— Multiple smart fortwo fires still have the attention of federal safety regulators as owners report their minicars quickly go up in flames from fires that start in the engine compartments.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation in December 2016 into 2008-2009 smart fortwo engine fires. NHTSA started with eight complaints about fortwo car fires, with six of those complaints talking about drivers seeing smoke, check engine lights illuminated and unusual noises while driving.
Two owners said they didn't discover the fires until after the cars were stopped. But all eight complaints say the fortwo cars were rapidly engulfed in flames, with the cars ranging in mileage from 29,000 to 86,000 miles.
During the initial investigation, NHTSA found more complaints, with 18 fire complaints submitted directly to Mercedes-Benz, the maker of smart cars.
A total of 27 incidents were received about open flames in the engine compartments, with one person claiming they were injured by smoke inhalation. However, Mercedes has investigated only two fire reports and couldn't find a root cause of the problem.
NHTSA turned to the Highway Loss Data Institute for information and determined 2008 smart fortwo cars have a significantly higher insurance claim frequency than their peers.
Owners of the tiny cars complain how quickly the fires sneak up on them before the interiors are melted.
"On july 28 2017 I was driving on the highway and my car "Died". Luckily I was able to coast to the side of the road and the car that was following me also pulled over and the man was yelling that my car was on fire. I had no previous warning. No smell, no sounds, no alarms--nothing other than my car died while I was on the highway."
The owner says they got out to check the situation and saw smoke and small flames, so they went to retrieve their keys and cell phone out of the fortwo while bystanders were screaming that the car was completely on fire.
"By now, only a few minutes later, the rear of my car was entirely engulfed in flames. The smoke inside the car now was thick, grayish in color, while the exterior seemed to me melting before my eyes! The entire car was destroyed. All that is left is the basic metal frame. At this point my car, and virtually everything in it is charcoal."
Multiple smart fortwo cars have went up in flames all across the globe, including in the UK where the government ordered a recall of fortwo models. In the 2014 recall, investigators said a short-circuit could occur in the electronic heater shutoff valve as a result of extended wear, causing the heater shutoff valve to overheat and catch on fire.
The U.S. engineering analysis will continue into about 43,000 smart fortwo cars until safety regulators decide if defects exist that warrant a recall of the 2008-2009 models.
CarComplaints.com will update our website with results of the fire investigation.