Mini Cooper Suspension Issues Explained(+5 Tips)

In this brief article we are going to discuss the different Mini Cooper Suspension problems, what the causes are, and Troubleshooting Tips.

Top 5 most common suspension issues in the Mini Cooper? 

The most common Mini Cooper suspension issues are:

  • Drifting or Pulling
  • Bouncy Ride
  • Diving during Braking
  • Rear Knocking Sound
  • Front Strut Top Mount Failure

What suspension does the Mini Cooper have?

Front Suspension

The First generation (2001-2007) of Mini is a MacPherson Strut and Lower control Arm (Yellow arrow) with Anti-roll bar. This arrangement is mounted onto a subframe (white arrow)

Rear Suspension

The Rear suspension is of the Trailing arm Type. Each side consists of an aluminum trailing arm (black arrow), two diagonally-mounted Control Arms (yellow arrows) and a Coilover Damper.

The Countryman variant has a ride height that is 2.1 inches higher in the rear as compared to a regular Mini Cooper.

Drifting or Pulling

  • While accelerating or decelerating the car, you find that it pulls to either one side
  • Normally happens at 30 mph or more. The problem worsens with speed

Troubleshooting Drifting or Pulling

  • The problem has occurred due to ‘Mis-alignment’ of the suspension. Either one of the front end’s Toe or Camber setting has gone off
  • This could be due to either
    • Alignment knocked out due to impact
    • Suspension bushings have failed allowing the wheels more freedom to drift and go out of alignment
  • Bushing Failure can be checked by using a Pry-bar at each bushing location and trying to move the Lower Control arm.
  • This test is best done at a pit where the wheels are on the ground. 
  • While prying the Control arm, watch the tire and see if it moves easily then it means the bushing has failed.
  • Also look for Cracks and tears in the Rubber of the bushing
  • If found to worn then they must be replaced

Bouncy Ride

  • A Bouncy ride is always due to a loss of suspension Damping
  • Damping is provided by the Shock absorbers of the rear suspension. When a Shock absorber has failed, this results in a Bouncy ride

Troubleshooting Bouncy Ride

  • A Bouncy ride quality signifies a failure in the rear shock absorber
  • It could be either due to a Shock absorber oil seal failure, which caused it to leak, OR simply long-term wear and tear
  • Inspect the Rear shocks at the bottom-most portion for signs of oil-stains

Diving during braking

  • This is a clear symptom of a failed Front Strut Damper
  • When the suspension Damping action has failed, the suspension, under extreme loads, compresses and expands without restriction or control 
  • When the vehicle Brakes, nearly 80% of the vehicle weight gets transferred to the Front Wheels causing the front suspension to compress, causing the vehicle to ‘Dive’. Dampers are designed to control this ‘Dive’ Motion by providing Damping resistance.

Troubleshooting Diving during braking

  • If your vehicle has crossed 50K miles, then it could be due for a shock replacement. Due to long-term internal wear, the shock starts becoming ineffective over time.
  • If the front strut shock has started leaking oil due to a failed oil-seal, then it means that the shock will no longer be effective.
  • One good way to tell if your shock has failed or not is to do a Bounce Test. Put all your weight on one of the front corners of the vehicle pushing it downwards. Keep oscillating the corner till you feel that it has reached its maximum height. Once you take your hands off the corner, observe how it settles. If it takes more than 2 oscillations to settle, that means the damper has failed.

Rear Knocking Sound

  • A knocking sound while driving on normal roads emanating from the rear
  • Sound seems to increase while going over a rough patch

Troubleshooting Rear Knocking Sound

1. Anti-Roll Bar Linkage Failures

  • Rear Knocking sounds that increase on a rough road are the signs that point to an issue with the Anti-roll bar(ARB) links.
  • An Easy way to check the ARB linkages is to go underneath and hold each link and shake it by hand observing for movement or noise at each linkage point.
  • The perfect way would be to remove the ARB Drop Links and check the ball-joint for excess play

Control-Arm Bushing Failures

  • Another reason for Knocking noises from the rear is the Control-Arm bushings.
  • An easy way to check this is to lift the vehicle and apply weight on the control-arms and observe for play at the bushing locations
  • To perfectly check for bushing play, you could hold the control arm bushing on a bench-vice and try to move the other end, observing for excessive movement at the bushing.

Pro Tip:

  • Instead of changing the whole Control-arm that comes integrated with the bushes, you could also choose to change the Bushes alone. 
  • For this, you would only get Aftermarket parts. The advantage with aftermarket bushes is 
    • Variety of Bushings, soft or hard, that you could choose from
    • The aftermarket bushings do offer an improvement over the OE Bush’s Service Life. Some parts offer a ‘Lifetime Warranty’, meaning the bushes would never need to be replaced again.
  • You will need a Hydraulic or Screw-type of Pressing Tool. First Press out the old bush and Press-in the New Bush. Also, you would need the right size of Collar with which to correctly contact the edge of the bush while pressing down. 

Front Strut Top Mount Failure

Symptoms for Strut Top Mount failure are:

  • Knocking and Creaking Noise coming from the front while steering in a parking maneuver or when locking the steering
  • Knocking Sound every time the steering wheel changes direction of rotation

Troubleshooting Front Strut Top Mount Failure

  • The Top Strut Mount contains a bearing that allows the strut to rotate while steering
  • When the Top Strut mount is damaged, the bearing also fails and restricts the strut from rotation during steering. This is what causes the knock and creak noises.

Pro Tip

One more reason that the Strut top mount fails is that Shock Absorber might not be working properly; it might not be dampening the road impacts. So when replacing the 

Conclusion

In this brief article we have discussed the different Mini Cooper Suspension problems, what the causes are, and Troubleshooting Tips.

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