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captainawesome
captainawesome Dork
12/27/23 9:53 a.m.

Long story short I was looking for a super cheap project, and I found one. Only a few miles from my house which was convenient.

It's a 2013 Fiat 500 Turbo with ~118k miles. Runs and drives but has some noise with the clutch pedal released. The noise stops when the pedal is pressed so I'm thinking a bearing or clutch/gearbox related issue. The guy asked for $2000 and I gladly forked over a stack of twenties to take it off his hands.

 

captainawesome
captainawesome Dork
12/27/23 10:14 a.m.

The plan is simple. I pull the trans out and see what's broke. Hoping it's just a clutch or throwout bearing repair, but if not I feel like the money I have in the car isn't terrible. It shifts gears fine. Runs, idles, drives, etc. but has the noise.

Once that issue is addressed I want to put some miles on it and see if it's a keeper or just a flipper. From just the drive home I'm a fan, so it seems like a good cheap STH autocross build is in order. With that in mind I'll need to address the height issue so it's SCCA legal. The Abarth platform seems to get all of the love, so finding Turbo model specific information is tough. I'm thinking lowering springs from H&R with Konis all around would do the trick. Aftermarket bump stops are needed to reduce the harshness of such little travel from what I've read. Rear sway bar is a must. I'm waffling between a 16 or 17 inch wheelset. Decent tires are available for both but pretty sure the 17s will offer more options to choose from. Wobble bolts or 4x98 wheels? So much to consider.

Also I'd like to get up to Abarth power or higher with a tune. It sounds like Tork Motorsports has the best reviewed tunes but it's a pricey one.

ESC can be turned off but ESP for the Turbo model can't. Abarth gets to have all the fun? I don't know if that will be a problem or not but still doing some reading on it all.

Abarth or similar muffler delete will be done. I don't need to drive the car everyday and would like to just make the car fun. If it gets old I'll bolt the stock one back in.

Cosmetically it's in decent shape. A small door ding on the passenger door, some light dings on the hood, and the awful black checkered stripe will need addressed. I've got a cheap dent puller kit that should make short work of the dings. The stripe hopefully comes up easily with a little heat and patience. A little paint work of the panel on the roof between the front windshield and the sunroof. Overall I feel like I've got a pretty good base to start with for only $2000.

 

Any legit knowledge on suspension setup, traction control hacks, tuning hacks, etc. are greatly appreciated. I know the easy button is just get an Abarth, but this I feel like this car has enough potential to be a Abarth Lite and still have money left over.

 

golfduke
golfduke Dork
12/27/23 10:24 a.m.

I know nothing other than the only time I drove one (An HPDE student's car) , the brake-induced snap oversteer terrified me enough to not ever want one personally.  I'm sure there are ways to mitigate it, but in bone stock form, it was a freaking handful on track, and not in the fun and exhilerating way, haha. 

captainawesome
captainawesome Dork
12/27/23 10:26 a.m.

In reply to golfduke :

I've read a lot of that twitchy oversteer tends to go away with just the rear swaybar addition. Hoping that's all it takes to make it dance the way I want to confidently.

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) UltimaDork
12/27/23 10:52 a.m.

The two Abarths that were used at the Challenge several years ago looked and sounded pretty entertaining. If you can mimic some of the characteristics yours should be fun and cheap at $2k.

daytonaer
daytonaer HalfDork
12/27/23 11:21 a.m.

I don’t have one but have chatted with an owner of a turbo non-abarth owner at a few auto crosses.

 

what I believe he summarized was the suspension hardware is no the up to the task of class legal upgrades and sticky tires. Abarths and  turbos run different classes.

 

I don't recall the the specific changes he made but they were class legal : I believe a bigger sway and possible strut crash bolts? Maybe more changes but what he mentioned is the hardware (bolts) for these components are too small to clamp under high loads and slip during auto crossing with sticky tires. I believe his alignment wouldn’t hold and would be visibly out after a run. The last time I spoke with him he was thinking of going back to all stock parts, I do believe the suspension upgrades he made were of quality parts. 

