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Of course! And as you know, humility is my best quality! LOL

Thank, Kenny,

I did the Google search and learned quite a bit about head gasket failures,  Here is a great explanation of the same problem in Subarus:

When the gaskets are starting to fail, some of the combustion gasses (exhaust usually) are forced past the thin metal head gasket into the cooling system. Little by little these gasses accumulate in the cooling system and begin to create an “air pocket” if you will, inside of the engine cooling system. Depending on where this air pocket circulates to, or how large it is, it can create numerous issues. If it becomes trapped around the water pump or thermostat it can prevent coolant from flowing through the engine, which results in almost immediate overheating. 

It does not appear that coolant is being lost through the head gasket as you have suggested...but rather air pockets (created from blow by gasses) screw  up the cooling process and then overheating occurs. If there is a loss of coolant, that would suggest another source of the problem rather than the head gasket.  At least that is how I understand the problem.  Coolant loss will cause overheating which put a lot of stress on the head gasket...maybe even cause it to fail...but the overheating seems to come before the head gasket.

Is that how you understand it?

Dave

yup

The paranoia here is senseless.  The smart car engine is rock solid.  Durable, reliable, strong, stout, etc,. Under proper maintenance, the vast majority of the engines will provide hundreds of thousands of miles and decades of service without issue.  

These head gasket "issues" were caused by other problems that went undetected by vehicle owners who continued driving without sufficient coolant circulating in the system and therefore they caused the head gasket failures.  Perhaps a few of these people had a hose prematurely fail, lost coolant, drove until the engine cooked and then alleged that the temperature light failed to illuminate on time. 

There is plenty of reason to believe that the light DID illuminate and the driver simply did not see the light until it was too late.  But, I can concede that argument and the "temperature light failed to illuminate" problem is extremely rare.

If the engines were poorly assembled with bad head gaskets from the factory, the symptoms would show long before sudden catastrophe.  Engines with bad head gaskets don't run perfectly at 5:00pm and then suddenly fail out of the blue at 5:01pm.  

Simply checking the coolant overflow bottle every once in a while would have indicated coolant consumption by the engine prior to the point of being stranded.  

There would have been drivability issues that would have caused hesitation, stumble on acceleration, misfiring, check engine lights, failed emissions tests, basically a combination of some or all of the above.  Air bubbles in coolant overflow, oil on the dipstick developing a 'contaminated with milk or chocolate' appearance, a flickering temperature light that comes and goes as the temperature gets hot while idling/driving and cooling while idling/driving, sweet smelling exhaust, etc,.

The smart car engine is perfectly fine.  There is nothing wrong with how it was designed and engineered.  It's actually an excellent design and was beefed up with higher quality engine components than a 3 cylinder of another brand would have been.    

The water pump is a strong, well built, long lasting unit with excellent quality.  The radiator is all aluminum and won't suffer from the same heat-related fatigue plastic cracking that far too many Japanese, Korean, and American radiators deal with.  Not to mention the fact that the smart car comes equipped with a large radiator that is easily sufficient for a 1.0L 3-cylinder motor.  

Our radiator is of better build quality, and larger size, than the plastic tanked radiator of a certain other competing car (I'll let somebody here figure out the model).  

The point is to stop worrying.  Check your hose connections every ~20k(?) per manual recommendations, ensure you have a full overflow bottle of coolant (max/min lines), and the engine is going to run and run and run for many years to come.

The water pump is still fine for a few more years at least.  The thermostats are likely still good.  I have over 171,000 miles on my 2009 smart and it is no coincidence.  I've learned lots over the years fixing and repairing vehicles, including rebuilding a 3.8L V6 engine with a blown head gasket, and getting many other vehicles beyond 250,000 and 300,000+ miles over the years.  

Don't believe the negative hype coming from people who don't own the smart car, drive very few miles in them and then suddenly become smart car critics with all the answers, or those who don't understand the difference between a defective head gasket vs. blown head gasket as the end result of another problem, or from those who fail to identify their sources of information.

Good luck and happy driving.  Drive your car with confidence because you have nothing to worry about!!

There Kamaal goes again -- every owner with a problems is an idiot and it's their fault! If they were a superior life-form like Kamaal, they'd have no issues!

30K with a failed head gasket and you are going to blame the owner? You are simply clueless.  Please do EVERYONE a favour and just don't post any more. You know you could have been so helpful, but you just can't make the connection to reality. What a waste of electrons!

Kamaal,

I would suggest that many smart car people are not car enthusiasts...but rather just like driving the car. These common people do  not look at hoses and while they  may know where the service flap is...they are not prone to look for anything underneath it.

While I am very sensitive to new or unusual sounds...my wife would have no clue if something started to go bad. Our expectation is that the car will tell us when it needs attention...Ooh, the fuel door flap is open...the tires are a little low on air...something needs to be looked at in the engine.

With that said, Kenny, I have seen no significant pattern of engine failures that would suggest a significant design problem (other than the crazed roof).  While improvements will be made all the time based on small numbers of incidents, MB needs to make sure they do not take on the liability for every engine problem that folks may experience.  To MB's credit, because of the new 48k warranty, they will now handle a 30k engine failure.

