7 Common Mini Cooper Problems

Mini Cooper repair in Los Angeles, California

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.

Mini cooper Vanos repair

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

  • reply Christina ,

    Thank you for the information. I am looking to purchase a manual clubman s. I’ve read sometimes the turbo goes out and needs replacing, is there a preventive thing I can do when I find the one for me?
    I will be buying a preowned one. Most likely, I will not be able to find one with service records either. Here is what I plan to do when I get the mini:
    I will listen for rattling (chain) on idle, hopefully cold start
    Have a fresh oil change (always full synthetic)
    Add additive to hopefully clean any existing carbon build up.

    Regarding the water pump/thermostat housing: what happens if i wait until it goes out? Im debating on whether I should get a warranty or not, and if i do, they require something to break to be replaced.

    • reply kevin ,

      Hello Christina,
      The turbos do not fail very often, the best way to maintain the turbo is change oil frequently and make sure oil level is full at all times. Best thing to do is before you buy have a pre-purchase inspection performed. There are not any additives that will help with carbon build up, any additive you put in the fuel tank will never touch the valves. The carbon can only be cleaned manually. Yes you can wait on the water pump and thermostat, just make sure they are not leaking before you purchase the vehicle.
      Thank you,

    • reply Christina ,

      Hello it is me again

      So i went through with the purchase and i did purchase a service contract to cover the common issues like fuel pump etc. I did not get the all inclusive warranty since it cost 2x as much ($4000!!). Anyway, so I am able to exchange the vehicle if I do not like it etc but I rather would not. I do have a problem that I hope is not major and will not require immediate attention.

      Sometimes, the automatic does not want to shift out of park. I’ve tried to figure out if it is something Im doing and it was fine for a few days but today, it did it again. vehicle is started, let it run a few seconds to get the oil moving, foot on brake, press lever to shift and it wont budge. previously, i pressed the lever with 2 hands and it went fine. So im thinking its something near the shifter end of things. Once i drive the vehicle, it goes into drive fine. At first I thought maybe shift cable.. but i feel like that would be something that is constant, not sporadic. My other thought was maybe the lever is getting stuck inside and wont let the release fully disengage so I can shift? I am ok with it, I just hope it doesnt require immediate attention because i dont think this is something that is covered by my warranty.

      The other thing is that the “lift/brake” light came on, does that mean my brakes are simply getting low? the vehicle has a 6 month warranty for brake measurement.

      I need 1 more thing figured out.. I cant open my hood at this point. the cable disconnected from the handle so I am having a friend look at it soon to see if we can get that fixed/taken care of. If I cant open the hood, obviously i cant check my oil etc. so that is a major thing i am trying to figure out sooner not later.

      Thank you again!!!

      So far, i LOVE driving it though! The S is definitely the way to go.. and it sounds great. I love the sound when it is in sport mode of the lower gears while i slow down. handling is amazing. I also found out my water pump was changed this past november due to recall so i think that is good.

      • reply kevin ,

        Christina please call or email us so we can further discuss your issues. We would be happy to help and we work with most warranty companies.
        Thank you

      • reply kevin ,

        By all means please share anything you like and we would be happy to return the favor!

        • reply Abner ,

          I recently (3 months ago) bought an automatic transmission 2012 Mini Cooper Countryman AWD. I live in Wisconsin; the mini powered through the first winter storm of the year and I am confident about that. I have some questions.

          1. Is the suspension typically tight on Minis? I feel like the ride could be smoother, especially for my passengers in the rear which even when I’m driving feels a bit harsher in the back.
          2. We have bad roads in the city, and every time I hit a semi tough pothole or bump the front of my dashboard or front mirror sounds like it’s gonna break. I took it in for a carwash on day and right after the sounds weren’t there, so I am wondering if it has to do with the glass hitting whatever is supporting it too hard. Is this common? How do I help it?
          3. My MINI had 17,000 miles on it when I bought it even though it was 3-4 years old. They recommended oil change once a year or every 10,000 miles. Would you recommend I at least do twice/year anyway?

          The factory warranty that comes with the car at first purchase expires in 8 months.
          Thanks for all your help!

          • reply kevin ,

            1) YES the suspension is very stiff on these vehicles and the short wheelbase makes it even rougher.
            2) Not sure about noise without hearing it in person, but as related to the comment above above the suspension is very stiff and hitting a large pothole in one of these cars can be quite jarring.
            3) I am in the process of writing a blog that pertains specifically to the oil change interval. The factory interval of once a year or 10,000 miles is way too long, especially if it has a turbo. We recommend to change the oil every 6 months or 5,000 miles whichever comes first and check in between oil changes.
            If you can I recommend purchasing an extended warranty before you vehicle goes out of factory warranty.
            Thank you very much

          • reply Jesse Hooton ,

            Wow I never really knew they had this many problems and I’ve already experienced three of them in my 05 convertible which I’ve had for almost two years now and it only has 68k miles on it. I had my clutch replaced last year and I’ve had my power steering cut in and out every now and then and I have received a letter in the mail stating there is a defect with the power steering and now, I’m in need of a new transmission and pressure plate. I’m debating wether or not to have the dealership fix it as I’ve been going to our trusted mechanic for almost every repair I’ve needed.

