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2003 Mini Cooper 1.6 Petrol (R50)
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi All!

I’m Ryan from Liverpool, UK, and new to the forum. I’ve recently bought a 52-plate (2003) Mini Cooper 1.6 Petrol (R50). Never owned a (new) Mini before so I’m here for advice on a few little things that need doing.

A bit about the car.. It’s a 2003 car, silver with a black roof. It's in really good condition generally, just reach 70k with full service history. It’s really clean inside and out save for a couple of stone chips on the bonnet. It’s got an aftermarket Scorpion exhaust and a K&N panel filter, and I’ve changed out the orange indicators for clear ones.. Otherwise it’s original and likely to be staying that way.. I might get a set of 17” R53 alloys but haven’t decided yet.

Photos are from when I bought it in September, and more recently after the bulb/repeater changes.

A bit about me.. I’m 38, and live in Aigburth in Liverpool. I have an 11 year old son called Lucas and a black cat called Nova. I work full time, and I love cars (although I’m not the best at repairing them).

I’m here mainly for some advice about the car itself, and a few quirks it has, to try and ascertain whether they’re just that or whether it’s something that needs addressing! So far I’ve noticed the following:

1) Rear drivers light unit has condensation in it. Is this a common fault? Has anyone got any experience with aftermarket replacement units?

2) Car seems to have an erratic idle, dropping between 800-1000 and feeling like it wants to cut out at the lower end. Worse on first startup when cold. Something seems to be drawing current as the headlights are dimming periodically, every few seconds, and there’s a whine that gets louder on steering. Alternator has been tested and is putting out 13.8v and is stable, not dropping when I put lights on, etc.. Any ideas??

3) Got a slight grinding/grumbling noise when in motion. I’m thinking wheel bearing, sounds to me like front left but can’t be sure. Gets slightly worse when turning left. How easy are they to change out? Anyone know any garages in the North West to do it and how much I’m looking at? Is it worth changing all four at the same time?

4) Rear discs and pads need changing out. Local ‘specialist’ quoting £260 and talking about having to change the sensor and programme them.. Anyone any experience of this? How easy are they to do as a DIY job?

5) Drivers’ side window randomly stopped working.. Gave it a dig while operating the switch and it started working again. I know this is a common thing.. Anyone know what causes it??

6) Considering retrofitting a spare wheel kit but the box with the jack, brace etc just fits tight in the space in the boot and if I put the wheel kit on it won’t fit properly.. Has anyone come up against this and what did you do? Are there different polystyrene trays?

7) Clutch feels very high and sometimes struggles to go into gear, but doesn’t seem to be slipping at all. Do they usually have a naturally high clutch or is it on it’s way out??

Sorry for all the questions! 🙈 It’s a great car and I want to keep it going!

Thanks in advance! 🙏🏻
 

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Car looks tidy,

light condensation I think is just the bond of the plastic lens sometimes failing, personally I'd just renew with OEM but as for aftermarket there's only one version I think that looks really nice, by powerful uk I think, looks like lots of LED's and they have them for pre and post facelift as well as tinted, the normal look appear to be the nicest in my view fwiw

RPM dropping who knows, will need at least a scan to see if codes exist,

the whine will possibly just be the PAS pump which are audible in normal operation but some get loud and in general are known to give trouble in time, sometimes the pumps have to be replaced but a few have wiring issues as well,

wheel bearing you may be correct on, if worse when turning it could well be, a similar noise on these can sometimes be caused by tyres too, bearings I wouldn't change as sets really, some people like to or in pairs quite often but there's never a guarantee they'll ever wear or show issues at the same rate, not unlike what you'll have now, so me personally, I'd just try to pinpoint the one at fault if possible and try to use a decent make replacement. Not a nightmare to change unless the shaft doesn't want to come out, or if the hub needs removing also whether the ABS sensor wants to come out or the front strut pinch bolt, quite common for them to break, so some end up searching for used carriers as a result, not worth trying to save etc.

