Will your engine survive when a sudden loss of radiator coolant occurs?

We’ve all been there or seen it happen at some time.  Driving down the road maybe on a vacation trip and a radiator or heater hose suddenly bursts and you’ve run out of radiator coolant.  Often times you won’t even notice the problem until a warning lights up on the instrument panel.

In my case, my smart car lost coolant and the engine overheated but never gave me an over temperature indication on the instrument cluster. Only when the coolant temperature sensor failed due to excessive heat in the cylinder head, did I get any indication that something was wrong with the engine. Unfortunately by then it was too late and severe damage occurred to the engine.

Now I would think that the coolant temperature sensor would indicated a problem if the coolant operating temperature was too low or too high but the sensor has to make contact with the coolant to get an accurate measurement. In this case however, the coolant stops making contact with the sensor so I’m assuming that some intermediate dry air temperature was probably measured so no trouble was seen by the sensor.

I realize that quite a few of you reading this already have a scan gauge II plugged into your OBDII port and can read coolant temperature but isn’t that temperature coming from the same coolant temperature sensor that I’m currently having issues with?

I know that this is a very common single point failure on any car with a coolant system. As these coolant systems age, I expect a whole lot more engine failures in the future. Other manufactures provide at least a low coolant indicator.  Others may have a secondary sensor monitoring the head temperature.  I would think that Mercedes/Mitsubishi engineering would have a solution that would give some indication of a problem long before engine failure. 

Tags: coolant, engine, failure, loss

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I don't know if anything can really save you in the event of a burst hose/rapid coolant loss.  We have a '91 Mercedes 420SEL.  It is a low mileage car and sometime during my college years (94 - 98) we were driving to school when we got a burst upper hose.  (Mind you in this car the engine is in the front.  I don't think you'd catch it with the engine in the back.  Maybe you'd be able to smell it?)  All I saw was a slight puff of "smoke" coming out the edges of the hood.  I immediately decided to look at the instrument cluster, and I can remember seeing the low coolant light come on as the coolant temp. gauge rapidly climbed towards the all so deadly 120 degrees C (a red marking is at the edge of this marker).  Luckily we were able to pull off the freeway onto an off ramp and turn off the engine just before it hit this mark!

Rubbing is definitely a big problem for those who have that issue!  There could also be an issue with temperatures in such a small confined engine compartment fatiguing the hose.  (I notice the coolant temp. gauge on our '92 190E fluctuates much more as compaired to the 420SEL.)   Problems could also reside in bad hoses/supplier issue.  I must say rubbing and a bad batch of hoses should result in widespread problems.

Ask yourself, "Why isn't there a voluntary recall to correct this defect in manufacture?"

Think about this question when they're trying to get you to trade up to a new one and ask them....

Just a guess on  my part - because it isn't a defect in manufacture.... If it was, every single early smart would exhibit the problem and they don't.  Worth a look by the owner (or dealership if you prefer), simple to fix if the problem is found.

Larry Butler said:

Ask yourself, "Why isn't there a voluntary recall to correct this defect in manufacture?"

Think about this question when they're trying to get you to trade up to a new one and ask them....

Do you all realize how simple the computer solution is for this problem?  The cooling system needs two more sensors.  One located in the cooling passage of the head at #1 cylinder to see if there is any water in there BEFORE IT WILL START.  Then, after X minutes, the computer notices the second sensor which is a PRESSURE sensor to see if the cooling system is properly pressurizing itself.....It's that simple....almost as simple as a stupid pressure sensor to determine if the damned thing has CORRECT FUEL PRESSURE or not, another idiotic thing wrong with this car.  It doesn't even know if the fuel pump is running!

SMART it's NOT.  I think for $19000 we can afford these three simpleton additions without eating up the company's profit margins.

For $60.95 I purchased an UltraGauge which I simply plug into my ODB port.  It tells me countless -- and I mean countless -- bits of info for my little 2011 Munchkin, including trouble codes and pending trouble codes.  I can commend one of these to any smart smart owner/driver -- particularly those who elect to purchase a marvelous little car and then criticize them because some particular gauge is absent.  I will hazard a guess that one's particular choice of missing gauge can be made to appear before him or her at all times.  The information is there already, in your ODB port, you only have to pull it out and read it.  My UltraGauge gives me a great sense of confidence, which lets me have even more fun with Munchkin, not having to worry about symptoms of sickness not yet visible -- which gives me the opportunity for treatment of that sickness before her untimely and unexpected disablement or death.

Available here:  http://www.ultra-gauge.com/ultragauge/index.htm 

I would suggest that you at least take a look at the info this gauge can offer before being scared off by the price.  If Daimler Benz had installed each of these available gauges in separate instruments on your instrument panel in Hambach your panel would be larger than the car and your little smart would probably have been unaffordable.

Jim, College Station, Texas 

Diane, sorry to hear this.  You may need a lawyer to put pressure where it's needed to get this sorted out.  If the coolant cap was removed by the service company and then the car lost coolant, it's a 99.9 percent chance they didn't reinstall it correctly.  If you look at that cap when it's on it simply will not "blow off."  There have been several engine failures due to coolant loss - when the cap is involved it's pretty much human error at fault. Hope things work out for you and your smart is back on the road soon.

