Fiat fluid and maintenance - odd

Fiats (500 manual tranny in this case) have the oddest maintenance schedule I’ve seen. Oil change when the light comes on. Coolant replacement 10 years or 150K.

Other fluids are lifetime. The automatic “requires dealer service” to check fluid level. I assume, with electric power steering, that fluid is eliminated. Maybe brakes wear out before needing brake fluid? I am used to tranny fluid needing an occasional change.

I may be living in the dark ages here… need to change my thinking?

They just changed their marketing. I wouldn’t change your thinking. The tranny though is something very hard to do now yourself with the car having to be up in the air, so that’s a shop or dealer issue. I used to get by with the Acura by measuring what came out and putting that back in, but with AWD now you need a pump to refill, so it’s just let the dealer do it. Actually it cost me under $200 for the whole thing though so really not so bad.

Lifetime fluids are a PR marketing gimmick. By the time something has failed because of those lifetime fluids the car is long out of warranty and Fiat (in this case) flat doesn’t care anymore.

I worked for a Subaru/VW dealer that took on a Fiat franchise in spite of every mechanic there telling them that they would go broke because of it. And a few years later they did go broke because of it.

As a franchised Fiat dealer we couldn’t even get a factory air filter. Parts supply was non-existent and maintenance items came from NAPA.
Warranty claims were repeatedly kicked back for one lame excuse after the other. At the time the dealer went under not one warranty claim had ever been paid.
Even worse, due to the lack of a parts supply 2 brand new Fiats were cannibalized for parts to keep customer cars going.
At the time the dealer closed up shop, there were 2 half gutted Fiats sitting on racks in the back corner of the shop.

Well, we told 'em in advance…


Fiat has been dead last in quality and reliability surveys for a number of years. Let that be your guide.

Over-maintaining a car does no harm to the car. Hurts your wallet a bit, but new engine, transmission or brake system parts will hurt far worse.

When they first announced that they were returning to the US marketplace, I urged everyone here to keep an open mind regarding Fiat quality, because it had been several decades since they were last a presence in The US, and their earlier pathetic record wasn’t necessary true anymore.

Unfortunately, my request for optimism was unrealistic, and they are once again the worst in reliability of any marque sold in The US.

For the OP’s benefit, if he plans on keeping his Fiat beyond the warranty period, I strongly urge him to ignore the BS about “lifetime” fluids, and to change both the trans fluid and the brake fluid every 3 yrs/30k miles

Thanks. I was thinking I might be paranoid when I was thinking on coolant and tranny changes around 60K (probably 4 years, since it’s low mileage). My dealer is conservative on fluid changes… I like that.

Well, I would argue that most Fiat problems were working out bugs, but I can’t. 2 days after the first oil change, a P0165 light popped on. It takes a week for a diagnosis appointment, but it goes in tomorrow morning.

I wish I could say I went in unprepared, but I knew all the problems before purchasing. The thing is, I saved/shopped for 6 years (seriously for the last 2), my price point raising to $35K. I’d nearly settled on a Miata, but this thing is simply a blast to drive. With the back seats deleted, and 1/2" of marine foam, it’s perfect… except for that minor problem of maybe blowing up in 100K miles.

To quote a bad old joke…
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?

One on our group has an older Abarth (30 more HP). She cracked #3 exhaust at 81K, repaired by a local shop. At 96K, #1 has the same symptoms.

I think that might have something to do with Fiat’s multi-air system; oddest valve control system I’ve ever seen. It opens the valves with oil pressure. The actuator spring is known to be a bit weak for max RPMs.

That’s the worse I’ve heard (besides the guy who towed his Abarth while in first gear.)

No Fiat 500 repair/maintenance experience myself, but other posters who own them have mentioned that the car isn’t really designed for diy’er servicing.

You know folks, I had almost concluded that I’d get one of those Renegades. They’re small, 4wd, can pull a trailer, etc. But now you start talking about no parts available, unreliable, can’t work on it yourself, etc. So I think I’m back to square one again. Dang.

I believe that comment was about Fiat dealers in the 1970’s. Also today’s cars aren’t as easy to repair for the DIY person as a 1973 Ford.

The car isn’t any more complicated than other '18s. It’s simply that they stuffed all that tech into a steamer trunk engine compartment. I simply don’t have a desire to tinker, upgrade, or modify and mostly not repair. Average decent mechanics tear them apart in their home garage all the time. (I don’t need double the HP or to run it on the track.)

It’s not a lack of parts. You can build a Fiat, chassis up, with available parts. If not local, they arrive in 48 to 72 hours. Mopar parts are 30% less from online Mopar stores. For non-critical parts, the Chinese make them for 1/4th the price. (Mexican 500’s are shipped to China. I’m sure the first car off the boat was disassembled and shipped to copy shops.)

This car’s biggest weakness was faulty and misleading trouble codes. One pops up and it’s a week waiting for a diagnosis, to find it’s a software update or some part not associated with the message. I’ve never had a car that will warn you if a light bulb is toast, or when a spark plug misfires. I might learn to love those codes.

The Renegade is another matter. I’d wait until they’ve been on the market 4 years. The good news is there are no surprises… bad news is there are more codes than average in their class. Fiat makes fixes at the assembly shop, instead of ignoring.