rear pads and discs aren't that much to change, worth looking at the caliper slide tube bores in the calipers when doing them, because they corrode behind the tubes and pinch them against the pins which affects automatic parking brake adjustment and binding etc, something that can be missed by garages, also cables corrode and stick, easy for you to check that the park lever returns unassisted to the rest pin, if it doesn't there is something there to address, there are costs to just chuck brakes on but also a cost to clean up rot while in there as mentioned, even with cleaning of the calipers for binding pins it still shouldn't cost that for just rears, they also don't need programming on yours, that's the later model R56 etc.

drivers window is quite possibly the motor, lack of use perhaps, often coming to life with the door slammed while the switch is held, shocks them into moving for whatever reason ;O)

clutch shouldn't bite particularly high, maybe 2/3 - 3/4 of travel? Gear engagement can be a matter of wear but also patience, early gearbox in that car (known to be a bit weak) and they always were able to select better after a short delay with the clutch down if talking about 1st/rev. Otherwise may be worth checking gear oil, selector wear, cables etc which deteriorate or just need lubricating sometimes, access to those is under the battery tray, often a problem getting it of as the back two bolts fit into captive nuts that spin for fun and need drilling or cutting out, have to buy the tray they're part of which is another job to fit so many improvise there you might find....

clutch also shouldn't feel particularly heavy either, again a common problem, people get used to it and it can lead to sudden failures and engine wear too.

don't know about the spare wheel kit but the kit from a One might well fit if you have all the bits, unsure if the rear anti roll bar might be a factor in any obstruction etc?

tip: check the cooling system isn't orange or brown, people neglect to change the coolant and the blocks rot causing sedimentation and other issues, also if it has air con get the cooling fan checked that it works on both speeds, the first speed is a common failure leading to cooling system issues.
 

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2003 Mini Cooper 1.6 Petrol (R50)
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi! Thanks for the well-thought out and comprehensive reply, much appreciated!

It’s really tidy, even the door jambs are clean which is usually a good sign that the car has been looked after!

I agree about the lights, I think the originals look best; I’ve seen some aftermarket units that look identical to the OEM casing but at half the price. Just hard to gauge quality! Would go second-hand OEM but no guarantee I won’t have the same issue!

Will get it in for diagnostics soon. Just curious to see if anyone has had similar issues. No lights on dash or anything indicating a fault.

I’d heard the whine was characteristic on these so wasn’t too worried. More concerned that there seems to be a relationship between the movement of the steering wheel, the erratic idle and the lights dimming, as though the PAS pump is drawing current?? I would have said alternator or voltage regulator but it’s been tested and is working fine.

Thanks for the tips re: Bearings/Brakes.. Tried working out which one is at fault but can’t tell. Sounds like it’s just starting to go but don’t want it to fail on me. It’s passed an MOT in September too so not sure why it wasn’t picked up on. I’m confident it’s not just road noise as it’s gotten progressively worse over a few weeks and the run-flats have been swapped out for standard tyres

Am minded to do the discs and pads myself if there’s no fancy electronics to worry about! I didn’t think there was, think the ‘specialist’ is a bit of a con-artist!

With the amount of drive-thrus I go to I’d be amazed if it was lack of use 😂 I’ve probably worn it out.. Hopefully just a quirk and not a sign of an impending failure!

Will check those areas, thanks. Defo hasn’t got much travel left on it so I think it’ll need the clutch doing pretty soon 😨

I’ve got the parts list for the spare wheel kit and feel confident enough fitting it, I just don’t want the jack rolling around in the boot afterwards. Figure someone who’s done the retrofit must have tackled the problem before!

The water is reddish-brown, I noticed that last week funnily enough. It does have air con, not particularly cold so think it needs a service anyway. Will check that fan asap, thanks!
 

