MotoringFile’s R50/R53 Buyers Guide Updated

One of the most viewed parts of our sites has to be the R50/R53 buyers guide we launched back in 2008. And while we felt it was a good introduction to the cars for those looking to buy used, we new it would need to be updated periodically. Our latest updates have focused around the additional oil leak issues that have cropped up over the last year or so.

But we also need you. We’d like to hear what issues you’re having with your R50 or R53 so we can help build out our buyers guide even further. Sound off in the comments section below.

+ R50/R53 Buyers Guide / MotoringFile

  • Jacob

    I have a 2004 R53. I had a coolant tank that had to be replaced twice, it separated at the middle. I had a passenger side window motor that went out. My logo on the back is starting to have the black part chip off, haven’t been able to find a replacement for that, haven’t tried the dealership yet.

  • i’ve replaced the thermostat in my 2006 R50 after about 65k miles. it was a slow leak that didn’t occur all the time. my reading on forums leads me to believe that a warped t-stat gasket is common and that they supposedly updated it on the replacement part.

    then of course there is the oil pan gasket deal. mine leaks a bit, but not enough to even have to add oil…yet.

    i’ve also had a problem with the SES light that is related to O2 sensors. the dealer was never able to find a code in the memory, but the light goes on and off multiple times a month. i recently received a letter from my dealership mentioning an O2 sensor service bulletin and that they’d replace them free up to 100k miles if you are experiencing any issues such as i described.

  • JonPD

    Timely article refresh Gabe.

    Just read the newest EVO Magazine and they choose the Mini Cooper S as one of their 100 greatest drivers cars

    ” The mkI version of the New Mini is our choice. It’s not as BMW as Germany would have you believe, being engineered almost entirely in the UK. the supercharger,whining like the original Mini’s geartrain, is the making of the crude Chrysler-descended four-pot, and gives the Mini the muscle to match its chuckability and directness. Mini GP version is a total hoot, and both are somehow purer that today’s S.”

  • that.guy

    …and both are somehow purer than today’s S.


  • Dan

    I also had the thermostat problem mentioned by Brad on my 2006 R50

  • Gary

    I’m somewhat surprised that the Guide is devoid of any mention of the EHPS pump system. Check out the poll on the MINI2 site; pump/steering failure is alarmingly prevalent and one of the most discussed issues on many MINI forums. Like the CVT, the pump is widely recognized as highly susceptible to premature failure. The question is not “if” you will need to replace it, but “when.”

    While you’re at it, I’d point out the NHTSB findings on the ’02-’04 EHPS pump wiring harness design problems — the prime suspect in reported spontaneous engine bay fires. The vulnerability of the EHPS pump cooling fan and the poor early design are a bit less onerous but certainly related and worth mention.

  • that.guy

    I think there exists a healthy sub-segment of drivers who prefer the pre-05 transmissions when coupled with JCW+ power and torque. The ratios are closer 1-3 (closer is always better) and plenty short enough when you are in the 200+hp range, even on stock-diameter rubber.

  • my ’06 R50 has 30K miles – the only trouble I’ve had is to replace the hydraulic engine mount as it was leaking. I have the curious incidents of my lights staying on after I’ve turned them off on the signal lever. it happens a few times a year. My sump cover has broken loose on one corner, and I am replacing it with steel.

  • I’ve had minimal problems with my 2006 R53. I had the power steering fail as a result of a problem with the auxiliary cooling fan which caused both to be replaced (thankfully under warranty!). Also, a body control module was replaced when my MINI randomly opened it’s windows and sunroof in torrential rain storms (still don’t know if that was the true cause of it, but I haven’t had any problems since). In addition, those dreaded engine mounts. My passenger side mount was replaced once under warranty and I think it’s leaking again which will be the final replacement under warranty. After that, I will seek out an aftermarket replacement. My gear box is also very notchy going into 1st gear and sometimes pops out of it… debating on a replacement before my warranty goes (but sometimes the replacement ends up being worse than what you had and it’s a be-careful-what-you-wished-for situation… so we’ll see).

