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MINI Cooper Clutch & Transmission Questions



  • I have an 03 mini S and lately I have been experiencing a rather odd behavior. When switching gears and accelerating the car, you can see the rpm's increasing but the car does not respond so the rpms go high and drop right after the car catches up with the speed.
    I am unsure what this is or of this is common? is as if the car could not respond to the acceleration and therefore it takes it a wile to respond.
    I appreciate any information or help on this issue.
  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,490
    Your clutch is slipping.
  • Dear Customer Relations Manager,

    I am writing to express my extreme disappointment with the recent failure of the original clutch/flywheel in the above referenced vehicle. The vehicle was purchased new from MINI of XXX XXXXXXXXX on February 17, 2007and all scheduled maintenance has been conducted in a timely manner including a recent scheduled maintenance on September 15, 2011 (MINI Inspection I), a mere seven weeks before complete clutch failure. No comments or suggestions were noted by the mechanic during this scheduled maintenance that clutch wear was occurring or should be monitored.

    Vehicle Driving History

    The MINI Cooper was driven under extremely light driving conditions with an experienced manual transmission driver. The vehicle was typically only used for “motoring” trips on weekends. The previous manual transmissions driven were a 1986 Honda Civic DX (original owner 97,000 miles with one clutch replacement at 65,000) and a 1996 Honda Civic DX Hatchback (original owner with no clutch replacement as of 60,000 miles when car was donated). Furthermore, the driver was experienced in using the parking brake while resting on a hill to spare any unnecessary clutch wear. All maintenance has been performed by MINI of XXX XXXXXXXXX and online service history is current per owners’ lounge website.

    Trend in Clutch Failures with MINI Cooper

    The driver had never experienced a complete clutch failure with no prior warning signs. Furthermore, the driver had never seen a clutch fail under such light driving conditions so anticipated that it must be some sort of mechanical failure and immediately drove the vehicle to MINI of XXX XXXXXXXXX. While the service department of MINI XXX XXXXXXXXX provided excellent customer service, the driver conducted his own research into the situation while the mechanical review was being conducted and has noted that many other drivers of this vehicle have cited the same problem.

    Action and Response

    The driver seeks a response from MINI USA on this very disappointing early clutch failure, the occurrence of this situation within the specific model, and the manufacturer’s guidance on extending the life of a clutch.

    Very truly yours
  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,490
    edited December 2011
    Overall, a respectful letter.

    My observations from what you posted...

    Positive notes:

    Car was purchased new and serviced by the selling dealer.

    Letter was repectful and non-abusive.

    Negative notes:

    The car is almost 5 years old. Its somewhat unusual for a component such as a clutch or brake system (both share many similarities) to go so long and then fail from a manufacturing defect. Of course, it can happen, but its unusual.

    Modern cars driven correctly should easily get 100K+ miles out of a clutch, yet you make the comment you have had another vehicle with the clutch replaced much earlier (65K miles).

    Also, you state you are a seasoned manual driver, yet you make the statement that you use the handbrake on hills. While not inherently an issue, most manual transmission drivers don't need to utilize the handbrake while driving.

    Personally, both comments may tend to work against you in your effort to get satisfaction, and I would have omitted them from your letter.


    1-S model or regular non-S Cooper model?
  • My wife's 2003 Mini Cooper clutch and gear box just failed. 7K to fix. Car is 8 yrs old but only 95,000 k's which seems poor to me. Also there was something funny with it from the start. First gear never engaged nicely. You had to rev it more than normal to get a decent engagement. We were told it was normal. I actually avoided driving it as I found it laborious.
    Now, they just put in a new clutch and gear box and it's like a different car. First gear engages much better. I am convinced the first box had a fault from the start and would love to try and recover the costs.
    Anyone had similar problem or know what could cause this issue engaging first gear. I still have the first box in case I can take it further.
  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,490
    BMW doesn't have a "rich" history of assisting owners with vehicles 8 years old, regardless of mileage.

    In your case, you got double the years AND miles as covered under the warranty, so, in my opinion, anything you attempt is a wasted effort.

    However, if you have a clear service history (with receipts) that clearly shows you made multiple attempts to get the 1st gear shifting engagement issue resolved, you could possibly obtain some adjustment, but again, due to the year model and mileage, I wouldn't think you have much of a shot at it.

    Still, if you bought the car new, and had the same dealer do all the service work, you might obtain a labor discount/credit by asking.

    Odds are BMW won't enetertain any credit or refund.

