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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was driving on dry pavement, curvy mountain road, normal speed. When I lightly applied the brakes going slightly downhill on a right hand corner, it felt like the anti lock braking activated (it had that kind of vibrating braking feel with the associated noise). There was some loss of traction/control because it suddenly massively oversteered (?). It made me drift a bit over the center line toward the oncoming lane.

It only happened for a second or two but it was enough to make me go 'holy crap, what was that'.

I emphasize that I wasn't going that fast and the braking was very light going around the corner.

I was a little freaked out so I decided to try to make it happen again on another slightly downhill RH corner. I gave it a little more brake, but nothing that aggressive, and sure enough, it happened again. Unfortunately a car showed up the other way and the weird effect made me drift toward him. I let off the brakes and the car jerkily recovered but it felt VERY unsafe and unstable.

The first time it happened unexpectedly I was going around 50 mph (gentle curve), the second time, around 25 or 30 (sharper curve).

My observations:
If it was the antilock activating, it surely was not due to hard braking or slippery road.
Antilock is supposed to keep you under control so why did it feel like I was losing control??
Isn't the safety system supposed to keep that drift from happening?
I've had other systems fail and require a restart of the engine (AC and cruise control) so maybe this was the same since it hasn't happened since (but maybe I just haven't been in the right conditions to trigger it).

Any ideas? It was VERY unsettling. My dealer is 2+ hours away and I don't want to take it there for nothing.

I'll be monitoring it very closely.

2016 Passion
 

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Codes? Visual inspection of steering/suspension? Did the ESP light come on when this happened?

Not normal behavior and obviously a safety issue. Unless you have a shop locally with the know how (and a STAR machine) to diagnose and fix the issue, the dealer is your only option. :)
 

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I know you said you weren't going that fast, however I think you probably were going a bit fast for the situation. You admittedly were using your brakes in a turn while going downhill. Your tire likely hit a slippery surface even if you were unaware of it. You could have effectively hydroplaned on water, an oil slick, or sand, etc,.

---------------------Long rant alert, no need to read further for some folks --------------------------

Basically I believe the stability control system engaged as wheel sensors detected slippage from a poor surface. The rear-engine, rear wheel drive car is naturally difficult to control during awkward situations and your car just gave you and the audience of your message some insight into why too much power in the smart 451 was not always a good thing for the mass market. You could scream the smart 451 to its maximum limits and it wasn't powerful enough to get the car into too much trouble. Mainstream folks always wanted more power but deep down inside I knew it wasn't a good thing for everybody.

Fast forward to your 2016 gas smart (I'm assuming it's gas?) and the car has grown up in the sense that the engineers decided to give everybody what they craved: tons more power. And now here's the result. Quite frankly, there really isn't much anybody can do. If the wheels slip and there's some sense of lack of control, then what just happened to you is going to continue to happen. It's more powerful relative to its wheelbase than just about 99.99% of any car most of us have ever driven. Stiffening the suspension would help some, but that's about all you can do.

It's exactly why no matter how much improved the smart 453 is over its predecessors, there's a reason why the Penske-451 offers unique performance attributes worthy of remaining in my garage. I own a Penske Auto Group 451 BRABUS cabrio and a 453 BRABUS cabrio, and they're both keepers because they aren't really the same car. The 451 handling is untouched, insanely stable. The suspension is perfectly stiff. It's strong enough to prevent rebounds in just about any situation. In my opinion it's so perfect that I believe the engineers to a certain extent were just lucky. Penske decided to import the true BRABUS suspension with the BRABUS sports package.

With the 453, the BRABUS versions for the U.S. didn't get the most aggressive Brabus suspension available for its model. That suspension never made it to the U.S. unfortunately. And the 453 has softer dampening which is great for most, but is a disappointment if you compare it to the original U.S. Brabus 451 suspension from '09. The MBUSA 451 Brabus return for MY '13-'15 did not feature the most aggressive Brabus suspensions as far as I know, unless there was some hidden rebadging.

The suspension on my '09 is stamped with the B logo for the front shocks, however on the '13-'15's they're Bilsteins. Maybe the B shocks were rebadged Bilsteins, or perhaps they were a unique shock. Checking the parts database shows cross-reference parts, but that's because even the standard suspension can be fitted to any smart.

With regards to your near spin-out, you can try taking your vehicle to a dealer to ensure your car has the latest software updates and to make sure you don't have any defective abs sensors. One wheel grabbing unnecessarily can exacerbate any handling issues.

Just keep in mind that short wheelbase, rear engine, rear wheel drive is a recipe for erratic handling maneuvers so try your best to be patient and understanding with the car...
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Codes? Visual inspection of steering/suspension? Did the ESP light come on when this happened?

