MINI Cooper Timing Chain Issues

For all of you MINI Cooper owners out there, there has been a serious reoccurring issue with the MINI Cooper vehicles from 2007 – 2011. In these cars the timing chain, which BMW claims to be maintenance free, causes catastrophic damage to the motors of these vehicles because the timing chain’s tensioner is always breaking at around 30,000 – 50,000 miles on the road. The sad truth is BMW is normally a very reputable manufacturer, but with this big flaw, they refuse to acknowledge it and offer a recall for its customers.

The auto mobile power house “BMW” bought the Mini Cooper Corporation in 1994 and began building their Mini Coopers in the early 2000’s. Though they use motors made by BMW, Mini is just a subsidiary of the BMW Corporation similar to how Chevrolet is a GM product. The Mini has received a lot of great reviews for styling and handling on the road, but this major flaw might make you change your mind on your purchase.

The Good and The Bad

Now the numbers ran by disgruntled customers and lawyers say that around 500,000 MINI Coopers are afflicted with this issue; however the issue is still very real for almost all Cooper enthusiasts and owners. Now, the good news, if you are within your 50 thousand mile warranty you can be compensated by BMW for the damage. But again, with most good news there is still a ton of the bad, there is no recall whatsoever for this problem, BMW does not want to agree that it is a recurring problem despite what thousands of people are experiencing with their cars. If your tensioner goes out, expect serious damage and a heck of a lot of money required to fix it, because chances are your engine is going out with it. The reason for this is because unlike most cars that have a traditional timing belt made out of composite materials, MINI Cooper’s have a timing chain made out of straight up metal, and because it is located within the motor rather than in a safer environment, when it goes out pieces of plastic and what not is going to go flying around. The tensioner keeps the belt on its spindles, when this device starts getting damaged the timing chain loses its grip, when this happens you will start to hear that specific clanging noise inside your motor. This clanging noise is more audible in the passenger side of your car because the chain is on the left side of the vehicle.

Prevention Is Key


You are not totally out of luck though; there are ways to prevent this monstrosity from destroying your baby. MINI says the standard service for your Cooper should be an oil change after every 15,000 miles. I don’t know about you, but with most cars I have owned, the vehicle would be bare of any oil at 15,000 miles. Disregard what MINI says and instead of changing your oil every 15,000 miles you should change it every 3,000 to 7,000 miles along with the oil filter. Without oil your engine lacks the lubricants it needs to function properly, this goes without saying that it is detrimental to your engines health to starve it of oil. Keeping it well oiled will inevitably keep your timing chain intact and you a happy camper. Look at it this way, Oil is for a car like water is for humans. Without oil, parts will not function with the full ability that they are designed to function with.

Some of the more unfortunate out there have this problem already starting to happen, a way you can tell if your Cooper’s timing chain is about to come loose is if you hear a rattle noise when starting the car. In idle it will sound like a clanging rattle, but running your engine up to around 1,800 RPMs or more will make the noise go away. This noise is definitely more prominent in colder weather. The very second you hear this noise take it in to service immediately, the last thing you want to do is replace your car’s engine because of such a little problem, what’s worse is that it is not only the engine that is susceptible to damage, anywhere from a blown turbo to broken gaskets are prone to happen when this chain goes out. So rather than spending 5 grand on fixing up your car you should spend 40 to change your oil at a shop or just do it yourself.

Warranty and Recall

Because of all of this mess that BMW/MINI just wants to sweep under the rug and forget about it, the people as a whole who own MINI Coopers are filling a class action lawsuit. There has not been any progress on this case as of yet but if anything BMW/MINI will push out a good will recall to assist its customers with their issues. But currently, as aforementioned BMW is not offering any recall services at the moment, so if you are in warranty take advantage of it. The reason for this law suit is clear enough but a very big factor in its development is that BMW claims to not know anything of the issue, and it is not a recurring problem. If there is anything this article proves is that it is definitely a recurring issue. BMW also is speculated to have known about this issue as early as 2008, and has still done nothing about it. Now, rather than release a recall, in 2013 BMW discreetly announced to its dealerships that warranties for the timing chains where increased so others could get the tensioners fixed as a preventative maintenance deal.