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Hi teh hope you and Mini are well. I feel like we are running in pararell here as i'll get too. Very full response by EW which if will concur would like to add other points.
Firstly like you i bought my first mini back in september. 85k on the clock but purchased with an advised gearbox problem. It generally seemed to have been used , not harshly, but i think the previous owners had been sucked into the extended maintenance regime and was suffering. I would respectfully suggest you take the same view of your car and set about changing all fluids as a matter of safety to avoid future costs. Others have put together great 'How to's' on here so look up what you need.
I hope you don't mind me offering a guide but these are the things that caused me a problem which might save you a lot of time and head scratching. All these things require a fair bit of time but cost next to no money and will save you a fair bit of cash to keep your Mini viable.
1) Brakes - Check lines from front to back as exposed underneath and rust. When thinking of changing discs which are straight forward but there is a but. It's the Torx head screw, i think 55. both the rears froze. Fronts are probably same as did give them ago. Attacked with angle grinder but still couldn't get at remaining threaded portion. Sounds extreme but in the end welded large bolts on and got them out. Messes up your day if you havent allowed time.
When bleeding brakes dismount each caliper ( don't disconect hoses ) good opportunity to check free piston movement. Clamp hoses as a prelude to bleeding connect up bleed nipple open and compress piston back into caliper. I look under rubber boot and put a little Red Rubber grease in there. I also rotate pistons if free enough. Rears need to be rotated clockwise as you look at caliper from wheel side.
2) As EW says PAS whines (and creaks) very expensive if pump goes. Best to change the fluid . It's Penosin CHF11. Company aquired by Fuchs Oils who do the same fluid in there branded i litre bottles. Fiddly to do and probably ( i did ) make a mess.
3) If you are absolutely sure your grinding noise from P/S is brakes then fine just general tidy is probably all that is required.
4) Well known Gen 1 oil leaks. Crank Position Sensor 'o' ring and Rocker Cover gasket. Done both on mine latter was just a clean up and retighten. CPS was whilst i had all the bumper and front panel off. CPS is located at Flywheel end of block on front face. I dont know how anybody can do it without removing all that front ? CPS 'O'ring i purchased from Brands Hatch Shop, nice and easy to sort.
5) Coolant colour would probably have been blue out of factory but might have been changed to Red. Either way brown is a no no and needs flushing. Cooling fan is a problem and i'am current still working on this. I think the Mini's cooling is Marginal. I know the fan's not working on Stage 1. If yous is the same you will get overheating in traffic.. Disconnect the Heavy gauge wires to the cooling fan by the left hand headlamp run a direct 12v feed to the plug to see if it runs. The stage 2 fan will run if you have aircon and you switch it on. i think it's meant to run in short 'pulses' on and off.. if you cant get the fan to run with a direct feed then it's most probably the resistor pack which you will see the cooling fan harness running into. To get at it its dismount all the front end and pull the 2 big round plastic pins out at the top of the rad enclosure. I've invested quite a bit of time on the cooling system flushing / refilling bleeding / tweeking pressure cap / removal of thermostat and a still not happy with its operation. Hope you have a much better time with it than me.
6) Your Alternator only pushing out 13.8 v seems a bit low. I seem to remember BMW's put out about 14.5v my Alfa's put out about !4.8v. If you have a multi check for yourself. But i would give all the earth straps a good look over for corrosion especially bonnet to frame and chassis to frame. you never know it might sort out the other electricals and it's all for free..
One last thing you might be interested in and you can use for your electrical and coolant checks and that is the software menu hidden in the dials. First press the milometer button down and keep depressed whilst putting ignition key in and turning to posn. 1. Display will flash, release button, wait a few seconds. Press button again and different numbers appear go to 19 , wait . It should Alternate between test on and test off . Press when says off and it will take you to sub menu 07 select 07.0 by pressing button and that will give coolant temp. Have fun playing about with that some helpful info in there but personally treat yourself to an OBD scanner. Got perfectly useful tool which switches off any DTC's for £28 off Ebay. Paid for it's self.
Good luck with the Mini hope to see that your getting much fun out of it travelling around , maybe doing some Forum meets.
Cheers
 

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p.s heavy clutch and a bit high might also indicate lack of service. A good flush out might cure that too. Some times you get crusty, carbon like film at the far end of hydraulic bores.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Hi Miniwhat! Thanks for your reply 🙂

The car has previously had work done around corrosion on the brake pipes so I know that work has been done. It was an MOT fail previously. I found a local mechanic willing to swap out the discs and pads for £80, so that’s happening Friday. He’ll have to deal with any headaches!

