'05 MINI Cooper S - weird front end noise

I have a 2005 MINI Cooper S with manual transmission, bought new. Almost three years ago, it started making a strange noise that no one has been able to identify or repair. When turning full left at very low speed, like pulling into a parking spot or making a U-turn, the front end makes a strange noise that seems to be coming from the right front wheel. It’s not a deep, rhythmic clunking noise, like a CV joint, but a higher-pitched, random clattering noise. More of a “cluh-click…click,click…clicketyclickclick…click…click” than a “clunk clunk clunk.”

In September of 2010, I took it to the dealer. They assured me it was NOT a CV joint. They retorqued the axle nuts. The sound seemed to go away for a few days, but came back. I took it back, and they replaced one of the axle nuts. The noise went away but came back. This time the dealer replaced the other axle nut. The sound went away and came back. I took the car in a fourth time, and the dealer retightened everything on the front end - axle nuts (again), sway bars, shock mounts etc. Again, the noise went away and then came back.

I gave up on the dealer. Since then, I’ve taken the car to two independent BMW shops with similar results. Both of them made the sound go away temporarily, but then it came back.

A year ago, I replaced my second set of tires. To my surprise, the sound went away! I wondered if maybe the old, slightly-wider-than-recommended (215 vs 205) tires had been rubbing on something. But then, about a week later, the sound returned. Aaargh!

It has been almost three years now - September, 2010 to July, 2013. I’ve tried the dealer four times and two independent BMW shops and one tire shop. Each time, the sound seems to go away for a while and then, less than 200 miles later, it comes back. It seems to me that a big clue may be that removing and then reinstalling the wheels makes the sound go away for a while.

Can anyone help? I absolutely love this car, but this nagging worry that something’s going to break one day and leave me stranded sure eats away at my fun! Thanks in advance!

Possibly a bent brake backing plate???

There’s a number of possibiities but without car in hand it’s impossible to say.
To go along with the brake backing plate scenario. there’s also the possibility of a brake pad rattling in the yoke or something of that nature.

I would also not dismiss the CV joints. Sometimes CV joints can be faulty and there is really no way of being 100% certain without removing them from the car and checking them on the bench. Of course, that brings up the Catch 22 situation; if they’re out then they might as well be replaced.

What I don’t understand is all of that axle nut torquing and nut replacement thing that car has been put through. If the nuts are really loosening that might point to a wheel bearing issue or damaged threads on the shafts.

If the wheel bearings are not loose and the shaft threads are not damaged I might still lean towards a CV joint problem.

BMW has issued a Technical Service Bulletin SI M 31 01 05 that address this problem. Owners of these vehicle may hear a clicking/ clunking noise while making sharp turns or while going over bumps. The problem is caused when the rubber upper strut bushing cracks. Remove the upper strut cap to expose the bushing to see if it’s cracked.



In spite of what the dealership said . . .

To me, it sounds like you have CLASSIC symptoms of a bad CV joint

Great suggestions - thanks to all four of you for your comments. Pretty sure it’s not the CV joint, since the rhythm is so irregular and the dealer and two independent shops all rejected it, but I’ll keep it in mind. Someone on a MINI forum suggested the backing plate, too. It’s that kind of a sound, so I’ll check that first. And I hadn’t heard of the TSB - not sure if the dealer checked that. I have aftermarket strut mount reinforcement plates, since mushrooming of these is a known problem. The TSB says 2004 and earlier, but worth checking anyway: mine is a late 2004 build, but 2005 model year, and has some other 2004-spec parts.

Thanks again to all who replied. I’ll update this thread as I eliminate possibilities!