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MCAW Auto Up Window Circuit Reviewed

One of the more annoying features missing from the US spec MINIs are auto-up windows. For some reason BMW decided to program out the feature for all MINIs in the US (nevermind that BMWs in the US have had it for years). Thus it was left up to one enterprising MINI owner came to the rescue a few years back.

Since then Ian Cull has sold over 1000 of his auto-up circuits and over the years it has come to be known as one of the best upgrades you can give your MINI. However when Ian Cull announced earlier this year* that he’d no longer be making the circuits, two enterprising MINI owners stepped in with a new design and a slightly lower price. Naturally we were keen to do some testing and see if this new MCAW Auto Up Circuit was a true heir to the throne.

I installed the MCAW auto up in my ‘03 Cooper S last weekend with little trouble. Installation took about 20 minutes from start to finish with the help of Gabe who has bit of experience behind the dash of the MINI.

The MCAW circuit was compact and generally easy to install. Its design is slightly different Ian’s circuit as it has no plug and ribbon lead. You simply press the circuit onto the back of the switch bank.

I choose to remove the support pillars of the center consul to make things more accessible. Neither of us have small hands so working through the small access door was not an option. You may be able to install the circuit simply by opening the door below the toggles and popping it in if your hands are narrow enough fit through.

Once you unplug the factory wiring lead you press the MCAW unit into place on your switch panel. The MCAW unit does not fit through from the front so you must press it in with the switch panel sitting loose in the dash frame.

Once this is done you reattach the factory harness onto the other side the MCAW and you are ready to check for power. The MCAW has a green LED to let you know you’re connected.

Once your switch bank is mounted be sure to seat the circuit board, I had a brief issue two days after the install my window went down and would not go up. I simply opened the access door and pressed the connection to seat it and since then the MCAW has performed perfectly.

Once the switch panel is in place programming is easy. However it is important to read the instructions and decide which mode your going to use because you have a little more than two seconds to input your desired mode before your automatically switched out of programming mode. I would recommend that this bit if information be included in the programming section of the instructions.

I switched on the key and started programming the switches but was bumped out of programming mode before I was done with both sides. The MCAW is kind enough to tell you this by partially raising the driver’s window. Lessen learned, I switched the key on a second time and quickly entered my desired mode.

With Four modes for the windows, single click up, double click up, click and hold (for one second) and one that offers single switch control for both windows, and a fifth for DSC auto off, MCAW is worth the time and money.

Programming is an easy series of clicking your window switches up to the desired mode number. If you make a mistake or lose track of the number of clicks, just reset (by pressing down) and start again.

The DSC feature is great for track days or Solo competition. Go into programming mode and switch the Door lock/unlock UP. Now your DSC will automatically turn off with in three seconds of starting your MINI. Programming this is so easy you could simply program the DSC off when you arrive and the track and forget about it. Reversing the program will disable all new features.

There are options for wiring your garage door opener to your door lock/unlock switch but it takes some further knowledge of electronics according to the MCAW instructions.

Having a MCAW auto up is a mod no MINI should be with out. The ease of installation, the quality construction, and the aware of options makes this one of the much have MINI upgrades.

Rating: 4.5 (out of five)

The MCAW Standard Circuit is available from www.mcaw.info for $42.00. The Standard Circuit features:

  • Auto-up window control
  • DSC auto-off control
  • Garage door opener (GDO) output
  • Generic Auxiliary output

MCAW also offers a Deluxe Circuit for $49.00 with the following features:

  • Auto-up window control
  • DSC auto-off control
  • Garage door opener (GDO) output
  • Two Generic Auxiliary outputs

*Since Ian originally announced he’d no longer be making the auto-up circuits things are changed slightly. Long story short, he now has built a new 128 unit batch of circuits that are available as of this review.

Written By: Ken

  • giacomo

    Nice review.

    I’ve had my Cull Auto up for a few years now, bought one for my daughter’s MC as well. Can’t figure out why BMW didn’t include with US MINI’s but Glad Ian saw the need.

    As far as the new kid on the block goes more power to them as it sounds like a good product and I wish them success. I do think Ian’s sounds a little easier to instal/program as it only took me, not a electrical kind of guy, a mere 15 minutes from start to finish, but I was able to do it without removing down tubes.

  • Bumpy2K

    I believe the reason why MINIs in the US don’t have the auto-up feature is due to safety concerns from our friend, the Government. The windows on our cars close with enough force to easily slice a cantaloupe in half, so the thinking goes that it could be a health hazard should you get your head in the way of the closing window. I also think I remember seeing somewhere (not necessarily on a MINI) that, for some reason, frameless windows don’t/can’t work with sensors that detect an obstruction in the window’s path.

  • Steve

    What type of devices would one use for the “two generic auxiliary outputs”? Looks like for an extra $7.00, that has a benefit.

