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12 Most Common Problems With The Mini Cooper

The Mini Cooper was launched in 1959 by a British company but is now owned by BMW. Today’s Mini has stayed true to its core with its iconic styling and adept handling. Like many other vehicles, the Mini Cooper is not perfect so we will go over some problems that Mini owners have experienced.

Faulty Power Steering

Mini Cooper Interior

The number one complaint is the power steering pump failing way too soon. That said, this problem was a lot more common in models made in the 2000s but many owners are still having issues with the steering just not as often.

Mini owners have reported that the power steering would stop working unexpectedly, making it extremely difficult to steer and making it potentially very dangerous.

BMW had to recall around 86,000 Minis, specifically:

• 2002 to 2005 models
• Mini Cooper S model
• 2005 Mini Cooper
• Mini Cooper S convertible

The faulty parts were in the electro-hydraulic power steering system and had to be replaced. Most of the issues came from the power steering pump. Because it’s a recall due to safety, the parts were repaired at no cost to customers.

Airbag Issues

Mini Cooper Airbags

Another reported issue with the Mini Cooper is the airbag system. The Mini Cooper models affected were from 2005 to 2016. In many cases, owners reported their airbag warning light would come on.

This issue can be a big concern because this is a system that is in place to save lives. This is the Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) which covers the airbags and seatbelts.

The bottom line, it’s not safe to be driving around if the airbag warning light comes on. The airbag warning light can light up for many reasons but mostly, it is due to a damaged passenger detection mat which will cause the airbag light to turn on and off unexpectedly.

If you experience this, you should see the airbag light come on when there is a passenger in that seat.

There have been other issues as well:

In 2015 there was another recall that affected approximately 6,000 Mini Cooper models. From 2014 to 2016, issues were related to the Takata airbags. If there was an accident, the front airbags could deploy causing serious injury to the driver and passenger.

During 2005, the airbag problem was usually connected to a damaged front passenger seat occupant detection mat sensor. When this happened the mat sensor needed to be replaced.

A Loose Timing Chain

Mini Cooper Timing Chain

One of the biggest problems came from the Mini Cooper’s engine based on several factors including the cost of repair and average mileage when the problem cropped up.

There are various engine issues facing owners but the most notable is the “death rattle” which is caused by a damaged timing chain.

The rattling sound usually comes from the passenger side and is very noticeable when idling in colder weather and at lower speeds. If you discover this problem quickly, it will prevent serious damage or failure to the engine.

If you experience strange sounds from your vehicle, it could be a loose timing chain. You might hear a rattling sound under the bonnet, especially when you first start driving. This is a problem you should not ignore. If you don’t take care of it, quickly, you could have serious engine damage which will lead to a very expensive repair.

This is due to defective design because the timing chain should last the entire life of your car. Cars that have been affected will need to get a new timing chain, quickly.

Leaks From The Water Pump & Thermostat Housing

One of the leading problems regarding the Mini Cooper is the water pump. If your car has more than 50,000 miles, you should consider having it replaced. With the second-generation Mini Cooper, it’s the thermostat housing that is completely constructed with plastic and guaranteed to fail. Replacing it before finding a leak can save you a great deal of money.

Clutch Issues

Mini Cooper Clutch Failure

The most common issue owners have to face is the clutch wearing out too soon. This problem has affected models for 15 years from 2002 to 2016 and usually happens around 66,000 miles. This problem is specific to Mini’s manual transmission. The repair of this problem can be expensive.

The leading reported symptoms of a bad clutch on a Mini are:

• Grinding gears
• Weak acceleration
• Won’t stay in gear
• Loose clutch pedal
• Sticky clutch pedal
• Gearshift lever is hard to move
• Metal on-metal sounds
• Burning smell of brake fluid

Power Steering Pump Issues

Mini Cooper Power Steering Pump

Mini Coopers are known for power steering pump issues. One of the most obvious signs you will notice immediately is when it’s difficult to steer, especially at low speeds. This repair can be very time-consuming because the front of the car will have to be dismantled to gain access to the power steering pump.

In many cases, electronic power steering pump failures are caused by low-power steering fluid or a failed electric cooling fan.

Non-Operative Electric Door Locks

The electric door lock is not operating properly and is the second most commonly reported issue. This has been reported on the Mini Cooper from 2002 to 2017.

Here is a list of problems owners have experienced:

• All doors will lock but the driver-side lock will not unlock remotely with the
key fob.
• The passenger’s window and lock stopped working
• Driver’s side door will not lock with the Fob or manually
• The passenger’s side will not open from the inside even when unlocked

Damaged door locks on the Mini Cooper are often associated with a damaged door lock actuator. It can be caused by a damaged general module (GM) that controls the door locks.