All in all, do not let this whole timing chain issue discourage you from enjoying such a fun vehicle. All it takes is proper maintenance and care and you have nothing to worry about.

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36 Responses to MINI Cooper Timing Chain Issues

  1. clint dennis says:

    i was looking at buying my wife a cooper s 175 bhp not sure about it now after reading this

  2. David says:

    I have a 2008 Cooper S. It has never seen snow salt or even a hard rain. I am the second owner. I bought it with about 17K miles. Just before putting it away last November I herd the tell tail rattle of the timing chain tensioner. The car was put up and I planed to take it to the dealer in the spring. Coincidentally a few weeks later I received a letter inviting me to join a class action suite. Fast forward to today, my Mini is at the dealer being fixed via a recall. The mechanic said that the recall is open ended (because I asked what to do if the rattle came back). I am disappointed to hear about the slow response of BMW/Mini. I do enjoy driving my manual Mini with its six speed turbo charged power plant. All I can say is it is not a Pinto, no one has been killed . . . yet.

  3. Suresh says:

    My 2009 Mini clubman is with the dealer for rattling noise and the dealer BMW Grand River Kitchener (Canada) is handling this. It’s been 4 days the car is with the dealer for replacement of timer chain and they are charging $4000. It’s a total rip off. Lemon Law in Canada is pretty weak unlike US and Mini Canada is taking advantage of the Canadian customers.

    • Scott says:

      Hello Suresh – I have a 2007 Mini Cooper S with 117,000 kms on it. I have been babying my Mini for over 3 years now in the hopes that Mini Canada would do the right thing. Now that BMW has agreed to pay for this repair in the USA I was expecting that Canada would follow suit. Am I mistaken? Did you actually have to pay the entire repair bill in Kitchener. My Mini dealer is in Ajax, Ontario. (Mini Durham). Any information you can forward would be much appreciated. ie: Actual Cost, details of the work done etc. Thanks, Scott

  4. Rick S says:

    Got Mini 2008 used from dealer still under warranty. Have had engine noises from get go. 1st oil burning smell; failure of timing belt crush washer 3/28/11; 2/12/12 failure of timing chain tensioner at 23,139 miles…replaced under warranty; 3/2/12 brought back for enine noise; 3/12/12 oil burning smell, upper valve train; 9/8/12 more tapping engine noise was internal failure of valve cover… and now we have the death knell noise of the timing chain tensioner AGAIN after only 30,000 miles. This is proof that it is faulty!

  5. Jeff says:

    2011 mini cooper 60,000 miles for sale (engine seized, thanks to tensioner bolt failure) what a piece of crap. How do I join the class action lawsuit?

  6. K says:

    loose timing chain tensioner in my 2008 mini, luckily caught it at the ‘death rattle’ stage before it broke all the way. $1,400 to fix 🙁

  7. Faisal says:

    So I wish I came across this earlier. My car is 5 years old but only 42000 miles on it. I heard a rattle a little over a week ago. Today it blew, and it’s gonna cost me $3400 to fix it. Stupid Mini nothing but headaches since I got it.

  8. Steven Lexden says:

    I paid £25,000,for a mini I would have expected to last and last … It has the horrible rattle noise at start up. My local Mini dealer has changed the chain twice. Once free under warranty and last year for £900 cost. Yesterday the engine packed up. .. chain has broken within 12 months. The dealers deny this issue. .and the end is ruined.. I have almost put a such petrol in this as oil from day one. I totally hate this car and my disappointment is beyond belief…. I have called my local scrap yard to take it away and squash it. I can not be bothered to fight for a fair deal anymore. …BMW MINI GO GET STUFFED

