Kelsey18

2006 Fortwo Diesel Winter Driving?

16 posts in this topic

Hey folks! New member and Smart driver here. I got my 2006 Fortwo in May (Diesel engine) so it will be my first winter driving him. Any tips? I have winters (Continentals on the front, Blizzaks on the rears) that I'm getting put on this weekend (along with an oil change). I plan on driving automatic, and I come from driving a 2003 Cadillac Seville (a wee bit of a size difference!). The Caddy was a tank in the snow and I was never worried about driving it in the winter, no matter the weather. I'm not as confident with the Smarty so please, ease my mind! I'm located in Ottawa and we had a lot of accumulation last year. 

Specific questions:

How do they handle in heavy snow? On ice? On snowy, icy hills? 

What the heck are glow plugs and what does that mean for starting it? (I know, super basic. Bear with me.) 

Do I need to plug it in in the winter for it to start? 

And really, anything else you can think of that I haven't! 

Thanks everyone! 

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Welcome to the site.....yes best to plug it in if you have the engine heater pad glued onto oil pan, ask the shop to check for it when they change tires or do oil change, it'll  be a simple small patch glued onto the bottom of the oil pan with wire running to front of car under belly pan of car. Yes glow plugs must be used in cold weather. Simply turn key on, then wait for glow plug idiot light to go out and then start car. IF it doesn't start almost immediately just restart procedure to get glow plugs to warm up again then start car. Then let idle for a few minutes to allow engine to gather some heat. It will take a while to generate real heat from the very small engine compared to any other North American vehicle, so be patient. I personally block off 3/4's of the radiator  to keep the cold winter air out of the radiator. Simply watch temp gauge to make sure you do not block off too much.....you want 2 temperature bubbles not lit up at the top of scale on dash. IF you find you aren't getting much heat at all, research thermostat mod here and get that done. As for driving the car in auto it won't matter as the car's electronic safety system is so good it'll be hard to loose control of it unless you belly pan it in really deep snow...IMHO. Last winter I tried to get it to slip and slide just to test what it'll do in a parking lot and I couldn't get it to slide.....you will be surprised!  As for not using the manual position IMHO you'll enjoy the car more if you use manual and also get far better economy from it as you can decide at what RPMs the engine changes gear at. IF you have a tachometer you change gear when it gets to 2500 or so and go up in gear, when changing down you have two choices, let the car do it for you, or around 1900 RPMs simply change down for it. It won't hurt the car either way. This car doesn't drive like any other standard car where you have to lift your foot off the accellerator when changing gears, the computer does it all for you, simply leave foot where it is and change gears, simple.   That takes some getting used to when you first start driving this car...lol.  IF you leave it in automatic the engine will spin faster and the gear changes will be more abrupt and it'll use more fuel. But still nothing like the last vehicle you mentioned...lol. 
There are a few local guys or shops around you that work on Smarts I think that will help you stay away from any dealership thieving....imho.....lol.  Just ask here for help in your area I'm sure someone will pipe up sooner or later. 
I allow the car to float around on the road like a motorcycle in the wind type of thing, I find it settles back down without any massive corrections on my part....similar to driving in a strong wind storm etc.....let us know how the anti skid works for you.....you'll be pleasantly pleased I bet, as it shuts down the power until it gains control of the direction you are meaning to go. All done in a milli second.

Sorry to babble.....ask away.....someone will help.

 

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Welcome to the team.

 

They do ok in the poor weather and even a film of snow, if driven with suitable respect.  The chassis control systems - which are really rather good for the age of the design - can interfere and make things worse once there's more than a cm or two of snow.  The system senses a wheel slipping, presumes you're skidding and about to die a horrible fiery death, and cuts the power, preventing you from moving forward.  You can buy a plug in gadget to disable it, or there's a fairly straightforward mod which gives you a switch to disable it.

