August 12

How Reliable Are Mini’s?

Mini Cooper, Podcast


Mark: Hi it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive podcast and we're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience and 20 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars! How're you doing this morning Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: Mini's. We're going to talk about the BMW version of the Mini. And how reliable are BMW Mini's?

Bernie: A great question. So Mini is an iconic brand of vehicle and BMW seized it around the time the British car industry was basically kaput so to speak. The Mini was started in 1959 and as you and I chatted earlier, it never really changed from 1959 til 2000 when they stopped making them. You know to me, the Mini was kind of a piece of crap. Although people loved it and really actually it was a car ahead of it's time with the transverse mounted engine, front wheel drive and if you think about, it of you go back to 1959 nobody was doing that. Especially in the North American market where everything was large cars, with front engine, rear wheel drive, it was a great drivetrain configuration. But the Mini packed everything in a nice small space.

And I remember I had a friend in high school who had one and this guy was big. He was like 6'5" and he sat comfortably in this thing which is remarkable with a car so small. Where you could actually park two of them in a parking spot of an American car. But anyways, we won't talk about those old Mini's because to be honest, I don't have any experience with them and I'd never want to work on one anyhow. That's about how I feel about them.

But we'll talk about the Germanized version, the BMW version. They took a pretty neat brand, they stylized it and put modern safety features in it and beefed it up into a pretty cool car. I have to say, I often thought that they're kind of like little and not that neat. It wasn't the kind of car that appealed to me until I drove a, I think it was an 05 or 06 supercharged Mini and I go this is a really fun car. So I can see what the appeal is to the car. Why people buy them. So let's talk about reliability and we'll start at the heart of the car, the engine.

So there's quite a few issues with Mini's. A lot of coolant leaks, water pump failures, thermostat gasket. They use thermostat housings that are plastic, like a lot of cars and a lot of German vehicles. These tend to fail and leak coolant. So coolant issues are definitely one of the more common things that you'll run into. Also oil leaks. There are oil filter housings on various models at will leak. The oil filter adapter seals will start leaking. Also the odd oil pan gasket will happen. Timing chains can be an issue on some of them. We've actually never done one is our shop but when I read and look around it's a somewhat common concern on some of these, again it's more the mid 2000 to 2010 range, in the slightly older models. But people have experienced problems with a lot of things in these even with low mileage. I think with Mini, you don't have to have a lot of mileage to start seeing a lot of these issues that we're talking about here.

We've had the odd Mini too with poor compression and major engine failure. Who knows, that could be due to bad maintenance. But generally the engines are fairly robust but there are a lot of issues in some areas.

Mark: What about the transmission and drivetrain?

Bernie: So there's a few issues around those too. I mean, the general drivetrain, the CV axles, those kinds of things are pretty reliable but I would avoid buying one with a CVT transmission, that's a continuously variable transmission. There's a lot of problems with these at least in the US. There's a class action law suit against BMW over issues. But they're very, very... they fail commonly and they're very, very, very expensive to repair. Often more than the car's worth to repair. So I would avoid one with a CVT transmission. The standard transmission seems to be quite reliable but the clutches do wear out which is normal. They are expensive to replace because they have a dual mass flywheel which again, is not an uncommon feature on a lot of cars even right down to a Nissan Versa which is a base model car. But the flywheel itself is very expensive and there are kits available where you can put a single mass flywheel in but it's a fairly expensive repair no matter which way you go. So clutches are something that do happen. But this is a fun car to have a standard, I mean that's one of the, it's a fun driving car. So having a standard is a good feature. As far as the regular automatic transmission, don't really see any issues with those.

Mark: What about the brakes?

Bernie: Brakes to me are average. They're sort of an average wear type of thing, 50,000 kilometre type thing on brakes. Pads and rotors always and sometimes calipers as the cars get older. But nothing really about the brakes that stands out as being particularly bad, but just sort of average. Average wear out item.

Mark: How about the steering and suspension?

Bernie: Again, generally we don't see a lot of problems with that in our shop with the steering or suspension, like anything that wears out prematurely on these vehicles they're generally pretty good. Not to say that things won't, things like control arm bushings won't wear out and shocks and struts over a period of time but they're generally, fairly good in that department. Nothing glaringly bad.

Mark: Now we get into maybe a bit of a scary area for a British/German car, the electrical system.

Bernie: You know, again nothing really leaps to my mind about problems with those. Again it's fairly reliable which is a good thing because the electronics on the BMW version of the Mini of course are much more complex than on the British version. As we know, British electronics have that reputation of being very poor. The Lucas wiring system that they use in British car for many, many years is one of the worst things about the cars.

I was just thinking about Basil Faulty in Faulty Towers where he's whacking, it wasn't a Mini but it was a Maxi I think, where he's whacking the car with a shrub when it wouldn't start. If you've never seen that, you've got to look it up. It's hilarious. Faulty Towers where he's hitting the car with a shrub. It's hilarious. But yeah, that was probably an electrical system issue with that vehicle.

But yeah, generally with the newer Mini's, there's nothing you know, blaringly that's bad about them.

Mark: What about the body, fit and finish?

Bernie: Yeah, fit and finish on these cars are really nice. Again, the original Mini was kind of a cheap car. The BMW version is not a cheap car. It's a well built vehicle. Nice fit and finish. I can't really think of anything off the top of my head that's obvious that tends to wear out prematurely. So really in that department it's pretty good.

If you're going to buy a used one of course, just look at how well it's been previously taken care of and it should be overall a good car. We don't really run into any issues with power windows or door locks, that are above average or concerning. So you know, when we do these reliability podcasts of course, as I say with any car, any thing and every thing can go wrong at some point in time. We're just kind of looking at the common stuff that we see.

Mark: So overall, how would you rate a BMW Mini for reliability?

Bernie: Well I'd say that they're a little below average. And now reliability of course, they tend to start, they're reliable in that department. But as far as repairs, I'd say they're a little above average, maybe even quite a bit above average in terms of repairs. And sometimes at lower mileages than you'd think. I mean, they're a nice car, they're a fun car but do expect you're going to spend more money than average to repair and maintain the car.

Mark: And keep up your maintenance.

Bernie: Keep up your maintenance, again expensive technology. Change your oil more often that the scheduled maintenance, you know than BMW recommends. Make sure if you have any coolant leaks, fix them first. You don't want to overheat one of these engines or damage it because they're very expensive to repair.

Mark: So there you go. If you're needing service and maintenance on your Mini in Vancouver, BC Canada, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead because they're busy. Or check out the website There's the Youtube Channel, hundreds of videos on there, Pawlik Auto Repair, all makes and models and types of repairs. And of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast, we appreciate it. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark. Thanks for watching. It's always a pleasure to do these.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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