We put together 7 common problems we find with Mini Coopers to help you, the owner, understand what issues you may have while owning a Mini Cooper.
MINI Cooper Clutch Failure
Early clutch failure is not uncommon on the 1st or 2nd gen Mini Cooper. The early failure can occur on both the 5 speed and 6 speed models and can fail in under 20,000 miles. The problem is usually attributed to hard driving, but not always.
MINI Cooper Transmission Failure
Problems with the automatic transmissions were a notorious problem for these cars. The 1st gen CVT (R50) was the worst of all of them and BMW and Mini were the subject of a class action lawsuit forcing Mini to cover the transmissions under warranty for 8 years or 150,000 miles whichever comes first. These are all out of warranty now and there is no additional warranty coverage from the manufacturer at this time. The cost of transmission replacement exceeds the value of the vehicle and we would recommend steering clear of this model. The Aisin transmission in the Mini Cooper S and 2 gen models is better than the CVT model but they also have a harsh shift issue that is attributed to the valve body. If this problem is caught early, sometimes just the valve body can be replaced. If the shift issue is not addressed in a timely manner the transmission will need to be replaced or rebuilt. Most of the transmission issues are caused by the maintenance interval or lack thereof that Mini specifies. Mini states that the fluid never needs to be changed or not frequently enough and this is wrong. I tell all of my customers that fluid is cheaper than transmission replacement. Changing the fluid frequently, as much as once a year can save you the cost of transmission replacement. The 5 speed manual from 1st gen Mini was also a terrible design and failed prematurely. There is no maintenance for these that will keep them from failing, it is a poor design. I have a customer that had 5 of them replaced within 70,000 miles before his vehicle went out of warranty. The most reliable of the transmissions Mini manufactured is the 6 speed manual variation.
MINI Cooper Timing Chain Noise
The timing chain rattle (as discussed in an earlier blog post) is a common problem. The noise is usually heard at idle on a cold start and it is often referred to as “the death rattle”. This can be a major/costly repair and it is recommended not to ignore this noise if you hear it. This problem is usually caused by low oil, or the oil not being changed frequently enough. (see number 4)
We recommend oil changes every 6 months or 5,000 miles whichever comes first, especially if you do a lot of city driving.
Performance Issues Related to Vanos (BMW version of Variable Valve Timing)
This problem happens when the oil is not changed frequently enough or if the oil level is too low. The Vanos system requires good oil flow to operate the system. When the oil is not changed enough, sludge builds up and blocks the small passages. If this happens we suggest changing the oil and hope that the detergent in the fresh oil cleans the tiny oil passages. If the passages are not blocked a simple oil change may completely correct this issue. We can’t say enough about how important it is to stay on top of oil level and change it frequently, this is a completely avoidable problem.
Water Pump & Thermostat Housing Leaks
The water pump on both generations of Mini is a fairly common occurrence and if you have more than 50,000 miles on your Mini it is good preventive maintenance to have it replaced. The thermostat housing on 2nd gen Mini is an all plastic housing, and over time almost all of these will fail. You can save yourself a lot of money and time if you replace them before finding a leak.
Front Radiator Support
Mini opted to make the front radiator support out of plastic rather than some other material. The radiator support holds the radiator, cooling fan, and condenser assembly. It sits very low under the front of the vehicle and is easily damaged. Even a light impact on a high curb can cause a lot of damage. The lower radiator hose sits even lower than the support and is easily damaged on parking curbs. Be sure to take care when parking your Mini.
Electric Power Steering pumps
The electric power steering pumps are prone to failure and were the subject of a recall. The failure is often caused by low power steering fluid or failure of the electric cooling fan. If you are lucky enough to still be covered by the recall (warranty), the dealer will make you repair all fluid leaks before they will install the new pump. We can replace the power steering hoses for much less than the dealer.
With all of that being said, don’t let this list alarm you. Mini Coopers are not that expensive to purchase and with regular maintenance, depending on the type of driving you do, these cars are designed to last a long time. Mini Cooper maintenance costs are in line or less than comparable performance cars.
If you live in Van Nuys, West Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, Agoura Hills, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Canoga Park, Culver City, Encino, North Hollywood, Reseda, San Fernando Valley, Sherman Oaks, or Studio City and need a reputable independent Mini Cooper shop, Call The Haus today! (855) 572-6464