  • John Blazer

    Question: All my toggle switches are occupied – DSC, front fogs, rear fog, etc. Without an available toggle, how is the GDO integrated? How is the auxilliary output integrated?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe
    I believe the reason why MINIs in the US don’t have the auto-up feature is due to safety concerns from our friend, the Government. The windows on our cars close with enough force to easily slice a cantaloupe in half, so the thinking goes that it could be a health hazard should you get your head in the way of the closing window. I also think I remember seeing somewhere (not necessarily on a MINI) that, for some reason, frameless windows don’t/can’t work with sensors that detect an obstruction in the window’s path.

    I don’t believe that’s the case as BMW has sold coupes for years with frameless window that had the auto-up feature. I’ve owned a couple myself.

  • Bumpy2K

    What was the latest year you owned a BMW coupe? I think that it is a fairly recent development (3-4 yrs), along the same lines as the now-illegal rocker-style window switches that GM et al. used that could raise the window by pressing down on the switch the way a small child woudl if standing on it with his/her head otu the window. Those switches were outlawed 3 or 4 years ago, but some cars were allowed to gradfather them out like my mother’s CTS.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Three years ago: 325ci. I’ve also spent some time in a 2004 M3 which had the same feature (and the same frameless windows). I’m not saying your wrong… I’m just saying it’s curious to see other manfacturers seemingly get away with it.

  • Gilbert

    How’s the royalty of ian cull for this he started this feature before I think this company will pay ian…….

  • http://bravo5.org/blog blalor
    I don’t believe that’s the case as BMW has sold coupes for years with frameless window that had the auto-up feature. I’ve owned a couple myself.

    Our ’02 Jetta also had auto-up windows.

  • giacomo

    As this is the USA and we still are a capitalist nation, I don’t think Ian had a patent, all are welcomed. As for kidz having heads caught in windows, shame on the parents.

  • Rollin

    Gabe, I don’t see the name of the author in your page layout. I think it would be especially worth while with reviews.

    Gilbert, I think I read someplace that this circuit and the one sold by Outmotoring were not developed untill after Ian announced he was no longer going to produce his unit, as they were not wanting to take away his market, just fill the need that was left open.

  • Ken
    Question: All my toggle switches are occupied – DSC, front fogs, rear fog, etc. Without an available toggle, how is the GDO integrated? How is the auxilliary output integrated?

    Garage Door Opener (GDO) Output (requires modification(s) to your opener, MCAW jumper change and wiring it to the MCAW) When configured for this function the MCAW will send power to a hard wired garage door opener using the lock/unlock switch in your MINI switch panel. This mode sends a 1 second pulse to the GDO anytime you double click up or double click down the lock/unlock switch. Single clicks will still lock and unlock the doors as they normally do.

    John, this should answer you question.

  • http://www.mcaw.info Randy

    Gabe and company -

    Thank you for evaluating and reviewing the MCAW Product. We will be updating the instructions to better clarify the programming time delay noted in the review.

    One small clarification between the Standard and Deluxe Circuits. The Standard Circuit support Auto-up Windows and your choice of one auxiliary output (which could be DSC Auto-Off, GDO, or a generic auxiliary output). The Deluxe version has Auto-Up Windows and all 4 auxiliary functions plus a second generic auxiliary output.

    Thanks again- Randy

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe
    I don’t see the name of the author in your page layout. I think it would be especially worth while with reviews.

    The author’s name is always at the end of each the story.

  • sb

    I may have missed it somewhere, but is this new auto window up circuit like Ian’s in that, it is designed for FULL up operation from a fully open position … or can it be used from only a partially open position?

  • http://www.gbmini.net Ian C.

    Both my original circuit and this new version implement “auto up” from a fully or partly open position. My design simply mimics someone holding the toggle switch in the up position for six seconds – the new design presumably does the same.

  • sb

    Back in the early 80’s I worked in a 12 volt shop where we routinely installed a product called Smart Windows from Clifford electronics (now a subsidiary of Directed Electronics). These units were simple timer/relay units which worked with nearly all power windows on all cars and they also worked on most sunroofs. The issue as to why we don’t have them on many cars in the U.S. is not due to a lack of technology, or ability. The issue revolves around one simple fact: 1) We are a nation of people who think we are not responsible if we try to dry our hair while still sitting in a bathtub of water. i.e.: we have the misfortune of suffering from both stupidity and greed. This also accounts for much of the retooling of the MINI’s front end (pedestrian impact reduction) as well as the difficulting in getting the JCW sport seats in the States (airbag issues).

  • sb

    Thanks Ian. I had read somewhere NOT to use your circuit if the window was only partially open … so is there an overcurrent protection in the factory circuit which “opens” the circuit if it is held too long? This is good news … thanks! Once again the Ian C circuit puts a smile on my face!

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe
    This also accounts for much of the retooling of the MINI’s front end (pedestrian impact reduction)

    Not to get off topic here but the larger front end seen on most EU cars (and the 2006 MINIs) is due to a much loathed EU law that squeaked through in Brussels a handful of years ago. It has nothing to do with the US (surprisingly).

  • http://www.mcaw.info Randy

    I also recall a product back 15 years ago or so called Twindows that did pretty much the same in any vehicle.

    The plug and play nature of both circuit products is really what sets them apart. No need to go hacking up the factory harnesses.