    Good luck!
  • I have written previously about this problem. My Mini's transmission melted down when I was stuck behind a fatal accident on I75 south in August of 2010. The original mechanic and a transmission shop were unable to fix it. It was transferred to a "Mini Cooper" shop, a shop thatvsupposedly specializes in this car and they could not fix it either. Apparently the clutch is not all that melted down. The engine head", whatever that is, also fried. It has now been at a Mini dealer for a month. They haven't fixed it either. Mini corporate has offered me $1000.00 in compensation. WHAT!!!!! I have been without my car for seventeen months, a car I have still been making payments on and insuring. To date I am out $6000 in repair costs for a new transmission and $875.00 in towing charges and theynoffered me $1000.00. This is BMW "quality" and "customer service". Hah!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • PS the car is a 2007, has 50000 miles. I have driven cars with manual transmissions for 40 years and have NEVER hadcto replace a clutch before this. I have been told by the folks involved that the parts are made from a cheap alloy that melts down when exposed ton heat. Yup!!!! Sure do!!!!!
  • ihatemyminiihatemymini Posts: 13
    edited December 2011
    Yep - happened to me too. My 2007 S melted down on I75 in Lexington. The car has been in three shops over the last seventeen month. That's right - I have not seen my car for 17 months. I am 57 and have never owned a car with an automatic transmission and have NEVER had to replace a clutch. I got stuck behind a bad accident in 96 degree heat for hours and it melted into a puddle of molten junk. The mechanics have told me the parts are made of a cheap alloy that melt om exposure to heat. The car has now been at a dealer for weeks and apparently they don't think it is a priority. I'm not surprised because when I bought it I didn't even get it off the lot. All the coolant had leaked out. Nobody called me for five days then either until I got really, really mad. Well the last shop it was in was a Mini Cooper shop and they could not fix it either. I was told the "engine head" is shot. I think the engine is fried.
  • ihatemyminiihatemymini Posts: 13
    edited December 2011
    Some people just know it all and cannot fathom that they are WRONG! Very clear expert reasons have been given to explain the problems with these cars and it is NOT the drivers. If you wind up with a melted down transmission on the side of the road I'm not stopping to help. I'll wave to you from my Nissan! It might not be as cute but the last one we had never, ever saw the inside of a repair shop except for routine maintenance. We traded it in at 150000 miles for another one.
  • Yea. I got nowhere with their 'customer relations' people and was not allowed to contact anyone higher in the company so I have given up on the car, Mini's and other BMW Group product. Transmissions should be built to last, particularly when they cost so much to fix. It's pretty hard to stomach that when you were told you were buying a quality product.

    Am now resigned to being a Mini and BMW hater for life. The strangest part of the experience is that the company is not concerned about this. It is going to cost them far more over time in lost business than it would have cost to keep us happy. If this attitude is widespread they have a serious problem. I wouldn't buy any shares in BWM Group...
  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,490
    edited December 2011
    Just FYI, the engine head has nothing to do with the transmission. It's a part of the engine, and if it "fried" as you stated, then you ran the car in an overheated condition... You cooked the engine, which goes a long way to explaining why your clutch and transmission failed.

    NO warranty would cover such an event, regardless of manufacturer. It would, and is, considered driver abuse, regardless of manufacturer.

    Seriously, after such a length of time, I would have moved on. IMO, life is just too short...
  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,490
    Well, as you said, if it was a widespread problem, it would be serious.

    Yet, BMW sold 242,000 MINIs in 2010.

    And, it may indeed be a problem. If it is, I haven't seen anything to indicate its a widespread one.

    Every manufacturer has dissatisfied customers, and BMW is no different.

    It sucks for you, and I sincerely mean that... Unfortunately, someone always winds up with a lemon. I have had my share, so I feel your pain.

    It's just a car. It was a bad experience. When I have had those, I learned what I could from it and simply moved on...

    To expect a manufacturer to repair a vehicle so far out of warranty in both miles and years is simply unrealistic, IMO. Do you think GM or Ford would cover it? Toyota? Lexus?
  • ihatemyminiihatemymini Posts: 13
    edited December 2011
    I didn't fry anything. I am well aware that the engine problem and transmission are two separate issues. However they happened at the same time. If you look back on this thread you will see that I sat for hours in 96 degree heat behind a fatal accident on I75. My heat gauge did not show the car overheating. There was no way to get off the interstate. In addition, there were thousands of other cars stuck the same way and none of them were melted down at the side of the road. Just my Mini. I have been told that this happened because of parts made of cheap alloys that are susceptible to melting when exposed to heat. I will be having an engineering firm analyze these parts to disprove or prove this. At any rate, none of this was the result of "bad driving skills".

    I can't move on. The car has been at the dealer for a month now. They haven't fixed it either. Until I get rid of this car I cannot move on. I still owe on this piece of junk.

    Yes, when there us a well-documented problem with a car I do think the compay should fix it.

    I've learned all right though. Never, ever buy a BMW product. I have been driving back and forth to Atlanta from Rochester for years. I have sat in the heat behind bad accidents in many cars in the heat for long periods of time. The tow truck guys we met in Atlanta say that BMW keeps them in business. The repair shop folks concur. They fix the exact same things on these cars over, and over and over. When asked they strongly recommend their customers NOT buy a BMW product.
  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,490
    Frankly, after going back and reading your postings, I'm a bit confused.

