Great British Cars – March 2012



IN LAST month’s column you’ll remember I’d been told that I would have to pay $3,400 for a clutch repair when I was previously told my Mini was fully warranted.

Well I baulked at that and told them I would take it elsewhere as $3,400 seemed damn steep for a clutch job. “Hold on, being that you are a very good customer, I’ll talk to my boss and see if we can give you a break” I waited and after a couple of minutes he returned with a $2,400 price, I told him I would think about it and let him know. I wasn’t that good of a customer by the way, as I didn’t buy the car from that particular dealership, but I was taking it there for service as it was more convenient.

Anyway, after some research on the internet I discovered that the clutch on Mini Coopers was a very common problem and just as common was the surprise of clutch-failing-Mini-owners on discovering that it wasn’t covered under the “Maintenance free, no worries, we’ll take care of everything warranty”. I e-mailed the Mini corporate office about my problem but to no avail, “it’s a wear item and we don’t cover those” was the reply. They will however replace the windscreen wipers, (they are wear items aren’t they?). We had all been duped. After searching the internet I found that I could get the clutch replaced cheaper than the discounted $2,400 but as these places were a good distance from my location I opted to stump up the $2,400 and just get it done.

Two years ago at the LA auto show I asked The Mini consultant about the warranty and was told yes we cover everything, “what about the clutch” I asked and then I told him about my problem clutch, he in turn referred me to The Vice President of Mini USA who happened to be on hand, I repeated my clutch story and then showed him my press card, “Oh, I’ll take care of it, just send me the bill and I promise you that you will be pleasantly surprised” he gave me his card and I snail mailed (no e-mail address on his card) a copy of my receipt to him, I never heard back so I gave up.

Another problem I had was the timing chain tensioner which is powered by an oil-pressurized piston, on cold starts the piston fails to extend thus causing the chain to come in contact with the guides on the engine cover causing a deathly rattle as if the engine is about to fail. This problem they fixed at no charge under the warranty. It’s a problem Mini is aware of, and there should have been a recall, but instead Mini are treating the problem on a case-to-case basis due to the cost of this service which includes a new timing chain, guides and cam sprockets. It’s a cheap way out for them. A few weeks after mine was fixed and the warranty expired, this chain tensioner on my car broke off causing the deathly rattle again, only worse. The brakes were due for replacement at the same time, so I Googled some Mini repair shops and found MiniCorsa in North Hollywood, California – It was a 35-mile drive for me to get there but well worth it. The service was first rate and a fraction of the cost of the Mini dealership. I asked Danny (the owner) if the he had seen this timing chain tensioner bracket break off before, he replied “all the time, I’ve fixed a lot of them.” The Mini PuMA reference number for this problem is 10686850-13, it is a free fix from Mini so if you have a 2007-2009 Mini Cooper S you should take it in and get it fixed.

Anyway, I’ve decided to keep mine a while longer now I have found a good Mini mechanic. I have more confidence in the car now, but Mini lost a customer, as I won’t buy another one. I still love the Mini Cooper S though – a clutch job, parts and labor at MiniCorsa is $1,500 by the way, and I can live with that.

Happy Motoring


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