1966stang Reader
8/19/12 12:11 p.m.

We bought a low mile R53 Cooper S a few months ago and it is fantastic, love it.

GRM article/buyers guide was very helpful. Any advice on keeping this car alive long term would be appreciated. Mostly asking about anything else a newbie owner needs to know.

Also would like to know about front Camber adjustment and front Camber plates, as I eventually plan to Auto X and track the car.

Thanks for your help!

mndsm PowerDork
8/19/12 1:00 p.m.

Regular oil changes, obviously. As it gets higher mile, it will like to use a little bit of oil between changes. I've found that switching to a euro-blend 0w40 made the valve clatter issues mine started developing at 90k or so in check. High zinc is your friend. Cars have HIDEOUS camber issues at the front, will eat the hell out of your tires. Regular rotation is key. Beyond that, mines' run like a top, and we've had it for 80k or so.... bought it used in 2007 with 18k on the clock, and it's got 101k now. Great fun these things. I've also heard reports of the front strut towers mushrooming, but haven't had that experience personally.

modernbeat Dork
8/19/12 1:51 p.m.

I make camber plates for that car and custom fit them to most any strut and spring. Call Vorshlag or just look at their site.

DeadSkunk Dork
8/19/12 2:04 p.m.

They like to rip the A-arm bushings. When it happens use after market replacements. Driver's side window lifts are prone to failure, but you just go on-line and learn where to apply "the Fonzi Whack" to get it operational again. The exhaust hangers on the muffler will rot quickly depending where you are in the country. Other than those things mine has been pretty reliable. Regular tire rotation and fresh shocks will add to tire longevity. Watch for the strut tower mushrooming if you autocross or track it . Mine has 77,000 on it now.

Ian F
Ian F PowerDork
8/19/12 2:27 p.m.

Pretty much what's been said:

Ireland Engineering fixed camber plates will add a nice amount of camber for spirited driving while keeping the ride quality and tire wear reasonable. These will also help considerably with mushrooming.

Powerflex lca bushings are a nice upgrade. The factory ones don't last long. I've seen them leaking their oil in under 10k miles.

In mid '04, they changed the motor mount design and the revised one likes to puke oil all over the passenger side of the engine bay.

The Tritec likes to leak oil from a number of sources, unfortunately.

Watch for rust under the door seal along the pinch weld.

ultraclyde Dork
8/19/12 4:48 p.m.

I think our R53 has a bad motormount - lots of vibration and a godawful deathrattle when rolling out from a stop with the AC on, but sounds fine with it off. I haven't had a chance to really check it yet, but I did price replacements. Ouch. Any alternative ideas on non-oe type motor mounts?

One other thing I was warned about by another owner - if the serpentine belt breaks, it destroys the tensioner - which is a $300+ part. A couple companies make inexpensive devices to prevent it, or you can just make sure and change the belt early.

MCarp22 HalfDork
8/19/12 5:02 p.m.

My dad's 02 is up around 185,000 miles now. Aside from the clutch exploding, license plate & fog lamps corroding, and needing a new u-joint in the steering, it's been a pretty solid car.

Slyp_Dawg HalfDork
8/19/12 5:08 p.m.

I know that Way Motor Works sells a passenger side motor mount that looks like two rubber cones stacked end to end with a bit of threaded rod through the middle, supposed to work just as well as the stock mount but being rubber/poly, won't puke oil. other than that and the aforementioned issues, the stock harmonic balancer is liable to take itself apart when driven hard and approaching 100K miles, as it's just two iron rings joined together by essentially a bushing. ATI makes a stock-replacement balancer, as well as a 2% overdrive pulley to spin the supercharger a tiny bit faster, both of which are SFI/FIA approved. Generally, once you get to spinning the supercharger ~17% quicker, you're at the limits of what the stock injectors can deliver, but a set of JCW injectors should be good for that setup, although they will require a retune.

ultraclyde Dork
8/19/12 6:21 p.m.

Our balancer lunched at 60k. ATI doing ok at 100k

Tyler H
Tyler H GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/19/12 9:29 p.m.

The harmonic balancers go and make a noise like a small exhaust manifold leak under moderate acceleration. The only real fix is the ATI, which isn't cheap, but is top notch.

The strut towers mushroom easily, and you'll know when it happens--I hit an expansion joint on an offramp and my steering was immediately off-center. The IE fixed camber plates are great, and you can easily fix the mushrooming with a piece of 2x4 and a hammer. The IE plates are cut, not stamped, and cover about twice as much of the surface of the bottom of the strut tower as the stock mounts. I would consider this PM on any R53.

Change the serp belt often. PM goes a long way.

They like Castrol Synthetic.

They will eat HID ignitors, which are integrated into the lamp housing and not serviceable. --Buy used ones, as they're 1k apiece new.

They eat electric PS pumps.

If you get a notchy feel in the steering on-center, it is the u-joints on the funky triangular aluminum steering shaft. Mine was replaced and lasted less than 20k miles before it did it again. I was able to vastly improve it by overtorquing the set-bolt on the joint behind the steering wheel.

Window regulators are 50k replacement items. I think it's due to them getting worked every time the door is opened, closed.

Windshields....find a way to get a damage coverage. I got mine bullseyed the day after it was replaced. I actually just got a class action settlement notice in the mail for R53 owners that had a windshield done at the dealer with less than 50k miles.

