Clutch Eating Minis

Do Minis have a propensity to munch clutches?

That’s what Randy, out in Weed, California thinks. He’s already gone through two of 'em, after barely 60,000 miles. Tom and Ray didn’t know if this was a particular weakness with the Mini. But, they wanted to hear from you. Do you drive a Mini, and have you been burning through clutches? Know someone who has?

Or, could it be that Randy is not 'fessing up about his tendency to be a little rough on his ride?

Share your thoughts right here – and thanks!

Google “MINI2 Clutch” you’ll find plenty of similar stories, seems the average lifespan for a MINI2 clutch is about 20,000 miles so Randy did pretty good.

Guys COME ON. That was HARSH. 10K for a clutch is unacceptable. I think you’re just giving Randy a hard time. Of course, you are the experts, but my theory is that his cheaper-deal mechanic put in a lousy product. I’ve been driving clutches since I was 16 years old, and I am a GIRL, and I haven’t ever burned through a clutch in 6 months.

Give Randy a break!

How fortuitous that Randy called in this week, because I’ve been meaning to call in about the very same problem. I’ve got a 2002 Cooper, and am now on my third clutch and third transmission. Here’s the story of my cantankerous clutches:

I bought the car in March 2003, new, and had no problems with it at all. As far as my driving habits and style – I live in Los Angeles. Need I say more?

In Dec. 2005, at 49,500 miles, my clutch went out while driving during rush hour on the freeway, and took the transmission with it for company. It was still under warranty, and BMW/Mini replaced both the clutch and the transmission without any hassles at all, in only a couple of days.

In Dec. 2006, the second clutch and transmission failed (on a different freeway, just to change it up), with just under 11,000 miles on them. The dealer balked, saying it must’ve been the way I was driving the car, implying that as a woman, I must be an inept driver. I argued that if it really was the way I drove, how did I manage to get nearly 50,000 miles out of my first clutch? If that were the case, you’d think I’d have ruined the first clutch at 11,000 miles as well.

Refusing to believe I’d suddenly become a lousy driver in the last 11 months, I looked into a recall that had gone out on the 2002 models’ shifter cables, which caused the same kind of failure I’d had. I discovered my VIN wasn’t part of the recall, but still, it was suspicious that my car was presenting the same failure as the recalled cars.

Sticking to my guns, and ticked off about the insinuation about my gender being the cause, I insisted that BMW/Mini honor their two-year warranty on the replacement clutch and transmission. We argued back and forth for a couple of weeks, and I didn’t back down. The dealer agreed to send out the BMW regional forensic mechanic, who I’ll call Dieter, to come inspect the car and arbitrate.

After he looked at my car, Deiter decided that it wasn’t my fault, and that the problem had been caused by a bad shifter cable – the same shifter cable issue subject to the recall. Funny, that. So the dealer grumbled and called me lots of very colorful names, but replaced the shifter cable, the clutch and the transmission, calling it a “one-time, goodwill repair.”

Clutch and transmission #3 have 12,500 miles on them, and are so far, holding up, though the clutch seems like it’s slipping, and I’m saving up to take it in.

So, Tom and Ray, I think you’re being a bit hard on Randy. Either that, or there’s something about California that eats Cooper clutches.

I caught the tail-end of Randy’s call on the way back from the grocery store and then ran inside and leaped to the computer to say, “HE’S RIGHT!” I had a 2004 Cooper (that I just got rid of last month) and it went through two clutches just last year ('07) at about 22,000 miles and about 30,000 miles. I leased the car and so the repair was warranty-covered, but the second time it happened the guy at the shop insinuated that I had wrecked it somehow and denied having ever heard of problems with these clutches. In the end, they determined that the second failure was caused by improper installation of the clutch the previous time. My experience with this (both times I broke down at about midnight while driving from from work) was so frustrating that it’s put me off of Mini Coopers altogether.

