Common Issues: Power Steering Failure

A very interesting story over at BBC sent into us recently concerning Power Steering issues on R50/R53 MINIs.

BMW’s customer service told Heather this wasn’t a common fault, which is surprising because we’ve heard from dozens of other Mini owners who’ve told us they’ve had exactly the same problem, and have had to fork out anything up to £800 for the repair.

Not a common fault? Show of hands to those of you that have had power steering problems. As it turns out, we are not alone.

Matt Pike is an independent Mini mechanic, and a supplier of spare parts. He says he can barely keep up with demand for replacement power steering pumps: “At least 60 per cent of our regular customers have all had pumps changed. And we’re getting at least two calls a day from people after power steering pumps because they’re such a big failure. I’d say it’s the most common problem we have with the Minis.”

This is something that already happened to me and I think the unit I have installed now is also going bad. I also think I’m lucky in that it didn’t fail until almost 180K miles. I know many R53 owners who have had the power steering go out shortly after the warranty expires.

If you are in the market for an R50 or R53, take a minute to check out the R50/R53 Buyers Guide. Many of the issues that affected the first generation MINIs, including power steering, are listed here.

[ MINI Power Steering Failures ] BBC.co.uk
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1207868968 Steve Rosenblum

    In my 2002 Cooper I had 1 fail under warranty and the dealer diagnosed my 2nd one as starting to fail and quoted about $800 to replace about a year ago.

    An independent shop looked at it and fixed the leaking hose clamps for under $100. So far, so good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500063291 Durjoy Bhattacharjya

    I recently had to replace my Power Steering Pump in my 2005 MCS– it was the first major repair after it had gone off warranty. The local BMW / Mini dealer Herb Chambers was very fair about the repair and I only paid the price of labor.

  • Matthew

    What are the symptoms of a failing or failed power steering pump? I have an ’03 Cooper with 42k miles on it. I just want to know what to keep my eyes and ears open for… just in case. ::knocks on wood::

  • Aussom

    My April 2002 R50 MCS has travelled over 125,000 km (over 77,600) miles) and hasn’t had any problems with power steering as yet – still happily whining away when turning. It has had the front control arm bushes replaced otherwise.

  • Jon

    Symptoms are: it’s really, really difficult to turn the steering wheel, especially when you’re sitting still, or moving very slowly in, say, a parking lot.

  • C4

    No power steering pump problems here either. I am at 54K miles on my ’05 MCS and the only item done to the suspension so far are the Powerflex bushings. We had a 2002 MC CVT for nearly 6 years and never had to touch the power steering pump either.

  • DUDE!

    50,000+ and all OK on my ’04 MCS. Symptoms would be good. My daughter’s ’03 MC with 90,000 is fine also. I do have an extended (100,000) mile warranty so I hope I’m covered.

    I wonder if geographic area (cold) has anything to do with it…? I’m in SoCal.

    My main complaint on this car… 4 windscreens!

  • C4

    According to the BBC site:

    “BMW say that in January 2005 a modification was made to the pump supplied with all new Minis which virtually eradicated the issue.”

    My MCS was built February 2005. So this means that I have the “Improved” power steering pump?

    Sometimes I wish these “blogs” would report on the actual year, mileage and build date of the cars with the reported pump issue. It is a little easier to weed out the potentially problematic build dates. From that statement, I take, R53 MINIs built from January ’05 onwards will likely be spared from this problem?

  • EmJay

    !!! Not a common fault !!! Bologna Sandwich!

    I previously owned 2 MINIS both ’03 one MC and one MCS. I replaced the power steering pump in both! When the MCS died I was stranded 4 hours away from home and 1500 miles out of warranty.

    This was a major factor in deciding to sell the cars. When the same parts in two different cars start dying… scary for an owner. And at about $1100 for a dealer repair, no thanks.

  • C4

    @Durjoy Bhattacharjya:

    What is the build date/mileage of your ’05 MCS?

