Mini Cooper S R56 – engine woes

SERVICE Alert

If you own, or know someone who owns a MINI Cooper S (R56) car, from 2006.5 to 2011, read on with great interest or concern.

With the push to get more new cars produced, broaden the product line, the life cycle has gotten shorter and shorter, and manufacturers have also taken other steps to outsource some major parts of the car to help in the rush to get this all done. Add in the change in technology, push for greater gas mileage and more power, hybrids, and there is a certain formula that something along the way may not go according to plan. We have seen this with many of the manufacturers…it doesn’t seem limited to any category or segment. Now enter MINI…and with the introduction of the second version of the second generation MINI, they have fallen in this hole. They outsourced the first MINI motor for the Cooper and Cooper S, and now have taken that same path again with the current version of the MINI, albeit with now a different engine supplier and having moved from a first version Supercharged motor to the current version Turbocharged model.

None of that would be bad….unless something could go wrong. Most of our customers today believe their car should run nearly trouble free, and not have any significant engine issues till the car nears 200k miles. Some of that is forgiven if the car is a specialty or high performance car (read Porsche and Ferrari).

The other concern is when the manufacturer tries to turn their head the other way when an obvious, and recurrent problem pops up. This is what we are seeing w the current model MINI Cooper S, the one with the turbocharged motor. Due to the size of our MINI customer base, we first started to see this issue about 2010, and now are seeing a more steady stream of occurrences. As one would expect, MINI themselves first saw the issue arise, and after a full year of issues, had issued a Technical Service Bulletin….first to its dealers, and then to the public. But, this doesn’t mean the were stating they knew there was a problem, a Service Bulletin is to make service managers and technicians aware of how to test and repair a known issue. That is how MINI positioned it, and continues to do so. Their first Service bulletin even took a more backhanded approach as it communicated the issue to the dealer network.

The issue – as low as 20k miles, and we have seen it mostly around 50k miles, the motor starts to make loud rattle. This noise is louder on cold start up, and is less noisy or may sound like a normal engine sound once the engine is fully warm. The issue is the chain tensioner….and it is not working as designed, and not producing the tension the timing chain needs, and the timing chain hits the outer enclosure and makes the rattle sound. But, that in and of itself wouldn’t be too bad, but what can happen if this is not taken care of is. If the customer doesn’t have this addressed, and this tensioner continues to get worse, and the wear occurs to the timing chain guides as well, the customer could experience complete engine failure (the chain will jump the timing chain gears, timing will get off, motor won’ t run well, valves open at the wrong time, and then really bad things happen as the pistons and valves do direct battle, with the engine losing)…read the motor will break.

There is a known fix to this, and MINI even has a test to determine if the tensioner is producing less than desired tension. Depending on when this issue is identified, and the longevity of the wear period, the extent of the fix can be minor or major. At a minimum, it requires a new timing chain tensioner (not a quick fix, but not out of the ball park in cost either). But, if the wear is greater, then several parts need to be replaced (timing chain, timing chain tensioner, gear, guides (3), and some key bolts).

If your car or someone you know has this, and the car is under warranty, MINI will test the car, and should cover the repair. If you are outside the warranty period, then even though MINI knows of this, the repair will NOT be covered.

The current TSB related to this issue is:

SI M11 02 07
Engine – February 2011
Technical Service

This Service Information bulletin supersedes SI M11 02 07 dated October 2010.

So, be aware, listen to your motor, and you may want to have MINI test your car to see that all is OK.? Believe us…this is a REAL ISSUE.

UPDATE – JUNE 2012

I’m updating this post (originally written by us in Dec 2011, but updating now in June 2012….as we are seeing cars at about the rate of one a week w this issue with many NOT having addressed this issue early, and producing other unwanted results…..read….more expensive repairs).

Here are pics of a recent example where the following occurred –

(1) The timing chain tensioner does not provide sufficient tension (you can feel a significant difference in the current motor version versus the new version)

(2) The upper timing chain guide wears through, and then breaks. The picture is of the pieces left after it has broken into multiple pieces. These pieces then fall down into the timing chain galley and do further damage…and in another recent case, got caught in the oil pump chain, and broke and stretched the oil pump chain nearly throwing that chain and causing oil starvation (which would have been the end of the motor).