OK THIS IS GOING TO BE A LITTLE LONG WINDED SO BEAR WITH ME-I am an owner of an 05 MINI S model and have a small MINI service business and web site and have some experience with the clutch issues. In addition, I am an experienced repair tech who DOES NOT know everything but will give some input from my experince with this car line. My 05 has 45k on it on the original clutch. the car has considerable aftermarket modification to it, and dynos 193 hp at the front wheels. It has been used on some track events, specifically the MC2 magazine shootout last march at spring mountain raceway in Paraumph, Nevada where it was the 4th fastest car there, fastest with a stock cylinder head and street tires. AND MY LOCAL DEALER WAS KIND ENOUGH TO VOID MY WARRANTY DUE TO THE AFTERMARKET PARTS SEEN ON MY CAR WHEN IN FOR A RADIO REPLACEMENT-DID NOT MATTER TO ME, I WOULDN’T LET THEM WORK ON MY CAR ANYWAY, AND I ACCEPT THAT BY INSTALLLING POWER ADDING PARTS, I COULD BE SHORTENING THE LIFE OF THE DRIVETRAIN–EVERYONE ELSE NEEDS TO KNOW MINI WILL NOT WARRANTY PARTS ON A CAR THAT HAS BEN MODIFIED. your results may vary, but in southern California this is the case. now, I have a customer with an 03 S that had a new clutch installed under warranty at 29k and again at 49k by the local dealer. it currently has 85k on it and the last clutch installed is going fine. at 48k, end of warranty, I found the clutch output (or slave) cylinder had a broken piston and the clutch pedal very hard to push in. MY EXPERIENCE with bmw products in general is, when the pressure plate is failing, the pedal pressure increases dramatically, as in this case, where it actually broke the plastic cylinder piston. The clutch Master cylinder uses a platic piston as well. This car definitely had a replacement pressure plate that failed and killed the clutch hydraulics with it.
we need to sepearate a couple of issues here, due to the problems associated with A REGULAR COOPER trans-the 02-05 REGULAR COOPER (NON-S) used a midlands 5 speed that was just terrible at best. as in Vinetails experience, this is a failing transmission continually and the 06 and up models no longer use it. A clutch is generally replaced when this trans is out because it is the smart thing to do, although frequently the clutch may not be worn out or failed, but removing the transmission from any modern MINI is a labor intensive job, and the clutch parts are relatively cheap. a failing clutch combined with a midlands trans almost always kills the transmission as well. NOT THE CASE WITH THE GERTRAG UNIT USED IN THE S MODELS. My experience and opinion is that the clutch on the MINI product is the weakest link in a fairly robust powertrain package. it is 7.5 inches in diameter, and while up to the task of normal driving, will take very little abuse. I just replaced the clutch assembly in an 03 with 100,035 miles on it-THE ORIGINAL CLUTCH, ORIGINAL OWNER-who is gentle with the car, used it for commuting and did not hot rod style driving of any type-so-they will hold up to normal driving. CLUTCH HYDRAULICS-the plastic internals of the hydraulics lead to a number of issues on these cars and the complex hydraulic bleeding procedure, if not done correctly, hopefully with factory tool numner 21-5-030, can be a service nightmare. I just repaired an 03 S that probably only needed a slave cylinder correctly installed and bled, in the beginning of its woes, BUT a shop with little experience with this product spent 2 days incorrectly installing and bleeding a slave cylinder, then another shop replaced the clutch/pressure plate/throw out bearing, and it continued to give the owner grief, to the point she was looking to sell the car. The slave cylinder was dripping when it came to me, from the input line fitting, and the system had filled up with air again, making the new clutch work poorly. You have to order the upper line (12.00 or so from mini) to get the seal at the slave cyl end, which I did and replaced. the bleeding procedure on this car took about 4 hours, as once air gets trapped between the reservoir and master cyl, where there is a u shaped area in the reservoir to master supply line causing an air traping pocket, it is very difficult to get right and many repair people give up before they get it completely bled. Now this IS NOT 4 hours of continuous on the car work-it requires a pressure bleeder, the above mentioned tool, using the correct procedure, and patience while working the air out of the system. I did other work on this car and others while letting the system bleed the air out and only charged the customer an hours labor, as that is about the actual time spent at the car on this issue.
now, my own car, while being driven pretty hard normally, and having survived track work, HAS NEVER BEEN POWER SHIFTED OR HAD THE CLUTCH DUMPED TO CREATE A BURN-OUT. IT IS MY OPINION DRAG RACE STYLE DRIVING IN THESE CARS WILL KILL THE CLUTCH PRETTY QUICKLY. closed course track work, with reasonable shifting habits, not “dumping” the clutch pedal, does not seem to be as hard on them. there are excellent aftermarket clutches available for drag race style use, but as with any automotive drivetrain, once the clutch is beefedup, you can expect to find the next weakest link, likeley the axles. So, In summary-and my personal experience-yes these cars do have a weak clutch, in my opinion-and-they will last failrly well in normal driving.

Hey stage1scott – yep, my first transmission was a Midlands 5-speed; the second transmission was a Getrag, and the third is a Getrag. I don’t do any hot-rod driving, just lots of rush-hour driving. Sigh.

You mention you’ve got a Mini service business and are in Southern California; I’d love to have you take a look at my clutch, and see what you think.

A correction to the above. Mini’s went to the Getrag transmission in 2005, not 2006. The clutch should last close to 100K, at least!

There are heavy duty (competition) clutches for Mini’s on the market which might be the way to go.

Hey Fletcher – do you happen to remember what kind of transmissions you had in the car? Midlands, or Getrag?

vinetail-email me direct at I am out in ventura county, there are a couple of very god shops in the valley or san pedro if I am too far away. I have a larger auto repair company that takes most of my time but fit the MINI work in aorund that, as the local dealer is pretty sad and people constanly ask me, when out in my 05, where I get my work done.

