Mini starter problem


#1

My Mini (05) has been having starting problems for months, and today I couldn’t get it started at all. The typical situation is that the key doesn’t make the starter turn on. The electrical system starts fine, but only after repeated turns does the starter engage. I have a new battery, and I know to put the clutch all the way down. Sometimes I just turn the key again and all is well; sometimes repeated tries don’t seem to work. I sit there another minute and try again, and then it works.
I would rather not pay to have the car towed 25 miles to the dealer. Should I let my local mechanic have a go at it?


#2

is it making ANY sort of sound when it doesn’t start? if there’s simply a click or a whiring motor sound, that could tell you a lot about what’s happening. if there’s nothing at all and your battery is good, it sounds like it’s either a problem with the ignition switch itself (the contacts aren’t connecting properly) or a loose wire somewhere (probably close to the ignition) if it works sometimes and not others. is the car in gear when the problem occurs? i had a car that would only start in neutral even if the clutch was in. also do you have a lot of stuff (i.e. weight) on your keys? that will often pull on the ignition and cause these sort of things.


#3

It’s not the starter-failing sound, clicking or rrr-rrr-ing. I would say it’s silent, but just tried it again, with radio off, and there’s a hum like a small motor, which is constant and sounds even before turning the key all the way. THEN, a second or two after turning to the start position, a small click, like a switch. This click only happens once each time the key is turned.
As for the key, there’s only a key & fob. I always imagine that i’m moving the key around to a certain (correct) position to get it to work, but i haven’t found it and it seems more random. I always start in neutral.
I’m sure it’s a slam-dunk for a Mini shop; I’m ready to go if it will just start once more!


#4

Sounds like a bad starter. Any mech worth his salt can replace it.


#5

Update: I got it started and drove to my mechanic. The shop put in some time and decided it has to be the cut-off switch, not the starter. I was pretty sure that the little humm was not a starter sound. The switch arrives tomorrow, and i can write the final chapter. Hopefully it will be the fix. It’s cheaper than a starter by 50%.


#6

For the record: if you’re faced with this situation again, being a manual transmission vehicle, you can always push start the car. Get it rolling about 5-10 mph, push in the clutch, shift into first, and dump the clutch. It will start. My father drove his old Cavalier like this for weeks while saving up to buy a new starter for it.