Mini Coopers can be great fun to drive, but sometimes problems do crop up. This covers the seven most common problems we run across in servicing Mini Coopers.
1. Failed Electric Power Steering Pumps - Electric power steering pumps can be prone to failure. If your power steering pump has to be replaced it is a good idea to check out the cooling fan and other related parts while the vehicle is apart.
2. Clutch Failure - Early clutch failures seem to be related to hard use.
3. Transmission Issues - Problems with the automatic transmission come down to the manufacturers saying that their transmissions do not need fluid changes. This is a big problem because not changing the transmission fluid will cause it to fail early. Changing the transmission fluid every 30,000 to 40,000 miles will save thousands of dollars in repairs. The CVT transmissions installed before 2008 should have regular oil changes; however the 5 speed automatic transmissions used on most Minis are much more reliable.
4. Rattling Timing Chains - Timing chains can start rattling. This problem can be worse when the engine is idling. This is a fairly major repair, but do not ignore it or you could end up with some major problems. It seems like this issue is also related to not changing the transmission oil/fluid often enough. (See number 6)
5. Water Pump and Thermostat Housing Leak - If your Mini Cooper has over 50,000 miles you should consider replacing the water pump and thermostat. This can save hours of labor if you replace them before finding a leak.
6. Performance Issues Related to Variable Valve Timing (VVT) - This can happen when the oil is not changed enough. The VVT requires a good flow of oil to operate the system. When the oil is not changed, sludge builds up and blocks the tiny passages.
If this happens, we suggest changing the oil to try and let the detergent in the oil clean the oily supply passages. To prevent the problem, change the oil as soon as it gets dirty, even if it's after a couple of thousand miles. If the passages are not blocked completely this might solve the problem.
7. Damaged Front Radiator Support - The front radiator support is made of plastic and it supports the radiator, fan, and condenser. It sits very low, and it doesn't take much to damage the support. Just a moderate impact on a high curb can cause a lot of damage. The lower coolant hose sits even lower and if this is hit it can also cause a lot of damage, so be sure to take care when parking your car.
That said, don't let this list alarm you. Mini Coopers aren't the most expensive cars to purchase new, and with regular maintenance, depending on the type of driving you do, the cars are designed to last a long time. Mini Cooper maintenance costs are in line with other performance cars.