1 2
nullcell New Reader
2/7/17 10:55 p.m.

I guess I should start a thread to log my experience with this vehicle - I mean self flagellation device. Created by the Brits and BMW to troll car enthusiasts. There's really no other explanation for the bizarre design choices and continuous failure rates. I hate this car so much. I love this car. I hate this car. When it is running, its fun. But it spends more time on jackstands then on its own four wheels. I'm so deep into it now though that I determined its better to just fix it again and use it for road trips or something. I must be masochistic. I hate this car. In any event, my intention for this car is as a hotted up weekend cruiser/road tripper/road rally car to go to gatherings and stuff like that, take on getaways to the casino, that sort of thing, not turn it into a track car. So to that end I'm doing streetable performance mods, reliability fixes, and will probably cover the whole interior in the deadener/foam/mass loaded vinyl 3 layer sound deadening technique to try to eliminate the 64,000 rattles and make it quiet inside.

I swapped out the stock S-lite wheels with 17" run flat tires for 15" lightweight wheels and non-run flat tires, for better responsiveness ride comfort and pothole resistance.

I acquired this jalopy, a 2004 Mini Cooper S with ~127k miles, about 1 year ago from a former co-worker for $2500. I thought it was a great deal. I found it odd how poorly he spoke of it, calling it names, referring to it as a jalopy, happy to unload it at any price. How bad could it possible BE I thought, this guy just doesn't know cars....

Let's see. Just before Christmas the alternator siezed and the entire battery/charging circuit blew. The day after I had installed a Milltek exhaust manifold with sport cat and an Invidia N1 exhaust. You have to disassemble half the car and drop the exhaust manifold to replace the starter. Because friggin Mini. FML.

A lot of things on this car require you as step 1 to either drop the front subframe or disassemble the entire front clip of the car (bumper/bumper support/radiator&condensor support). I put off a lot of stuff because I was like f that I'm not doing that again.

Some stuff done so far:

  • Replace power steering hoses and power steering tank
  • Replace tail lights
  • Trunk hatch supports
  • Rain gutters - have to replace the whole thing to fix the little pieces above the a-pillar because stupid design to piss people off
  • Alta 17% supercharger pulley
  • Battery, starter, alternator, O2 sensor, fuses
  • EVP purge valve
  • Rotors and pads
  • 15" wheels and tires
  • Intercooler boots
  • Intercooler
  • Air intake
  • Exhaust manifold w/ sport cat - Milltek
  • Exhaust - Invidia N1
  • ST suspension coilovers
  • Ireland engineering fixed front camber plates
  • Strut tower bearings
  • Replaced both steering knuckles
  • Brake sensors
  • Tons of little things that turned into projects

Installing coilovers turned into a huge project of trying to drill out broken pinch bolts. Wound up replacing one steering knuckle. Then couldn't get ball joint out of the other one and replaced that one too. Everything on this car is intentionally designed to irritate and annoy the user.

I've probably dumped about $6-7k into this car in 1 year. And there's still stuff that has to be done, like the fuel tank straps are pretty rusty and making an annoying rattle, there's rattles inside the doors that sound like the windows are gonna fall out, rattles everywhere, little things like the rear windshield wiper is cracked and needs to be replaced or deleted, need to POR-15 rust showing up in spots on the subframes, etc.

This car must have lived most of its life outside in the northeast. Every task, tasks that should take 30 minutes, takes 3 days of PB blastering and fighting nuts and bolts and drilling things out and cutting things off.

Put it up on jackstands 10 days ago thinking I would quick replace the LCA bushings by cutting them out with a sawzall. Here we are 10 days later and once again the car looks like this:

I wound up replacing the control arms because I didn't feel like fighting getting the old inner ball joints out.

I had dropped the oil pan to replace the gasket as I noticed ton of oil everywhere in addition the gunk caused by the crank position sensor o-ring that leaks on every single car from the factory.

Drained and refilled the manual transmission fluid with Royal Purple Synchromax.

Going to replace the bypass valve with a Detroit Tuned BVH, replace water pump because I don't know when or if it was done, change the supercharger oil, replace the stock harmonic balancer with an ATI super damper, replace the idler pulley and replace the damper on the belt tensioner with an Alta adjustable "damper" that is really a fixed adjuster.

For the amount of pain and suffering dealing with this car, and disassembling half the car all the time or dropping the subframe...I should've just bought a 996 and dealt with the IMS bearing or bought an old benz V12 SL or something. For all the horror stories the maintenance is probably a relief in comparison to this jigsaw puzzle of a car.

Its a shame really...If it were reliable and designed with some sanity and for maintainability, it would be a great car. Maybe what the world needs is for Toyota or Mazda to build a Japanese Mini.

So, the car presently sits with the whole front end disassembled. Hopefully, fingers crossed, once parts get here tomorrow and Thursday it will be a straightforward job of reassembly and won't take long. Then I can jack up the rear and swap out the sway bar endlinks from the MAXX-G ones that are just a little too short for the Alta ones, and go drive the thing.

