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.