 

I did did ask about abarth parts but he would have been not class eligible so didn’t go down that road. I would be curious if abarth parts are compatible and if so may be worth upgrading if you’re not worried about scca classing.

 

Regardless of your direction this should be a very fun car at your investment level.

captainawesome
captainawesome Dork
12/27/23 11:43 a.m.

In reply to daytonaer :

I'm curious what he ended up going with suspension wise, and I'll definitely keep an eye on the camber bolts.

From what I can tell most of the coilover sets available aren't really well developed for anything other than just lowering the car. I've read that lowering springs will require aftermarket bump stops since they reduce the already small travel. Even with the stock bump stops trimmed they are too harsh when lowered. I have been thinking the Bilstein coilovers may be the direction to go, but it's hard to dig up any legit data on what works well. I'm trying to avoid buying a bunch of parts that don't actually make the car better at what I want it to do.

 

Edit: Another super budget option is Abarth shocks, springs, struts, plus the aftermarket rear sway bar. From what I understand the Abarth major difference to my Turbo is the rear trailing arm design which I think is to allow a sway bar. Certainly a good starting point and gets me low enough to be SCCA legal.

RonnieFnD
RonnieFnD Reader
12/27/23 6:57 p.m.

If you need any help that can be given over a computer with it such as diagrams,  specs, sourcing parts, etc lemme know.  I'm one of the few remaining Fiat techs in the US.  

captainawesome
captainawesome Dork
12/27/23 7:20 p.m.

In reply to RonnieFnD :

Really appreciate the offer, and I for sure wouldn't mind if you could possibly elaborate on some questions I have. Do you know if the ESC or ESP can be modified on mine to mimic the Abarth or is that a lost cause? I know where a full Abarth ECU, BCM, key, etc are for a decent price but can't seem to confirm of that's a possibility to swap or if I just need to stick with the tuner idea is not. Is that a possible swap or a no go?

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) UltimaDork
12/27/23 7:24 p.m.

In reply to RonnieFnD :

Maybe you can confirm or deny something for me....My son has a non-turbo Fiat 500 and he hangs out on the "Broken fiat" FB page. People on there are of the opinion that the regular turbo model pops head gaskets far easier than the Abarth does. That makes no sense to me because I would think the Abarth engine is more highly stressed. Old wives tale, or is there some truth to it? Could the head gaskets be different?

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
12/27/23 7:26 p.m.

That price seems like a decent score if it's an easy fix.  Could be a fun beater daily.

I've driven a turbo and an Abarth and both are absolutely terrifying due to the seating position.  They feel like they are about to tip over constantly.

That said, if you try to autocross one, it probably will.  Even lowered its still going to be on the wrong side of the SCCA rollover rules.

RonnieFnD
RonnieFnD Reader
12/27/23 7:43 p.m.
DeadSkunk (Warren) said:

In reply to RonnieFnD :

Maybe you can confirm or deny something for me....My son has a non-turbo Fiat 500 and he hangs out on the "Broken fiat" FB page. People on there are of the opinion that the regular turbo model pops head gaskets far easier than the Abarth does. That makes no sense to me because I would think the Abarth engine is more highly stressed. Pld wives tale, or is there some truth to it? Could the head gaskets be different?

None of them ever really had head gasket problems.   They are pretty sturdy lil cars as long as you keep driving them.  They fall apart when they sit. The turbo, abarth, and 500L have the same engine.   The 10hp tune isn't gonna kill anything lol.  I am putting a head on a 500L currently that burnt a few valves and a day later we had a abarth come in that also burnt valves (run 93 gas).  I got the last available complete head, both cars use the same part number cylinder head.

daytonaer
daytonaer HalfDork
12/27/23 9:17 p.m.

Sorry, all conversations were paddock just gossiping:

 

He ran against me in sts, I see this classes non-turbo 500s only... I wouldn’t contest as we are both there just for fun. Perhaps it has changed over the years. It seems like abarth can run HS And or  STH, STH includes abarth or turbo.

