Mini Cooper - Pawlik Automotive Repair, Vancouver BC

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How Reliable Are Mini’s?

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 pawlikautomotive.com. 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.

2004 Mini Cooper, Clutch

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Serving Vancouver’s auto repair and maintenance needs for 38 years, 18 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. How’re you you doing Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well Mark.

Mark: So, a 2004 Mini Cooper had a clutch problem. What was going on with the mini?

Bernie: So the vehicle was brought to our shop basically the owner of the vehicle wasn’t able to put the car into gear. It would just, well you weren’t able to put in gear, forward or reverse. They had it to another shop who did some repairs but they didn’t have any success in fixing it. They did replace the clutch hydraulics, the slave and master cylinder but that didn’t repair the issue. I guess they got a little disenchanted and decided to bring it to us to do some work.

Mark: So how did you determine what was wrong with the clutch?

Bernie: Well, we did a couple of things. First of all there’s, actually to bleed the hydraulic system on a Mini can be a little complex. There’s a bleeder screw and you think, oh I can just pump the peddle which is sort of normal procedure that works on almost every car but sometimes with clutches, not just Minis but other vehicles, it’s hard to get the air out of the system and there’s a special procedure where you have to actually make sure that the slave cylinder is completely collapsed, like right at the bottom, right at the fully retracted position before you bleed it. So we did that. There was actually a little bit of air in the system and we were actually able to make a bit of an improvement to the clutch where you could actually shirt it into the forward moving gears but you still couldn’t get it into reverse without grinding. So there’s clearly a problem inside the clutch. So to determine what we had to do, I mean basically at that point, we established a hydraulic system was all fixed. There was a problem internally, either a broken pressure plate or some other issue.

Mark: And so, do you have some pictures of that?

Bernie: Yeah, I do. So what we found actually to get right down to it as I mentioned, a broken pressure plate is one issue but well, this is the problem we found. Actually the clutch fork was the part that’s broken. Now the fork attaches to the, out of view of the picture and outside the body of the transmission, is the clutch slave cylinder which is actually what when you push the peddle, that’s actually the force is transmitted to the slave cylinder and that actually moves this fork and this pushes the clutch release bearing, I’ll show another picture in a second, against the clutch and this weld here is broken and cracked. It’s not entirely uncommon issue on Minis. So this was broken and so the bottom end of the fork was pushing fully but the top end wasn’t. So that wasn’t allowing the clutch to release full. So we’ll just go to another picture. This is with the new fork installed. You can see both the arms are good. And this is the clutch release bearing which pushes against, our next picture, which is the actually clutch itself. This is a view, this is bolted up to the engine, there’s the flywheel which is attached to the engine, this is a clutch pressure plate and there’s a disc inside and that’s what’s attached to transmission. So when you push the peddle, these pieces here move, that releases the pressure on the disc and that’s what allows you to be in neutral or to shift gears.

Mark: So how often do you find clutch forks breaking? That’s not something I remember us talking about.

Bernie: No I don’t know if we’ve ever talked about it. It’s not really common but it happens from time to time on any variety of cars. We’ve had some Subarus with broken clutch forks and in the past, a lot of American vehicles where the clutch fork will break. Sometimes they get damaged as well, you know they do rub against the, push against the release bearing system so there’s some forces that will affect and where the tabs, and where the release fork touches the release bearing. But it’s not a really common issue. But it does happen from maybe one out of 20 to 50 clutches needs a fork replacement. 

Mark: That seems like quite a few. Now Minis I’ve got some experience with the old version, the English made original Mini and they were pretty crowded. Is this engine compartment pretty crowded in the new Mini that’s made by BMW?

Bernie: Yeah, it’s insanely crowded. This was actually a non turbo, sort of a base model and it’s just packed full of stuff and the turbo’s are, I don’t know if I can say any worse, but they’ve got to be because they’ve got a whole bunch of other stuff. But yeah, they’re extremely tight fitting. There’s really nothing that’s easy to do on these vehicles except may open the oil the oil filler cap. But everything else is pretty complex and involves a lot of work to do it.

Mark: And how are Minis for overall reliability?

Bernie: Well, I’ve got to say that Im going to use the word fair. There are a lot fo things that tend to go wrong with them, I mean even the clutches don’t tend to last a lot longer in these vehicles. We’ve had clients with you know, by the time they hit a hundred or hundred fifty thousand kilometres, they’ve replaced two or three clutches. So things like that aren’t quite as reliable as you’d expect, belt issues, they’ve got a lot of plastic parts in the cooling system that fails. So they’re not exactly trouble free vehicles. But people buy them because they like the style of them and they are kind of fun to drive especially the Turbo S model is a really fun vehicle. So there is a bit of a price to be paid for it but it’s you know, just expect to do a little more repairs than you would on a Toyota Corolla, and you’ll be having more fun too

Mark: Well it’s more of a performance car than a Toyota Corolla is.