 

http://www.smartmods.co.uk/index.php?page=details&id=49

 

https://www.evilution.co.uk/index.php?menu=electrical&mod=562

 

Winter tyres are handy.  I do very limited mileage so use snow socks instead, as that is sufficient to get me the 2 miles to the nearest main road which is always kept clear as there's a government installation along it.  However, if yoyre doing any real mileage in these conditions you'll likely find proper tyres more suitable.

 

As regards super cold temps and feet of snow I'll leave it to my Canadian cousins to advise you on that, but my 450 managed a British winter with aplomb, and they can be bad enough on occasion.  I block off the radiator section in the lower front bumper, leaving a small gap for the external air sensor, but you may need to block off more - again, your Camadian chums will be better placed to advise there.

 

Make sure it's well serviced, everything works, and keep it garaged if you can.  If you have any cabin water leaks then now is the time to get them sorted.

 

But in essence it's quite do-able, and better than many conventional cars.  It's quite an adventure, and I marvel at the hardy Canadian Smart owners who carry on through the dark winter months.

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the only problems ive had in winter were

 

  1. deep snow...i had to wait for plows to pass before it felt safe ...the term "deep" is relative though
  2. i had to blow a lot of stop signs because accumulated snow at corners meant i couldnt get going if i came to a complete stop (and i had good tires)
  3. abs/esp problems and non-functional brake lights due to melted snow or condensation running down my brake pedal arm and freezing the brake switch (cured by occasional application of pure antifreeze to brake arm)...you DO NOT ever want to drive these things at road speeds when abs/esp system is disabled

 

now to mention one of my favourite things about winter use ....the rear tires are placed very close to rear face of the car...so when you are on some snow and some jackass is tailgating you can apply slight torque to make to rear tires throw 2 rooster tails of chunky snow onto their hoods

 

mine always started ok...make sure your battery is a good one ...i bought some silicone pad heaters but didnt get around to installing them ..i do remember having to cycle the glow plugs a few times before cranking on the super cold days (and my glow plugs were brand new)

Edited by LooseLugNuts

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I have two heating pads on the winter beater, but the summer car only had one and I droveit last winter when the beater had it's issues, my fault as usual...but it started fine with just the one heating pad....I installed the second on the front radiator lower tank to help heat the coolant so you get more heat faster in the mornings......I also have a ceramic heater to heat the inside placed far enough away from anything flamable...?  I also have installed the shut off mod using a switch to jump the two pins in the OBDII port just to have some fun.......not sure how it will act, there isn't enough snow yet, but saturday it looks promising....I did meet up with a guy who says his ABS light is on all the time and he drives everywhere without the anti skid wired up......he says it isn't that bad......but you have to be quick if it does start to spin to be able to correct it.  Fun and games.

 

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The original summer tires that the smart comes with are NO GOOD in snow. Plain and simple, summer tires are useful as a screen door on a submarine in snow.  Winter tires are a must, particularly in the Ottawa area.

 

Your smart is a 2006?  In theory, it should already have a block heater.  If the pins on the male plug at the front of the car (see photo below) are in good shape, Just plug into that with the special cord that should have come with your car.  One end fits the plug on the car, the other end is a standard 3 pin for use in any normal household outlet.

 

It's a diesel and they tend to start much better with a block or oil pan heater in the colder weather.  If you don't have access to an electrical outlet, cycle the glow plugs 2 or 3 times (turn key on, wait for the glow plug light to go out, turn key off and repeat 2 or 3 times) Then try starting.  Usually only needed if the temperatures are really cold.   Mine starts without issue at minus 15C without the need to cycle the plugs more than just turning the car on and waiting for the light to go out.

 

Driving in deep snow?  DON'T!!  The smart is ok in snow that is only as deep as the ground clearance of the car.  I drove to work all year round in my smart and I started before the snow plow guys were even awake.  Never late for work. Do not try to use the smart as a mini snowplow.  The plastic fitted on the front gets brittle in winter and can easily snap if you try to "barge" your way through, particularly the mounds left by snow plows.  These cars are not tanks.