(3) The side timing chain guides break into pieces, and fall into the oil pan, also requiring additional time and work to repair. The pic below shows how one case, the pieces did get caught in the oil pump chain, stretching it, and almost causing it to be thrown and killing the motor altogether.

NET – if you own, or know someone who owns a 2007 – 2009 MINI, have them get this fixed, even if they think they are FINE.

MORE UPDATES – Feb 2013

Here is a comment from another shop who has read and follows our blog, about the MINI issue –

“I work in an engine rebuild center . we are seeing more & more of these MINIs coming in every day now … burning oil & timing chain problems … new one is the top guide is wearing causing metal fillings into engine ” not what you want “. Last one causing Vanos unit (variable camshaft) to cause a fault code 287d to stop working as relies on oil pressure… not the best from BMW/MINI I must say.” …..

Another comment rec’d on March 14, 2013

This just happened to me. 68k on my 2009 S. Was running perfectly, never noticed a rattle or anything, but blam, dead car. It

4 Comments

  1. Merry
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Nevermind all those questions, today I towed the car to the dealership. and the service tech informed me that they’d found the timing chain had gone bad, more details tomorrow.

    I’ve gotten a notification of the tensioner class action settlement, and have til June to make a claim, but here’s where my questions start: My understanding is that this a Prince engine design flaw, with the chain being internal to the engine case, and that failure can happen at any time, no matter how well one maintains their vehicle. I have followed all guidelines, and exceeded them, but still have had both the clutch and now the timing chain go out. If this re-occurs after October, any extended warranty will be gone, as the car will have be in service for 7 years. I also don’t see any accommodations for re-occurrence of the failure or a fix for the faulty design. So this can happen again, and from what I’ve read, is likely. Here’s the question: does the N18 engine design take care of these flaws, and is it possible to put one in my car? Unclear to me if the design was intended to fit the pre-revision cars.

    Any info greatly appreciated!
    Cheers!

  2. Ricardo Reyes
    Posted May 20, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    My wife has a 2010 Cooper S A/T with 54K miles and started with a heavy oil leak from the chain tensioner, we have to replace it (it was not tight properly), then she drove over a piece of a truck tire and broke the auxiliary pump that we replaced (pain in the neck)
    Today started a heavy leak of coolant from the passenger side that I don’t know yet from where is coming. We are out of town and I will carry on a AAA truck, What do you think would be the cause of the leak?, I will appreciate your help

  3. Posted June 13, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    I have a 2011 mini cooper s all 4, 23500 miles on clock.same thing, engine warning light on. sounds like diesel engine but its petrol, contacted AA who took it to local BMW specialist garage who have had it for a week, found out today its the fuel pump which I have been told is what probably is causing this problem but reading forums this then leads to chain tensioner? I think its terrible, car fuel pump should last time of car, the warranty in America has been extended from what I can gather until 120,000 on clock why not in UK!?, why is nothing ever don here, am so sick and tired of being ripped off, have contacted Harold Krueger who is CEO I believe. Also lad earlier onsaid her is a current court case? More details please, thank you

  4. Tamer
    Posted November 2, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Hi all
    I cant believe that at 23k miles my beloved Mini Cooper Clubman had fault code 2845 VANOS ACTUATOR MOVEMENT, OR P0015 ON P CODES. The car start up engine lumpy and out of synch as if it misfires. This will happen at idle. I reached out for the dealer and they said timing was out and vanos was not working properly.
    On further testing; there is no fault on the vanos actuator (which is the timing cog on the exhaust cam) there is no fault on any electrical components, there is a big fault in design of the cam system. For the vanos PROPERLY to work on this engine oil pressure is key, the problem is feeding oil to the exhaust VANOS. The dealer stated that there is minor wear on the cam carrier cap, which causes the bearing seal to fail, thus causing the fault code. I cannot believe that at such low mileage I was advised to BUY A NEW CYLINDER HEAD. A side note; the PEUGEOT 207 (French Car) HAS THE SAME ENGINE SAME PROBLEMS. MINI does not want man-up to this problem. I will never Trust a mini EVER!

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  1. […] Mini Cooper S R56 – engine woes – BR Racing Blog – SERVICE Alert. If you own, or know someone who owns a MINI Cooper S (R56) car, from 2006.5 to 2011, read on with great interest or concern. With the push to get more … […]

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