 

Anyways, I’m confused now However his alignment reportedly slipped on a few autocrosses, he was on 200 tw tires and he did have some aftermarket parts. I do recall discussing slipping bolts as I did the same in my na miata with good tires and solved with extra tightness and he told The hardware Just isn’t up to the extra tightening.

 

anyways, thanks for sharing, I’m a fan of the 500 and love the idea of a $2k turbo.

wvumtnbkr
wvumtnbkr PowerDork
12/28/23 7:59 a.m.
daytonaer said:

Sorry, all conversations were paddock just gossiping:

 

He ran against me in sts, I see this classes non-turbo 500s only... I wouldn’t contest as we are both there just for fun. Perhaps it has changed over the years. It seems like abarth can run HS And or  STH, STH includes abarth or turbo.

 

Anyways, I’m confused now However his alignment reportedly slipped on a few autocrosses, he was on 200 tw tires and he did have some aftermarket parts. I do recall discussing slipping bolts as I did the same in my na miata with good tires and solved with extra tightness and he told The hardware Just isn’t up to the extra tightening.

 

anyways, thanks for sharing, I’m a fan of the 500 and love the idea of a $2k turbo.

As far as the bolts slipping, I just tacked the washers to the struts on my 2nd gen rx7.  No more random camber adjustment.

It's easy to grind off a small tack if you need to change the alignment for any reason.

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
12/28/23 8:30 a.m.

Sounds like a great score for $2000 - even a worst case seems like you'd just put a whole junkyard transmission in instead of a new clutch. Can't wait to hear what fixes it!

captainawesome
captainawesome Dork
12/28/23 8:32 a.m.

In reply to MadScientistMatt :

After last nights wrenching session it's looking more like a junkyard trans swap but I'll know more soon on that.

captainawesome
captainawesome Dork
12/28/23 8:48 a.m.

So my plan last night was to get the gearbox out but I hit a roadblock that kept me from finishing the job. Apparently I need to modify a 36mm socket to remove the axles.... Harumph! Thought it was a 35mm but after some light reading this morning apparently it needs a really thin wall to fit inside the hub and still seat on the nut. I may pick up a spare one from the local parts store to "modify".

Also couldn't get my 12mm allen socket to fit in the space I was given. I tried to double nut a 12mm bolt but they were soft nuts and just kept trying to back out instead.

Before I started tinkering I put the front up on jack stands and had the wife start the car to try and see if there's any way to pinpoint the noise. It's definitely gearbox related but still can't lock down EXACTLY where the noise is coming from.

While under the car looking and listening I found a gross smearing of silicone on the furthest cover of the gearbox mating surface. Looks like it's had some weeping at some point? One of the allen heads at the front of the trans looks a little gacked up. I remember seeing in the receipts that the previous owner had the trans oil replaced, so not sure if the local Valvoline place got a little aggressive or the previous owner tried to fix stuff himself. There was a notation that he "provided" the fluid which I found super odd. There wasn't mention of doing work on it himself, but I noticed the axle nut on the driver side is no longer staked. Someone has been in this area somewhat recently. He mentioned he had too many projects going so maybe he knows something I don't and that's reflected in the price?

I know this isn't the drain plug but it's seen a battle or two. Maybe he removed to inspect for the noise maker?

 

Silicone smear job sorta shown here. It was tough to get good pics of how terrible it is. Anywhere from a 1/2-3/4" wide smear of silicone along the bottom flange of the mating surface.

 

 

 

This kinda shows the weeping or sweating of fluids around where the silicone mountain has grown.

 

 

Here's how I wrapped up the evening...

RonnieFnD
RonnieFnD Reader
12/28/23 11:16 a.m.

Straight from dealerCONNECT lol

 

as far as the mess on top of the trans.  I can't see well enough in the pic but that is usually caused by a leaky vacuum pump. 

captainawesome
captainawesome Dork
12/28/23 11:25 a.m.

