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The car: a 2008 Smart Fortwo Passion Cabrio. The Problem: The top doesn't close all the way in the front causing leaks when it rains. Further Problem: Before the car was sold to my mother the used car dealer (my nephew) had someone do something to close the top so it would not open. Whatever this fellow did he charged my nephew 400 bucks to do it and told him it would cost 2400 dollars to fix it proper. That's more than she paid for the car. We were told Not to try to open the soft top although I suspect the fellow may have disconnected the switch to prevent it from accidentally coming open.

I'm interested because she plans to sell me the car when she gets her Mercedes AMG out of the shop. I love the car since I've been working on it for her, it makes me feel young again. (She's 93 and I'm 53 LOL) I'd love to have the convertible function because having one and not being able to use it Sucks.

Here is The Rub. Obviously I cannot afford 2400 dollars to have someone fix it. I know the motor works. I've seen several videos of people working on it and it's got all kinds of parts and pieces that have to all work just right which means it's going to be a Pain to troubleshoot especially since I don't have a Haynes type manual for the complete step by step breakdown and rebuild.

I think it would be Way Easier if I could forego the electric and simply be able to open and close it by hand sliding it along the rails from front to back and vice versa. I wouldn't mind that, if it would help keep the cost down, I've owned a manual convertible top before on a Suzuki Samurai. I don't even know if that's possible with the Smart Fortwo but at least that would keep me from having to deal with linkage and tiny parts that are designed for electric controls that keep the sliding even on both sides.

If that's possible, the large problem will be to find out how the fellow attached the top at the front so it would not leak, free the top so I can manipulate it and then be able to fully open then close it manually. How does the top attach at the front normally when closed? If I knew that, it may help. I just wanna pick you guys brains on these ideas. Thank you!
 

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Why are my posts suddenly " Awaiting approval before being displayed publicly. " ? I've made 16 posts, I try to be nice to everyone and thank them.. now I feel like someone thinks I did something wrong! I find is strange and disconcerting.
 

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Maybe someone with a working convertible top can post pics or a video of it in action. Or advice on where it may be binding. And John Phoenix, try showing the group pics of where the leak is, maybe inside and out?
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Maybe some with a working convertible top can post pics or a video of it in action. Or advice on where it may be binding. And John Phoenix, try showing the group pics of where the leak is, maybe inside and out?
Thank you. Pictures won't show anything because as of now everything looks normal since the fella closed it. You see my mom had borrowed the car from my nephew for a week while her car was in a shop. At the time, it was closed with a bunch of duct tape connecting the top to the car. We found out the motor worked because my mom had accidentally hit the button by the shifter and we closed it before it could fully open. We had to re-duct tape the top to the car. When my mom found out her car had to go back into the shop, she decided to buy this Smart Fortwo from my nephew who then had the soft top re-closed more securely so duct tape would not have to be used.

If I knew if there was a panel or something in the way I could remove to see exactly what the fella did, it might help. I haven't tried to peel back the top upholstery or anything yet.. I don't want to damage anything. Does the top just slide into a groove or something.. and if so, what keeps it closed? If I knew that, I'd be more comfortable trying to move the top back a bit to inspect things and or take pictures. (I may have to pop open the switch to re-connect the power to the switch)

I've looked on many forums and videos and no one has a break down of this system from that I can find. I have read there are few that actually understand this system and many think it was a horrible design to begin with.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
I decided to make a video because I realized everything may not look "normal" as I had thought. This may help you guys help me. Thank you!

Smart Fortwo Roof Problems 1 -->

(video was made from my 35 dollar ZTE Jasper, 5 megapixel smart phone at 2592x1944 resolution on a 400x800 pixel display, so sorry if the video quality is not that good)
 

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NOT a “horrible design” but in fact a rather ingenious cabrio soft top design! After all, how many soft tops can be repositioned at 70 mph?

Convertible tops in general over the years will deteriorate and your MY08 is now 13 years old!!!

The primitive $400 top “repair” is a “hack job” and appears to have PERMANENTLY disabled the top - A BAD DESIGN and likely irreversible...
 

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The primitive $400 top “repair” is a “hack job” and appears to have PERMANENTLY disabled the top - A BAD DESIGN and likely irreversible...
I agree with mb DNA.
I'm on my second smart convertable.
The top can Not be manually operated.
When it closes, it POWER latches closed an snugs tight. $2400.00 sounds about right to correctly repair your the top at a competent shop.
Good luck.
 