I think Randy’s first clutch replacement was due to a number of factors. One his driving, two, possibly too small or weak of a clutch for the car (is it a Cooper S?) and the third factor could have been a leaking rear main seal like his technician says he now needs. He may not have seen oil on the floor because it only leaks when the engine is running. The oil would get onto the clutch and burn off as well as drip onto the exhaust.
The reason he needs a second clutch so soon could be caused by an incomplete repair the first time. If the first clutch was slipping it would have glazed the flywheel. If the flywheel was removed and resurfaced the main seal would have been able to be examined and easily replaced. The resurfaced flywheel would match the new surfaces of the clutch kit. By not resurfacing the flywheel the clutch disc was slipping on the glazed surface causing premature wear.

I am not surprised you mentioned his blood pressure. I just witnessed something even more absurd, I am mad as hell and the car in question was not even mine! I went to visit a friend who owns an almost-brand-new mini S (2007) with only 3000 miles on it. He had his girlfriend driving it twice for a total of about 10 miles. No traffic. No hills. The clutch is gone and neither the dealership nor BMW want to repair it under warranty. He ended up paying more than 2 grands out of his own pocket. In the meantime I called a nearby dealer who confessed that he has never heard of such a thing at 3k but he’s heard stories around 6/7k. I think is absurd. I even ask with no response if they thought it would be possible to burn a clutch on purpose on a regular car in such a short time (6months and 3,000 miles). Now, I can’t stand this kind of attitude, especially from BMW after this friend has been a great customer of them driving only bmw for 20years all manual (never a clutch burned before, he has never driven an automatic car except the BMW loaner they gave him). My question is: what kind of recourse does he have now given that he already paid and got the repair? I hate to see this happening to anyone, especially a friend. Please help. Thank you.

Is the common denominator here Californians, crowded interstates, too much down shifting or better yet, all of the above with one very frustrated driver beating up the clutch?
Seriously though, I drive a 2003 Cooper with 42,000 miles and so far so good! My four children refer to “Bo Peep” as their other sibling! I’m a mom, and I’ve driven a clutch car most of my life and I can honestly say the Cooper shifts very well!

I purchased my 2003 MINI new and now have over 104,000 miles and have not had an issue with the clutch as of yet. I have had a couple of thousand dollars in an account since 60,000 mile for when the clutch dose go out. I do not do a lot of down shifting and make a point of not leaving my foot on the clutch for more than ten seconds at a time. I figure if you need your foot on the clutch that long you should take it out of gear. As a matter of fact in the ten or fifteen years and three vehicles I have had with a clutch I have never had to replace a clutch. Be sides the clutch time I do live in Michigan which at worst has rolling hills. I drive my MINI daily all year round and also found it is the best vehicle I have ever driven in the snow and ice. I have been dri in the 35 years I have been driving. I plan on always owning a MINI.

Yeah, whatever!
So I have an '03 mini, 76K…my wife drives the car, my kid once(!)…one clutch!

Hate to say it but weed driver and others may have problems with the 5 speed but this 6 speed is sweet…after a plastic windshield side cap blew off after some speed north of 110 I knew this speedster weren’t no fluke!

Buy a mini if you want tons o’ fun…and 30mpg overall!!! Did i say chicks, uhhh the wife, loves it?

My distinct pleasure was firing up a completely rebuilt engine in my shop for a Mini Cooper back in the late '70’s. The owner got value; I got satisfaction. What a dream little car that one was!

OK; here’s the humour: it’s definitely a California thing by definition. Consider that paint is no longer paint out here due to restrictions on chemical compounds. By similar reasoning, auto clutches have also become gooey masses of altered compounding. Ask the shops in San Francisco what they use for clutches and you’ll have found the solution!

If you go to the MINI bulletin boards, you will find many owners with clutch problems. I had the same hassle with my Subaru Impreza clutch: for many years, Subaru used weak pressure plates and cheap clutches. Of course, the dealers with NEVER admit to a problem! Also, dealers will post comments at this site (and at enthusiast sites) posing as “owners” and saying “I never had any problems”, so beware of glowing reports. To their credit, Subaru (and MINI) seemed to have fixed their clutch problems… although I became so pissed off at Subaru, that I have vowed to ONLY by Subies with automatic transmissions!

My 2004 Cooper had a bad clutch from the start, which was replaced by the dealer for free. Its second clutch died at 31,000 miles. My car enthusiast brother-in-law suggests that the culprit was my driving style, but even he admits my skills had markedly improved by the time the clutch burned out. At 35,000 miles I smelled what seemed to be the clutch burning, but the dealer said it was fine. Nevertheless, I determined this particular car was haunted, sold it and bought a 2007 Cooper S, which has been problem free until the clutch and flywheel burned out at 8,000 miles. I love the Mini Cooper, but this does seem like a design problem.

I have a new 2007 Mini that blew a clutch this week at 5,000 miles!!! The dealership wants $5000 to fix it, says it is not under warranty. I called the Bureau of Automotive Repair and they say this is happening a lot!