Living with a Mini R56 John Cooper Works Part 2

Published on 15 June 2023 at 13:24

I am starting to feel like I have spent more time working on the Mini than I have driving it and it's far from over. Sure, I knew it needed stuff doing, I knew the air conditioning wasn't working but I didn't know I would have to change all the suspension springs and I didn't expect the problems I would encounter since we got it home.

The first unexpected problem was with the stereo, I covered some of this last time - the 12 volt feeds to the standard unit are no good for an after market stereo, you need to tap in to the fuse box to get a good permanent live and a good reliable switched live. The permanent live I thought I had found goes off about 15 minutes after locking the car so it would keep losing memory. I have now tapped in to a live that stays alive and that's that one sorted. Staying with the stereo the aerial amp was knackered so I have bypassed that an put a decent aerial on, that's now splendid. On these cars the aerial on the roof is only for am, the aerial for fm is built in to the rear window heater. There is an amp that lives in the boot, they go faulty and you don't get any signal. If you bypass the amp - two fakra connectors, one black, one white - you can then use the am aerial as an fm one. My car had a useless short aerial, I have sourced a decent long one which does the job nicely, another thing sorted.

I took the car to an ac specialist as I don't have the kit for fiddling about with such stuff. It's pretty clear that whoever installed the front mount inter cooler removed the ac condensor and did a bodge job of putting it back. Both connections were leaking heavily, one had a cross threaded bolt in it that was only in about 5mm. Fortunately it was possible to retap it, put a new o ring on and an new bolt. Sadly the connection to the compressor seems to have had similar treatment and that is an absolute pain to get at. It's being done as I type this, I hope they find no other problems as it's getting expensive now. I have to admit to being a bit bloody annoyed that the seller tried to hide this issue, he knew damn well it was a problem because he caused it. The intercooler itself is very badly mounted, of the three bolt holes I can see there is only one that has a fixing and that's just a cable tie. I am assuming this was done by the same person that tightened up the bolts on the suspension struts so tight that one of them had sheared off.

The next problem I faced was on the front roll bar drop links - the nuts on them had been made of Chinesium, which is an alloy of defective steel, rat shit and butter. When I tried to get them off they just spun up on the threads and had to be cut off. Another 30 quid and a couple of hours wasted there.

Next problem was caused by ebay. Well sort of. I got a message from the that had to be dealt with swiftly and when I came back to the job in hand I forgot to check the security of the abs sensor wire. I discovered on my way to my mate Malcolm's place that it was rubbing on the tyre and the ABS light came on as the wire broke. Oh deep joy. Sod it to sodding soddery, nobody to blame for that one except myself. Oh well the garage may as well do that while hey have the car in the air.

I still have an engine management fault to look at - I knew the light was on and that it was a lambda fault - it's the downstream lambda throwing a heater circuit fault. The seller reckoned it's because the sensor has a spacer, I think it's a wiring issue, I will look at that when I get it on the lift at Malcolm's

The other thing I need to look at is a sticky rear caliper - it's only sticking a bit but you can hear it squeak when coming to a stop and it just feels a wee bit draggy. It's virtually the same price for a new one as it is for a rebuild kit so  new one will be sourced and  fitted. I will check both sides before ordering, I can then do them at the same time as all the other jobs that are best done with the car in the air.

Next thing I noticed was that the number plate lights were not working - one was missing it's plastic cover. Both bulbs were fine but the contacts needed a good clean. I have bought LED ones anyway as they are far more reliable. I was sure to get the ones that don't trigger a bulb failure alarm. They were only about 15 quid for the pair but looking at them I would be surprised if they last a year, cheap Chinese crud again.

It has spent at least the last 2 or 3 years of it's life living near the sea so it looks a bit crispy in places underneath. It will get brushed off and be given a good dose of Lanoguard, yet another job to do when it's on the lift. It's another thing I knew about from when I viewed the car so it's not unexpected.

It's definitely lots of fun to drive, the torque steer is a lot worse than I expected though, I guess 230 BHP through the front wheels is always going to be a bit pronounced but I didn't expect quite so much. I need to do some reading to see if anything can be done geometry wise to make that better. Fuel consumption is as good as it appeared to be from the first few days of ownership. I have discovered it has an instantaneous readout that shows 99.9mppg on the over run, that falls to single figures when in fun mode.

I hope I am getting to the end of things now, the car has had a fortune spent on it over the last couple of years, mainly on engine work and mods, the rest has been either bodged or neglected. By the time I have finished it should be a really, reliable car. I can't see the front tyres lasting very long though.......

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