spent a day or 2. The forums are a goldmine of info.

Here is how I'm near 100% confident that REVERSE gear will work for me on the 1st try - after setting the E-brake during the previous outing, detailed as follows:
  • Always set the Emergency brake while in DRIVE, engine running, then moving the selector to PARK, then turning the ignition off.
  • Later returning to the car, foot on brake, turn ignition to START, engine running, move gear selector to REVERSE, REVERSE engages, then release the parking brake, release foot brake & move the car rearward.

In about 20 out of 20 recent tries, maybe more, I've successfully gotten into REVERSE gear 100% of the time from PARK on the initial try by FIRST simply following this procedure. The exact why... no idea. Will it always work? No promises. I still look for pull-through parking spots because, with this car, it's just prudent. Zero chance I want to parallel park this baby, because I dread the possibility that repeated attempts to get into reverse will be frustrating. Yes, it's ironic that a car promoted for ease of parking became devilishly difficult to get into reverse gear. But I'm thrilled that I seem to get into REVERSE on the initial try 100% of the time. I'm closer to selling it & feeling good about being able to talk about the once-iffy reverse gear, explaining to the prospective new owner that following these steps, reverse is 100% reliable (once). Hope this is worthy of a STICKY that others can benefit from.
 
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