    Now that I make the whole list it sounds like a big deal. It really wasn’t… I consider the years of ownership so far to be relatively pain-free. The aux fan/ps system failure resulted in my MINI being towed away and kept at the dealership for a couple days so that was a hassle, but everything else was easy-peasy in and out work. The real trouble comes after the warranty expires and then I’m on my own for the cost of repairs. I’ll update you again then 😛

  • Ocho9

    I had similar transmission problems but that was at 5,500 miles on it. They replaced it and I was just waiting for it to die again so I got rid of the car. I loved it but hard to be with a car you don’t trust. Nothing worse than getting stuck somewhere on a road trip.

  • Deb

    Another 2006 R50 owner here. Had a leaky thermostat repaired under warranty around 30k miles earlier this year. Apparently this is a fairly common issue.

  • Sideways Eh!

    2006 R50 owner here as well…Had the same issue with the Thermostat…and now it seems that I have the Coolant leak too somewhere. I am WAY out of warranty as I am pushing 130,000kms. My Engine Mount is snookered, and I will replace with the TSW as soon as I can. I don’t look at these things as faults tho…just cost of ownership. I love my cooper, and plan to keep it for a long time to come.

  • Evan

    The last issue this far out with my ’04 R50 with 65k miles is the O2 sensor which I had replaced a few months ago and then got the notice, so I was refunded. Very nice.

    I did replace my sterring rack after it started leaking. That was just after the 4yr mark with 43k miles. The pump was fine, just the rack. I had just driven in freezing temperatures in a snowstorm from the east coast to Chicago though. I don’t think that’s a design flaw, just poor luck.

    The other stuff has been random little things that only sonemone who pays attention to small details would have ever noticed or had fixed.

    Still an amazing car!!

  • Roger

    I have a 2002 R53 (Chili Red w/White top), manual trans with 81K miles which I bought used with 32K. The car has been fabulous and I haven’t had any major issues thus far – just the routine/scheduled maintenance.

    Of the problem areas mentioned in the article, my R53 does suffer from the under-hood rubbing issue and a rattle from the dash that shows up at the most random times. I get an occasional stumble off idle as well.

    Soon after I bought it, a wiring harness in the passenger seat failed (associated w/seat heat). Mini replaced the harness free of charge.

    Another issue that my dealer/servicer brought to my attention is that the left side (from front looking at motor) front shock tower is pushing up / deforming a bit and will probably need replacement at some point. This seems to be a result of the R53’s suspension setup and bad roads.

    The car has held up very well and has proven to be very reliable. I’m fairly certain it is rust free — it helps that it is garage-kept. A great car(!) and I would never consider unloading it.

    Of course I’m very partial but I also feel that these early R53s were the best looking inside and out!

    I look forward to reading more comments.

  • Front control arm bushing blow chow. Get aftermarkets as soon as possible. Better extreme handling and more durable.


  • JohnDough

    2005 R50 5-speed. 35,000 miles. Thermostat housing cracked/lost coolant. I was surprised to learn they’re made of plastic. Rear O2 sensor intermittently activates SES sensor. Received note from MINI that says a dealer will fix the problem. I sent a note that says the nearest dealer is 500 miles away, will MINI pay to have it fixed. Received note from MINI that says go to a dealer. The boot hatch struts are losing strength, but they still hold up the hatch.

  • 2004 R50, ever since i replaced my power steering and my left door bowden cable, the car’s been mechanically sound. i have 101,000 miles, though, so in a year or two, i might have a water pump failure or CVT issues to complain about, at which point, i’m looking into swapping the cooper S getrag in to the car (i know, manual transmissions are a pain to swap in to automatic minis, but i’m too emotionally attached to my car to just give up in 2 years or so if the transmission pops) but for now, knock on wood, i’ve had surprising luck.

    oh, and my hatch looks like it doesn’t close right, even though it’s been staying shut nice and tight, so it’s not a problem.