Smart Cars Under Investigation After 8 Reports Of Engine Fires

Image courtesy of StevenW.

There are a lot of things you don’t want to happen to your car, but having it go up in flames for no apparent reason is likely close to the top of the list. Yet, that’s apparently occurred to eight Smart vehicles in the last two years. 

As a result, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced this week that it had opened a preliminary investigation into 42,875 model year 2008 to 2009 Fortwo vehicles.

According to NHTSA’s preliminary evaluation notice [PDF], the agency’s Office of Defects Investigation has received eight complaints from consumers related to incidents in which the engine compartment – located in the back of the vehicle – caught fire.

The owners reported that the fires occurred both when the car was in use and while it was parked.

In six of the incidents, owners reported that the vehicles filled with smoke, the check engine light illuminated, or they heard unusual noises while driving. Two other incidents were not detected until the vehicles had stopped.

All eight incidents ended with the vehicles completely engulfed in flames. No injuries were reported.

While the vehicles are seven to eight years old, the incidents occurred more recently with five taking place in 2015 and three in Oct. 2016.

The owner of a 2008 Fortwo reported to NHTSA’s database that her son was driving down the road when he noticed smoke in the floorboard.

“He went to turn around when he noticed fire in the back/engine area of the car,” the complaint states. “He was able to get out of the car and ran to a house to call 911. As the home owner was calling they heard the car explode. The entire car burned with only the metal frame of the car, seats, etc. left standing.”

In another complaint, filed in Jan. 2015, owners of a 2008 Fortwo say they drove about 12 miles before parking the car in a friend’s driveway.

“In about 10 to 15 minutes there was a knock on the door by a neighbor who said ‘your car is on fire,’” the owner wrote.

The driver of a 2009 Fortwo tells NHTSA that while driving in November 2015, he began to smell smoke.

“I look to the right side onto the mirror and its smoke coming from the backside of my car,” the complaint reads. “Open the back to look at the engine, a lot of smoke incoming out and as the smoke is clearing my friend sees flames and we quickly grab a hose and call 911.”

NHTSA says its evaluation will assess the cause, scope, and frequency of the issues.

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