1st Gen "How To" My Aggressive Maintenance Schedule For An R53 Or R50

Everyone has a different idea of what appropriate maintenance is and everyone has a different use for their car. Everyone has a different level of...
  1. agranger
    Everyone has a different idea of what appropriate maintenance is and everyone has a different use for their car. Everyone has a different level of comfort with the risk of not replacing some items at regular intervals vs. waiting for a part failure (or near-failure). Everyone also has a different long-term goal for the car as well (3 year lease and turn-in vs. driving the same car for 20 years). All of these factors play into a maintenance schedule.

    Considering all of the factors above, I find the MINI recommendations to be WAY too infrequent for my comfort. I occasionally go out for weekends at the track and I tow a (small) trailer with the car, so I know that Jango sees heavier loads than the average MINI. I also hope to keep my MINI for a long time to come, so I tend to do routine maintenance like oil changes more frequently, in the hopes that it will help engine and transmission longevity. I’m also less likely to accept risk to my persona/vacation time… the smaller chance of losing track sessions or vacation experiences with the car in the shop is worth a few extra dollars to me to prevent.

    MINI engineers look at things a different way. They have an estimate of how long they should design a piece of equipment to last (or what an acceptable fail rate during the warranty period is) and the maintenance that would be required to sustain the equipment during that period. They aren’t interested in making a MINI engine last 20 years and they definitely aren’t designing their maintenance plan for a car that sees track/trailer use. They are designing for the average expected use of the car. Some of the items that I replace on a regular schedule aren’t even on their list.

    A few examples of what I’m talking about:

    • PREVENTATIVE REPLACEMENT FOR HIGH IMPACT FAILURE ITEMS - If I ever make it to 4 years on the same battery, I’m going to replace it (my first battery failed in 3.5 years). Texas summer heat takes a toll on batteries and rather than have it fail when I’m on vacation or when I’m 50 miles from home, I’d rather replace it when it is convenient for me. Yes… I might be replacing a battery a year before it would fail, but that loss of 1 year of service will cost me another $20 (1/5 of the cost of a $100 battery). I’d happily pay $20 to avoid getting stuck at the office at 6pm, calling my wife to come and get me.

    • INVESTING IN LONGEVITY - I flush the coolant more frequently than recommended and I always replace the thermostat and gasket when I do so. Every other flush, I replace the thermostat housing. My MINI sees some track time (and the trailer puts extra extended load on the engine while towing on the highway), so extra coolant flushes are my investment in engine longevity. The thermostat and housing replacements are much like the battery… these parts are known weak points in the cooling system and I’d rather replace them on my schedule than run a higher risk of having them cause issues at inopportune moments.

    • PERSONAL HISTORY - I have a preventative replacement of the clutch slave cylinder in my schedule. I’m sure that this isn’t on any maintenance list for MINI, but my personal history with my R53 shows that a clutch slave is lucky if it makes it 40k miles. If I ever have one that makes it that long, I’m going to replace it. So far, I haven’t made it that far… I’m on clutch slave #4 in 60k miles!

    • LOW IMPACT ITEMS - I don’t have an engine damper replacement on my list and neither does MINI. My personal history suggests that they last only 30k miles / 2 years, but when they fail on my car, it causes very little impact. I can still drive the car and might not even notice any difference until I go for a spirited drive or hit some very rough pavement. Since the risk is small to my time if this goes bad, I don’t worry about it (though I do replace it when it goes bad for best performance and ride quality).​

    How much maintenance is too much? That’s up to you to decide. If you take my methodology to an extreme, you might find yourself doing a preventative engine replacement every 10k miles to ensure that the car is always in tip-top shape. I guess if you have the $$$ and need a maximum-reliability MINI, this might be a way to go at it… there is a cost-benefit analysis that you have to do here.

    I’m presenting my “Intensive Maintenance Schedule” below that I’ve decided fits my budget, service history, risk tolerance and use of the car. I'm not a mechanic... I'm just handy with a wrench and love my little MINI. I'm sharing what I do or, at least, what I plan to do. I hope that you find it helpful

    Oil change + new filter
    MINI Says: ~15.5k miles (actually calculated by OBC based on fuel use) or 1 year
    I recommend: 6-8k miles or 1 year​

    Coolant Flush + new thermostat w/ gasket
    MINI Says: 4 years (MINI does coolant only - no new thermostat)
    I recommend: 30k miles or 2 years​

    New thermostat housing (replaced at same time as coolant flush and thermostat -an R53 specific item as it tends to be a part more prone to failure on our engines)
    MINI Says: Replace only at point of failure
    I recommend: 60k miles or 4 years​

    Engine Belt
    MINI Says: 60k miles on S – 100k miles on Cooper
    I recommend: 30k miles or 2 years​

    Manual Transmission Fluid change
    MINI Says: MINI calls this a ‘lifetime fluid’ - No maintenance required
    I recommend: 30k miles or 2 years​

    Brake fluid flush/bleed
    MINI Says: 2 years
    I recommend: 15k miles or 1 year (or before every visit to the track). 2 years and 30k miles would be OK for a street-use only MINI​

    Automatic Transmission service
    MINI Says: MINI calls this a ‘lifetime fluid’ - No maintenance required
    I recommend: I'm a manual transmission guy, but a friend from my local MINI club board recommends a fluid swap and new gasket at 40k and a fluid swap and gasket plus a new strainer at 80k, which sounds reasonable to me.

    Clutch Slave and input pipe
    MINI Says: Replace only at point of failure
    I recommend: 40k miles or 3 years. Lots of MINIs never have a clutch slave problem. I know of 3 or 4 that, like me, are on slave #3 or more. It appears to be isolated to '05 and '06 models.​

    Wiper Blades
    MINI Says: Replace only when performing poorly
    I recommend: 30k miles or 2 years for high-quality replacements – 15k or 1 year for OEM​

    Fuel Injector Cleaner
    MINI Says: Not in the MINI schedule
    I recommend: 6-8k miles or 1 year (with each oil change / filter)​

    Air filter (replace paper based – OEM style filter)
    MINI Says: 50k-60k miles (At inspection II)
    I recommend: 30k miles or 2 years​

    Air Filter (for a non-OEM cleanable foam element for those that have it)
    MINI Says: NA
    I recommend: 5k miles or 6 months​

    Cabin Air Filter (I’m not as careful about this one, but I try to keep it up)
    I recommend: 30k miles or 2 year​

    MINI Says: Replace at point of failure
    I recommend: 4 years​

    Oxygen Sensors
    MINI Says: 100k miles
    I recommend: 100k miles​

    Spark Plugs
    MINI Says: 100k miles
    I recommend: 40k miles​

    Spark Plug Wires
    MINI Says: replace at failure
    I recommend: 80k miles​

    Brass Brake bushings (aftermarket Mod) clean and lube
    MINI Says: NA
    I recommend: 1 year or 12k miles​

    Supercharger oil swap
    MINI Says: Wait for failure
    I recommend: I haven't done this yet, but I plan to do it at 80k miles​

    Fuel filter replacement
    MINI Says: It's a lifetime filter - doesn't need replacement
    I recommend: 40k miles​

    Powerflex LCA re-lubrication
    MINI Says: NA - this is an aftermarket part
    I recommend: 20-40k miles or 2-4 years, depending on dirtiness/wetness of your environment... more dirt/wet = more frequent service (thanks, k-huevo)​

    Power Steering Fluid
    MINI Says: MINI says that it is a lifrtime fluid
    I recommend: 80k miles or 5 years

    Original Source

    Written by: agranger, Aug 4, 2011,

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