I've got enough invested in this car now that I guess I'm just gonna go all the way and hopefully drive it for a long time.

Jambo New Reader
2/7/17 11:39 p.m.

I think they did build a Japanese mini. They just called it a Civic hatch, or was it a CRX?

Sorry for your troubles though. I'm elbow deep in a project that seems to keep presenting new and exciting problems every time I think I'm turning the corner too, but nothing as bad as what you're describing here.

Keep up the good work. We love a good horror story. (Plus now we'll know the true cost of owning one of those 'cheap' mini coopers we may see from time to time.)

Kinda like Tim's 'affordable' Porsche.

wheelsmithy Dork
2/7/17 11:41 p.m.

I feel your pain. What to say next...? It is a very good looking car. I like how they look.

nullcell New Reader
2/9/17 7:17 p.m.

Really not happy with this car or Mini or BMW at all right now. I hate these people so much I don't think I will ever buy another BMW or BMW related product again, new or used. Have had several but will not be a repeat customer ever again.

So, I pulled the supercharger, throttle body, BVH, water pump and associated pieces off the car so I could swap out the water pump, change the supercharger oil, and put on a detroit tuned BVH.

I had ordered a replacement water pump on Amazon. I had no idea that apparently some people sell "half" a water pump. So I got half a water pump, and am supposed to take the other half off the old one and put it on the new one. Using these stupid berkeleying Torx screws, one of which stripped. Tried drilling it out and...one of the other tabs/screw holes cracked off the berkeleying half of the water pump I need. This thing "looks" like metal, but is actually berkeleying plastic. WTF. Un-berkeleying-believable. So I ordered a new water pump from a different brand on Amazon, because nobody else berkeleying stocks these things anywhere, but it won't be here until Saturday. And I guess I have to cross my fingers and hope its actually a complete unit and not another "half" a water pump. So my hopes of having the car back together and getting out of town for a night Saturday night is now shot.

I am so mad right now, I just want to put this car back together and get it out of my garage. There is a guy up the road from me selling 2 Miatas for the price of one, 2 running and fun cars for less than what I paid for this berkeleying piece of E36 M3 jalopy.

nullcell New Reader
2/9/17 7:20 p.m.

This people. This is what berkeleying life with one of these piece of E36 M3 Mini products is like. This is not a 80's restoration project...its supposedly a late-model car. A classic Mini from 40 years ago is probably more reliable than this piece of E36 M3 and would probably actually RUN for more than a few weeks at a time!

dculberson PowerDork
2/9/17 7:43 p.m.

Jesus man I'm sorry. I almost bought one of these from a tenant when her clutch went out at like 100k miles and the dealer offered her $1300 in trade in. This makes me glad I couldn't work it out with her. (She had a loan on it still and the dealer could pay it off and roll it into her new note while obviously I couldn't.)

Slippery Dork
2/9/17 8:09 p.m.

Call me masochist, but I want one of these so bad its not funny.

Yours looks amazing.

nullcell New Reader
2/9/17 8:09 p.m.

Yeah, "the only thing more expensive than a new mini is a cheap used mini"... I've been thinking about it and I think the reason this car is such a pain in the ass is because of cost cutting. Its like they must have had a "good" design and then went through and revised everything everywhere they could think of cutting production costs, like switching to inferior materials etc. That's why sometimes you put a new part on and it might last 100k miles or it might fail in 5000 miles even though its brand new. I guess these 1st gens were really designed by Rover, so maybe the blame goes to them and not necessarily BMW as BMW simply bought and inherited the company and its products. And British carmakers all seemingly are famously good at going bankrupt, so perhaps these design choices were an act of desparation. This car is like a facade. Its marketing a perception of quality, like with the fake metal thats actually plastic but doesn't look like plastic, but isn't actually quality.

Frustating though. How was I supposed to know if you order a water pump some brands are half a water pump and some aren't. I'm curious to find out now if the aftermarket water pump I ordered from Gates has a metal other-half pipe piece or a plastic "fake metal" one like the OEM.

nullcell New Reader
2/9/17 8:21 p.m.
Slippery wrote: Call me masochist, but I want one of these so bad its not funny. Yours looks amazing.

If you have the space to let the car sit for periods of time while ordering parts and its just an extra project car. When they are running they are very fun cars. Go-kart feel. Its like a blend between a Lotus and a 1-series...go-kart like characteristics with just enough goodies to make it feel like a real car, but settles into a nice cruise on the highway.

Relatively simple and straightforward design but like I mentioned above the parts and design quality leaves a lot to be desired and leads to lots of unintended dark alleys. Simple tasks turn into projects of themselves.

Best bet is to find the nicest 06 R53 (last year of R53) MCS you can find and pay a premium to an enthusiast who has already dealt with everything. If you buy one of the super cheap examples you just wind up dumping all the savings into tons of parts anyway.