  • http://dbmini.us DB

    @Matthew: on my ’02 build ’03 Cooper it failed at about 178k which is about 100K more miles than many that I have seen. I would say watch for it between 60K and 120K. And save your money because it’s not cheap.

  • C4

    178K miles is not bad at all. How much were you quoted to get it replaced?

  • http://www.detroittuned.com agokart

    As a independent MINI mechanic, i see this all the time. in the summer i do at least one a week, some times more.

  • http://dbmini.us DB

    It cost me a cool US$1,000 for the pump and a new fan, installed, at the dealer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1207868968 Steve Rosenblum
    What are the symptoms of a failing or failed power steering pump? I have an ‘03 Cooper with 42k miles on it. I just want to know what to keep my eyes and ears open for… just in case. ::knocks on wood::

    My 1st one went at about 25K, and dealer noted problems on the 2nd at a bit over 50K for me.

    The power steering would cut out (heavy turning) for a few seconds upon starting the car, which progressed eventually to no power steering. When my 1st one went I was told the fluid had leaked out past the seals (but I never saw leakage in my garage or under the car). No symptoms at all when the 2nd one was diagnosed as starting to fail.

  • http://motoringfile.com Frank

    @DB:

    Damn, that’s pretty pricey!

  • http://motoringfile.com Frank

    @agokart:

    Do you know if there are different part numbers for power steering pumps made prior and after January 2005 production builds?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=645121100 Fabrice KM

    Just replaced the power steering pump after it failed last month on my 2005 MINI Cooper S. 3 years and 7 months after buying and at 79000 KMs. I hope the new generation MINIs do not have the same problems as I just ordered a JCW.

  • Roccorocket

    I have a “03” and close friends that have had zero problems.

    If goes completely can you, still drive the car??

  • James

    I had to replace mine back in November. Paying that bill was an awesome birthday present to myself.

  • http://motoringfile.com Frank

    @Roccorocket:

    You should be able to drive the car, but be prepared to build muscles due to the increased steering effort.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707695212 Gregory Kaufman

    Happened to my ’05 MCS as well, while still under warranty. Can’t say if there’s been additional problems as I don’t have her anymore.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1106915684 Robb Clifford

    Was this addressed any for the 2006 R50’s models? From what I can tell, most issues were ironed out by the last model year. Maybe I should go for that extended warranty/maintenance…

  • Tom

    My ’03 MCS had a power steering failure at about 25k miles, but it was an electrical fault. The pump would cut on and off at random. It would even continue to run after the ignition was turned off. When it was repaired, the technician told me it was a documented issue and that the new part was immune to the problem. I don’t know if it’s related, but shortly thereafter the hydraulics in the steering rack failed. Fortunately, all of this was covered under warranty.

  • http://motoringfile.com Frank

    According to http://www.realoem.com there are 2 power steering pump part numbers for the R53:

    Part #32416769963 until December 2004 production builds (Old pump)

    Part #32416778425 beginning with January 2005 builds (New revised pump)

  • Dr Obnxs

    “It’s not a common fault…”

    “Part changed in 05 to virtually eliminate it….”

    What total unmitigated BS! It’s a very common fault!

    This SA comes from the “old school” of customer service…

    First we heard of it!

    Can’t replicate it so there’s nothing to fix….

    Parts are on back-order….

    It’s due to your aftermarket shift knob….

    yada yada yada….

    One of the people near me took his pump motor apart. There was a build up of dust/debris/wear material that would cause the stator to bind to the case.

    FWIW, you can find rebuilt motor/pump units for a couple hundred dollars if you look around. And it’s not that hard a job for a shade tree mechanic to do.

    Matt

  • rkw

    No outright failure for me, but at my visit to the dealer for another problem (an ’06 at 36K mi), they discovered leaking power steering fluid and replaced a hose and gaskets under warranty. They also found cracked thrust bearing bushings and leaking oil pan gasket (also covered by warranty).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=760993825 Larry Simpson

    My 05 MCS had the power Steering go out at 34000 miles.

