2014 Smart EV, Battery Replacement
Mark: Hi there internet people. It's Mark from Remarkable Speaking. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. 24 time winners best auto repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How are you doing Bernie?
Bernie: Doing well.
Mark: So today's victim is another throwback a 2014 Smart EV that had a battery problem. What was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: Yeah, so the vehicle was towed to our shop. The high voltage battery was not charging and not delivering any power as an issue with the high voltage battery. And of course that's a pretty important thing. It's like having a gasoline powered vehicle with no fuel tank.
Mark: How did you determine that the problem was the high voltage battery and not chargers or something else?
Bernie: Well, the owner of the vehicle had already done some diagnostics, possibly at Mercedes or some things on his own. He was quite certain high voltage battery was bad. We hooked up a scan to a look at a few parameters at the battery module. There was a slew of stored trouble codes in the battery module, more basically related to communication within the battery module. And it didn't take too long to do some basic testing to find out the battery itself needed to be replaced.
Mark: So what's involved in replacing the high voltage battery in a smart car?
Bernie: Well, what's involved is basically the battery sits underneath the centre of the vehicle. Let's just get into some pictures. It's just a matter of basically disconnecting things and removing the battery and putting a new one in. So there is the Smart car, cute little thing. Nice bright yellow vehicle. It's funny, it's a 2014, because it looks like a brand new car. It's so shiny and new and really had very low kilometres on it too. So there's the the car.
The battery located right under the centre of the vehicle. You can actually see the electric drive motor back here in the sort of the final drive unit, which would have been a transmission. Kind of tucks in really nicely at the back of this car where the motor used to be. So it's a rear wheel drive model. So the battery sits right here. This is a plastic splash pan that sort of sits under the front of the vehicle. There are some covers that go underneath here.
This is the replacement battery. We bought this directly from Mercedes seem to be the only source for this battery at the moment. Can't tell whether this is the old one or the new one, they both look kind of the same, but anyway, there's the battery.
Anyways, we're actually able to use our fuel tank adapter on a transmission jack so it actually works well for EV batteries too, at least in this particular case. Some of them are kind of specialty shaped. As far as other items to remove, this is a main power connector. So this is where the high voltage, it goes in and out of the battery, is connected up here.
And then other items involved, this is what I'll call it the hood off the vehicle, basically the plastic hood. This battery is a cooling system and so that coolant needs to be filled and properly bled through underneath the hood. There's the washer fluid, the brake fluid's located over here, brake fluid reservoir. So that's basically it, some air intakes for the passenger compartment and the headlights.
So what's involved in removing the battery is basically, there's electrical connectors, there's a cooling system and it just drops down underneath, a number of bolts. New battery goes back in. Where the real hassle with this battery was from Mercedes. I mean, this is kind of a new thing for our shop. And I mean, even for them selling batteries to other shops, we ordered the battery and then got a call from the parts department saying, well, I don't know if I can sell you this battery or we can even take the old one back. Because you have to fill out this huge, it's a three-page form where you have to extract codes from the battery module. Get a log from the battery module to make sure it's safe for transport is what they're worried about.
You know, there can't be any cracks in the case of the battery or leaks or smoke or any damage. So it kind of makes sense that they don't want to take back a battery that might actually catch on fire in transit somewhere. So finally, after we went through that rigmarole of all the paperwork and got all the right stuff together, tested everything, verified the battery had in fact not been smashed or bashed or whatever it was. We were able to make sure the core was safe for transit.
So the battery actually comes in this humongous box. It's almost the size of a coffin and very heavy too. So basically, it's all strapped in. It's actually kind of a nice setup from Mercedes to send the battery out and transport it back. But that's basically what was involved. Then after of course the battery, things need to be programmed for the vehicle, which we did. And that was it. It came alive again.
Mark: So how are these EVs for range?
Bernie: To be honest with you. I don't really know. But this is a 52 kilowatt hour battery, which is a pretty decent sized battery pack for a little vehicle, little light vehicle. I actually don't know. I mean, we've had one other client with one. These are like not very common vehicles.
There's only a second one we worked on it and the last one didn't have any electrical issues and just had some brake noises and brake problems that we service. I don't know, but I imagine it's pretty good. It's certainly better than the Transit Connect van we recently did a podcast on.
Mark: When you're taking this battery out, how much protection and special and new really because you know, this is new territory, even though you guys are certified in all this. When you're taking everything apart, I guess you have to make sure that you're not cooking anybody. How do you protect that? How does that all work?
Bernie: Yeah, we have special gloves. I mean, that's one thing that we use, at certain times, you don't have to wear them all the time, but you just need to know when you're unhooking high voltage wires to make sure we have the gloves on. You know, with a Prius we're able to actually take the battery packs apart. A lot of them you can take the battery packs apart. I mean, this one, you can actually, there's ways that can be unbolted. And from what we determined from our diagnosis, there may not have been anything wrong with the actual battery cells.
There's a number of modules inside this battery. And if anything goes wrong, the whole thing's cooked for an awful lot. As you can imagine, I don't want to talk about costs, but it's expensive to replace this. It's unfortunate that one module will setback a whole pack. Now I think as time goes by, we're probably going to be able to find ways to repair these individual pieces.
But the question is, how are we going to diagnosis this? How are we going to test it? The one good thing about this, it is a factory remanufactured pack, theoretically, it should go for another 10 years or 8 years without any issue.
So protective gear, gloves are one thing, there's just procedures of, you know, locking things out, making sure you're safe. Funny. I was watching some YouTube videos just to get educated on the process of doing this battery and you know, the battery's dead and they've got the thing off and go, how do you know it's actually dead? And you've got the whole case open, you know, there can be live parts. A lot of hybrid batteries, they have disconnects, but a lot of times it just breaks the battery pack in half.
If you touch two of the wires too, you know, certain things to the wrong places, you're going to be part of a, you know, 300 volt circuit. Even though the battery is isolated externally. So you really gotta be careful.
Mark: And how are these Smart EVs for reliability?
Bernie: Well, I think they're pretty good, although I mean, it is kind of disappointing at an eight year old vehicle needs a major repair like this. To be fair, I looked at the kilometres in this vehicle, it only has 32,000 kilometres and you think, oh, well that's hardly anything. The battery go bad, but of course it's probably not used enough, not charged enough, not cycled enough. So time is often a factor, but so far, you know, I say we have only I'd seen a couple of them. They seem to have been pretty good. To be honest, I like them a lot better than the gas or diesel powered Smart cars. They just feel a whole lot better to drive. They're just smoother and Smart cars have always had this weird feel. I think it's the transmission they use. They just have an odd feeling to them and the EV makes it really nice. So it's actually a pretty good option. I think.
Mark: If you're looking for repairs for your Smart car, any version of it, or your EV, the guys to see in Vancouver, BC are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them on their website pawlikautomotive.com. You can book right on there. They'll call you back and get ready for your appointment, find out what's going on. As well you can call them at (604) 327-7112. To book your appointment, you have to call or book online ahead of time. They're busy. Check out the YouTube channel. Pawlik Auto Repair. Close to a thousand videos on there all makes and models of cars. We've been doing this for over 10 years now. All kinds of repairs.
And of course on pawlikautomotive.com, that's all mirrored up there as well as with the transcripts. So you can read to your heart's delight, learn everything you need to know about what's going on with your vehicle in case we covered it. And of course, we really appreciate you watching and listening. Thank you Bernie.
Bernie: Thank you, Mark. And thanks for watching and listening, and reading if you like.