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3 problems - 2004 Mini Cooper

Car: 2004 Mini Cooper, 103k miles
Area: Northern New England

Issue 1: car shake

  • At about 70 mph the whole car (pedals, steering wheel, seats) has a shimmy. Car has 4 new (balanced) tires and the front wheel bearings have been replaced. I’ve been told possibly motor mounts but at 120$/hr labour and hour drive to the garage, going on a wild goose chase for what this could be is not what I want to spend my time doing. Any thoughts?

Issue 2: clunky sound

  • I live in New England and so we have the requisite pockmarked roads. When the car is cold there is a sound of something loose in the back end. Nothing has been found to be loose but the sound is… annoying. I’ve checked the spare tire and it is secure. Any thoughts on what that could be?

Issue 3: violent wheel shake

  • Not exactly the most replicable of issues. Started a year ago in June - three times total now. When traveling at higher speed (65 plus) for longer times (75 min or more) when I’m not accelerating the steering wheel grabs and pulls to the right. It almost feels like the brakes are grabbing on one side but there’s no noticeable wear on the brake pads. It takes quite a bit of strength to hold the wheel straight and when I accelerate, it dissipates. What could that be?

Ok there’s a lot of questions. And before anyone goes telling me to get a new car, it’s not going to happen. He makes me happy.

I’ll admit to not being overly familiar with a Mini Cooper… but all of these problems sound suspension-related to me.

If it were my car, I’d take it to a shop and have them check out the front and rear suspesion components.

You mentioned the wheels have all been balanced as well. I can say from experience that different shops seems to have different levels of skill at successfully balancing wheels. You might take the car to another shop and have them balance the wheels again, just to be sure.

Good luck.

Hmmm haven’t even thought suspension. The tires have been balanced at two shops (when they were first put on they weren’t balanced - Mini pointed that out and I got that taken care of.) Thank you!

While your having the suspension system checked, have them check the steering components as well. Sounds like you’ve gotten a worn tie rod end or ball joints

Issue 3: “…It takes quite a bit of strength to hold the wheel straight…”

Does it feel like you’re losing power steering? There have been reports of electric power steering pumps failing. Why acceleration would fix it, though, I have no idea.

" It almost feels like the brakes are grabbing on one side but there’s no noticeable wear on the brake pads. It takes quite a bit of strength to hold the wheel straight "

Have you had any other steering problems? The power steering pump on this car is known to be defective and was the subject of a class action lawsuit. If you haven’t had the pump replaced you should do some more research on the Internet on that issue. It’s quite dangerous.

I have indeed replaced the power steering pump - and been reimbursed by Mini for it.
Almost ironically these problems didn’t start till after I replaced the power steering pump.

I can’t tell you why but I suspect a right side cv joint of occasionally seizing.

“It takes quite a bit of strength to hold the wheel straight and when I accelerate, it dissipates. What could that be?”

And this has not given you the hint to go have it looked at.

This could be a fatal accident waiting to happen.You could be the fatality, or it could be some soccer mom with a car load of kids, that didn’t know that a car would be coming down the road that could suddenly veer into their path.

All three of your problems sound like a suspension problem as Hammer said.
A tie rod goes at high speed and the one wheel will make a sharp turn while the other wheel points straight ahead and you may loose all control resulting in a crash.
A ball joint gives way and that wheel will fold into the inner fender or colapse all together, again loosing all control, and doing damage to other suspension parts and the fender.

Go have it looked at ASAP. Before You regret putting this off.


I did, in fact, have it looked at and was told they couldn’t find anything. Hence why I’m here looking for ideas to go into the garage with.

I work in emergency services. I’m not oblivious to the hazards.

Get this away from the shop you’re going to and into a reputable independent chassis shop ASAP. You could have a ball joint ready to separate, a control arm ready to come off, or any number of other disasters ready to happen.

Re: getting the wheels balanced, diagnosing a bad wheel or internal tire can be done much more effectively by a shop that has a “road force balancing” machine. That can detect internal tire problems and some other anomalies that regular spin balancing cannot. A good chassis shop should have one.

Rule of thumb: if you’re having a serious problem and a shop tells you they can’t find anything wrong, GO ELSEWHERE! Serious problems need to be resolved, and they can be resolved, but not every shop is willing, interested, or capable of doing so. “We can’t find anything wrong” is not an acceptable answer.

I switched shops back in May because they failed to fix a transmission leak but kept my car for a full day without bothering to call me (and they missed some other things that really irked me). He now goes to a Mini dealership that I have so far been happy with (once for the transmission leak, once for inspection) I plan on making a phone call on Monday to get him in for all the things you all have mentioned.

“he makes me happy”… love is blind. lol

get another car if you can afford it.

I agree with the same mountainbike and the urgency of his message. It is well worth finding someone that can evaluate the problems that other mechanics don’t seem to be able to. The dealer may be the solution, but a shop that specializes in suspensions and alignment would be a good place to go next for the tracking problem.