  9. Scott says:

    My 2009 Cooper S had it’s timing chain and tensioner changed per a recall notice in 2013 at 17K miles. Metal shavings found in the oil pan through this process. My car today, 2 years and 7,000 miles later, was taken to an independent Mini mechanic due to an engine rattle. I advised the mechanic that if he suspected the timing chain to let me know,…I might be covered by warranty. He confirmed my suspicions. Upon calling and informing the dealership service advisor, he said he’d call me back to let me know if I was covered. It took a day and a half, but he literally gave me a thumbs up. My car is currently in the shop…I’ll try to follow up…

  10. Cody says:

    The timing chain issues are soley on the Minis. Yes the BMW 6 cyl. and the Mini 4 cyl. are practically the same engines but the difference is that it works quite well as a 6 but the 4 has all the problems. Just saying

  11. Brigitte says:

    I bought my car last month. Used, 2007 Mini Cooper S. About two weeks ago, my engine light came on, and about 3 days ago, I started hearing the rattling noise. I have an appointment Thursday morning… but I guess we’ll have to see…

  12. Jeanne Riedel says:

    Ok, does anyone know how to join a class action lawsuit underway against Mini? I am having the same issue as all of you above.

  13. Paul Orsini says:

    My car just hit 40,000 miles and then all of a sudden no oil in the car it all leaked out of the timing chain tensioner bolt that they were placed last time I was at the dealer or year ago now I have a $13,000 repair bill to replace the motor Goodtimes thanks BMW thanks MINI just whatever you do don’t fix problems just ignore them because repeat customers are really a hassle

  14. mb says:

    I think I just dodged a bullet. Getting ready to sell my MINI, so I sent it off to the dealer for some regular maintenance and to have them check out the “mystery noise” that happens on start. Turns out it was the timing chain. The good news is that my dealer worked with MINI/BMW and they are picking up the tab. I was kind of surprised…until I googled “MINI timing chain recall” and found this website.

    Very pleased that my dealer (MINI of Loveland) is doing the right thing, and almost a bit sad that I am selling the MINI! 😉

  15. Leslie says:

    Add me to the list. My 2010 Cooper S is at a repair shop now for timing chain replacement at a cost of $1200. The car has fewer than 40,000 miles on it and my last payment will be made next week. The 4/50,000 warranty is past since I’ve had this for 5 years now and when I spoke to MiniUsa about it today they refused to offer any reimbursement because the car is not at a Mini dealership for repair. The nearest Mini dealer is 180 miles away…I could not afford to have the car towed that far so it was taken to a local shop which specializes in BMW, MINI, Porsche, etc.

    The rep told me I could file a formal complaint and talk to the dealer from which I purchased the car to see if they could help. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the parent company pushing off a problem on dealers. What a disappointment. I was a MINI lover but this experience has completely clouded my opinion of the company and the car. Is this the beginning of one repair after another? If so, I cannot afford to keep this vehicle. I certainly am warning others not to buy.

    • Gail says:

      I am the next disgruntled Min Cooper owner. My 2010 Clubman S with only 44K miles is now in the service shop awaiting a $1200 timing chain replacement. I have now passed the 5 year mark so no warranty coverage although this was supposed to be a maintenance free feature.

      Will be leaving the Mini Cooper family soon and cannot in good faith recommend this fun little car to anyone

  16. I love my Mini cooper. Great gas mileage, good performance and fun to drive.

  17. Jen S says:

    This happened to me as well. I was getting this “death rattle” when I would start the car. Once warm it would stop making the rattle. Don’t let this discourage you from taking your car in. Take it in IMMEDIATELY! If I would have waited any longer it’s highly possible I would have had to replace the engine. Instead I had to replace the timing chain for a cool $1.5k. The worst part, is that it can happen again! This is caused by the car burning oil and oil levels getting low. Since the car doesn’t have a low oil warning, you must check your oil every time you fill up. I go through about a half a quart of oil every fill up. I do NOT want to have to pay for that mistake again.