  • vtrpaulo

    Currently have 70k on a 05 MCS and the power steering has been intermittently failing for the last 9K. Very annoying! They should have a recall.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=523665212 WRR Todd

    My 2003 MCS power steering pump failed at 38K miles. It simply quit while driving in a straight line at 45 MPH. No warning. Replaced under warranty and no problems since. Currently at 59,900 miles.

  • Bilbo Baggins

    I have to agree with the good Dr. There are still some “old school” service people out there. Glad that MofFC had a clean sweep of their service dept. and brought in some fresh blood.

    No problems with my Sept 2002 MCS, but i traded that in with 37,000 smiles. My current Oct 2006 MCS @ 44,000 smiles, is still on the original pump with no problems.

  • mataku527

    My 2005 MC had a power steering failure @ 30K

  • hank chinaski

    I replaced the ’03 under warranty, thankfully. They came 100 miles to get it & give me a loaner. Nice to be under warranty. Makes you rethink how long you keep one, if you prefer dealer service–but don’t live close.

  • Adam

    I had an 05 R52 with approx 23K that had to have the power steering fan replaced. The power steering itself never seemed to be affected. I just would notice a very loud droning type sound but it was intermittent. I am not sure if it was damaged by something I drove over (like a mattress?) or if it just warped over time. I noticed Outmotoring sells a protector for around $30. I have no affiliation with them but noticed it when I researched my issue.

  • Josh

    Mine went out with only 48k miles on the car. Mini replaced the power steering pump for free even though the car was just out of warranty, noting that it was a very common problem on the R50

  • Evan

    My steering rack went last winter at 48k miles. The pump had gotten extremely loud and I thought it was failing. Turned out it was the rack. A rare occurrnce according to the dealer. Right now I have 61k miles and so far so good. Last winter I drove to Chicago in a horrific snow storm with problem happening shortly afterwards. I’ve heard of plenty of failed pumps and wouldn’t be suprised if mine goes after 100k miles.

  • John W.

    My Mar ’04 build MC had its pump replaced under warranty. It did not go out but started leaking. The car ~63K miles on the clock now and is due for its Inspection II.

    John

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504171221 Jason Mills

    I’m just waiting for mine to go. My car is at 103k kms and its been pretty loud for the last 10,000kms or so.

    If so many of us on this site have had these issues, I can only imagine how many more owners must have the same issues.

    I only hope that the issue gathers more attention to the point where it becomes some embarrassment for the Mini brand.

    This major issue and the lack of BMW acknowledgement has really changed my mind about ever purchasing another Mini.

  • that.guy

    I understood that the real fault lies with the cooling fan. It can short and fail easily, given it’s location and lack of protection. Once it goes, the pump can then overheat and fail. True?

  • that.guy

    BTW – 90k on my 04 R53 and no issues, steering or otherwise.

  • Axel

    I have a MCS 02 and i had mines replaced after the warranty EXPIRED :( @ around 60k and I got the pump and labor for $800 here in Puerto Rico with my personal BMW mechanic otherwise I was looking at $1200 at AUTOGERMANA de BMW/Mini Dealer. The new pump is very quiet compared to the old one its is 47k old and still working fine. I think Autohauz has them for less than $300. Good Luck Amigos!!

  • C4

    Those of you that have experienced a failed PW pump…. Can you please post your vehicle’s actual build date (Check the placard/sticker inside the driver’s side door jamb).

    I am interested to see how many MINIs built after January 2005 have had this problem.

  • C4

    The pump in my 2/05 build ’05 S is substantially quieter than the PW pump in our ex-’02 MC with a 8/02 build date.

  • Im1hapa

    My friend’s July ’04 build 2005 model JCW lost power steering this past August at about 36K. He was just pulling into his garage when it just pooped out. The car was towed to the dealer and replaced under warranty. No problems since, and the steering is much quieter than before.

  • http://www.ChrisWoolman.com Chris W.