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Why are my posts suddenly " Awaiting approval before being displayed publicly. " ? I've made 16 posts, I try to be nice to everyone and thank them.. now I feel like someone thinks I did something wrong! I find is strange and disconcerting.
Sorry about that. It appears that the forum's automatic spam filters were thinking that some of your posts are spam. The silly robots don't always get it right! You should be clear to make more posts. :)

Unfortunately, MB DNA and Jo e Lefors are correct. All convertible tops are known to shrink and deteriorate over time, eventually forcing a repair. Instead of a proper repair, it appears that whoever your nephew hired simply bolted the roof shut.

The best resource for smart repair is Kane Harrison. He runs a brilliant encyclopedia called Evilution.

Even if you did undo the janky fix, I bet you're going to need a new roof. You might be able to save some money by getting a used roof from a wrecked car, but otherwise, the quote you got is about accurate. Even getting a new roof for a more common car like a Miata is pretty pricy.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
NOT a “horrible design” but in fact a rather ingenious cabrio soft top design! - The primitive $400 top “repair” is a “hack job” and appears to have PERMANENTLY disabled the top
I see, Thanks. I'll take your word for it. It wasn't my opinion but I've read that on posts from folks complaining about the problems they were having. I think this was on Fg101 forum. I wish I'd have been able to speak to the fella before he did whatever he did. I'd have told him to find another way.

Miss Mercedes said, "it appears that whoever your nephew hired simply bolted the roof shut. " So what you see in the video, those shiny metal bars are NOT a standard part of the car? ( Just making sure because I never saw how it's actually supposed to look.) Thank you for the info about the forum robots btw.

Jo e Lefors said, "The top can Not be manually operated. When it closes, it POWER latches closed an snugs tight." Thanks for the info.

I've read some posts on it from Evilution but they don't have a lot I can read without paying for the forum. I guess I'll have to look at salvage yards and Hope they know enough to sell me all the parts even if I have to pay someone to install it. I'm retired, on a fixed budget and for me to afford 2400 dollars would take a few years at least. Thanks folks.

Oh.. one last thing.. How do I access that area so I can get a better look at what he did?
 

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Miss Mercedes said, "it appears that whoever your nephew hired simply bolted the roof shut. " So what you see in the video, those shiny metal bars are NOT a standard part of the car? ( Just making sure because I never saw how it's actually supposed to look.) Thank you for the info about the forum robots btw.

I've read some posts on it from Evilution but they don't have a lot I can read without paying for the forum. I guess I'll have to look at salvage yards and Hope they know enough to sell me all the parts even if I have to pay someone to install it. I'm retired, on a fixed budget and for me to afford 2400 dollars would take a few years at least. Thanks folks.

Oh.. one last thing.. How do I access that area so I can get a better look at what he did?
Those shiny metal bars are unfortunately not part of the roof. To get to those bars to remove them, you'll need to take down the headliner. You basically just have to remove the sunvisors on each side and the bolts under them, like so:


A membership at Evilution is $12 and it's the best $12 you'll ever spend on a smart. The site is run by a guy who takes these cars apart to give everyone the kind of service manual that publications like Haynes never bothered to make.

But I would probably refrain from removing those bars right now. Those bars are probably the only things keeping your roof closed.

From the looks of your roof, it looks like the previous owner(s) didn't take good care of it and over 13 years it shrunk to the point where the motor could no longer close the roof on its own. Looks like to solve that problem, the person your nephew paid to fix it just physically shoved the roof closed and bolted it shut. $20 of work at best, sadly.
 
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Dear John,
Run from this "car". It will end up being a money pit. Let's be realistic your smart Wil NEVER be worth more than what your mom paid for it.
First off, I think that $2300 for 13 year old smart convertable with a non-operating top was way too much to pay. Then we have the whole $400 hacked frame job.
Depending upon whether the frame around the windshield was drilled into, the car may never be able to be repaired. If the windshield frame was drilled into, the strength of the frame may have also have been compromised. That frame and the roll bar are the only things keeping you from getting crushed in a rollover.
Just advice from another old smart convertable owner.
I know you don't want to hear it and you'll fight it tooth and nail.
Don't go chasing dimes with dollars. (That would be the actual value of Your smart versus it's repair cost.) Sell the car for what you can it will not be much. Buy a used miata much better car and you can get a real 5 speed trans. Which in my opinion is more fun with a convertible.

