The Mini FAQ is a list of frequently asked questions (plus answers) about maintenance and mechanical work on Minis and Mini Coopers. The answers are mostly derived from the archives of the Mini-List mailing list and are the work of contributors to the list, edited for presentation in the FAQ.

See Mini FAQ Part 2

General

Body

Brakes

Clutch

Diagnostics

Electrical

General

5 Speed gearboxes for Minis

Several companies sell 5 speed gearboxes for Minis (at a price), for road or race use, including Mini Spares Center, Mini Sport, and Jack Knight Developments (as used in the Rover Cooper S conversion). A 6 speed racing gearbox is also available from Special Tuning agents.

No Mini-compatible A-series engine has ever been fitted with a 5 speed gearbox at the factory.

Adding central locking/keyless entry/electric windows

Mini Mania sells parts kits that enable any Mark 3-on Mini (with wind-up windows) to be fitted with central locking, keyless entry and/or electric windows. These kits are specifically designed for the Mini - different kits are available but many are generic and will not fit Mini doors well.

Converting to/from Left Hand Drive

To convert from Right Hand Drive to Left Hand Drive or vice-versa, you need:

  • The appropriate RHD or LHD steering rack (remember to use the correct steering arms for the rack - Mark 1 or Mark 2-on, depending on the spec. of the supplied rack).
  • Appropriate RHD/LHD throttle pedal.
  • New brake/clutch lines (these can be easily made with a brake pipe kit if shipping is a problem), to match the new location of the master cylinder.

Follow the procedures in a manual for changing a steering rack, bleeding the hydraulic system, dismantling/reassembling the pedal box, etc - with these parts it is a "bolt on" conversion. On a Mk1/2 Mini, it may be advisable to install a locking door handle on the driver's side, to avoid having to get in through the passenger's side when the car is locked. It may also be desirable to swap over the location of the windscreen wiper arms to their alternate mounting holes (on a Mark 1, these need to be drilled, on later cars, there are rubber bungs in these holes).

 

How can I find out more about my Mini/obtain a Heritage Certificate?

British Motor Heritage holds the build records for many of the BMC/BL/Rover-affiliated marques: Austin, Morris. MG, Wolseley, Riley, Triumph, etc. For a free (approximately 25 pounds) they can trace the production record of your Mini and issue a Heritage Certificate listing the car's original specification (including paint color, bodywork, options), delivery destination and production dates.

To obtain a Heritage Certificate, you need the chassis number of your car and/or the engine number. (Note that a Heritage Certificate does not mean you own the actual car, just that you have the details of a particular car that was built).

Send the details, along with your credit card number and expiry date to:

The Archivist
British Motor Heritage
Range Road
Cotswold Business Park
Whitney, Oxon OX8 5YB
England

Fax: +44-1993-707222 (Outside UK), 0-1993-707222 (Inside UK)
Phone +44-1993-707200

British Motor Heritage also manufacturers or sells many parts for old Minis, including body panels unique to the Mark 1 and Clubman that were no longer officially available. As BMH is a subsidiary of Rover, these panels are the closest anyone can get to genuine and many are made on the original presses.

How to tell if a mechanical part is worn

If you are not used to spotting mechanical wear (a common problem of novice DIY mechanics), most metal parts that are worn can be told by:

  • Scuffing marks on the surface of a part as if it had been sanded.
  • Any "ledges" worn into a part such as a shaft that runs in a bearing, that you can see or feel with your fingernail.
  • Cracks, chips or pitting in a metal surface.
  • Shafts, bars, beams, pushrods, etc can be checked for straightness by rolling them along a flat surface. If they tend to rotate in a circle, they are bent.
  • Bearing races with grooves worn into them, that are either visible or can be felt with a fingernail.
  • Signs of melting or burning.
  • Surfaces that are meant to be flat can be checked by placing a straight edge (e.g. metal ruler) on them or placing them on a known flat surface - if a feeler gauge can fit under the straight edge at any point it is warped.

Importing a Mini into the USA

Here are the basic facts about importing a Mini into the USA. To find more details, consult the Mini Mania web site.

  • The Mini must be at least 25 years old. The only way round this is legally dubious: the car must be dismantled and shipped as separate lots, then reassembled on arrival. The car must be registered using the identity of an older car, and the owner must hope that no authorities know what a newer Mini looks like. This has been done successfully. Anyone importing a complete, newer Mini risks severe penalties: six-figure fines, imprisonment and/or crushing of the car.
  • The details of arranging shipping are best left to car shipping specialists.
  • It is common for Minis to look good in photographs but be terminally rusty, particularly those in the UK where rust is severe by the standards of much of the USA - take care.

Is my car a Mini Cooper?

See the Mini Cooper Identification Guide.

Is my car a Mk1, Mk2, Mk3, ... ?

The table below shows which "Mark" your car is. It does not include Australian or continental European variations (Innocenti, Authi) which often had features of later cars. Vans had external hinges and sliding windows throughout production (except Australian production), Elfs/Hornets had a separate Mark sequence, and Clubmans are all Mk3 or Mk4.

Mark 1 (1959-67)Small rounded, taillights, sliding windows, external door hinges.
Mark 2 (1967-69)Square taillights, sliding windows, external door hinges.
Mark 3 (1970-77)Square taillights, wind-up windows, internal door hinges.
Mark 4 (1977-85)Large square taillights with reversing lights, wind-up windows, single bolt top subframe mounts.

Mark 5 (1985-)

As for Mark 4 but with 12 inch wheels and disc brakes.

From Mark 5 on, there is some debate about the era of each "Mark". It is better to refer to cars after this by Model Year. E.g. the 1997 MY (Model Year) Mini has twin point fuel injection and this refers to cars built to the same spec after 1997.