  18. Cheryl says:

    I bought my 2009 Mini new and have kept up with the maintenance. As of today, it has 73K miles on it. I recently had an oil leak issue that cost me $1,000. I brought my car in today, since the engine light went on, it was running rough and had an usual sound (apparently, the “death rattle” I have since read about.) I took it in today and was just told the tensioner was broken and the chain is either broken or damaged. It’s a $2200 repair. I am still in shock. I loved this car, but that feeling has now been replaced by anger. I will be dumping this money pit on wheels as soon as I possibly can and going back to something less “fun” and with higher quality. Shame on BMW.

  19. Ashley says:

    I got my 2010 mini s back in December and in late January my belt gave out on 41k mile car. I had been in heavy traffic and lucky under warranty on something that would have cost me over 5k. I love my baby but man it is kicking my butt.

  20. AMT Warranty says:

    When the car warms up, the noise will abate to a degree, but in advanced cases still be present even with a warm engine. A defective timing chain can cause damage to the engine and present serious safety concerns. When a chain pensioner fails, the vehicle will lose all power even while it is in motion.

    • RN says:

      Yes, most of the complaints are about this issue. My 2009 Mini lost a turbo (dealership said it was because I missed one oil change ($3500). One year later, 10000 miles and 2 oil changes, the timing chain broke and lost my engine. Dealership in Memphis, TN refused to cover the engine and turbo with bentfand blades because I missed one oil change 4 years ago. I asked for the GM and was told the GM does not have “face time” with customers and the service department rules. I have shipped my vehicle to Atlanta for a second oppinion.An expensive car with poor quality and a dealership and corporate group that has to have a class action suit to fix an issue and then argue if your car is covered. Someday, thier reputation will catch up with them!

  21. Maribel G. says:

    I purchased a Mini Cooper 2010 Convertible on 04/14/2015. 1 week after having the car a Rattling sound started, that just kept getting louder. A few days later the engine light kept flashing. I took it to the dealer where I purchased it from (South Bay Ford/Luxury Pre-owner car dealer in Bellflower, CA and Hawthorne, CA) while still having Warranty coverage and they said that the mechanic that had checked my car said that is was a normal sound coming from this kind of car. They (verbally) gave me 90 more days of warranty to see if the rattling sound got louder. So a few days later sure enough it got louder. So I call them back to set up an appointment and now they are saying my warranty expired already when I didn’t even have 3 months with the car!!….Now I’m stuck with a car and insurance payment and my car parked in my sister’s garage because my car now turns off and the engine lights is now lid all the time and the rattling sound is worse….my car wont make it home now….please Help!!!

    • sheera says:

      Did you get any help. I too am paying a loan on a car parked in my drive. Two engines have failed for me at 45000 miles because of timing.

  22. natalie h says:

    omg!!!!! im having the same issue mini corp is claiming no knowledge of this issue.
    first time the car stopped we towed it to arlington. 15 minutes later they said all fixed that it was out of time and did not know how it happened but that all was good in the world. we go home drove around fine and the weather turned cold. the car acted like it was sluggish on starting and while in town it would barely crank to get back home. next day the starter burned up trying to crank it to load to tow.
    back in service, they now claim the tensioner and timing chain need replacing along with starter of course. replaced starter and tensioner and reset time and skipped the chain. left arlington for waco and as i get to the last stop light before home it starts making a sound like im driving a tin foil can and is knocking so loud its unbelievable. anybody ever heard a car with no oil? multiply that x 10 and you got the sound. of course the service people act like we are crazy when they know the truth. i fished around parts dept at different dealership and salesman admitted that yes they did a lot of chain replacements but hurridly backtracked
    saying that was due to being official service dept.
    i have now been instructed to tow it back for the 3rd time to b diagnosed for mini
    corp. im using my last bit of faith on the idea that it will be accepted by them and i will receive help from them. fingers crossed.

