Mini Cooper Common Issues
Early Clutch Failure
This is not uncommon in both 1st and 2nd Gen models. Some were known to fail under 20k miles. This fault was usually, but not always, attributed to hard driving.
There were many issues in particular with the 1st Gen CVT auto transmission which was probably the worst of them. BMW/Mini were forced into a class action law suit which meant they would cover the transmissions up to 8 years or 150k miles, whichever comes first. All of these first gen cars are now out of that warranty. The repair and replacement of this exceeds the value of this generation of car.
The 1st gen manual transmission was also a very poor design and was very common for it to fail prematurely, most specialists say there is no preventative maintenance that can be done as it is such a poor design. It is commonly said that the 6 speed transmission is the most reliable of the lot.
Timing Chain Rattle
This noise is normally heard on a cold start up and should not be ignored. This can usually be prevented or delayed by keeping the oil topped up and changing the oil regularly. If you do a lot of short journeys or city driving it is recommended to change the oil every 6 months or 5k miles.
Vanos is BMW’s version of Variable Valve Timing. It is fairly similar to Hondas VTEC system, and therefore requires regular oil changes and to keep the oil level topped up at all times. The system requires good oil flow for it to work at its optimum, if the oil is not changed regularly, sludge builds up and blocks the small passages in the system, this can be rectified by an oil change and you will have to hope that the new oil will clear the passages. This is an avoidable problem as long as you keep on top of the oil level and oil changes.
Water Pump and Thermostat Housing issues
These are quite common to fail on both the 1st and 2nd Gen. It is recommended to replace the pump before you find any sign of a leak, as a preventative measure. If your car is at or above 50k miles, it will definitely be a good idea to have it done, it will save a lot of time and hassle.
Mini decided to make the support that holds the Radiator, Cooling Fan and Condenser Unit, out of plastic. With it being made this way it is very easy to do a lot of damage even with a light knock. The lower radiator hose actually sits lower than the support itself so it is very easy to damage this when parking on a curb or something similar. With all this, it’s best to take a lot of care where you park.
Electric Power Steering Pump
These are prone to failure and were actually the subject of a recall. Normally, the failure is caused by low power steering fluid or because of failure of the electrically powered cooling fan.