Not normal behavior and obviously a safety issue. Unless you have a shop locally with the know how (and a STAR machine) to diagnose and fix the issue, the dealer is your only option. :)
Have not checked for codes. My dongle is in another state so I have to grab it and check later. No lights on the dash (and I was definitely looking)

Steering and suspension should be fine. Only 20k miles, all driven by me, and no trauma to the front end.

My local Euro shop says they can't do warranty work.

At this point, I'm hoping it was a reset-able system that is back to normal. Cautiously keeping an eye on it though
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I know you said you weren't going that fast, however I think you probably were going a bit fast for the situation. You admittedly were using your brakes in a turn while going downhill. Your tire likely hit a slippery surface even if you were unaware of it. You could have effectively hydroplaned on water, an oil slick, or sand, etc,.

---------------------Long rant alert, no need to read further for some folks --------------------------

Basically I believe the stability control system engaged as wheel sensors detected slippage from a poor surface. The rear-engine, rear wheel drive car is naturally difficult to control during awkward situations and your car just gave you and the audience of your message some insight into why too much power in the smart 451 was not always a good thing for the mass market. You could scream the smart 451 to its maximum limits and it wasn't powerful enough to get the car into too much trouble. Mainstream folks always wanted more power but deep down inside I knew it wasn't a good thing for everybody.

Fast forward to your 2016 gas smart (I'm assuming it's gas?) and the car has grown up in the sense that the engineers decided to give everybody what they craved: tons more power. And now here's the result. Quite frankly, there really isn't much anybody can do. If the wheels slip and there's some sense of lack of control, then what just happened to you is going to continue to happen. It's more powerful relative to its wheelbase than just about 99.99% of any car most of us have ever driven. Stiffening the suspension would help some, but that's about all you can do.

It's exactly why no matter how much improved the smart 453 is over its predecessors, there's a reason why the Penske-451 offers unique performance attributes worthy of remaining in my garage. I own a Penske Auto Group 451 BRABUS cabrio and a 453 BRABUS cabrio, and they're both keepers because they aren't really the same car. The 451 handling is untouched, insanely stable. The suspension is perfectly stiff. It's strong enough to prevent rebounds in just about any situation. In my opinion it's so perfect that I believe the engineers to a certain extent were just lucky. Penske decided to import the true BRABUS suspension with the BRABUS sports package.

With the 453, the BRABUS versions for the U.S. didn't get the most aggressive Brabus suspension available for its model. That suspension never made it to the U.S. unfortunately. And the 453 has softer dampening which is great for most, but is a disappointment if you compare it to the original U.S. Brabus 451 suspension from '09. The MBUSA 451 Brabus return for MY '13-'15 did not feature the most aggressive Brabus suspensions as far as I know, unless there was some hidden rebadging.

The suspension on my '09 is stamped with the B logo for the front shocks, however on the '13-'15's they're Bilsteins. Maybe the B shocks were rebadged Bilsteins, or perhaps they were a unique shock. Checking the parts database shows cross-reference parts, but that's because even the standard suspension can be fitted to any smart.

With regards to your near spin-out, you can try taking your vehicle to a dealer to ensure your car has the latest software updates and to make sure you don't have any defective abs sensors. One wheel grabbing unnecessarily can exacerbate any handling issues.

Just keep in mind that short wheelbase, rear engine, rear wheel drive is a recipe for erratic handling maneuvers so try your best to be patient and understanding with the car...
I understand your skepticism, but I've had this car for 2yrs/20k miles and driven it (sometimes hard) on many mountain roads much worse than this one -- I used to live on this particular road for years so I know every turn and have driven is several times in this Smart with no issue.

Road was dry and clear (believe me, I was hyper alert to road conditions after the first event).

When I say it was light braking at a reasonable speed, I'm not joking. It's what scared me so much -- that such a light brake pedal resulted in this anomaly. This is my second Smart so I'm familiar with their driving idiosyncrasies. I've driven them in all road conditions/altitudes/speeds/surfaces (snow/8k altitude/75 mph speed limit/pacific coast rain/hwy 1/Big Sur/etc). I love the car and consider myself extremely familiar with the unique characteristics.

Trust when I say, this was NOT normal. Especially considering that the stability control is supposed to help keep you in control, not steer you into the oncoming lane, make you feel out of control and scare the bejesus out of you.

I've only had the anti lock brake activate one other time. It was with my 451 when I had to slam on the brakes...hard. It was the same bbvvvvttt sound/feel that I experienced with my event.

I don't drive a lot of mountain road every day but at this point, if it does it again, it's going to the dealer.
 

