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Dead 2007 Mini Cooper S, need advice

I bought a 2007 Mini Cooper, used, at a Ford dealership in August of 2010. For nearly two years I loved this car and didn’t have to pay much in the way of maintenance. I bought the car at 55k miles, and now it has 92k. Over the past year, I have noticed a rattling noise at cold startup, and it was especially loud in the winter, and I also noticed that the car consumes oil. As the oil got lower, the rattling got worse, and whenever I topped off the oil the rattling stopped. I brought this up at the MINI dealership (where I get all my repairs on the car) during a routine oil change and they didn’t take it seriously.

Well, Tuesday morning on my way to work, there was a sudden loss of power and the engine started missing bad. I was almost to where I work when the car just couldn’t hold and idle and stalled. It wouldn’t turn over after that and it sounded really “sick”. I had the car towed to the dealer, where they told me the timing belt tensioner failed and it allowed the timing belt to jump “a great distance”. Apparently, these are “interference” engines (a term I learned because of this incident) so the screwed up timing destroyed the engine. The dealer said it will cost 8,000 to completely replace the engine.

I told them to hold on to it while I figure things out, as I cannot slap that money down. Since then, research has shown this has happened to others. I got in contact with one of them who is still in the process of a lawsuit with MINI USA since late 2010.
http://www.northamericanmotoring.com/forums/stock-problems-issues/188012-timing-belt-just-fell-off-07-cooper-s.html
I have heard many different explanations for the rattling, something that has been well documented, but it’s hard to believe that the rattling, the oil consumption, and my car self-destructing is unrelated. Mini apparently issued a “service bulletin” to correct the rattling but it didn’t solve anything, and I do not know if it has been applied to my car by the previous owner.

So far I am still trying to figure out my options of resolving the issue. I still owe quite a bit on the car, more than it was worth before the engine self-destructed, and don’t have the money to pay for these repairs. I have contacted my USAA insurance on the hopes they can help pay for it, other than that my only option seems to be to take out a loan, or raise a stink about it with the dealer, which I’m pessimistic on considering what I’ve heard from others with the same issue.

Do you have any advice or ideas on how I can resolve the issue?

Further research on these forums states that the rattling is absolutely to due with the timing chain tensioner not getting enough oil on cold starts.
http://www.northamericanmotoring.com/forums/stock-problems-issues/194991-cold-start-issues.html
http://www.northamericanmotoring.com/forums/stock-problems-issues/130512-cold-start-chatter.html

You bought a well used, and possibly abused, vehicle and the question I have is this. How often do you have the oil changed and how often do you raise the hood to check the oil level?

I checked the oil about once a month, often needed to put more in, and I have had the oil changed soon after the car’s oil notification comes on, which is at 15,000 miles. I don’t know the date that I last had the oil changed off the top of my head but it was around mid 2011.

About the car being abused by the previous owner, that’s a possibility. I had the clutch replaced at 60,000 miles, kinda young from what I understand.

The reason I asked the question produced the answer I feared. Your oil change regimen is too long, both as to time and miles. Either one can kill an engine along with allowing the oil level to get too low. Combining that with who knows what by the previous owner is a sure fire way of doing an engine in.

This creates oil sludge and/or coking problems and odds are what failed here is a timing chain and tensioner setup due to extended oil changes.

In some cases lawsuits are justified; in most they are not. Relying on a dashboard OLM for oil change intervals is a recipe for disaster and owners of many other car makes, not just MINI, are also finding this out the hard way. Cars should be serviced by a “Severe Service” interval and if the environmental conditions and driving habits (stop and go, short hop) exist then every 3k miles or 3/4 months may be necessary.

I was afraid of that myself. Haven’t had a lot of good news since the car failure. So I take it there’s nothing I can do except find a way to pay for the repairs?

I don’t see any way other than biting the bullet. If the car had lower miles and you were the original owner there could be the possibility of asking MINI for a Good Will warranty. GW warranties are purely discretionary and may cover all or part of a repair. Odds are that you would not get a GW warranty in this case although asking won’t cost you anything.

Often an engine with a broken timing belt or chain can be repaired without total replacement of the engine. This involves repairing the cylinder heads and grinding off any sharp edges on the nicks in the tops of the pistons which were caused by cylinder head intake valves striking them when the chain broke.