    You started out by stating you had transmission issues, and that it was a 2007 S model with 50K miles. Did a certified Mini shop do the repairs? Didn't your car come with a 4 year 50K drivetrain warranty?

    Then, you say later that the car has been out of service for much longer than a year (did you write 17 months?) and somewhere along the way evolved into engine problems as well.

    A better detailed timeline would help us get a better grasp on your situation.

    However, for the record, just because you had a car problem at that time and no one else did is irrelevant... Just as you having a flat tire and no one else having one in no way would, in itself, indicate a faulty tire.
  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,490
    "I'll wave to you from my Nissan..."

    How's this for irony?

    I just got off the phone from the local Nissan dealer, where I have my daughter's 2009 Versa (49,000 miles). It has developed a "clacking/thumping noise" that is speed related.

    The service manager said the transmission is shot (bad internal bearing), and Nissan doesn't allow the dealers to rebuild their CVT transmissions (sound familiar?)

    So, it's a 1 week wait for a new unit to be delivered and installed. Nissan has OKed the swap-out, so it should be good to go.

    Fortunately, I have another vehicle for her to use during this week of her discontent.

    As I said earlier, every manufacturer makes a flub every now and then...
  • I meant if their poor attitude regarding keeping customers is widespread the company will eventually go down.

    I know the car is old but the transmission is still obviously rubbish compared to industry standards. I would have been happy if they met me halfway with costs perhaps.

    Mitsubishi offer 10 yrs or 100,000ks on drivetrain so they would have covered it under warranty. I seriously doubt I would have had a failed transmission if I was driving a GM, Ford or Toyota. Not sure about Lexus.

    Will just never go near a Mini or BMW again is the endgame of my story.
  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,490
    edited December 2011
    I know the car is old but the transmission is still obviously rubbish compared to industry standards. I would have been happy if they met me halfway with costs perhaps.

    Mitsubishi offer 10 yrs or 100,000ks on drivetrain so they would have covered it under warranty. I seriously doubt I would have had a failed transmission if I was driving a GM, Ford or Toyota. Not sure about Lexus.

    I understand completely. But, Mitsubishi isn't really burning up the market in car sales... is it?

    I, too, would have expectations that, even thought the product warranty was for 4 years/50K miles, the expectation for a much longer life span.

    You've stumbled over the dual meaning of a warranty: Yes, it gives protection to the consumer, but it also limits the liability of the manufacturer. After all, if there was no warranty, you might be able to convince a arbiter/judge that its a reasonable expectation for a car to last longer than 8 years/100K miles, but its much more difficult when the car company can say "You knew the warranty and understood the limits of our liability" before you purchased the product.

    Its the "dirty little secret" in the warranty "business".

    I currently have a Nissan Versa (09/49K miles) which, at this very time, is having a new CVT transmission installed to replace the defective one now in the car. The original warranty when I purchased the car was 60K miles, but Nissan extended CVT warranties to 10 year/120K miles because there were some concerns in the market about the reliability of CVT's.

    Having stated that, I was the first one to post (as far as I know) on the Nissan Versa section about CVT failures/replacements. At least, there was no thread about CVT's in the Versa section, and this is at least the 5th year for
    the model.

    Having said that, I don't think there are any issues "at large" with Nissan CVT's, even with my problems. Sometimes, your number comes up and you "win" the broken car lotto.

    But, as I said, I am sympathetic to your problem and resultant attitude.
  • My point is that I do not believe the car should have melted down, even giving the heat and lengthy stop and go. The car should have been able to handle it. If the conditions were so extreme that it caused this, then my car would not have been the only one to meltvdown as there were literally thousands of cars exposed to the exact same conditions. The car has never run since the meltdown.

    17 months. Four repair shops including the dealer I bought it from where it has now been for six weeks No fix. $6000.00 in repairs. $875.00 in towing charges. $6000.00 in payments for a car I have no use of. $1000.00 to insure a car I don't have.

    Somebody described Mini Coopers to me as "scrap metal". That pretty much says it.
  • Overall, you can believe I am somehow responsible for my Mini melting down if you want. I am confident that I treated my car well and that the car is defective for the reasons the mechanics have given me.

    Even if you do not think BMW has a quality control problem I would still recommend you not buy one of these if you travel at all. The fact is that the car cannot be fixed by anybody but the dealer and if your car drops dead where there is no dealer you are just screwed. The corporate folks at BMW tell me that their mechanics are given special training to repair these cars that normal repair shops do not have. That's just fine if there is a dealer around but if it breaks down like mine did where the closest dealer is hundreds of miles away you will find yourself in a very bad situation. No car should be this hard to fix. Even a shop that bills themselves as a Mini Specialty shop could not fix this car.

    It's been at the dealer now for six weeks.
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