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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The steering on one of my two 2008 ForTwos, my Pure (81K miles) locked up this morning, engine running or not. Car definitely has power steering, historically was easy to steer, but the steering wheel felt like it was mechanically locked in place.

Running car shifted into forward & reverse, moved straight forward & backward. The steering wheel moved just a few degrees, maybe the right amount of play in a steering coupler.

26 degrees now, but the Smart has seen much colder in 12 Chicagoland winters.

I’ve read in our other threads that we have no anti-theft-purposed mechanical steering lock, & that power steering is electric-assist, & there can be no steering fluid issues.

The few posts I’ve found of locked steering behavior like mine invariably end with no resolutions posted - the OP doesn’t describe the failure mechanism or the resolution / fix.

Decided to warm the car interior on high heat for 30 minutes & then recheck. Steering was still locked. Looking under the dash, I tugged on the wheel, saw that slight steering wheel movement caused the steering shaft to rotate slightly where it disappeared through the firewall, looked outside at the tires to see any tire movement, NONE…. Another steering wheel tug…. It rotated freely.

No click, no bang, no audible hint anything had changed…. but the steering wheel was free.

Helluva thing, the steering locking up. It was about 9:45a this morning I noticed it locked. The lock cleared a few minutes ago, about 12:30p.

Not looking for speculation on the many potential locked-steering causes. Anyone here KNOW what ultimately caused any of our steering locked behaviors & what the fix entailed?
 

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There were not that many Pure's sold that had power steering but it was an option on 451's. If your car has power steering, you will see a steering wheel icon in the right hand cluster display when the key is turned to position @1.
To diagnose your concern with locked steering, first place I would look is the steering shaft coupler. If the coupler seems okay, I would disconnect the outer tie rod ends from the steering arms and then turn the steering wheel. If the steering wheel turns easily and the rack goes back & forth, I would look at the upper strut bearing plates but this would be a rare occurance. I have heard of steering shaft couplers coming apart and binding the steering wheel.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
My Pure is definitely power steering equipped (way easier to steer than my Cabrio w/o power steering), it's listed on the window sticker, & I do get a steering wheel icon above the engine icon with key in ON position. FWIW, I did have a ck engine lamp, the code was an irrelevant P0497, some sort of emissions-related code, I cleared it.

The car has sat unused last ~ 30 hours. Tonight I started the car, steering was locked again. Left running, max heat/fan ON, after about 30 minutes, I checked the steering, still locked, but released after maybe another minute. No idea if engine warm-up or passenger compartment warm-up is relevant.

Browsed the NHTSA.gov site for 451-model steering related complaints, there are some like mine (steering locked at start-up), at least one the steering locked while driving. No apparent investigations for steering defects. As usual, too few vehicles with too few complaints to merit much national concern for mass traffic safety.

It's getting dang cold out, so car may sit quite a while until, idunno.... Spring.
 

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My Pure is definitely power steering equipped (way easier to steer than my Cabrio w/o power steering), it's listed on the window sticker, & I do get a steering wheel icon above the engine icon with key in ON position. FWIW, I did have a ck engine lamp, the code was an irrelevant P0497, some sort of emissions-related code, I cleared it.

The car has sat unused last ~ 30 hours. Tonight I started the car, steering was locked again. Left running, max heat/fan ON, after about 30 minutes, I checked the steering, still locked, but released after maybe another minute. No idea if engine warm-up or passenger compartment warm-up is relevant.

Browsed the NHTSA.gov site for 451-model steering related complaints, there are some like mine (steering locked at start-up), at least one the steering locked while driving. No apparent investigations for steering defects. As usual, too few vehicles with too few complaints to merit much national concern for mass traffic safety.

It's getting dang cold out, so car may sit quite a while until, idunno.... Spring.
My 2011 Pure, no power steering, no power windows, liked those features. One could simply replace power steering unit with manual system and your problem is solved. Check for recycling yards for used unit, used parts can not be that expensive. My 2014 BWM I3 has electric power steering that on occasion quits working, but still functions with regards to steering car. After power cycle it seems to resolve problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Janko: Unlike your I3 which continues to steer manually, my Pure does not, it is locked. I might explore replacing the power steering unit.... if I actually knew the power steering unit was the issue. If my power steering unit failed, shouldn't I see that STEERING-WHEEL-BALLBAT idiot lamp illuminated on the dash?

No point driving it to the dealer, the $300 diagnostic will certify that the steering is obviously working fine.

Surely someone in this community has had this issue & solved it.... right?
 

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Think you are right about waisting $$$ on diagnostics. If your steering rack has mechanical failure, diagnostics maybe able to detect electric motor failure, or related some limit switch malfunction... not much else. Can you lift front end on jacks/blocks ( wheels in the air ) & then rotate steering wheel? without ignition switch on?
Just a simple DIY diagnostics test. Alternate idea: take car to independent shop (not dealer) to check front end. There is no CV joint on Smarts on front end, RWD car.
My original idea, case your steering rack is defective... replace with manual rack, may find used unit on web.
Smart cars are very light on front end, and narrow front OEM tires make steering easy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for continued input. I'm in a warmer place from now into February. Don't need it on the road near-term, so no plan to poke around on it until Spring. Sure I can raise the front & have a closer look underneath at that point. Wherever it is binding, it is forward of the firewall. When steering is (somehow) locked, I can move the steering wheel slightly & see the steering connecting rod rotate slightly where it passes through the firewall.

It's just confounding that the steering transitions from perfectly-locked to perfectly-power-assisted steering wheel movement in an instant (though it may have been locked 30+ minutes) with no hint that anything changed whatsoever.
 

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Hi, here is another possible issues on Smart car... steering column universal joint. There is one next to steering rack, one inside car. Suspecting outside joint need lube job. Check web on
Seized steering column universal joint ( smartmaniacs.co.uk), image with lower joint. There is another inside car.
65137
 

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Maybe your power steering system is fine, but steering column universal joint is going bad. Since there is NO lube point on these, spray penetrating/ lubricant like PB blaster externally, then rotate. Give it some workout. If this makes a difference I would replace steering column universal joints... critical to your safe driving.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I did get a pm reply from logan74k concerning an 18-month old post of his concerning locked steering on his 2008 ForTwo, which remains unrepaired. I hope he will share details of his locked steering experience on this thread as well.
 

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So I’m struggling with the same issue. The car had been in storage for more than a year and the battery had died and has been replaced. Car starts fine and all electronics seem to work fine. The only warning light that is on is the airbag light. The car has power steering and it does not feel like any sort of mechanical break down. The wheel feels like an old school wheel lock is on, though I know the car does not have that feature. Had anyone come up with a diagnosis or even better a fix for this?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
UPDATE: We wintered in Florida. Before I could re-visit my '08 PURE stuck steering this spring, the grand-daughter driving my '08 Cabrio reported mid-winter a piece of trim under the door partly coming off of it. Years ago I'd lost the same piece of trim when I hit a big water puddle really fast, got home an hour later, trim missing, ugh. So I asked her to see if the PURE steering was still a problem. I seem to recall it was initially balky for a few days. Then... steering back to normal. She's very on-the-go, frequent daily trips to work & the YMCA. She's now driven it months since with no mention of stuck steering again. Will do another update if / when steering acts up again. Thanks for all the good input suggesting where I might lubricate steering mechanics to fix a problem that. at least temporarily, has gone away.
 
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