I will try changing the fluid as it’s very noisy; currently sounds like a siren (making a wee-waw oscillating sound when I’m driving).. I think the pump may need replacing but am putting it off as long as I can!
Actually I’m pretty sure the grinding is front n/s wheel bearing.. It’s gotten significantly louder in the last 24hrs, increases with acceleration and louder when I turn left. The mechanic is going to check this out for me too, but I’m pretty sure a change of hub will fix it. That, or a universal joint of some sort.

I will check those for leaks, thanks ☺

There was steam last night when sat in traffic so it could very well be an overheat, although no indication on the dash. The aircon doesn’t perform well so it would make sense. I will definitely have that checked.

I will check the earth straps too, thanks. The more I look into the fault the more I think the alternator is to blame, it’s definitely electrical and intermittent/periodical.. 100% seems like a voltage issue. I ran an ODBII sensor on it last night and.. No faults! Always starts first time without any delay so I don’t think it’s spark.. I will check that menu tomorrow, thanks!
 

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Hi Ryan, you're more than welcome. Hope my experiences put you on the right track , as a lot of the guys on here have done for me.
Watch the overheating mine is the same. Temp gauge reads the same from time it's reasonably warm til it boils over. When i say boils not strictly true as temp reads between 200 to 210 F.
 

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the 2nd stage fan shouldn't cut in and out in short bursts really, if it does it's a sign stage 1 is out

fwiw I'm only just outside Heswall if you feel like a run to Wirral, I can scan the car, test the fan via diag, and advise on the other stuff potentially, fan resistors can be replaced if inclined rather than whole fan assemblies, some folk prefer those though.
 

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the 2nd stage fan shouldn't cut in and out in short bursts really, if it does it's a sign stage 1 is out

fwiw I'm only just outside Heswall if you feel like a run to Wirral, I can scan the car, test the fan via diag, and advise on the other stuff potentially, fan resistors can be replaced if inclined rather than whole fan assemblies, some folk prefer those though.
Thanks for your reply EW. definitely need to get that resistor pack done and get fresh anti freeze in.
Cheers
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
the 2nd stage fan shouldn't cut in and out in short bursts really, if it does it's a sign stage 1 is out

fwiw I'm only just outside Heswall if you feel like a run to Wirral, I can scan the car, test the fan via diag, and advise on the other stuff potentially, fan resistors can be replaced if inclined rather than whole fan assemblies, some folk prefer those though.
Thanks for your reply! I’m going to sort the brakes and the bearing out but I’ll defo take you up on that! I’ll be in touch, cheers 👍🏻
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Quick update:

1) It was the wheel bearing, front nearside. Replaced it and the grinding noise has stopped. Mechanic also confirmed what I thought about the clutch being on it’s way out and the electrical issue.. He thought same as me.. Alternator or potentially the power steering motor drawing current or a bad earth.

Then started getting a grinding/scrape noise on startup.. Initially thought starter motor but considering the other issues, I’m thinking alternator.

2) Given that I know the alternator isn’t putting out what it should be I’ve decided to change it out. It’s getting changed on Wednesday so should have an update soon as to whether it fixes the issues.

3) Clutch getting replaced Tuesday.

Will come back later in the week with an update. I’m hoping this resolves the issues as I’m running out of cash 😂
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
So.. Good news is that the clutch is way better since being changed.. No more juddering, slipping or grinding noises.

Bad news is that even with a perfect new alternator, there continues to be a voltage draw from somewhere.. A hefty one at that. Which is causing the lights to dim momentarily and the idle to vary, as described.

Believe it may be down to the PAS motor as it’s whining but need to test it. Can anyone point me in the direction of the 100amp fuse? Want to try removing it momentarily and seeing if there’s any improvement to pin down the fault.
 
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