The Mini Cooper is one of the best-known vehicles on the road and a real iconic symbol of the English attitude and ingenuity towards car design. From the classic versions that took the world by storm in the Paris to Dakar rallies of yesteryear through to the redesigned new school cars on the road today, this is a vehicle that makes a statement.
However, the Mini is far from perfect. There are a number of common faults that can occur in a vehicle that could cost a considerable amount of money to fix. In this article we explore some of the common issues that could act as a bit of a red flag when it comes to purchasing a second-hand model.
Loose timing chain issues
One of the most common faults with all 2nd generation minis, the loose timing chain problem will show up as a rattle, often known as a death rattle, upon cold start up. The problem is caused by infrequent oil changes and is certainly one that you won’t want to ignore as it is a major repair, so make sure you check the service history of your second hand mini if you cannot locate a fault on start up.
Not so much a failure with the mini itself, but rather a fault with the manufacturer’s communication. Contrary to some of the instructions the previous owner might have received with your mini, the transmission fluid needs changing every 30,000-40,000 miles. This could cost you hundreds of pounds in repairs. Five speed minis are more reliable, but those manufactured before 2008 with CVT transmissions will require a definite closer inspection.
Water pump and thermostat housing leaks
One of the more vulnerable parts in the Mini Cooper is the water pump and thermostat which is commonly known to leak in the engine after long term use. Have a look inside the second-hand car and ask when the part was replaced. If there are more than 40,000 – 50,000 miles on the clock, but the original part is still in the vehicle it may be one to avoid.
Many Mini owners like to drive your car round the inner-city streets, and the tough and demanding nature of this environment a mini’s clutch may cause premature part failure. Look for a tell-tale smell of burning paper and a sticky clutch, which indicates the part is on its way out and will probably need replacing at your local garage – so if you detect such symptoms in a potential purchase either ask for a reduction in price or look elsewhere.
Variable valve timing
Another problem related to regular oil changes is the variable valve timing that’s essential to the good running of the engine. Without a regular supply of clean oil this intricate system can get become full of sludge, blocking the tiny passages. This is quite a common problem in the mini as it’s very easy for this build up to occur in a couple of thousand miles. Take your potential second-hand mini purchase for a test drive and be very inquisitive as to how it accelerates and pulls away. Rough idling, stalling, all the usual engine difficulties associated with combustion are the red flags you need to watch.
Electric power steering problems
Over the years every car has recalls, and one of the most notable on the Mini Cooper has been a power steering pump failure that caused a number of vehicles to be recalled. If you are experiencing stiffness or sluggish responses when turning the wheel of a second-hand vehicle during the test drive, then this could be the underlying culprit. Whilst you are unlikely to experience this problem due to the recall, it could be a potential deal breaker.
This one is more of a prevention than cure. There is a well-known weakness in the front unit of the 2nd generation Mini Cooper as the whole assembly that supports the radiator, fan and condenser is made out of plastic. Even the slightest knock can cause major problems with this supporting structure. The coolant hose sits at the bottom of this array and is especially vulnerable. Inspect the part for cracks and ensure that there are no tell-tale signs of damage before you go ahead with a purchase.
The Mini Cooper is a solid reliable vehicle that looks good on the road and is backed by some solid engineering. It makes a great choice of second hand car and will hold its value quite well when compared to similar sized models from different manufacturers. Definitely one for the first time buyer, just be sure to perform all the right checks and you won’t be short-changed by the seller.