    Spent around $800.00 on a new fan and power steering pump around 60K miles. Most cars will go 2x, 3x, or 4x that number without a problem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=902505721 Josh Hway

    I haven’t heard of anything like this happening. Its news to me!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=902505721 Josh Hway

    I’ll let you know if mine fails.

  • Volkan

    03 MCS (April 2003 built). Around 24Kmiles the pump was getting loud, so the dealer replaced it under warranty. I have to check the date when this happened to figure out whether the replacement is the “new” design or not, but it’s been fine so far (currently have 92Kmiles on the car).

    As a precaution (after reading PS fan failure related engine fires at NAM), I had the PS fan replaced about 20Kmiles ago with the new design which adds a fuse and more protection. When removed the old PS fan had difficulty turning freely. Is it plausible to think that the PS fan is -or an additional- important factor here as well?

  • Justin

    Heres the link I sent to Motoringfile. Other people have commented at the bottom of the webpage. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/watchdog/2009/02/mini_steering_system_failures.html

  • Hai

    My ’04 MC’s power pump died last spring at around 40k. It was fine on the way to the restaurant but when we were done and about to start driving back, power pump died. Had to pay to have it fixed because my warranty expired.

  • Mike

    My 05 (January Build) MC had its power steering fail at 30K miles.

    Symptoms for those who asked: At slow speeds (parking mostly) you will at first experience “hiccups” where the steering wheel jumps and kicks back and refuses to turn. After a little bit of this you will simply not be able to turn the wheel without great difficulty. Once you get up to speed it gets easier (I had to drive an hour to the dealer!)

    Fortunately it was all within warranty, but now that I’m just exiting warranty I’m really trying to gauge how much risk I’ve got of other things breaking. THe dealer is offering me great trade in value and if the new MC’s are more reliable I might just take them up on the offer. (more than just power steering has broken on me already. Windows ceasing to go up and down; interior door handles failing to function; fluid leaks; cosmetic defects inside the car….. but I still love the little guy.)

  • CooperSharon

    My January build 05 MCS just had a pump replaced. I had the less common, “never shuts off” failure, only 2 weeks after the warranty expired and 50,322 miles. My dealership stood behind it, thankfully.

  • M Wilcox

    BMW/Mini will not only acknowledge the problems with the power steering but also will not own up to the reliability problems with the CVT transmission – My p/s steering pump puked at 74000 along with the cooling fan to the tune of $850. Now I am holding my breath with the transmission and hopefully get will rid of it before it dies – it would cost as much to repair as the car is worth. I realize it would cost BMW/Mini a bundle if there were a recall but it would be the right thing to do and would benefit them in repeat owners.

  • Timothy

    There’s at least some speculation, as noted upthread, that the power steering pump/fan in the early build MINIs is too exposed to the elements underneath the car.

    One preventive measure many owners take is to install a revised aftermarket skid plate which extends farther back from the front of the car. MossMini.com sells them (part number 100-063), as an example. (The product description even makes specific reference to the power steering system.) How well this actually works is open to debate, but, to add two data points, both my ’02 and ’04 MINIs were equipped with this skid plate, and both did not experience any power steering problems. (No, I have no financial or other interests in skid plates, Moss, or MINI.)

  • C4

    @Timothy:

    You bring up a very good point regarding the PS fan. My understanding is that the stock fan shield in the 2005 and up MINIs is a little better at protecting the fan from debris and other junk. But indeed the PS fan could cause a fair amount of grief if it seizes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=618252503 Jaysen Kim

    I have an ’04 MCS and had mine go out on the Dragon. I had a warranty then and they replaced the pump and fan.

  • ausalan

    The pump on my 05 MCS (build date of August 2004) died at 41K miles, 3 months before the warranty expired. For me, the symptom was just that the steering became very difficult; no change in noise level either when the pump when out or when I got the new one.