Diane Elmore said:

This whole scenario just happened to me on Thursday, a 2012 Smart at 7827 miles.  A one-year-old.  I didn't get any warning but the little picture of the engine. Grabbed my book to see what it meant.  Pull off freeway immediately!  I pulled off the freeway at next exit and it died.  Had to be towed to dealer.  Dealer called and said my engine blew up, and it was the fault of the service company that did my oil change at 7500.  Service company says, no way was this caused by them.  Now the fight begins.  Called Smart Car USA and was told an investigation will begin on this.  I'm a 61 year-old single female who knows nothing about Smart Cars.  I have just started learning.  No one advised me about coolant caps, no temperature gauge, nothing.  I don't know how to open the front hood, nor the back engine area, nor do I know how to change oil.  What's worse is I am on SSDI and what can I afford?  I purchased the extended warranty, etc., when I bought it.  I am so upset, I can't quit crying when I think about it.  I hate being in limbo.

Hi Diane, 

You took the next best step which is to call Customer Care. Please keep us informed of what the outcome is if it's not too much to ask. I am confident they will help you.

Eric

Diane Elmore said:

This whole scenario just happened to me on Thursday, a 2012 Smart at 7827 miles.  A one-year-old.  I didn't get any warning but the little picture of the engine. Grabbed my book to see what it meant.  Pull off freeway immediately!  I pulled off the freeway at next exit and it died.  Had to be towed to dealer.  Dealer called and said my engine blew up, and it was the fault of the service company that did my oil change at 7500.  Service company says, no way was this caused by them.  Now the fight begins.  Called Smart Car USA and was told an investigation will begin on this.  I'm a 61 year-old single female who knows nothing about Smart Cars.  I have just started learning.  No one advised me about coolant caps, no temperature gauge, nothing.  I don't know how to open the front hood, nor the back engine area, nor do I know how to change oil.  What's worse is I am on SSDI and what can I afford?  I purchased the extended warranty, etc., when I bought it.  I am so upset, I can't quit crying when I think about it.  I hate being in limbo.

You car is covered by a 48 month/50,000 mile limited new car warranty so you should be certainly covered. Again, please keep me posted. 

Diane Elmore said:

Geez, nothing like kicking a person when they are down.  I don't think the operations manual mentions a defect in coolant caps, or did I miss something?  It seems to be a common complaint.  I am not dumb and I have been around the block a few times.  The car only had 7827 miles on it when this happened.  IF I had been informed of this type of situation, I doubt seriously I would have ignored it!

Putt Putt said:

A huge question is why did cars destined for the US market have the engine temp gauge omitted.  In every other market in the world (including our neighbors in Canada) the cars HAVE this guage.   Is the American market that dumb that we forget how to read an instrument cluster?   I'm sorry if that very idea gets in the way of people's ability to text while driving. 

The car itself is very smart....There are just a few not so smart owners and that's where a lot of problems occur....The owner's manual should be read BEFORE ever driving the car NOT after a failure and a light comes on.   One doesn't close the barn doors after the horses run out, right?

Just sayin'

Thank you for closing the loop on this and passing on the info about smart USA resolving the issue.  It's a little troubling that the reason is unknown but I guess we'll have to live with it.  Make sure you get a new start date for the engine warranty when the car is repaired.

Diane Elmore said:

As I told the SoCalSmarties, I am very happy to say that my engine is being replaced by Mercedes Benz.  It turns out that it is one of those unknown reasons for the mishap.  The car has gone through a complete investigation and there is just no definite answer as to what caused it to die.  But alas! my Steeler Smart will rise again, just like the Pittsburgh Steeler's will do after their loss this year.  Maybe my car had sympathy hurts when all those players got hurt which started the cycle of doom for the team this year.  They kinda died this year playing wise, so my car died too...who knows?  My car and I are VERY loyal fans..........;-)

I want to thank everyone at Mercedes Benz, at Smart, and all those who responded to my crisis.  I remain Black & Gold...Diane

I am sorry to hear a new engine is required, but I am glad it worked out. Thanks so much for the update.

Diane Elmore said:

Thanks, I will.
jwight said:

Thank you for closing the loop on this and passing on the info about smart USA resolving the issue.  It's a little troubling that the reason is unknown but I guess we'll have to live with it.  Make sure you get a new start date for the engine warranty when the car is repaired.
Diane Elmore said:

As I told the SoCalSmarties, I am very happy to say that my engine is being replaced by Mercedes Benz.  It turns out that it is one of those unknown reasons for the mishap.  The car has gone through a complete investigation and there is just no definite answer as to what caused it to die.  But alas! my Steeler Smart will rise again, just like the Pittsburgh Steeler's will do after their loss this year.  Maybe my car had sympathy hurts when all those players got hurt which started the cycle of doom for the team this year.  They kinda died this year playing wise, so my car died too...who knows?  My car and I are VERY loyal fans..........;-)

I want to thank everyone at Mercedes Benz, at Smart, and all those who responded to my crisis.  I remain Black & Gold...Diane



Jim and Ann Brown said:

If Daimler Benz had installed each of these available gauges in separate instruments on your instrument panel in Hambach your panel would be larger than the car and your little smart would probably have been unaffordable.

Jim, College Station, Texas 

Staring at a $7000 repair bill on the little fork lift engine, I'd say our little Smarts are, already, unaffordable for people in this situation.....Just $500 to get the dealer to kick the tires and change the oil is about my limit.

Glad it worked out Diane. Thanks for sticking with us. Safe travels.

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