You have read all the articles, you have seen the videos and been to the MINI meets, and you want to make that jump to owning a 2nd Gen R56 MINI, but you have no clue what to look for? Fair, not MINIac! I have driven every variant, every engine, manual, auto and fiddle with every optional extra over the last 7 years with over 125,000 miles driven. Here is my ultimate buyers guide to get you into an R56 for all the MINI Adventures ahead.
I am going to start with the basics of any used car buying first then move on to specific things you look out for an R56 generation MINI.
Rules of Buying a Car:
- Never buy a car in the dark or when it’s raining.
This is a rule of thumb as the darkness or rain hides away imperfections that might not be easily seen in normal light such as paintwork, scuffs or poor repair work.
- Check the MOT History
This was harder before as you had to look at what the owner provided, but now it’s a simple matter of going on your phone or laptop to this link. It will bring up the car’s MOT history, and it’s a telltale sign of how it’s been looked after, i.e. was the owner a cheapskate or genuinely loved their pride and joy. – https://www.gov.uk/check-mot-history
- Walk away if the bonnet is warm or they have taken it around the block
Ideally, you want to see what the car sounds like from a cold start as any rattling, smoke or warning light will pop up then. A warm car will hide these faults as the engine etc. has reached their operating temperatures.
- HPI or Credit Check on the car
A basic point so don’t be caught out by accident car or if there is finance left on the car
- Check the fluids & Tyres
A simple sign of how the car has been looked after is all the fluids at the right level. Mismatch tyres are a bad sign of the ownership the car has been under as they couldn’t be bothered to get new tyres and care very little about safety.
- Check all the buttons work & features.
Checking everything is crucial as it will be a bill later down the line for you as you realise heated seats don’t work, or air con is broken. This will allow you some wiggle room when you negotiate a final price.
- Be reasonable when negotiating
Low balling someone will get you nowhere but never settle for the asking price at the same time be wary if the price is too good to be true. At the same time know when to walk away from a deal if you’re being pressured or anything.
- Check the panel gap
Look all around the car to see if the panels line up correctly if they don’t; it’s a sign of the car being in the accident. Same goes when you open the bonnet and check the boot to see if it had a front or rear impact.
- Warning Lights
Look for any warning light and bring an OBD Code reader to look for any store fault codes with the ECU.
- Leave the radio off
Sounds simple but level it off and listen to any weird noises with suspension, interior, engine etc
- Always test drive more than one
Yes, it easy to get your head wrapped up on one car but always drive more than one. Even though they came off the same production line but there is variation like one engine performing better than another one.
Look at it see any issues with chip stones, lacquer peel or any repair jobs, which is a good sign to see how the car is looked after throughout it’s life.
Make sure you have the money or the finance arrange before looking to buy to save yourself the time and heartbreak. Never be forced to make a deal on that day or putting down a deposit. It’s always cheaper to borrow money off the back to finance a car than going with a dealer finance route unless it’s 0% finance. As a gold rule keep aside £1000 for any mishap or issues for the first 3 months of ownership just in case money.
Set some money aside for a full service, fluid change and filter changes as you will want to do this give it some TLC and give yourself a piece of mind
Always worth shout buying an old car to get some cover or check-up. I would go for MINI’s warranty as you can cover everything and you get a courtesy car, EU cover and support 24 hours 7 days a week.
- Arrive Earlier
A little cheeky trick I do to see what the car is like truly like so they cant prep it. So book the appointment at 11 am but arrive at 10:30 am which will help you dodge a bullet on a rubbish car.
With the basics out of the way, let’s get on what to look for on a 2nd Gen MINI with all its quirks and charm:
N14 Engine – It has its issues, but it always boils down to how the previous owners to look after with preventative and routine maintenance. Check the oil and filter was changed a minimum of every 10,000 miles or every year. I made a video on how to look after it, which is available on my Youtube Channel.
Timing chain – It’s meant to last 100,000 miles but will be needed to be done at around 50 to 80,000 depending again it’s usage and owner maintenance. Signs of it will need to be done is high tapping noise, and rattling sounds like a diesel engine on cold start-up, and lack of go from the offset with the noise disappearing as the engine warms up. It will cost around £700 to £1000 to get this sorted from an independent or dealership.