The iffy part of this scenario involves the timing component damage, whether pistons are cracked instead of nicked, the possibility of rod bearing damage, and oil sludge problems which can cause problems all the way through the motor.
Given the oil consumption history I don’t think repair of this motor would be feasible or advisable. Unfortunately, I don’t have any advice on an inexpensive way out short of asking for a GW warranty and there should not be a lot of optimism over that either. Good luck anyway.

Ok, well thanks anyway.

Who changed the oil on the vehicle and what type was used to top off?

15,000 miles means a specific synthetic is spec’ed and it may not have been used by prior owner or possibly yourself.

Another alternative to getting an $8k brand new motor is having an independent garage(BMW or Euro) one install a used motor.

+1 to what raj stated above.
The European-specification oil that Minis call for is not stocked by all service facilities. It is very possible–even likely, given the nature of the current problem–that the previous owner and/or the OP did not use this very expensive European-spec oil.

If that special oil was not used, and the previous owner and/or the OP used those ridiculously extended (15k) change intervals, the end result would be…guess what…excessive oil consumption and lubrication problems. As was already mentioned, lubrication problems will soon spell big trouble for the timing chain and/or its tensioner.

Then, when you factor in an owner (or two) who allows too much time to elapse before he/she checks the oil level, you wind up with a low oil level that exacerbates the problems mentioned above. In other words, this sounds like the perfect storm of lax maintenance coupled with a lax approach to checking fluid levels.

Overall, I think that most of what led to the current situation is contained in the OP’s own words:
" For nearly two years I loved this car and didn’t have to pay much in the way of maintenance. I bought the car at 55k miles, and now it has 92k."

There is a direct inverse relationship between the amount of money spent on maintenance and the amount of money spent on mechanical repairs. ( Less maintenance=more repairs; more maintenance=fewer repairs)

As the old saying goes, “You can pay me now (maintenance), or you can pay me later (repairs)”.
Hopefully by now the OP has learned that the “now” costs are FAR lower than the “later” costs.

The key comment was , the car was consuming oil and every time the oil got low there was a rattling noise. You didn’t take the car in to anyplace to get the problems diagnosed, instead you “mentioned” it during an oil change. When you have an engine that you know uses oil you have to check it often enough that it never gets below the fill mark. You probably would be better off owning a car requiring less attention than a mini.

Ok, for Raj, the Oil was changed at the Dealer every time. However, the oil I put into the car was off the shelf synthetic. My book recommends “mini” brand but says castrol 5w-30 will do. However, I did not know anything about the “european” brand of oil.

For VDCdriver, I didn’t intend to give the impression that I skipped out on maintenance. I took my car strait to the dealer soon after any warning lights came on (except for the replacement of light bulbs). When I first heard the rattling, the mechanics at the dealer didn’t seem to think it was anything. When I looked online, what I found suggested that it is just a “quirk of the car”. Also, what I intended to say is that the car didn’t seem to require much repair. I can’t argue with your point though, as I should have been more active in finding out what that rattling was and why it was consuming oil. Previous vehichles I have owned haven’t been that attention demanding. Hindsight is 20/20, eh?

That doesn’t really help me right now, though. After talking to the dealer’s shop, meineke, a few other shops, my auto insurance, the dealer’s warranty I wasted money on, my bank, this forum, and my mom I’ve already gotten the impression that I’m SOL and it’s my fault. Any other info on how I undermaintained the car would be helpful, though. You suggest I get something else besides a Mini, which sounds like great advice right now, but as I stated before I owe more than the car is valued at so that’s about as viable an option as everything else I’ve tried.

Not your fault my friend. Just bum luck on a used car or bad previous owners.

Independent shop for sure at this point and used engine.

I did a search at safercar.gov, and 20 of 40 complaints against the Mini Cooper S were identical to yours. You can search the link below, print out the ones like yours, and show them to the dealership. Click on Engine and Coolling System in the last page.

http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/complaints/

If you have receipts that show you took your car to the dealer for the rattling problem, you have a very good case for a free repair. If you check the dates on the complaints, they have been filed for a long time. The dealer has to know about the issue, and should have been well aware of it for at least one or two years.

20 complaints for the same issue at safercar.gov is a huge number. Mini needs to own up to the problem and do something about it.

By warning lights coming on do you mean that one of them was the red oil pressure light? If so, the motor is scrap metal considering the wiped out timing system.

Running an engine very low on oil can be damaging to an engine, much less running one out of or low enough on oil to the point where the red light is illuminating.
This falls back on the owner of the car and I don’t think you have a legal leg to stand on so the SOL is more than likely where you are at this point.