In reply to RonnieFnD :

Top of the trans was dry so maybe it had a vacuum pump leak but has been sealed up at some point? I'll take a better look at it this evening. Unless you're thinking all the fluid at the bottom of the trans is from the vacuum pump that's migrated down there over time?

Do you ever see the end of the transmission cover leaking like mine? My thinking is to drain fluid, check for particles, pop cover off to inspect, magnet inspection etc. If no obvious signs of material or damage seal it back up and send it. That's if the release bearing or similar isn't the culprit.

EDIT: Looks like I was trying to drain from the magnet plug which is m12 and completely missed the m10 drain in the wide open space to the left of it. I assumed since it was higher up than the m12 it wasn't the drain. Guessed wrong. Now I don't need to run by the parts store on the way home, yeehaw!

RonnieFnD
RonnieFnD Reader
12/28/23 1:01 p.m.

The transmissions usually just seep.  Most of the mess on these things is usually oil from the vacuum pump and pcv o ring.  I'm pointing at the two biggest mess makers.  Change the pcv o ring even if it's not leaking and make sure the vacuum pump is dry because it will take out the wiring harness for the o2 sensors. 

captainawesome
captainawesome Dork
12/28/23 1:14 p.m.

In reply to RonnieFnD :

Thanks for the heads up! I'll make sure to get the o-ring and gasket on the short list.

Hoping my gearbox just has a weep and is still in good enough condition. Found a handful of used replacements, one with only 18k miles, but would like to avoid spending that money if it's unnecessary.

 

Any idea what these 3 holes circled below are for? They are super clean inside the threads but didn't have anything bolted in that area. Seems weird they would be so clean if they haven't been used.

RonnieFnD
RonnieFnD Reader
12/28/23 5:15 p.m.

I was thinking they were the big bracket thing for the cables.  Does your trans have a internal or external slave cylinder?  Also to give some clarity on earlier problems.   The trans drain is a gigantic pain in the ass, as you have found there is no room so what you do is put the hex bit in the drain plug and use a open end wrench to turn the bit. Depending on how long the car sits for this work the oil may drain out of the multiair so you will technically have no intake cam.  If this happens pull the fuel pump fuse and crank the car until it starts to sputter then put the fuse back in.  

captainawesome
captainawesome Dork
12/28/23 5:24 p.m.

In reply to RonnieFnD :

The shifter cable bracket is seen in the pic closer to the firewall still bolted to the gearbox. I tried to find diagrams through Mopar parts sites and see what could be bolted there but came up empty.

My allen socket is still too long for the m12 so I'll wait until the box is out to pull that magnet plug.

Good to know on the oil drain out. Hope I can remember when it's time to crank it back to life.

wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L)
wheelsmithy (Joe-with-an-L) PowerDork
12/28/23 6:07 p.m.

Iwanttosaythere'sa 36mm  socket available fairly cheap at most FLAPS. Toyota 4X4 front axle nut, circa 80-94 or maybe even later.

Cool project,

captainawesome
captainawesome Dork
12/28/23 11:10 p.m.

I'll post up more details/pics in the morning but I think I got it all figured out....

Throw-out bearing failed or was leaking terribly. The rubber material that surrounds the spring was slung all inside melted into a goo. Almost looked like silicone chunks but wasn't. It coated the outside of the pressure plate in a thin film but doesn't appear to have touched the clutch surface area. The weird part is the noise from the flywheel when I turn it. I think it got brake fluid inside the rubber dampers and it sounds gross. It also moves A POOP TON!

So at minimum throw-out bearing.

Safe bet is a new flywheel. Can't imagine the fluid noise I'm hearing can be safely cleaned out and it's probably going to turn into goo just like the rubber on the throw-out bearing.

Clutch and pressure plate probably should be replaced at this point as well but I'm tempted to just run what was in there....

 

All in all I'm happy with what I found. No super crazy or expensive fixes but this will add up to about $700-800 I'd guess.

 

 

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