    I drove it for about a week before getting it fixed. At first I could often get the pump going by just turning off the ignition and starting it up again, but eventually it failed for good. The failure was “digital”, in that either the pump worked fine or not at all. I kind of liked the manual steering — reminded me of my old ’81 Scirocco. An average-strength male driver should not need to worry about getting stranded somewhere if the pump failed. But it was not very safe to drive at low speeds.

  • ausalan

    I forgot to add that according to the invoice, the dealer replaced my broken pump with part number 32-41-6-778-425. According to Frank’s comment above, that is the new part number. So at least in my case, I don’t expect to have the same failure after another 40K miles. Also, my PS fan worked fine before the pump failure, and I had no noticeable fluid leaks.

  • Osmodious

    My ’04 Cooper S had TWO steering racks, one pump AND a steering column go bad (the second rack was because they didn’t replace the damaged pump the first time and it killed the second rack, too). Of course, I had a lot of service problems (13 visits to get a loose seat repaired, 2 sunroof cassettes (because they installed the first one incorrectly), one time it was returned to me with no coolant, one time they managed to scratch the cowl down to the metal when washing the car, and other incidents). Wound up trading it in on an Acura shortly before the warranty was to run out…couldn’t imagine paying the thousands of dollars for repairs. And I still miss it every single day…

  • GregW

    Where’s all the Goodwill ex-gratia towards owners? Obviously USA dealers have never heard of the word. Don’t you giys have a Lemon law? But for you guys over 100,000 miles – cars do need maintenance – no car lasts for ever. The pump is electric – don’t ask me why they couldn’t have made a pump driven off the fan belt.

  • GregW

    CVT Auto trans repairs – I am surprised no one mentioned the cost of an exchange unit from MINI dealers. Think in the region of $5000 if your baby looses drive.

  • C4

    GregW… The PW pump is still hydraulically operated but instead of being driven by engine power (belts) it uses an electric motor hence the term “Electro-Hydraulic”. In the 1st gen BMW MINIs you still use power steering pumps, and PW fluid.

    In the second gen MINIs the system is 100% electric. No PW pump or fluid, just an electric motor doing all the steering effort for you. Of course, computer controlled for effort, etc.

    This is one of the reasons why the steering in the new cars does not feel nearly as direct as in the older MINIs.

  • C4

    Also the reason why MINI didn’t use a conventional engine belt driven PW system was two fold:

    • To prevent sapping additional power from the smaller 1600cc TRITEC engine (Reduce engine load) and increasing fuel economy.

    • To improve emissions. And then there is the claim that electro-hydraulic PW systems are more reliable (If the critical components meet quality standards that is).

  • jarrett

    my 04 pump has not failed but have to replace the power steering line twice for breakage, to the tune of $800 total. most recent time in at dealer they told me the pump was leaking and to make sure resevoir stayed full or i could expect a pump failure.

  • ex997 guy

    I had the power steering pump fail on my ’05 (February Build) MCS under warranty at around 40K miles. The power assist would go away intermittently, and then after a week went away altogether. Rather disconcerting in the middle of a turn. It was in the shop overnight.

  • Kathy

    I have an ’06 JCW Competition Edition. Bought it in January 2008 and I take it in every 5-8000 km for an oil change. At every oil change (4 so far) my power steering auxillary pump fan has been replaced under warranty. The part has a two year warranty so I should be OK money-wise in future. My MINI dealer says the fan is too exposed and the lower car makes it even worse.

  • wrecker

    I have an 05 S with over 125K miles. I have had no prob lems with mine. I did however, at the advice of my local tuner, (Chad at Detroit Tuned), pull and inspect my PS fan. It had some grit in it and was kind of resistant to spinning freely. I removed all I could to clean the bearings and fill them with fresh lubricant. This was at about 100K miles and I have not had any problems. Knock on wood.

  • C4

    So we can conclude that the January 2005 production “revised” PW pump is still subject to failure.

