The R56 MINI was the golden era of automotive fun and freedom on the open road away from emissions and electric power. The MINI brand was thriving with its quirkiness and off the wall marketing push, which made it a global success given its British icon status in fashion and on the road. Like with anything glamourous there was another side with faults and reliability woes plaguing owners in all markets, but this didn’t stop fun as it broke sale records for the 4 wheeled icon rebirth with model variates.
Having been an R56 MINI owner for nearing on 10 years I do look back at the best and worst of times as decade comes to a close. My R56 JCW has love and death of me at times when it repairs bills and maintenance but that has stopped me for loving her the way I do with the smiles, memories and friendship along the way. The R56 has taught me a lot about cars, engines, car upkeep and mechanical sympathy the older she has got with age as the mileage has gone over 125,000 miles which is 5 times around the world.
Let’s get down the business and discuss the common faults with the R56 as it has become a modern classic:
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 8-10,000 miles or every year. If you have tuned/mapped it you will need to more regular oil and filter changes at 5-6,000 miles if you like your pistons ring not to wear out or scoring the bore in the engine’s cylinders. 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 compared to the old port injection. The plus was better fuel economy and power but carbon build up the valves was an annoying by-product. It will need decoking every two to three years to keep running right which set you back around £200 to 250. You might think oil catch can save you from this problem after all the youtube videos but it doesn’t sadly as the PCV system was poorly designed anyway so all it is doing is slowing down the process…
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. The same issue plagues BMW’s of this era as the 135i has this issue with HPFP failing on them too
Valve Steam Seals – Common german car issue as the rubber seals perish over time allowing excess oil to enter the combustion chamber. 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
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 as they crack or the rubber gasket fails – the joys of the plastic parts on modern cars compared to metal items of yesteryears. 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 owner 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. Use vaseline to stop water ingress as a temporary measure or WD40 silicone spray to keep the system working for the long run
Windows – They tend to have a mind of their own most of them with squeaky noises which fixed by WD40 silicone spray. The other issues is them not closing and going down before reaching the top of the window due to regulator issues or the more common issue they need resetting. A simple reset is done by holding down both window switches down for 10 seconds for full system reset
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
Gearbox & Fuel Filter – Replace the gearbox oil and fuel filter every 50,000 miles or every 3 years – Often overlooked as we are told they are lifetime (ignore it and just do it) a fluid change is cheaper than a gearbox or new fuel pump
Diesel Engines – They are relatively cheap to run, but DPF Filters and EGR Valves will become an issue like any diesel car as the clog up with dutty diesel gunk
Manual or Auto – Get the manual – It’s a driver’s car, as the auto-box is mehhh and unresponsive a ridiculous amount to replace or fix given everything has to come out
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
With everything said and done I love my JCW and the older it has got stuff will just break which you have to accept like any car but a lot of the work can be done as preventive measures. A lot of the work you can learn yourself if you want to DIY or find a good specialist or MINI dealer to help you along with your MINI Adventure. I took out the MINI Extended warranty which has saved my ass a lot of times with my turbo replacement, timing chain issues and roadside recovery to a MINI dealer for repairs with a MINI courtesy car given within a few hours – £75 a month looks cheap – link to the MINI Extended Warranty site
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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Hi, have 2017 S Petrol 2litre, just over 80k miles, finished to thd highest spec. For about 6 months now I’ve had a white mist/smoke on start up, some days worse than others but never as bad as the first start of the day. The drive is fine, no issue with oil or coolant, revs staying at normal level. I’ve had it with 4 independent mechanics who can find nothing wrong. About 6 weeks ago the smoke completely stopped. As I had made an appointment with a Mini garage I went ahead but their diagnostics showed no faults, so they entered information to an online forum & as a result of that they recommend I replace the gasket cover at a cost of over £1000 with no guarantee it will fix the issue but say it’s an educated guess & 95% sure it will fix the issue but no come back if it doesn’t. On Monday just gone the smoke on start up has returned. An independent engine & gasket specialist have also refused to look at the car, saying they wouldn’t be able to get parts for it. Devastated & don’t really don’t know where to go from here. Any advice? Thank you
If it’s not overheating or burning any oil or anything like that, then I wouldn’t worry about it as mine does smoke up on occasion depending on how cold it is