MG Metro alloy wheels - can I use them?

No - they will bolt on to Mini hubs but the offset is not correct for the Mini, the wheels being offset too far inwards towards the center of the car.

Rod change gear shift removal

To disconnect the rod change gear shift from the back of the gearbox:

  1. Put the car in first or third gear.
  2. Drift out the roll pin in the sleeve that connects the gear change rod to the gearbox, using a 5mm drift or 5mm by 4cm bolt.
  3. Unbolt the upper rod from the back of the gearbox. This may necessitate removal of the exhaust mounting clamp.

Socket size needed for (xyz) bolt?

BoltSocket Size
Crankshaft pulley1 5/16 in
Steering wheel1 5/16 in

Stripped thread on gearbox drain plug hole/spark plug hole

These can be repaired using Helicoil threaded inserts. The stripped thread is first drilled out, then a special thread is cut that accepts the helicoil insert which is then inserted. It forms a new thread for the drain plug or spark plug. This job can be done by most engineering workshops or good mechanics and should be around 30 minutes labor plus a few (your currency units) for the insert. Tell them what you want helicoiled and they will understand you.

The gearbox casing is made of soft aluminum alloy - the drain plug does not need to be as tight as most people think, hence the risk of stripping the thread.

Turbocharging your Mini

If you need to ask how to turbocharge your Mini, you probably don't need to know. Having said that, everyone has to start somewhere. You will know if you are capable of this project if you are confident you can solve the problems described below.

The MG Metro Turbo provides the donor engine and ancillaries for the conversion. This engine is a 1275cc A-plus series engine, with a low compression ratio and relatively small, sodium-cooled valves to withstand the high combustion temperatures. The turbocharger unit is the Garrett T-3, and a boost modulator is used to reduce mid-range torque, prolonging the life of the gearbox.

The engine develops a claimed 93bhp and more is available by increasing the turbo pressure. To learn more of the details about this engine consult the Haynes Metro manual and Tuning British Leyland's A-Series Engine by David Vizard.

The basic modifications required to fit this engine to a Mini are broadly outlined below:

  • Bodyshell. The bulkhead must have a hole cut in it and a box welded into it, to accommodate the turbo unit which occupies much space behind the engine. Some specialists also recommend reinforcing the front subframe. Kits of parts to do this are available from specialists such as Avonbar. Extra engine steady bars and heat proofing for the bulkhead are needed.
  • Exhaust. A custom exhaust system must be fabricated to interface with the turbo. Specialists such as Avonbar can help with this too.
  • Fuel. A high-pressure (Metro Turbo) fuel pump, fuel regulator and fuel return line to the tank must be installed, requiring modification to the fuel tank. (Fuel injected Minis already have a return line built into the tank, plus an integral fuel pump which may be able to supply adequate pressure).
  • Electrical. The Metro ancillaries must be interfaced with the Mini wiring loom.
  • Brakes. Vented 4-pot brakes are the order of the day - these can be robbed from the same Metro as the engine.
  • Cooling. An improved radiator is required.

The details of the fuel and electrical requirements are found in the Haynes Metro manual.

What are the dimensions of a Mini?

See Body Dimensions.

What does MOWOG mean?

This mysterious inscription is found on many Mini parts.

MOWOG stands for Morris Wolseley Garages, a company set up to supply parts to BMC (the original name of British Leyland, later Austin-Rover/Rover/etc).

Why are Minis notorious for overheating?

Overheating can be caused by many problems: blocked radiator, incorrect ignition timing, lean mixture, blown head gasket, fitting a more powerful engine, water leaks, and/or rusted water pump.

Most of these are caused by old age and lack of maintenance. A well sorted Mini in standard trim should not overheat (except in rare circumstances, such as a Cooper S forced to idle in traffic for a long time on a hot day). If any mechanic tells you "they all overheat" they do not have good enough diagnostic abilities to be allowed to work on your car.

If your Mini does overheat, there is something wrong - have it fixed.

Body

Checking for rust (pre-purchase)

Anyone who has ever owned a Mini knows that they rust. If you are looking to buy a Mini check out the rust page for the most common rust points. If possible take someone familiar with Minis with you to inspect the car as well.

Chrome side trim installation

New "plastichrome" side trim is purchased in rolls.

  • Purchase only good quality replacement trim, which is easier to install.
  • Heat the trim with a heater, dryer or hot water until it becomes slightly pliable - do not overheat or the trim will lose its elasticity and be more prone to detach from the body.
  • Ensure the trim is installed so that the natural curve of the trim (the way it was rolled up) follows the sharp bends on the inside of the front/rear wheel arches, not following the contours of the wheel arches themselves.
  • Depending on the year of your car, the trim is held on by self tapping screws or pop rivets. Replace these with new stainless steel items to prevent rust.
  • Work slowly and patiently.

Door does not shut properly (fouls on body shell)

Grasp the door and shake it up and down. If it shows signs of movement, the door hinges are worn. If not, the car is likely to be distorted as a result of crash damage, particularly if the door catches on the rear edge of the A-panel when it is opened or closed.

Is it safe to drill holes in the rear parcel shelf to install speakers?

Yes.

Mark 1/2 (external hinge) doors are sagging

Grasp the door and shake it up and down. If the hinges are loose, new pins and bushes can be fitted. Tap the old ones out using a drift and fit a new set - widely available from any Mini specialist.

If the hinges do not flex but the door moves up and down, the door skin and/or A-panels may be rusty or the hinge mounting holes enlarged.

Mark 1/2 door glass - fitting

  • The rear half of the door glass sits on the inside of the track, and has the draught excluder fitted to it.
  • The draught excluders are cut flat on the bottom, and tapered on the top and are different for the left-hand