 

Common sense says that you wait until the snow plows have done their thing, but if you MUST drive on unplowed roads try to avoid the ruts left by other cars if possible.

 

THINK AHEAD!  When approaching an intersection or slower traffic, start slowing down early rather than late. (Basic winter driving technique)  That's all I can think of at this time.  I have included a photo of the block heater plug at the front of the car and the cabin heater which I plug in with a timer..

Smart Plug.jpg

Little Buddy 1.jpg

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The Smart handles well in snow. You can even fit the original Smart snowplow if you can source one. 

 

EE20280C-5643-4F32-A369-8E00DB2694FD.jpeg

 

Then fit gritter on rear for improved rear wheel traction. 

 

B45956DD-9135-43F3-9B11-7AD4AD54D00E.jpeg

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EE20280C-5643-4F32-A369-8E00DB2694FD.jpeg

 

OK ..... THAT snowplow is usefull..  I meant using the plastic pieces on the front of the car as a plow :D

 

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The type of snow you are trying to drive through also makes a difference.  If you are going through light fluffy stuff, something a bit deeper than the ground clearance is possible, but the "packing" snow (heavy, usually found near 0C or 32F) can be difficult.

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9 hours ago, tolsen said:

Very good traction in deep snow.  

 

C89EF0CE-3380-4EA0-844B-1D2B238829E4.jpeg

This type of pic reminds me of the tire comercials saying look at me, we can drive through incredible depths of snow as they show the surrounding area but they are actually driving on nicely plowed roads with a smooth covering of snow.......usually at speed to fling up some rooster tail action.  This pic needs that rooster tail spray and it's perfect...lol

Back in the day up north in Quebec we used to go to raods just like this and drive like all hell simply using the banks like a luge track,  doing the TON was what we were seeking, usually someone ended up perched on the crest of the bank teetering dangerously over the edge looking like dropping into the depths after the bank...lol. But FUN...WOW...!    Brought back memories of rally racing back in England through the private estate lands....closed course tracks.....excellent.

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Wow thank you all so much for your replies! Seems like the biggest thing is just common sense winter driving. I learned how to drive in the winter so winter driving doesn't scare me but I'm glad to hear the Smart will handle just like any other car. Sounds like the only thing I need is a long enough extension cord to plug him in on really cold nights. I've heard that after -20C is when you really need to plug in diesels. Does that sound about right? 

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Plugging in the smart will definitely help with start ups.

I would start plugging it in now - makes it easier for the engine and will reduce wear.

 

As a side note I have driven to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in February with my diesel smarts - had no issues!

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Thanks again all for the advice! Bart survived his first Ottawa snow and it's coming down pretty hard out there! Definitely need to be more mindful turning at intersections than in my old car, but other than that he was pretty smooth sailing. 

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Posted (edited) · Report post

8 hours ago, Kelsey18 said:

Thanks again all for the advice! Bart survived his first Ottawa snow and it's coming down pretty hard out there! Definitely need to be more mindful turning at intersections than in my old car, but other than that he was pretty smooth sailing. 

Yes we got a bit yesterday and the Smart was the most stable it seemed on the roads as everyone else was crawling along, usually spinning their tires trying to gain traction. Because the engine and it's weight is directly over the drive wheels you'll find it has great traction along with it's safety control crap it won't break loose as much if at all. Even if you try and play around. Unless you have a problem with your ESP which will be your reluctor rings and then you'll get the red triangle warning light pop up etc etc.....but only the yellow flashing triangle if the ESP is triggered. I expect you have already seen this by now..... so you should be perfectly fine until the snow is deep enough to belly pan you.  Enjoy the fun of the snow 

Edited by Willys

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We had a light "dusting" of snow this morning.  Anyone with a cheap leaf-blower could clear my 4-lane wide driveway in about 5 minutes. 

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