I had a white vinyl wrap material on the sunroof that had little holes in it. Reflected the sun and you could still see through it and get light in the cabin. Helped the meager AC.

These cars are wicked fun, if you can adopt the same maintenance philosophy of a BMW or Audi.

amg_rx7 Dork
8/20/12 12:13 a.m.

Bought my 06 S new. To keep them going, change the engine oil regularly (under 5k miles) and watch for leaks from the coolant system (overflow tank, thermostat housing) and Power Steering lines.

Problems I've had over 88k miles: - 4 pax side motor mounts - 1 thermostat housing - 1 overflow tank - PS hoses - driver side LCA bushing - leaking oil pan and o-ring at back of the motor that makes it look like the oil pan is leaking...

Also, and this is a big one, the 6 speed Aisan auto trans tends to kill it's solenoid pack. Mini refuses to acknowledge the problem even though VW Audi issued a recall on the same trans and solenoid pack. shiny happy person BMW berkeley wads...

Regarding suspension...

I never had any abnormal tire wear except when the LCA bushing wore out. Front camber is non-adjustable at -0.5* on stock upper shock mount and springs at stock ride height. I tried the Vorshlag camber plates once. They suck. The stack is too think and winds up decreasing shock travel. I've driven a car with the Ireland Engineering camber plates and they felt good w/o any undue NVH. The H-Sport provide the best combination of performance and low NVH IMO.

Some of the springs don't actually improve anything either. there is so little shock travel that lowering the car doesn't do much except make it look a little cooler while compromising handing in some cases and ride in many cases.

this has been one of the few cars that I've left mostly stock. I've tried a few aftermarket pieces and they just didn't make the experience better - but in some cases do make it worse.... Lots of blow hards on the Mini forums clamoring about how great whatever mod of the month is but most people are clueless about mods that actually ADD or improve performance from what i've observed over the years.

Unless things have changed, Way Motor Works has been one of the best vendors out there. Call him up for recommendations and you get a no BS response.

Ian F
Ian F PowerDork
8/20/12 9:21 a.m.
amg_rx7 wrote: Mini refuses to acknowledge the problem even though VW Audi issued a recall on the same trans and solenoid pack. shiny happy person BMW berkeley wads...

It pretty much takes an act of god for MINI/BMW to admit to any faults with the MINI design/parts.

My g/f's R53 was purchased new in '03 and it's been in it's current state for a number of years: ProMINI CAI, Helix 15% pulley, Helix SSK, JCW cat-back w/ resonator eliminator pipe, IE camber plates w/ Craven top plates, Koni FSD struts (OE sport package springs), Powerflex LCA bushings, Helix RSB, 16x7 Panasports w/ 205/50-16 Goodyear GSD3 tires.

She passed 100K on the car a few months ago and has a list of general service tasks she wants me to do when the house renovation is done. A dyno/Jan-tune would be nice at some point, although to her the car has adequate power and handles well.

billswebspace None
9/22/12 1:46 p.m.

I bought my 2005 MCS at 110k miles but in immaculate condition. The first item replaced was the passenger side motor mount (I knew it was leaking when I bought it) followed shortly by the power steering pump. At about 145k miles I replaced all of the subframe and engine bushings I could replace with poly. Now at 175k miles, the car has been reliable and I don't have any horror stories. I replaced it recently with a Miata for my highway business commuter and passed the Mini on to my wife so she could continue to enjoy it. These cars saw/see ~1k miles a week with my weekly out-of-state trips.

More details on the maintenance items I DIYed for the Mini on my website, www.billswebspace.com/mcs.htm- it should cover most of the basic maintenance tasks, Pelican Parts has some good write-ups, and the forum community is great help as well.

ChrisHachet New Reader
9/23/16 7:02 a.m.

Playing thread necromancer to thank everyone who responded-4 plus years on, minor issues with the passenger side window regulator are the only problems so far.

Warmest regards, and happy motoring,


Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
9/24/16 6:58 a.m.

My ex still has her '03. She has done a few things herself and paid to have some stuff done as well. The driver's side window regulator was one item. Bonnet release cable was another. She has no plans to ever sell the car and wants to be that person who goes to MINI gatherings 20 years from now as an original owner.

She also bought a new ND as well as an older Grand Cherokee, so the MINI doesn't get quite as much use. Amusing now to think back and remember how she bought the MINI to be her winter beater vs her '97 M3 (which is now long gone...). She's probably looking forward to getting QQ (NJ classic) tags for it in a few years.

spitfirebill UltimaDork
9/24/16 7:57 a.m.

Every time I find myself wanting a MINI, I come across a thread like this curing the fever.

markwemple SuperDork
9/24/16 8:29 a.m.

Me too.

mad_machine GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/24/16 9:32 a.m.

I love the Minis.. and I would love a JCW version.. but the last thing I need is two English cars that were owned by BMW when built

1966stang Reader
9/24/16 1:04 p.m.
spitfirebill wrote: Every time I find myself wanting a MINI, I come across a thread like this curing the fever.

Why, this one has been near flawless.

markwemple SuperDork
9/24/16 1:17 p.m.


Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
9/24/16 8:53 p.m.

Could be worse... you could buy an E30... I'll take the warts of a MINI over that nightmare any day...

mndsm MegaDork
9/24/16 9:17 p.m.

Lol mine was sold for scrap after it spun a bearing at 127k and the wife took it in the divorce. I don't really miss it.

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