NHTSA Wants to Know Why Smart ForTwos Keep Bursting Into Flames

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
nhtsa wants to know why smart fortwos keep bursting into flames

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened a preliminary evaluations in response to complaints that Smart ForTwo engines are catching fire before quickly engulfing the car in flames. Eight complaints have found their way to NHTSA about fires in 2008-2009 Four Twos, with six of the incidents occurring while the cars were being driven.

According to the agency, the incidents began with the illumination of the vehicles’ check-engine light, followed by smoke and odd noises. In every occurrence, owners claim the fires quickly spread to the entire car.

In one complaint, the owner of a 2008 Fortwo told NHTSA that he heard a deafening pop behind his head, emanating from the tiny car’s engine compartment. Alarmed, the man pulled over to investigate, only to see flames shooting from the back of the Smart. “Had I not pulled off to the shoulder when I did, my story would not be coming directly from me but from my obituary,” reads the owner’s report. “Mercedes-Benz has been notified of this death trap, yet have not chosen to recall or check into the issue.”

NHTSA will now run a micro-investigation to evaluate if further inquiry and engineering analysis is warranted. If the investigation does leads to a recall, it would affect 42,875 vehicles sold in the U.S. market. Mercedes-Benz, which builds Smart cars, said it is unaware of any injuries related to the incidents.

However, the company may be conducting its own investigation already. It is safe to assume that the fire risk is already on Mercedes’ radar. There’s even an entire website — Smartcarsucks.com — devoted to documenting the fires. The site went up after a Smart owner who watched their Fortwo go up in flames in 2012 decided to warn potential Smart buyers and existing owners of the potential hazard.

[Image: Smartcarsucks.com]

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  • Shortest Circuit Shortest Circuit on Dec 22, 2016

    From experience, either the boost tube blows off or the I/C gets a hole rubbed into it from the console that is supposed to hold it in place (yeah!) and if the turbo seals are worn ('08-09? you betcha) it will spill oil onto the exh. manifold. Said all that, a good shop that knows how many spark plugs are in the 3cyl engine (6, natch) should be able to catch this before an unfortunate conflagration. But that needs experience with Smarts not just any car.

  • NeilM NeilM on Dec 22, 2016

    "According to the agency, the incidents began with the illumination of the vehicles’ check-engine light, followed by smoke and odd noises." Odd noises? Like terrified screaming?

  • Analoggrotto It's getting awful hard to tell these Mercedes apart from one another.
  • Analoggrotto Ah the Fisher Price car for the uncoolest of uncool dad-bods.
  • FreedMike If it were a GLI, it’d be a decent project car. But at the end of the day you have a base Jetta, and those weren’t all that great. Speaking of project VWs - when I was living at my old house a few years ago, one of my neighbors had an OG 1983 GTI sitting on his lawn. Lord, did I want to take that car home.
  • Dukeisduke "Gouging" - lol. California's gas prices are driven by a combination of the highest state gasoline tax in the US (66.98 cents per gallon) and the CARB-mandated California-only boutique fuel blends.
  • Astigmatism Honestly I'm surprised it's not higher. My parents bought two garage spots in Boston for $250k in the 1980s. When I worked in midtown a decade ago, garage spots near my building rented for $500 a month, which would support a $125k mortgage.Places get expensive when lots of people want to live there.