BMW / MINI Cooper Fuel Filters – Lifetime?

BMW / MINI Cooer Fuel Filters – Lifetime?

We seem to be coming across a set of items that used to be normal service items on cars, that are now deemed “lifetime” by the manufacturer. However, they don’t seem to be holding up to that claim. If they were just not holding up to the claim, that would be one concern, but what we are seeing as a trend is that these “lifetime” items are causing other more significant issues. Here is another one that is drawing concern from us.

MINI Cooper, and BMW, now claim that the fuel filter is a lifetime device, and does not need to be serviced or replaced during the life of the vehicle. There are many thoughts on why this might be. The fuel filter (on pre-2000 year BMWs) used to be external, in line, between the fuel tank and the engine. This made service and access relatively simple. However, now, the fuel filter, has been moved from external to internal, in the fuel tank. This started with most new BMWs after 2000, and all MINI Coopers. Service is not straightforward at all when the fuel filter is located in the fuel tank, and even access to examine it is near impossible. What used to be a simple service job that took less than 30 minutes, now, if needed, takes well over 2 hours and a high level of expertise.

(The picture below is of a MINI Cooper fuel filter assembly. The fuel filter is located in the fuel tank, which is under the rear seat. The fuel filter assembly is on the right side (passenger) of the car. Once you remove the rear seat cushion, the fuel tank cover, you will see the item as shown below. You then remove the metal retaining ring, and you can then play with the fuel filter assembly. Remove the fuel lines, then remove the clips to the assembly cover, and you can access the fuel filter).

While we can hazard lots of guesses as to what changed to make a unit that was a service item all of a sudden not become a service item, but most defy logic. The engine didn’t change. The low pressure fuel pump system didn’t change. The fuel didn’t change. The cleanliness of the fuel didn’t change. How you fill your car with fuel didn’t change. So, why did it no longer become necessary to change the fuel filter due to the dirt and contaminants in the fuel to keep your car running right When it has now become more critical (due to the evolution of direct injected engines) to ensure proper fuel flow, why would you not want to service the fuel filter?

(Picture below is a fuel filter from a 2005 MINI Cooper S, and the new replacement filter on the right). This clogged fuel filter caused the failure of the fuel pump on our customers 2005 MINI Cooper S.

Again, if that were all that it was, is a concern on what or why things changed, no big deal. But, what we are seeing is that the fuel filters are still becoming dirty, and clogged. And, the clogged fuel filter is killing the fuel pump. Now a simple fuel filter service, that can not be done, has gone and caused the failure of the fuel system. This means your car won’t run. It could stop when driving. It could run today, but not start and run tomorrow. That could be a safety issue. Certainly could inconvenience you just when you needed to rush to work, and your car decides to not work that day due to the failed fuel pump. But, that’s not all, the simple fuel filter (lifetime) has now caused you to have a >$1,000 service repair bill.

We used to have the guidance that it was wise to replace the fuel filter at about 60k miles. We would have you consider still doing this service and not wait till the clogged fuel filter kills your fuel pump (or some of the other secondary effects, like running lean or low fuel pressure and misfires).

BRracing – keeping car running at its full potential.

 

9 Comments

  1. Sherry
    Posted December 28, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    My Mini Cooper fuel pump went out from the fuel filter collapse and the extended warranty will not cover it. Who can I contact to help me take care if this.

  2. Posted March 5, 2014 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    It’s interesting that Mini and BMW have changed their fuel filters and the statement regarding them; have a look at local specialists that may be able to help rather than speaking directly to the companies!

  3. Posted January 23, 2015 at 2:10 am | Permalink

    Hello , what entice you to post an article. This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last Thursday.

  4. Giang
    Posted May 21, 2015 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Just bought a 2003 cooper so with 137k miles. Started stalling while driving. Gonna buy the filter, plugs, and wires to see if that’s the problem. Very informative post. Thanks for the info

  5. Mark Schofield
    Posted May 25, 2015 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    The answer is quite straightforward. An in-tank filter uses fewer components and is therefore cheaper to manufacture. The number of vehicle that will run enough mileage in the first few years of the car’s life to result in a failed filter is so few that the warranty cost of a few failures can be traded agaisnt the cost saved by not fitting the filter in the first place. If it fails outside of warranty and/or or later in the life of the vehicle the manfacturer simply doesn’t care since the cost and unreliability is borne by people who don’t buy new cars in the first place. I write as a 2010 Mini owner and also a lover of big high mileage diesels which used to give excellent economical motoring. Well I used to love them, but now since the manufacturers no longer build them to last and they are covered in expensive unreliable doo-dads for environmental reasons they too are no longer economic. Maybe there is a business opportunty in remote fuel filter kits?

  6. Posted October 29, 2015 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Took my 2012 mini S for service today. It stalls when I try to floor the car and pass
    someone. They said it was the thermostat when they did the diagnostic test.
    1028.00 to repair 204.00 just to look at it. I said no and going to pick it up. Ian thinking its the fuel filter.

  7. marcus
    Posted March 3, 2016 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I work at a auto shop in florida the fuel filters I have replaced on minis are black when you open the filter housing the later model minis have high pressure fuel systems with very close tolerance pumps they have a high failure rate and are very expensive over 1200 dollars for the part if these filters were changed regular the pumps would last a lot longer prevention is always the better cure

  8. Alan
    Posted January 30, 2018 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Just changed the fuel filter on my MINI Cooper S 2007 at 73,000K. old filter was black and fuel in filter housing was black, replacement filter cost $24AUD,before I purchased the vehicle it had the high pressure fuel pump replaced at 71,000K. This MINI will now get tender loving care. If you have not changed the fuel filter in you MINI change it well worth the effort.

  9. Michael Barber
    Posted August 14, 2019 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely correct. I’m looking to buy a mini Cooper and the fuel filter was out. A $1,700 cost to fix from mini service. I did my research and see that these are a very high failure point on a mini cooper. However, fuel pumps are not normally a high failure point at sub 80K mileage. I didn’t see an inline fuel filter so I thought well I will make a mod and add one. However, I did more research and found there is actually one. All the pictures I have seen look like your picture above which clearly shows the filter way, way, way, way past the point of even descent performance. Also, during replacement, I see that the reservoir around the filter is also fuel of black fuel with sediments. I would say this needs to be replaced on intervals of less than 50,000 miles.

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