  23. kelli fultz says:

    My 2008 mini cooper clubman simply stopped running when I was on the freeway last night and I was lucky I wasn’t killed…I have only had the car a year and it has 66,000 miles on it…was told by mechanic the timing chain snapped and engine is ruined…engine estimate is $8000 and I have no money and am working 4 jobs to keep from going under….what can I do…I am beyond stressed…

  24. Ulrika Engström says:

    My name is Ulrika and I live in the north part of Sweden. I just read the article about Mini copper, timing chain problems.
    I wonder if anyone can give me any information about what I should do with my car?
    I bought my mini cooper from from an authorized store 2008. The problem started in april 2010, the engine light turns yellow and when I check it up at the mini services it is always the same thing, the camshaft sensor has to be replaced. Weird though that the same thing happens after exactly one year, almost on the same date. I have replaced it every year for 5 years now. I feel so disappointed about this. Do you think it is due to the timing chain the camshaft sensor breaks down? I have driven 45556 kilometers (28,307 miles) Everything is fine otherwise, but Im worried that this problem will never be solved. Please help if you can, is there anything I can do?

    • John says:

      I had a Mitsubishi and a Mercedes with the same problem but only happened in the winter. The engine light came on every year and it proved to be condensation in the oil. Because the car was only driven short distances and engine never got warm to its operating temperature. The only way to sort it out was to keep the car running until it warms up and than change the contaminated oil and reset the engine light. Because it happens when it’s about to change your oil it’s clearly the same issue as mine. Hope it helps.

  25. justin c pirk says:

    i bought a used mini from long island with 87k on it. ive had drops of oil underneath, the death rattle, lost of momentum during normal driving conditions, i live in NYS i start my car up frequently and the noise seems to be getting louder. Being that i did not purchase this car new, am i still eligible to take it to a dealer and have them replace the part because its a known issue? if the clubman has already had it done by its previous owner, and its malfunctioned again, does that make me eligible? The car has had that sound since i picked it up. Some days worse than others. it just turned 105k but ive read that these parts are suppose to be maintenance free so therefore it should be covered? I bought an extended warranty 5 years or 100,000 miles when i purchase mini clubman s. luckily my warranty only covers engin and tranny so im hoping this will fall under those guidelines. if not whom do i get in touch with?

  26. Bob Luchino says:

    I own a 2007 Mini Cooper S and purchased the car when it was new. Since I’ve owned the car I’ve had the timing chain replaced twice. The 1st time the car was under warranty. It happened at approx 30K miles. I was a little skeptical to say the least. The second timing chain just went last week at 78K miles. This time it cost me $3,000 to repair it. There is a problem here. I’ve also had to replace the clutch and it burns oil to the tune of a qt every 1,000 miles. The dealer, Mini of Morristown, NJ says all turbos burn oil. Not to this degree. When I had my break pads replaced, notified by the check brake light, the dealer told me I also needed new rotorers…really! When I got the car back from the dealer my check ABS light comes, as a false positive indication, which happens after the breaks were done. The cost to replace the ABS chip in the car $1,700. BMW there is a problem here.

    • natalie h says:

      hey bob
      i feel your pain. my check engine has been on going on 2 yrs.
      i m thinking the chain issue is a way to insure the service dpt has plenty of work. you know how things are when a product is too good.
      its either taken off the market because it works or is replaced with “new and improved”. god forbid anything reliable is made in the usa or elsewhere

      • Bob Luchino says:

        Hello Natalie!

        Well I’m selling the Mini this fall and purchasing a Audi A3 TDI. I’m sure 70% of these auto issues will disappear. The Mini was ok for the 1st 3 years. After that it was a repair/money pit.

  27. Tim Templeton says:

    “All in all, do not let this whole timing chain issue discourage you from enjoying such a fun vehicle. All it takes is proper maintenance and care and you have nothing to worry about.”
    I lost no telling how much money on my Mini. Please heed my warning. I would never buy another BMW / Mini Product, no matter how much “Fun” is is. This problem completely soured me against the brand and it’s dealer network in the USA. This car is a horrible product.

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