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I understand your skepticism, but I've had this car for 2yrs/20k miles and driven it (sometimes hard) on many mountain roads much worse than this one -- I used to live on this particular road for years so I know every turn and have driven is several times in this Smart with no issue.

Road was dry and clear (believe me, I was hyper alert to road conditions after the first event).

When I say it was light braking at a reasonable speed, I'm not joking. It's what scared me so much -- that such a light brake pedal resulted in this anomaly. This is my second Smart so I'm familiar with their driving idiosyncrasies. I've driven them in all road conditions/altitudes/speeds/surfaces (snow/8k altitude/75 mph speed limit/pacific coast rain/hwy 1/Big Sur/etc). I love the car and consider myself extremely familiar with the unique characteristics.

Trust when I say, this was NOT normal. Especially considering that the stability control is supposed to help keep you in control, not steer you into the oncoming lane, make you feel out of control and scare the bejesus out of you.

I've only had the anti lock brake activate one other time. It was with my 451 when I had to slam on the brakes...hard. It was the same bbvvvvttt sound/feel that I experienced with my event.

I don't drive a lot of mountain road every day but at this point, if it does it again, it's going to the dealer.
Well.... :shrug:

damn.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Well.... :shrug:

damn.
Let me ask you this, would a stability control event create an entry in OBD log (even if I had no warning lights)?

Also, would a defective ABS sensor create an OBD event?

Because it totally felt like one single wheel decided to go antilock

I had the car at the dealer a few months ago for a couple of recalls and one of them was some sort of software update, so I'm pretty sure it's up to date (but not positive)
 

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Let me ask you this, would a stability control event create an entry in OBD log (even if I had no warning lights)?

Also, would a defective ABS sensor create an OBD event?

Because it totally felt like one single wheel decided to go antilock

I had the car at the dealer a few months ago for a couple of recalls and one of them was some sort of software update, so I'm pretty sure it's up to date (but not positive)
I'm bankrupt of any ideas that are helpful. I am leaning towards believing you ran into a situation that would be considered part of the "normal" design specifications. If it continues to happen though... RED FLAG. If not, I'd consider it an aberration and chalk it up to either you or the car not being perfect, and random bad luck. Life isn't perfect ya know...

There's an ABS light that would remain on if the system sensed an ABS system problem. So, for your situation the answer is no.
 

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Our 17 Cabrio passion has the full Lorinser kit including their springs . That suspension upgrade made for a lower center of gravity and the 17” wheels gave a quicker steer feel .. while on the Smart Rally in the Glen , found out that all the 453’s except a chap that was runnning very worn out tires exhibited this kick in of the system including myself . I’ve lowered the psi in the tires and have vastly improved this from happening, although now I can still get it to happen by getting to the new limits of the system on twisty roads .
 

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If the inside wheel lifted in the tight turn, then the sensor would be doing its job. All cars will do this in a tight high speed turn. Yours may have done the same. Knowledge from racing Corvairs in years past.

MLogan
2014 Smart
Smyrna, TN
 

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Our 17 Cabrio passion has the full Lorinser kit including their springs . That suspension upgrade made for a lower center of gravity and the 17” wheels gave a quicker steer feel .. while on the Smart Rally in the Glen , found out that all the 453’s except a chap that was runnning very worn out tires exhibited this kick in of the system including myself . I’ve lowered the psi in the tires and have vastly improved this from happening, although now I can still get it to happen by getting to the new limits of the system on twisty roads .
I have noticed this as well. If the interior edge of the tires is worn, fuhgetaboutit. The ESP system senses the lack of traction and aggressively intervenes. This is unique to the smart 453's.
 

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I was driving on dry pavement, curvy mountain road, normal speed. When I lightly applied the brakes going slightly downhill on a right hand corner, it felt like the anti lock braking activated (it had that kind of vibrating braking feel with the associated noise). There was some loss of traction/control because it suddenly massively oversteered (?). It made me drift a bit over the center line toward the oncoming lane.

I was a little freaked out so I decided to try to make it happen again on another slightly downhill RH corner. I gave it a little more brake, but nothing that aggressive, and sure enough, it happened again. Unfortunately a car showed up the other way and the weird effect made me drift toward him. I let off the brakes and the car jerkily recovered but it felt VERY unsafe and unstable.

The first time it happened unexpectedly I was going around 50 mph (gentle curve), the second time, around 25 or 30 (sharper curve).

2016 Passion
Does "normal speed" mean at or above the posted speed limit? You describe this event, a right hand (downhill) turn and ended up drifting beyond the center line into oncoming traffic as "oversteer (?)."

Believe this was under steer something that was very inherent (by design) in the 451 and no doubt remains a "feature" of the 453?