One thing nobody has come up with a good fix design for yet is the belt tensioner. These things fail and etch a groove into the harmonic balancer. Some fail fast, some last for a long time before suddenly failing. I'm kinda surprised after all this time nobody in the aftermarket redesigned this stupid thing. Like not a tensioner stop or band aid, but just design a complete replacement part that doesn't suck. Its a pain in the ass to deal with, you have to jack up the engine etc.

TED_fiestaHP New Reader
2/9/17 10:41 p.m.

My BMW X3 is mostly plastic, and a lot of it snaps together. Might make it easier to build at the factory, but not good for fixing any part of it. New power steering pump came without the pulley, normally not a issue, just use the old one, but you can't get the old one off without breaking it and the new pulley will cost more than the pump. The worst was the gas filter, could be a $20 part but no, they made the pressure regulator and filter one piece, so now it is $130, and it is in the tank....

Slippery Dork
2/10/17 7:38 a.m.

I am sure you know this but the best two websites when it comes to these cars, both BMW and MINI, are these:

Real OEM

The BMW MINI Parts Store

The first one to look up part numbers and the second to order the parts.

Using realoem I see that the part number for the water pump is:


And it sells for $111.72 on the other website, which is the best price dealer-wise.

I also use a program created by a fellow enthusiast called BMW PNPC, found here:


Its a script that will find you the best price and the result looks like this:

The one highlighted in green is the lowest price.

You can also search multiple parts and have it export it to an Excel spreadsheet to compare if you are buying multiple parts.

Hope that helps!

fanfoy Dork
2/10/17 8:38 a.m.

In reply to Slippery:

That's pretty amazing...but also a good sign that a car is really unreliable when someone took the time to create a complex program just to help him shop for parts.

dj06482 SuperDork
2/10/17 8:45 a.m.

Thank you for scaring me away from Mini ownership, I was just thinking how one of these might be a fun car.

BA5 New Reader
2/10/17 8:55 a.m.

A good friend/coworker of mine went through two of these. He liked them, but they were ALWAYS causing him some sort of headache and requiring some sort of expensive repair.

He has a Civic Si now.

efahl New Reader
2/10/17 10:14 a.m.
nullcell wrote: Let's see. Just before Christmas the alternator siezed and the entire battery/charging circuit blew.

Like I've always said, B-O-S-C-H is just the German spelling of "Lucas."

karplus2 New Reader
2/10/17 12:34 p.m.

I had one of these that looked almost exactly like yours. I bought it for cheap. It had tons of issues. I traded it for my FiST when the clutch started slipping shortly after fixing tons of other stuff. The worst part of the car was the leaking hatch which would send water into the battery compartment causing all kinds of fun electrical issues. I never was able to track down where it was leaking from.

nullcell New Reader
2/10/17 1:27 p.m.

I think this car gave me a disease or an infection or something. My hand has randomly started bleeding today near my fingers and wrist and joints are aching. Uggh.

Sky_Render SuperDork
2/10/17 2:16 p.m.

A couple that I used to autocross with had one of these. It was ALWAYS broken. But fortunately for them, they had purchased an extended warranty. They sold it right before the warranty expired.

It's a real shame; these cars had so much potential. But don't let this scare you out of the automotive hobby altogether.

nullcell New Reader
2/10/17 8:12 p.m.

Yeah, they definitely have potential. Won't scare me away from the hobby, I've done other cars, rebuilt an e30, etc. Which I suppose is what makes it frustrating...when you know how other projects go, and how something straightforward like this should go, it just makes it irritating more than anything. I dunno, maybe if I manage to get it back together and running this weekend I can chill out about it for awhile.

nullcell New Reader
2/11/17 12:05 p.m.

New water pump from Gates is a complete unit this time. Maybe I'll actually get this car reassembled today.

MrJoshua UltimaDork
2/11/17 12:51 p.m.

In reply to nullcell:

Plastic metal or metal metal?

nullcell New Reader
2/11/17 2:35 p.m.
MrJoshua wrote: In reply to nullcell: Plastic metal or metal metal?

Can't tell. I mean it looks like metal, pretty light though.

Agent98 New Reader
2/11/17 3:20 p.m.

Thanks nutcell, you are taking one for the team, I have had my eye on these for quite a while. Any reason for a fool to hope that the NA version or a different year might not be a total -soul sucking, wallet draining pile?

nullcell New Reader
2/11/17 8:38 p.m.

berkeley this car! Got crank pulley bolt out...but.... berkeley

nullcell New Reader
2/11/17 8:42 p.m.
Agent98 wrote: Thanks nutcell, you are taking one for the team, I have had my eye on these for quite a while. Any reason for a fool to hope that the NA version or a different year might not be a total -soul sucking, wallet draining pile?

If you go for the turbo they have their own issues like certain years catch fire because Mini in their infinite wisdom placed oil feed line where it acts as lighter fluid, some aspects get better in newer years but it seems to me its just changing from one wacky design to a different wacky design. NA cars don't have some of the complexity from the boost systems so they are less frustrating to some degree but they have no balls and are kinda pointless, I guess they could be good for like an old lady going to church on sundays or something.

1 2
Our Preferred Partners