  • Dr Guano

    I took my ’02 R53 in for an oil change at 55,000 miles and left with a new (RMFD) power steering pump ($781.00), oil pan gasket, a front sensor seal, upper control arm bushings, glove box (I had discovwered that the chrome on the latch had come loose by slicing open my finger) and the oil change. Grand total…$2,450.

  • rich

    The power steering on my 03 mcs with 51,583 miles just failed. no leaks or noises or other warnings.

  • Mick1573

    Hello all, Just had my pump go on me yesterday in my 2002 mini one in the uk. Seems all models from 2001-2007 petrol engines are at fault or not so according to BMW. There has been many inciedents in the UK in regards to the power steering failing but dont be concered with milage as the car will fail without notice or the pump will become erratic by switching on and off (if your lucky for that sign!!!) Just contacted BMW Customer support and they just said it had to diagonsed in a dealer ship (Money for nothing as i know whats wrong!!) When arey the going to admit tha there is a fault and recall this car. Sick of being ripped off and having my hard earned cash stripped off me constantly by greedy dealerships. Require everyone to complain and then we can do something about this. So please dont just read this article, pick up the phone and get the power to us normal folk to reclaim our rights. Or even worse before you lose someone you love!

  • Andy

    My power steering cut out this morning (2004 MC) pulling into traffic and nearly killed me. I left the car at home and when I got back home today it seemed to be working just fine. I checked all the fluid levels and they’re fine. I’m about 6 months out of warranty and afraid of my car! I think MINI should do a voluntary recall now before someone gets hurt!

  • Vincent Deschenes

    HI!

    I got the same problem 2 weeks ago. My steering pump is doing a big noisy sound. My garage told me that I’m not the first of is customers that had this problem. By the way I have a MCS 2005.

    It will be 800$ only for the piece plus 2 hours of time. I had to change my power steering fan too, 225$ for the piece plus 1 hour.

    Is there any calls from BMW for that parts ?

    Thanks

  • Emma

    I am having that exact problem. I am struggling to turn the steering wheel and after calling AA they confirmed it probably is the pump :(! i’ve only had it 8 months but it was a private exchange so no warranty. Hopefully it won’t cost too much.

  • Emma

    Sorry, forgot to say i have a 54 reg Cooper.

  • Phil

    Bought a 2003 plate John Cooper Works Mini 48 hours ago. After 40 miles of driving on the first day the power steering started to go. 5 miles later it had gone completely. Local Mini dealership say’s it’s either one of two known problems. Either dampness in the wiring loom effecting the switch or the pump itself. Waiting now to find out which but I suspect it’s the pump. It’s drivable as the steering loss is progressive but if you switch the engine off completely and restart it’s all back to normal.

    Phil

  • DAWN

    SERIOUS PROBLEM…when a power steering pump fails without warning on a curvy road at high speed /50mph, at night. How extremely terrifying that I could not control my car for a few seconds without using every last ounce of power in my entire body to keep from going off road. This could have caused death to anyone who is less than an excellent driver. I am too young to die at 48 as is my 2004 mini with only 67k miles. This is the first and only mechanical issue I have had so far. I think a safety recall is necessary. In the least, a full investigation. Do I hear TOYOTA recall….look what damage control they had to do after ignoring their customers complaints. Who els has had this problem and what should we do about it?

  • http://motoringfile Frank

    you should file a complaint on this website https://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/ivoq/

    or call 1-800-831-1117 it only takes a few minutes

    this problem is already under investigation by the NHTSA so the more people complain the more likely they will do something about it. Also if they do recall

    the steering pump and you already paid for the repair they have to refund you the cost

  • Richbrandon509

    2004 MCS apx 106,000 miles, power steering pump would stay ON AFTER turning OFF the ignition and REMOVING the key… I just took out the fuse, and drive it without, it’s not bad but is is rather annoying in parking lots and trying to reverse…

  • Staceyb

    Love my 05 Cooper…but power steering just went out. Thankfully I was at home at the time. It is super difficult to back out or drive slowly. I just passed 103,00 miles. Stinks!!!