In "spirited" driving, smart's short wheelbase + ABS/ESP can make for a thrill ride given the proper conditions . . .

Were these right hand turns "off-camber" or a negative-bank turn? Have you been down this same twisty since in similar conditions?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Does "normal speed" mean at or above the posted speed limit? Yes, at or very near speed limit. You describe this event, a right hand (downhill) turn and ended up drifting beyond the center line into oncoming traffic as "oversteer (?)." I put the question mark because I wasn't sure of the terminology -- under or over steer, but yes, I was holding the wheel as I went around the corner. I then lightly pressed the brake to slow down about 5 MPH when I heard what sounded like the anti lock braking noise and felt traction worsen -- at which point I felt myself drifting toward oncoming lane. As soon as I took my foot off the pedal, the car recovered and jerked back toward my own lane.

Believe this was under steer something that was very inherent (by design) in the 451 and no doubt remains a "feature" of the 453?

In "spirited" driving, smart's short wheelbase + ABS/ESP can make for a thrill ride given the proper conditions . . .I've driven this road in a spirited manner before, this time was not one of them

Were these right hand turns "off-camber" or a negative-bank turn? Have you been down this same twisty since in similar conditions? They were not off camber and I used to live on this road so I have it basically memorized
Let's say that this event was normal, and triggered by my driving. Why in the world did it take a good driving situation and make it worse (tracking nice and secure around the corner then all of a sudden feeling like I wasn't in control). I though stability control was supposed to take a bad situation and make it better -- which is the opposite of what happened to me.

I've been driving the last few days in wet weather and it hasn't repeated, even with me anticipating it, but not trying to initiate it. I'm thinking (hoping) uit was just an errant system that needed to be reset by restarting the car. As I said before, I've had this situation with the AC and thecruise control -- stopped working then started again after restarting the car.
 

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Computers will eventually kill us all ;)

Sorry to read about this. My smart 450 diesel (remapped) has some annoying things, like cutting the fuel for about a second and a half if a rear tire spins a little when cornering and accelerating hard, but it most certainly does not lurch the car into oncoming traffic.

I'd be inclined to report your problem to the NHTSA, as it's potentially lethal in the worst case scenario.
 

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Still think the steering angle sensor may have something to do with it. If the car thinks it’s going straight while you are actually turning it may clamp the outer wheels, pulling you towards the other lane...
 

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Let's say that this event was normal, and triggered by my driving. Why in the world did it take a good driving situation and make it worse (tracking nice and secure around the corner then all of a sudden feeling like I wasn't in control). I though stability control was supposed to take a bad situation and make it better -- which is the opposite of what happened to me.

I've been driving the last few days in wet weather and it hasn't repeated, even with me anticipating it, but not trying to initiate it. I'm thinking (hoping) uit was just an errant system that needed to be reset by restarting the car. As I said before, I've had this situation with the AC and thecruise control -- stopped working then started again after restarting the car.
If you're relying on the safety systems to engage, ABS, ESP, etc, there isn't a guarantee that you'll get the desired results for the given situation. It's why you want to avoid driving conditions challenging enough to force them to engage if at all possible, particularly on roads you share with other vehicles. For example, ABS braking systems have long been known to extend stopping distances (in many situations) while allowing a corrective steering maneuver. Longer stopping distances aren't always desired. But the overall benefits of ABS has outweighed the non-ABS vehicles and crash data has proven it.

With the smart using ESP, it's employing more tricks than simple ABS and perhaps it threw you into a situation that you didn't find preferable for the given moment. But its job is to help prevent you from spinning out, which would be extremely easy to do ordinarily in such a powerful, short wheelbase, rear engine, rear wheel drive car. The 453's would spin out left and right if it wasn't for ESP.

Perhaps you didn't appreciate ESP engaging and leading to what you believe sending you into oncoming traffic during your handling fight, but it is possible that without the ESP you were on your way to a massive spin-out and potentially far worse...
 

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The first year i had my 2016 ForTwo, I experienced the same thing. But in my case, it seemed to only be when i had snow tires on the rear. Now.... i know you're probably thinking "well DUH, there's going to be traction differences if you're using different tires, and stability control is bound to kick in." But it hasn't done it in the past 2 years, whether i have the pair of snows on or all 4 all-seasons. But i'll agree with the OP... it can be a bit terrifying if it catches you by surprise. When it was about to happen, you could hear that it was priming to do something to correct what it felt was... well... INcorrect. It would only give you a second or two of warning before seemingly slamming on the brakes of one of the wheels.

It seems like the stability control just sometimes has a bit of a hiccup every now and then. I've taken my car around tighter corners at higher speeds than when it used to do that to me, and it hasn't happened since.
 
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