Here's a thought. Ask the car dealer grandson what he will give you as trade in. But don't be shocked at his offer. See if he will do Right by his family. You did say he was a dealer, not just a use car salesman. If he is a dealer he would better able to write off the cost of the car better than your mother (God bless her 93 and Still Driving WoW ) or you retired, living on a fixed income.
If he is a dealer, he will access to a lot of auctions an other dealers that sell tradeins wholesale to other dealers.

GOOD smart convertable's
Good luck

Miss Mercedes
Hack job to say the least. But there was some sawing and drilling involved I'd said $50-60 in time and materials.
 

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John
From a few years ago.
Here is a post from a smart owner also in Phoenix. He also had a non operational convertable top.
He even ask twice about and I quote
'Do they make a chiltons or Haynes or guise on how to fix these cars? I can't find any :( and the second time
'Not even a chiltons or Haynes manual is out there'
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Those shiny metal bars are unfortunately not part of the roof. To get to those bars to remove them, you'll need to take down the headliner. You basically just have to remove the sunvisors on each side and the bolts under them, like so:


A membership at Evilution is $12 and it's the best $12 you'll ever spend on a smart. The site is run by a guy who takes these cars apart to give everyone the kind of service manual that publications like Haynes never bothered to make.

But I would probably refrain from removing those bars right now. Those bars are probably the only things keeping your roof closed.

From the looks of your roof, it looks like the previous owner(s) didn't take good care of it and over 13 years it shrunk to the point where the motor could no longer close the roof on its own. Looks like to solve that problem, the person your nephew paid to fix it just physically shoved the roof closed and bolted it shut. $20 of work at best, sadly.
Thank you Ma'am! Much appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Dear John,
Run from this "car". It will end up being a money pit. Let's be realistic your smart Wil NEVER be worth more than what your mom paid for it.
First off, I think that $2300 for 13 year old smart convertable with a non-operating top was way too much to pay. Then we have the whole $400 hacked frame job.
Depending upon whether the frame around the windshield was drilled into, the car may never be able to be repaired. If the windshield frame was drilled into, the strength of the frame may have also have been compromised. That frame and the roll bar are the only things keeping you from getting crushed in a rollover.
Just advice from another old smart convertable owner.
I know you don't want to hear it and you'll fight it tooth and nail.
Don't go chasing dimes with dollars. (That would be the actual value of Your smart versus it's repair cost.) Sell the car for what you can it will not be much. Buy a used miata much better car and you can get a real 5 speed trans. Which in my opinion is more fun with a convertible.

Here's a thought. Ask the car dealer grandson what he will give you as trade in. But don't be shocked at his offer. See if he will do Right by his family. You did say he was a dealer, not just a use car salesman. If he is a dealer he would better able to write off the cost of the car better than your mother (God bless her 93 and Still Driving WoW ) or you retired, living on a fixed income.
If he is a dealer, he will access to a lot of auctions an other dealers that sell tradeins wholesale to other dealers.

GOOD smart convertable's
Good luck

Miss Mercedes
Hack job to say the least. But there was some sawing and drilling involved I'd said $50-60 in time and materials.
I won't run from this car. The engine seems to run very well and I've read where lots of people has 160 plus thousand miles on their Smart cars. I've done a good bit of work cleaning it up, changing fluids, tightening down hoses etc. We are able to pay off the car over time which is a luxury I cannot get anywhere else or with any other car. I'm just going to have to resign myself to keeping the car running and not worry about the roof for now. I'm a tiny man. If I had my way, I'd make the car even smaller. No way I can find anything as small. My nephew does not run a used car dealership. He has a tire place where he sells new and used tires, a car wash and a couple of other businesses. He told my mom he got the ability to sell used cars through the state. I assume he applied for some kind of used car dealership license. Thank you for the information.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
John
From a few years ago.
Here is a post from a smart owner also in Phoenix. He also had a non operational convertable top.
He even ask twice about and I quote
'Do they make a chiltons or Haynes or guise on how to fix these cars? I can't find any :( and the second time
'Not even a chiltons or Haynes manual is out there'
I've seen that post. I guess I can afford 12 bucks for Evilution's forum. I've put together a folder with 24 PDF's about the car, (various manuals) and a bunch of videos found on youtube plus copies of forum posts with tutorials.. it's about 1.6 gigabytes of information. I'm handy with tools being an AC heating and refrigeration technician and have always worked on my own cars. I'll muddle through somehow. Thank you for the information.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Miss Mercedes
Pardon Ma'am. If I make a post it seems to post correctly. If I then edit that post to correct a typo it goes back to the "This message is awaiting moderator approval, and is invisible to normal visitors." stage. Just wanted to let you know. Thank you.
 
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