I will go on driving this car like I have the previous 20 cars I have owned...except I have a can of goop and a cell phone instead of a spare tire...and I no longer drive around with a tool box in the trunk like I did 30 years ago.

I am not worried...I am happy.  For those who have a tendency to worry...go for the extended warranty.  For those who like talking up the virtues of how they care for their own car...please do.  But please do not blame others for not thinking/acting the way you do...

Dave

Not being an engineer I can't claim total expertise here but isn't water (coolant) basically incompressible?  Otherwise, how would hydraulic cylinders work?  If the coolant system is at max capacity, how do the exhaust gases leaking from the head gasket "force" their  way into the liquid coolant?  If they do, where does the coolant they displace go?  I've always understood that the indication of a leaking head gasket was coolant in the oil - in other words, the coolant has a path into the cylinders through the breach in the head gasket. 

Dave Levin said:

Thank, Kenny,

I did the Google search and learned quite a bit about head gasket failures,  Here is a great explanation of the same problem in Subarus:

When the gaskets are starting to fail, some of the combustion gasses (exhaust usually) are forced past the thin metal head gasket into the cooling system. Little by little these gasses accumulate in the cooling system and begin to create an “air pocket” if you will, inside of the engine cooling system. Depending on where this air pocket circulates to, or how large it is, it can create numerous issues. If it becomes trapped around the water pump or thermostat it can prevent coolant from flowing through the engine, which results in almost immediate overheating. 

It does not appear that coolant is being lost through the head gasket as you have suggested...but rather air pockets (created from blow by gasses) screw  up the cooling process and then overheating occurs. If there is a loss of coolant, that would suggest another source of the problem rather than the head gasket.  At least that is how I understand the problem.  Coolant loss will cause overheating which put a lot of stress on the head gasket...maybe even cause it to fail...but the overheating seems to come before the head gasket.

Is that how you understand it?

Dave

coolant can also leak into the cylinders, and when the cylinder is under max pressure (TDC or when the engine fires) will exert 100-200 PSI which is a greater force than the pressure in the cooling system, The radiator cap is designed to release extra pressure which goes into the overflow tank. Thus you get air in the cooling system. There are devices that check for exhaust gases in the cooling system which help to pinpoint head gasket leakage. 

If the system is blowing coolant into the overflow bottle, you won't see any coolant on the floor. You also may see oil in the cooling system. 

Makes sense - another reason for checking under the "hood" at regular intervals per the owners manual.  In the end, checking for leaks, etc. is always going to be an owner's responsibility.

Jim VW said:

coolant can also leak into the cylinders, and when the cylinder is under max pressure (TDC or when the engine fires) will exert 100-200 PSI which is a greater force than the pressure in the cooling system, The radiator cap is designed to release extra pressure which goes into the overflow tank. Thus you get air in the cooling system. There are devices that check for exhaust gases in the cooling system which help to pinpoint head gasket leakage. 

If the system is blowing coolant into the overflow bottle, you won't see any coolant on the floor. You also may see oil in the cooling system. 

DAve,

I agree, and I'm not saying it is necessarily wide-spread -- that simply isn't known. It's certainly not unheard of and several on the SCOA board for instance discovered rubbing hoses after being alerted to the issue, and there have been several reports of head gasket/overheating issues.  The unfortunate part is that virtually all of them claim there was no warning; and, it seems the going rate to put them right was $4-6K. I'm merely saying that this would certainly be upsetting if it happened -- especially if the engine were low-mileage (which some apparently were). It' not something I wold worry about either -- I think you are spot-on with that.  I just irks me when talking head constantly blame the owner as though there can never be anything wrong with a smart.  Look, no car is perfect, not even a smart.  If the problem is really isolated, the it wouldn't be that big of deal for MB to step in and at least cover a portion of it.  That was done on my Honda when the transmission didn't meet expectations, and also was done on my ford when they had head gasket issues (even though both were out of warranty).  This is how you build customer loyalty. You take care of them sometimes when the warranty doesn't quite fit. May of the smarts don't get driven much and I remember several that aged out and then had shifter problems even though the mileage was well below the warranty. To be fair it was under Penske as the time, but rather than step up they let it slide. It will be interesting to see, in the end, how wide-spread the problem becomes, and what, ultimately, MB decides to do about it.

Jim is right on -- the flow can go both ways, but I think generally the water gets sucked into the cylinder and then out the tail pipe.  If it bad, you can see white smoke (been there saw that!), but if it's a minor leak then it can happen without much warning -- same with the rubbing hose.  Honestly -- these days how often do any of you check your coolant?  I mean 30 years ago I used to check it all the time, but these days cars are so reliable AND it's a closed system that regular checking simply isn't normally required (plus most new cars the coolart is good for 5-7 years and 100K miles before it needs to be messed with!).  It's probably a good idea to do though now that there is an awareness of the issue.

Not so many years ago, when there were SERVICE STATIONS instead of convenience stores with fuel pumps, and there were individuals that filled your car for you, they would check under the hood for problems, oil level, belts, hoses, coolant level, etc. Once they let all them go for the convenience of filling the car yourself, the responsibility for what happens in the engine compartment changed to the owner. 

Back when I worked at a service station, the pump guy would sell more repairs at the pump than anybody. 

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