Transmission Issues

Mini Cooper Transmission Gear Stick

For Mini models before 2010, transmission issues were a problem. In newer cars, the transmission should last over 200,000 miles but there have been some reports from owners that their transmission failed after only 100,000 miles.

The problem surfaced when Mini advertised the car’s automatic transmission as “sealed for life” meaning it does not need to be opened up. If it’s not opened up, it’s impossible to carry out transmission fluid flushes.

If the transmission does not operate, it will take serious work but in most cases, it will have to be replaced. On the Mini, this will not be cheap and the costs can run into the thousands.

To prevent this from happening, be sure the transmission fluid is flushed at 30,000 miles to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Front Radiator Support

Mini Cooper 3 Door Hatch

The bad news, Mini decided to make the front radiator support out of plastic, making it a lot less durable than if it was constructed out of other materials. The part holds the radiator cooling fan and condenser assembly. It sits very low under the front of the car leaving it susceptible to damage even from a light impact on a high curb. The lower radiator hose is also very easy to damage when it makes contact with a parking curb because it sits lower to the ground than the radiator support. It’s important to be careful when parking your Mini.

The Vanos System Performance Issues

The Vanos system is BMW’s version of Variable Valve Timing and requires an excellent flow of oil to operate correctly. If you do not keep up with your oil changes, sludge can build up and block the small passages and create issues. When that happens, the first thing you must do is change the oil. The detergent in the fresh oil will clean out the tiny oil passages and correct the problem. On the other hand, if the passages are blocked, you will need a skilled Mini Cooper Mechanic to repair the damage. The good news, this problem is totally avoidable if you stay up to date with your oil levels and oil changes at the recommended intervals.

Footwell Relay Module Failure

Mini Cooper models from 2008 to 2014, there have been numerous reports online from owners who have experienced Footwell Module failure.

The footwell module (FRM) is an electrical centre located in the footwell on the driver’s side. Its primary functions are:

Communicate signals from the door switches
Controlling the lighting and adaptive headlights.

The most commonly reported problem of a failed FRM is the complete loss of headlights, turn signals and rear lights.

With a Mini Cooper, when the FRM fails, it will need to be replaced. This seems to be the case because the issue is related to poor design. While this issue is well-known by Mini, no one is aware of a recall for the problem.

Beeping Sounds

Mini Cooper

Owners have reported their Mini Cooper beeping at them for no apparent reason whatsoever. While not as serious as some issues we have gone over, this beeping has been reported as very annoying.

Due to the wide spectrum of electronics featured on the Mini, you will find this particular issue has been reported on most models but there is usually a pretty simple explanation.

There could be a wide range of reasons why a Mini would randomly beep, the most common reasons include:

• Temperature or ice warning
• Tyre pressure warning
• Low 12V battery


In some cases, Mini Cooper problems might need a great mechanic. While nobody wants to deal with car issues, now that you know what to look for, you can keep an eye out for some of the Mini Cooper’s most common issues. Sometimes aggressively taking care of some problems can help you stay clear of more expensive repairs.

If you believe your Mini Cooper may need a repair, you suspect a fault or you are considering a service or MOT, you can book your vehicle in to one of our 4 branches by using the simple form below or give us a call at Oldham 0161 624 5060, Heywood on 01706 622633, Bury 0161 761 3030 and our Oldham Van Centre 0161 628 5270.

We also offer a highly convenient Collect & Return service or a Courtesy Car to ensure your routine is disrupted as little as possible while your vehicle is serviced, repaired or undergoes an MOT.

Arranging Your Service

Drop your car off
Simply drop your car off with us between 8am and 10am and in most cases your vehicle will be ready for collection the same day between 3.30 and 5.30. Outside these hours you are welcome to park.

Wait with your car
Most servicing and repair work can be done while you wait. If this is your preference we have a superb waiting area equipped with free hot and cold drinks and a interesting viewing area where you can watch our trained technicians working on your vehicle.

Courtesy car
If your vehicle needs to stay with us for 1 day or longer then you are able to pre-book one of our courtesy vehicles to keep you mobile.

Pick up / drop off
The ultimate hassle free solution; one of our drivers will arrange to collect your vehicle from your home or place of work at a pre-arranged time and then return your vehicle when the work is complete. Our service advisors will contact you when the vehicle arrives on site during the day to discuss the progress of the work and then advise you of the time you can expect your vehicle back. Contact our service advisors for more details.

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12 Most Common Problems With The Mini Cooper

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