Carbon Build Up – A common issue on direct injection due to the way the fuel doesn’t go over the values to clean them. It will need decoking every two to three years to keep running right which set you back around £200 to 250
Idle or Full Throttle – Check for blue or white at idle or full throttle which will show either the turbo is on it’s way out or valve stem seals need to be done both are expensive jobs at £1,000 or £600
High-Pressure Fuel Pump – Common issue on MINI which is annoying as they seem to last between 50 to 60,000 miles before they fail so its £600 for an OEM one
Engine Cover Weep – Typical German car problem which happens overage as the rubber gasket perished so its £150 for this job or if it’s the whole cover then another £300. On N18 engine cover melting is a common issue at the corner near the turbo
Turbo Oil Feedline – This issue because the MINI engine runs so hot as it leads to oil feedline to leak or coke up so make sure it has the recall oil feedline heatshield or buy the aftermarket braided oil feedline at £80 and £180 fitting
Water Pump & Thermostat – On an engine that runs quite hot any way you would think they would give it a good cool system but that’s not the case as they regularly fail. The water pump is £35, and the thermostat is £75 which is a bit awkward to replace so another £200 there easy
Bushes – You buy a MINI for it’s handling so expect the bushes will need replacing unless the previous has replaced them to poly bushes ones. Bushes are cheap at £40, but it costs four times as much to replace on given the hours of work going into replacing them at £300
Clutch – As MINI are brought to driven so the typical check of seeing how high the biting point or any whine from the front from the dual mass flywheel
Water Ingress – This issues only happens mainly in the boot as the rubber seals lose their seal over time, so do check under the false floor of signs of water in there. Boot seal is around £60, which can do it yourself
Panoramic Roof – They weren’t the best, to begin with, no they fail or leak – FUN Times – Replace £3k or motor £250
Tyres – If it’s still on run-flats do yourself a favour and buy normal tyres and get some tyre sealer – You can thank me later
N18 or N14 Engine – N14 if you want to modify or N18 for a daily driver
Service – Replace the gearbox oil and fuel filter – Often overlooked as we are told they are lifetime (ignore it and just do it)
Cooper, Cooper S or JCW – Cooper for fun & economy, Cooper S – a bit meh & JCW is the one you want
Diesel Engines – They are relatively cheap to run, but DPF Filters and EGR Valves will become an issue like any diesel car
Manual or Auto – Get the manual – It’s a driver’s car, as the auto-box is mehhh and unresponsive
Clubman Barn Doors – Check for signs of rust between the doors as drain points in the doors can get clogged, so water sits causing rust between the seals and door edges
Convertible Roadster & Coupe – They suffer the same issues as everything is shared on the hatchback platform. The coupe boot struts can fail quickly, given how heavy the boot lid is – you will know when you open it for the first time
Countryman & Paceman – They suffer the same issues as everything is shared on this platform minus the chassis
Must-Have Options – HK Audio System, Xenons and Heated Seats
If you want to modify it – R56 MINI Modding Bible – Click here for my guide
Hopefully, this guide will give you a stepping stone to find the perfect MINI and look forward to the MINI Adventures.
Here are my recommendations for MINI UK & Overseas specialist to visit for repairs, upgrades or parts:
Lohen – lohen.co.uk
1320 Mini – 1320.co.uk
Sussex Road & Race – sussexroadandrace.co.uk
Millys Auto – millsysautos.co.uk
TWG Automotive – twgautomotive.co.uk
MiniWorks – mini-works.co.uk
RSI C6 – rsic6.com
Outmotoring – outmotoring.com
ESC Tuning – ecstuning.com
Detroit Tuned – detroittuned.com
My list is made by own opinions and me speaking to respective companies & other owners across the world, and this is not sponsored post for full transparency.
If you got the modding bug don’t forget to check out JCW Adventures Store or Official eBay Store for some stickers for all generations of MINIs or R56 JCW carbon fibre exhaust tips as seen on my MINI R56 JCW to support the blog & YouTube channel.
All your support over the years and please offer that same support by following my Youtube Channel as well : )
As Always it’s a MINI Adventure try to keep up & Stay Safe!
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