Bernie: It is. I always use Toyota Corolla for a base comparison, it is probably not really fair but you know, anyways, a little more work to be done but a good car otherwise. 

Mark: So there you go. If you have a Mini in Vancouver that you’re needing some service or maintenance on, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment, you have to book ahead they’re always busy or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com or our YouTube channel. We’ve got thunder, hundreds and hundreds of videos on there of all makes and models of cars over may years. Thanks Bernie

Bernie: Thanks Mark

2008 Mini Cooper Oil and Coolant Leaks

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver; 16 times winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. How’re you doing Bernie?

Bernie: I’m doing very well today.

Mark: So we’re going to talk about Mini Coopers, a 2008 had some sort of oil and coolant leaks? What was going on there?

Bernie: Well, a couple things, the vehicle was brought to us for 100,000 kilometer service and the owner had some concerns about the, that there was some fluid, engine oil leaks that he’d had looked at the dealer and had a very large quote for repairs; so that’s what’s happening with the vehicle. We had a look at it and we did find in, a couple engine oil leaks and a coolant leak.

Mark: So what was going on with the coolant leak? Where was that coming from?

Bernie: The coolant leak was coming from the thermostat housing which is a fairly common issue on these vehicles. We’ve done quite a few of them recently. The um, it’s one of those plastic parts that I love to talk about, the thermostat housing is molded plastic; it incorporates the thermostat internally and you know these things, you know cause a lot of problems; on every vehicle they seem to be put on eventually.

Mark: So another plastic part, you’ve talked about those before, doesn’t seem to make sense that they would be using plastic in such a hot area.

Bernie: Well plastics are pretty amazing. Apparently, I’ve never seen them, apparently they actually make pistons out of plastic which is quite incredible when you think about how much heat is generated in that area but they’ve never caught on, obviously they’re experimental or for racing or something but plastic is you know, I think there’s a desire to use plastic because is A cheap and B you can mold it into any shape you want so you can create some pretty amazing pieces. Like this and I don’t have a photo to show you here but it will be on when we do this on our blog page, there’ll be a photo of this thermostat housing, I mean it’s quite an amazing, intricate piece. It has coolant pipes going all over the place which is something you could only really mold economically with plastic so there’s a reason they use it, I mean it does last a while but eventually it fails and sometimes I really question why they use it especially in things like water pumps where the, you know where like the water pump impellor they will use plastic and they break over time, they get brittle and break and fail and how much weight are you saving, I mean, ounces? It really doesn’t make sense to me.

Mark: So what about the oil, where was that leaking from?

Bernie: The oil was leaking from a few spots, the turbo, there’s a turbo charged engine so there’s an oil supply pipe to the turbo charger and that was leaking, also there’s a big oil filter housing at the front of the engine, it kind of wraps around under the exhaust manifold, it has a number of gaskets and seals, that was leaking as well from several spots, so those were the main oil leaks. There was also a minor oil leak from the valve cover gasket which the owner chose to leave at this point in time.

Mark: So pretty complex and expensive repair?

Bernie: It was, yeah, there’s a lot of work involved, the turbo charger, the exhaust manifold has to come off and actually the front bumper needs to be moved forward to gain access because everything is packed into that engine compartment pretty tight, so there’s a lot of labour involved to remove it all and replace the pieces. In this case the actual oil filter housing sometimes needs to be replaced and in this case the housing was a bit warped but the owner chose not to replace it, it adds a lot of cost to the repair so it probably would have been best to do it but I think to replacing the seals will work though the repair may not last as many years as it should.

Mark: Any further thoughts on Minis?

Bernie: Awesome little cars, I mean I’d say they’re not the most reliable cars around, you know if you’re looking for reliability the Mini’s not the car to buy but if you’re looking for a nice you know, European zippy sporty car, it’s got a bit of class to it, I think it’s a great car to buy but just be prepared, you will spend more money than you would on a Toyota or equivalent Japanese product although there’s probably not an equivalent but similar.

Mark: So if you’re looking for repairs on your Mini these are the guys to go see in Vancouver, Pawlik Automotive, give Bernie a call, you can book your appointment. They’re busy; 604-327-7112 or go to their website pawlikautomotive.com. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark.

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