            • reply Seiyoung Cho ,

              I have a mini cooper 2007 convertible. I have had the same transmission problems 3 times in 2012, 2014, and now. I bought fidelity warranty to cover transmission in 2012. In 2014 BMW mini covered the cost because the same problem has happened within 2 years. Now I have the same problem for the 3rd time, but they refused me cover the cost because it happened after 2 years (2 years and 9 months). They asked me to pay $4000. To me it sounds funny because it costs more than my car’s value and there is no guarantee that I won’t have the same problem again in 2 years. The manager at dealership just asked me to lease or trade off a new car if I can’t pay for it, which I don’t want to do that because I don’t trust in BMW company anymore. What should I do? I just found out the lawsuit and think that BMW company should be more responsible for their technical defects. I feel cheated.

              • reply Ela ,

                Hi. I have a 2009 mini cooper, 1.6 gasoline, 120 cp(horse power). Recently ive been having problems with it, the engine check lighted up.the first time it lighted up when i put fuel in it. I canceled it at the mechanic,being told that is from the fuel.after that,it happend again, only when i put fuel in it. Then i noticed it lights up(the check engine) when i turn on the AC. Maybe its just a coincidence,idk. Canceled it again,and then after a better testing ive been told it has a problem on the vanos system,that it needs updating,cause of the fuel here being different,(the car being brought from Italy)so i updated it,2 times, After updating,when i started it and went on the road,i had alot of black smoke behind,then the smoke stoped, and i drove it without problems.but now,its happend again.But the guy who did the testing didnt tell me the exact error. My question is, does anyone else had any issues with this ? And if so, what did you do? Our car dealerships dont have mini cooper where im at, and i have to go in my capital to see them for checking. I am going to do that,but wanted some kind of second opinion if anyone had any issues with vanos until now.

                • reply Shawn Powell ,

                  I am considering purchasing a 2012 Mini Cooper Countryman S. It has an automatic transmission with about 50K miles on it. I have heard several concerns about this transmission type and was wondering if I should avoid it altogether, or will regular preventative maintenance help bypass most of the issues?

                  • reply Johnny ,

                    My 2010 Mini Cooper S had been starting rough. When I took it in the it gave random misfire codes on all cylinders. After a tune up the issue still exists. It struggles when first starting but smooths out and seems to run fine. Is this a common issue?

                    • reply Jerry ,

                      Hi I have mini on a 54 plate and it’s been on the garage for over 3weeks they went through a number of problems and in the end thought I was the fuel pump which they replaced but no joy… they said they can not identify the problem so not sure what to do? Need some help I only purchased this car last year in November so not even been 1 year? Please advise what I can do I can’t afford to not have a car but on the other hand I can not afford to buy a new car… I thought getting a mini would be safe clearly I was wrong…

                      • reply Randy ,

                        Just getting my 1rst cooper tommr ~ 2009 base model ~mechanic n i are friends ~ 55,000 miles he is doing a timming issue before i get it ~ looking for feedback on this model ~ thanks

                        • reply Alexis ,

                          I am considering buying a 2002-2005 Mini Cooper s supercharged. I am just wondering about all the risks I have been hearing about with this car. I will only drive manual transmissions and I have heard the clutches go out fast on these cars. Since it is 2017 and I am purchasing an old model is this something I should worry about? When looking at a car what should I look for? I will be buying privately from a person not a dealership

                          • reply Mike K ,

                            Trust me, this is the tip of the ice berg. Google is your friend. I’ve essentially paid for my ’08 Gen 2 Cooper S twice, even using a very reputable independent BMW/Mini repair shop. The dealership would have been much more and likely still not addressed the problems once out of warranty. Among the things besides typical maintenance off the top of my head: thermostat and housing (2x), timing chain tensioners (2x), valve cover venting issue (replaced), high pressure fuel pump, intermittent yellow warning light (despite new plugs, coils, shell blast cleaning, etc.)… Some of these things were the subject of class action lawsuits they were so common; others should have been. Did I mention I’m a grandpa, not a deranged teenager, and I maintained the car well? The problems started at only 48K miles and were continual. Once the bleeding starts with a BMW, or any German car really, it doesn’t stop. That’s what leasing is for. But long term ownership? Caveat emptor.

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