Often referred to as the “Death Rattle Noise”, this audible sound coming from the engine bay is the timing chain in your R55, R56, or R57. When you first start your car you may experience a noise coming from the engine bay on a cold morning, once the engine warms up the noise may go away. If you lift your hood up that noise is coming from the front of the timing cover. One of the possible causes for this noise occurs when the timing chain support rail loses tension. This support rail is made of a durable plastic, but with heat and time, the plastic can become brittle and break. If you here this noise, you should call a certified Mini Cooper technician immediately as you do not want to hurt the valve train or further damage the timing system.
Unlike most cars, the Mini Cooper uses a metal timing chain rather than a belt made of composite materials. One of the features of the BMW Prince engine is that the timing chain and tensioner are located inside the engine; the major drawback of this design is that when the timing chain or tensioner fails it can cause catastrophic engine damage. The most common cause of timing chain tensioner/chain failure is low engine oil. If you follow the MINI/BMW maintenance intervals an oil change is only recommended once a year or every 15,000 miles. This interval is far too long for the BMW Prince engine, especially if you have the turbo charged version. These are high revving engines that put out a lot of power for their size, and these engines are notorious for burning/consuming oil. We recommend an oil change every 6 months or 5,000 miles, if you follow this maintenance schedule the timing chain can last the lifetime of the vehicle. Performing an oil change is far cheaper than timing chain replacement or engine repairs. Engine replacement can run between $5000-$8000 depending on what repairs are done. Performing 2-3 oil changes a year will cost you less than $200.
If you’re in the market to purchase a 2nd generation Cooper or Cooper S. Be sure to review all service records to see if the timing chain has ever been replaced and that the oil was changed regularly. If you are buying from a dealer ask the salesman if the warranty or extended warranty you were to purchase from them would cover this expense?
Customers often call our shop and ask us, “ What are some things to look out for when purchasing a MINI Cooper?” This is a great example of a common issue. Check back for more Mini Cooper buyer information in future posts. If you’re looking for a Certified Mini Cooper repair shop in Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, or Studio City, California please give us a call at (855) 572-MINI (6464).