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Mini Mk1 common problems (2001-2007)

Mini Mk1

BMW’s reinvention of the classic Mini could have gone either way – either as a poorly executed pastiche that nobody wanted or a modern take that perfectly suited the needs of the modern trendy buyer. It’s fair to say that BMW rather achieved the latter.

The Mini was cool to look at, great to drive, and made you feel pretty special when you were inside it. It’s a formula that continued to succeed to this very day.

That’s why even the earliest examples are still sought after, because the formula hasn’t changed that much since it appeared. However, these early cars are now approaching a couple of decades old, so have developed the odd irritating glitch. Now, you could simply live with the annoyance, which will take the shine off any journey, or you could decide to get it sorted. But that costs money – on a 20-year-old car. Not an option, given high garage labour costs. So why not, join the Haynes family, and invest in the manual for your Mini, then fix it yourself.

That way you’ll get to look cool and have fun – and you’ll be saving loads of money into the bargain.

Mini Mk1

What recalls has the Mini been subject to?

The Mini (also known as the BMW Mini) has been subject to a number of recalls, but not too many.

First up, the car was recalled because the handbrake could spontaneously release, which is less than ideal if you want to find your car parked where you left it. An upgraded mechanism was fitted.

Outer balljoint pins that could become detached prompted another recall, because loss of steering control is an issue. And lower suspensions arms that could detach forced another trip back to BMW dealers.

Static electricity could accumulate in the fuel filler neck, which was somewhat sub-optimal, and tyres that could become damaged by moisture forced a recall, and specialised John Cooper Works models were recalled because an incorrect diameter of brake disc had been fitted during assembly.

What common problems does the Mini have?

The Mini is prone to an issue that has symptoms including a fluctuating engine speed at idle, and the engine warning light being illuminated.

One of the highlights of driving this generation of Mini is the sharpness of its steering. It makes every journey a joy, but not when it starts to have stiff spots when you’re manoeuvring the car.

But to manoeuvre the car you need the engine to be running, and a clutch pedal glitch can sometimes prevent this from happening.

Power steering that refuses to switch off with the rest of the car is another issue, as is a duff throttle body that causes the car to enter limp-home mode.


Why is the Mini engine surging?

If you notice that the engine in your Mini Cooper is tending to surge and die away at idle, and that the engine warning light is on, then the problem shouldn’t be that hard to sort.

The first job is to plug in a fault-code reader. This is quite likely to display the code P0302, which signifies a misfire on cylinder two. Next up, clear the fault code then consult your Haynes Mini manual on how to swap spark plugs one and two, then start the car. If the fault moves to cylinder one, then the plug is at fault, if it remains where it is, then it’s the coil at fault.

The Haynes Mini manual can then guide you through how to remove and replace the faulty coil.

Mini Mk1

Does your Mini steering have stiff spots?

A Mini is a joy to steer, because there are very few turns from lock to lock, and the steering wheel gives load of information back to your palms, so you always know exactly what the front tyres are up to.

However, the entire driving experience is going to be somewhat tainted if your steering develops stiff spots. This can happen in a Mini, and is most noticeable when parking, although it will affect the steering at faster speeds, too, albeit less obviously.

The issue is most commonly worn universal joints in the steering column, and the solution is to replace the column. This sounds complex, but it really isn’t, so as long as you follow the procedure details in your Haynes Mini manual, you’ll soon have perfectly smooth steering once more.

Mini Mk1

Is your Mini refusing to start?

Well, that’s annoying. You walk out to your Mini, unlock, jump in, insert the key in the dashboard slot, depress the clutch, press the start button and… nothing. That’s odd. The dashboard is all lit up, the battery seems fine, there’s no engine warning light. Weird.

And if you go looking under the bonnet you’ll be looking in the wrong place, because the problem is that the clutch position sensor has gone out of adjustment. This means that the car still thinks the clutch is raised, so the engine won’t start.

The sensor is located on the clutch pedal, so it’s just a case of wriggling yourself into the footwell and adjusting the sensor so that the car will start once more. The procedure to locate and, if necessary, replace the sensor is fully contained in the Haynes Mini manual, so just follow the instructions.

If you want to know how to service your Mini Mk1's cooling system, watch our FREE video below.

Mini Mk1

Does your Mini power steering run after the engine is off?

Minis just love to be driven, to the extent that several owners have reported that getting them to turn off at the end of a journey can be like getting an excited child to fall asleep. It just won’t switch off.

The system at fault is the power steering, which can continue to run noisily even after the car’s ignition has been turned off. That’s going to cause excess wear on the power steering pump and, at worst, could flatten the battery. Not ideal.

Oddly, this problem generates no fault codes, so the best solution is simply to remove the faulty power steering pump and replace it with a new one. The Haynes Mini manual will be by your side through every step as you get your car to relax after a journey.


Why is your Mini engine in limp-home mode?

Driving along to suddenly feel your Mini lose all its vim and verve, and behave as enthusiastically as a teenager asked to do the dishes is a worry.

To ensure that it’s not simply your Mini demanding more pocket money, you need to plug in a fault-code reader. If this displays the code P1688, then the fault can be traced to a dodgy throttle body.

The good news is that we’ve been there, done that when it comes to replacing said throttle body, so all you need to do is look up the Fuel & Emissions Systems chapter of your Haynes Mini manual and follow our lead as you remove the old unit and replace it with a shiny new one.