What would be interesting would be to know the details behind the other similar complaints. I’m not a gambling man at all but I’d wager money that oil change intervals and/or lack of oil contributed to those problems also.

Oil sludging, coking, and running engines out of the required amount of oil is a pretty common pasttime anymore no matter who makes the vehicles.

Thanks for the list. Unfortunately, since the mechanic just shrugged my concern off, I seriously doubt there is any written evidence that I complained about the issue previously. It couldn’t hurt to show the dealer this list and bring up that I mentioned it before and see what happened. I got the impression from my research that this was an “unofficial design flaw” with the R56 engine used in the mini since 2007. I also contacted the dealer and learned that the Service Bulletin I mentioned earlier that was supposed to correct this issue was applied to my car at 40k miles by the previous owner. Again, not sure how much good it would do to wave that around in the dealer’s face. What really hurts is that I had an appointment scheduled, but since there was an water pump recall, the earliest they could schedule was April 17th.

I tried to get a quote from Meineke, and they said that it’d cost them 7,800 dollars just to transport a used engine from California to the shop. The dealer’s shop said they’d get me a “re-manufactured” engine with a 2 year unlimited mile warranty. No contest.

And by warnings I mean yellow check engine lights, a warning to change the rear brake pads, routine tune ups, a yellow warning to change the oil, and lamp malfunctions (blown light bulbs). I have only once seen the red oil pressure warning, and I added oil immediately afterwards.

That red oil pressure light is often the kiss of death; either immediately or sometime in the unforeseen future.
The timing chain tensioners work off of engine oil pressure and low pressure can affect the operation of that chain. The oil pressure light also turns off at a very low pressure and while that low pressure can flip the light off that doesn’t mean the pressure is good enough to maintain the engine.

This is a tough call but it would be hard to justify that kind of money on a used engine in my opinion. Even a new engine at that price is tough to swallow.

Do you live near any major metro areas? Some salvage yards will install what they sell for a nominal fee and could quite likely beat that price you were quoted. If there’s an issue with an engine they install the yard would be on the hook for it whereas a regular shop is under no obligation to perform a re-do on a used part.

A quick look at eBay shows some MIni engines in the 1500-2000 dollar range. Maybe something could be procured there. Just a thought anyway.

You mentioned a “dealers warranty”, you puchased an extended warranty? Was the engine repair claim denied?

The labor to replace the timing chain is 10.9 hours, the complete job would have been close to $2000. If you had the noise checked out would you have had the repair done? Some would have decided to live with the noise, timing chains usually don’t “jump” at under 100,000 miles. Too often I take my chances and learn the hard way.

The eBay idea deserves some consideration, but I don’t have the confidence to install an engine let alone one to a mini cooper. Finding a dealer who’ll install a whole engine I had hauled in the back of a truck will be awkward, as they usually refuse to install parts they didn’t supply (in my experience, anyway). Still, there isn’t anything to say the engine would work. Salvage yards sounds like something I can try, but I don’t think any would have a complete 2007 Mini Cooper S engine.

The “dealers warranty” was bought when I bought the car from the Ford Dealer. It was a 2 year 24k mile power train warranty. While it hasn’t quite been 2 years I’ve driven 37k miles on it. Based on that they said “what warranty?” I didn’t know that the timing chain would have cost so much. However, 2k I can move around money for, maybe wait for a paycheck and delay a car payment for, and pay without any more hassle. I got nothing for 8k.

I agree the long oil change intervals and running the engine low on oil likely contributed to the damage. Even with today’s quality oils I change the oil in my cars between 3-5K miles and my 1988 Ford Escort currently has 518,600 miles and still running on the original engine and never been rebuilt. It needs rebuilding now, but the car is in such poor condition I just keep an eye on the oil level and add as needed instead of spending several hundred dollars rebuilding it and it just keeps on going. My motto is oil is cheaper than parts, I suggest you make this your motto too and start changing and checking the oil more regularly.

Check around I’m sure there are some independent mechanics that would be willing to install a used engine. The only problem is if the engine isn’t any good you’re out the labor cost of having it installed. An independent mechanic will also be less expensive than a dealer service department. Since the dealer has been doing the oil changes you should check to see if the oil they’ve been using is the Euro spec oil required by Mini, if it’s not you might complain to the dealer management and if they wouldn’t rectify it by at least eating part of the replacement cost contact Mini and see what they have to say about the dealer not using the specified oil.