    -Randy

  • http://www.gbmini.net Ian C.
    so is there an overcurrent protection in the factory circuit which “opens” the circuit if it is held too long?

    There is an overcurrent detect/shutdown built in to the MINI in the BC1: If a kid decided to click and hold the switch you would not want the motor to burn out. So there is no need for anything extra in the MINI circuit.

  • http://www.nemini.org GMINI

    Ian, do you have any of your circuits left over? I’m a big fan.

  • http://www.mcaw.info Randy

    Yes. Ian has circuits ready and waiting for your order at http://www.gbmini.net/MINIcircuit/index.shtml

    If you have to ask why… Only in the MINI community is your response =)

    -Randy

  • Rollin

    Found Ken’s name – Thanks

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe
    Found Ken’s name – Thanks

    Thanks for the input. After you mentioned that I made the grey a little darker so it would be easier to see. I think it might have been a little too subtle.

  • http://www.nemini.org GMINI

    Thanks Randy (BMC??)! I am so psyched he’s still got some!

  • Gilbert

    Now if the question (BMWNA) will not add this on new Mini’s, in what reason they don’t like to add this feature… Safety?

    And if that’s the reason How about my 1998 318 ti bmw had window auto up down. How about Mercedes they had those. It’s doesn’t make sense to me I’d paid my mini almost 40K still I need to add this feature?

  • http://www.nemini.org GMINI

    not only that, Gilbert, the frickin window switch is nearly 3 feet away from the windows and impossible to activate with anything but a finger pressing upward. I want to meet that suicidal child and/or that homicidal parent.

  • Schmagagled

    While I applaud the ingenuity of all those who’ve come up with a solution to this problem I’m still left wondering about the mechanics of it all. My sister in Ireland has an 04 Cooper with auto-up. My 05 MCS here in the states like everyone else’s doesn’t come that way from the factory.

    Are we saying that it’s a simple programming issue that can be fixed using the shop’s computer or are the control circuits actually different (which is what necessitates adding the circuit card)?

    I’m headed over to the ‘ol sod this spring, and if there’s a particular part available from one of the Dublin dealers (a “euro” version control circuit for the windows), I’d like to have it ordered and ready for pickup while I’m there. But if it’s a simple matter of programming (UK vs. US) that’s different altogether and I’d have to do some more investigating.

    Sparky’s Dad

  • wrecker

    I was the first install of the new circuit in early November. The circuit works great and have had absolutely no problems whatsoever. Kevin installed mine through the access panel under the toggles. He did all the programing and I have done nothing except use it often. I really appreciate the DSC Off function, as I always run with it off. I also always run with the fog lights on so I am going to contact him about the upgrade.

    Kevin / Randy, thanks again for a much needed, well planned, successfull and inexpensive mod that I would recomend highly.

    Rick

  • http://www.gbmini.net Ian C.

    Schmagagled, in investigating the MINIs functionality when developing the original auto-up-windows, I learned that the “BC1″ electronic body control module for the car is configured by a sort of “country code” which makes different features available. So in England and Europe, the BC1 makes the driver window auto-up (but not the passenger window) – of course this is the righthand window in England and the lefthand window in Europe. In USA, neither window is allowed to be auto-up according to the programming inside the BC1. Attempting to change that programming is not easy – hence my design of MINI circuit.

    I presume the new designers did none of the background investigation but simply duplicated the functions that I had originally developed ;)

  • http://www.mcaw.info Randy

    Schmagagled

    It is my understanding that it is a simple and small difference in the programming on the car’s computer. MINIUSA could elect to upgrade the car’s programming to make the available auto-up products obsolete in the current MINI. I however don’t expect to see that happen =).

    Not sure if you would be able to get the European version loaded by a Euro dealer or not.

    Our circuit products obtain the same functionality by mimicking the action of using the window switch itself.

    Hope this helps- Randy

  • http://www.mcaw.info Randy

    Wrecker (Rick)

    Thanks for the update. I have been meaning to contact you through email but both Kevin and I have been extremely busy…. but busy is good so no worries.

    Shoot Kevin an email about what you ar elooking for in regards to your fog lights.

    Thanks and Happy New Year. -Randy

  • Schmagagled

    Ian and Randy;

    Thanks for the feedback. I have a “favorite” mechanic at the Mini dealer I take Sparky in to. I’ll have a word with him and see if he’ll let me watch him do the programming when I get the JCW kit(s) installed in April. Might be able to get a clue then.

    Thanks again!

  • http://? Jake

    Can this be programmed to have the driving lights on withouth the hight beams…. I would buy one right now!

    J.

  • http://www.gbmini.net Ian C.

    Jake, Neither version has any control over the driving lights; However I did develop an “RLR” module for the OEM lights …

  • meanboy

    Bumpy2k,

    My friends 1995 M3 has auto up with frameless doors so I think you’re statement is incorrect.

  • meanboy

    Oops, typo..

    your not you’re

  • Jake

    Hei Ian thanks for replying, just found it today..

    If you ever find this post, how can I get my hands on that RLR module and what is it?

    How to install.!

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