The Evaporative Emission Control System or EVAP system as it is most often called, was designed to prevent gasoline vapors from escaping from the fuel tank and fuel system. When the computer detects a leak in the system it will trigger the check engine light to come on and warn you. A loose gas cap can cause the light to come on because the system detects that there is pressure loss. The system is designed to detect leaks as small a pin hole. BMW and Mini Cooper are equipped with a Leak Detection Pump (DMTL) for this purpose.
The most common fault codes for EVAP leaks are a PO442- Small leak detected, and PO455- Large leak detected. The PO455 code is most often caused by a gas cap that was left loose after refueling. The PO442 can be a much harder one to diagnose as it virtually impossible to diagnose visually. To diagnose the small leaks a smoke machine is used to find the leaks by feeding a mineral oil based smoke into the system under light pressure. The smoke may also have ultraviolet dye added to make it easier to spot under a UV light. These codes are most typically a result of intake system vacuum leaks, with the most common being cracked or otherwise leaking intake boots. The intake boots are an especially common problem on the 2nd gen Mini Cooper S model with turbos. On late model BMW’s that have a crankcase ventilation valve (most 6 and 8 cylinder models from the mid 1990’s to present day, equatable to a PCV valve) the common problem is the rubber check valve diaphragm ruptures, creating an internal vacuum leak.
Fixing small EVAP leaks can be a big problem even for professional technicians, and if you get a code for a small leak you will most likely have to take it to your mechanic for diagnosis as special equipment is required. The smoke machine diagnostic tool costs between $1000-$1500 depending on the manufacturer and requires some training to use properly. With EVAP leaks it is recommended that you always take your BMW or Mini Cooper to a certified repair facility as these can be nearly impossible to diagnose at home. Please watch our short 2 minute video as we demonstrate a smoke test on a 2007 BMW X3.
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
As we move further into the 21st century, many auto manufacturers are turning to engine management systems that employ “direct injection” fuel injection systems. Direct injection systems inject the fuel directly into the combustion chamber at the precise timing for optimum power and/or economy under a specific operating condition, or parameters.
The gasoline is highly pressurized, and injected via a fuel rail/line directly into the combustion chamber of each cylinder. With multi-port fuel injection the fuel is injected into the intake tract, or cylinder port. The major drawback with direct port injections, is although is provides more power and fuel efficiency it causes carbon build up in the intake valves, and over time reduces airflow to the cylinders, and therefore reduces engine power. Most fuel contains various detergents that can keep the intake valves clean, but with direct injection the fuel never touches the intake valves, as it does with a multi-port injection system. When fuel is no longer sprayed into the intake valves, it allows dirt and carbon from intake air to cake/build up on intake walls, even when there are air filters that prevent most dirt from entering the cylinder. The build up can become severe enough to cause sporadic ignition failures.
In 2003 BMW introduced a low pressure gasoline direct injection N73 V-12 engine. This initial BMW setup could not enter lean-burn mode, BMW introduced it’s second generation High Pressure Injection (H.P.I.) system on the new turbo-charged N54 straight 6 engine in 2006. This system used high pressure injectors, and this system surpasses may others with a much wider envelope of lean fuel burn time which increases overall efficiency. BMW in conjunction with Peugeot designed a line of engines (BMW Prince Engine) that made it’s debut in the 2007 MINI Cooper S model. In 2008, BMW released the X6 equipped with a direct injected twin turbo N63 V-8 engine.
The N54 and N55 twin and single turbo engines seem to be the most susceptible to the heavy carbon build up (although it effects all models). BMW and MINI dealers are happy to perform the de-carbon service for fees in the $850-$1200 neighborhood (much, much higher if you have a twin turbo V-8). The carbon cleaning is not terribly complicated on the 4 & 6 cylinder models but it does require removal of the intake manifold and a media blaster to clean the intake ports and valves.
If your MINI cooper or BMW needs a carbon cleaning/de-carbon call The Haus we can save you a lot of time & money compared to the dealer and provide the same quality of repairs and customer service.
We have a beautiful, state of the art facility and we have all of the amenities that the dealerships do, and we also provide a FREE customer shuttle within a 10 mile radius.
We proudly serve Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Van Nuys, Encino,Burbank, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, all of Los Angeles, Culver City, and Santa Monica.
If you own a first or second generation MINI there are several common oil leaks to both models.
R50 & R53
On the R50 & R53 models the most common ones are the crankshaft position sensor o-ring and valve cover gasket. The valve cover gasket is a fairly easy repair as the valve cover sits on top of the engine which allows for easy removal and re-installation of valve cover. The crank sensor o-ring is on the side of the engine closest to the radiator (front of the vehicle). This o-ring is much harder to get to than the valve cover gasket and can be a much messier leak. It is necessary to remove the front bumper and support to be able to tilt the radiator forward and gain access to the o-ring. Once the o-ring is replaced we always recommend a good pressure wash of the engine for a couple of reasons. The first reason is to be able to tell if there are any additional oil leaks, and the second reason is to prevent any damage to other engine components. The lower engine mount is partly made of rubber, and if this rubber gets oil saturated it will need to be replaced.
On the 2nd generation MINI (R55,R56,& R57) there are also several common oil leaks. The valve cover gasket on these tend to leak, just like first gen MINI. If you have an S model the turbo oil feed pipe is a very common leak and can be dangerous if not repaired. The turbo charger is bolted to/part of the exhaust manifold, and here is where the danger part comes in, when the turbo pipe leaks it sprays oil on to the exhaust manifold. The exhaust can reach temperatures upwards of 1,000 degrees, and here is where the danger lies. There is potential for fire hazard if the oil that sprays on to the turbo/manifold is ignited. This is a very real hazard and cause cause serious damage to your vehicle. We recommend that if you have the turbo feed pipe leak, that you address it as soon as possible. Another common leak on 2nd gen MINI is brake booster vacuum pump which is located on left side top of engine (driver side of cylinder head). Both Cooper and Cooper S models are equipped with these. If you are lucky enough to have the S version the dealer will cover the vacuum pump under the California Emission Warranty which is 7 years or 70,000 miles, whichever comes first. If you have a base model it is only covered 4 years or 50,000 miles. Either way the dealer will charge you around $1000 to replace this part, at The Haus we can perform the same repair using original equipment manufacturer part for around 1/2 the price, and we give you the same 2 year/24,000 mile warranty on parts & labor as the local dealers. If you are looking for certified MINI technicians in Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, or Hollywood call The Haus and speak to one of our pros and schedule an appointment.
We perform a complete safety inspection of your vehicle on every visit to keep you in the know about upcoming repairs so there are fewer surprises. Check back soon for more advice to keep your MINI in tip top shape and save you money on repairs.
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).