MINI Solves R55/R56/R57 MCS Cold Start Problem (Again)

Last year MINI finally solved the dreaded cold start issue that afflicted the R56 Cooper S. Or so they thought. As it turned out, while the issue was eliminated in some cars but only alleviated in others. So MINI went back to the drawing board and looked the issue with fresh eyes. After further research they believe they have finally (and definitively) solved the issue for all cars with a modified timing chain. Specifically they’ve made the chain very slightly longer which has eliminated the chatter that was known as the “death rattle”.

The new components should come online at the Oxford Plant in time for March builds. For those with older R56s still afflicted with the issue, MINI will be offering an official fix for your car. Of course keep in mind that this will be a case by case process and you should work through your dealer.

  • torobud

    Sounds like good news Gabe – now how soon can I get the parts! 🙂 hahaha

  • glangford

    “Of course keep in mind that this will be a case by case process and you should work through your dealer”

    I think that is the rub for many. The NAM thread on the issue is full of people having to go through great lengths to prove to their dealers there is a problem in order to get a fix. This ranges from having to print out service bulletins to even educate service departments there is a problem, to video taping cold start up to having to leave the car at the dealer for weeks to finally get the problem replicated.

  • Rixter

    If MINI wanted to do the right thing they’d issue a recall or at the very least a notice to replace this for all R56 models. Why do customers have to do all the troubleshooting and experience all the problems before a MINI makes a fix. I had my MINI fixed and fortunately (so far) the problem hasn’t returned.

  • Sideways Eh!

    If MINI is officially releasing the fix…there should be no issue with service departments…

    at least one would hope

  • Anyone know what the SIM is?

  • The NAM thread on the issue is full of people having to go through great lengths to prove to their dealers there is a problem in order to get a fix.

    Yup, that’s me. 🙂 I can’t predict which mornings my car will sound fine and which mornings it’ll sound the death rattle… far my dealer hasn’t heard it, and I can’t keep leaving the car over there hoping that the rattle will be audible when they start it up the next day.

    I even offered to show them a video of my car starting with the rattle, to which they replied “Yeeeahhh…..we still need to hear it, though.” Do they really think I’m trying to scam them just to get a longer timing chain?

  • glangford

    “Do they really think I’m trying to scam them just to get a longer timing chain?”

    Apparently so. I aboslutely love my R56 MC and I’m glad its a MC, no death rattle. Smooth even on the single digit mornings in this latest cold snap. But I once seriously contemplated trading up to the MCS. My dealer had a MCS discounted 1500 bucks, brand new 0 miles, and optioned exactly as I would option it. This issue and a quick trip to the NAM thread gave me pause enough to put it out of my mind and not trade up.

  • Chad

    How much “death” is there in the rattle? My S sounds terrible for the first half a minute or so, but I though that was just what small 4-cylinder engines did. Should it actually run smooth at startup?

  • Assume this is true for the R55 too? I had the rattle and went through the first fix… Thanks…

  • James Irmiger

    I’m very skeptical that this solution works, how in the world does adding a chain link or two fix this? I think that those of us with the chatter deserve an in-depth description of the problem and how this solution is supposed to fix it, otherwise, I’m looking at another week in the shop while the dealer monkeys try to “replicate the problem”.

    • Frustrated
  • I’m guessing that this is more working on they symptoms, and less on the cause. If the fix is really a longer timing chain, that will just mean that the tensioner is more extended with a new chain. MAYBE this will make the noise less, but it has nothing to do with the adjuster lash root cause analysis done by others that has been the only fully consistent root cause analysis presented to date. That doesn’t mean it’s the right one, but it’s the only one I’ve heard of that a) explains why this happens and b) postulates what would be an effective fix. And this ain’t it.


  • Dave MacMini

    I had the start up rattle, but it was not too bad. It suddenly got a lot worse, rattling almost all the time, so I took it in and the timing chain was replaced. All is quiet now, it doen’t even rattle on start up, so it seems that the chain was the problem. Glad to hear that the MINI engineers figured it out so our next one will not have the problem.

  • Too bad they don’t fix the death rattle in the R53. Looking on NAM it seems that quite a few (including myself) are looking at replacing the supercharger because a seal for the oil reservoir is bad.

    Now looking at a really hideous repair bill.

  • First off, we’ve heard about “fixes” for this for a long time. Every one to date has seemed more like working on symptoms than solutions. For this fix, how does a longer chain eliminate the cause of a problem that resulted in the stretching of the shorter chain? How was too short a chain, that was tensioned by the oil filled tensioner, have a problem that a longer chain won’t? It doesn’t make much sense….

    For the owner of the R53 with the bad SC, don’t do it via a dealer. If the seal has gone and the gears are shot, there are aftermarket places that will rebuild the existing unit, or find a used unit for a couple hundred dollars on eBay. It should cut your repair bill down massively. Also, very, very few R53s had the SC go bad before the warranty was up, and the R56 “death rattle” happened to many a brand new car.


  • Gary (the other one)

    At first I thought this was an April Fools post…then I looked at the calendar and realized it’s only January 15th.

    At least this may socialize the issue among the MINI dealership service bays a bit more. Perhaps fewer instances of “This is the first I’ve ever heard of this happening” or “that noise is just normal…”

  • sequence

    again, MINI attempts to fix this akin to putting a “Hello Kitty” band-aid on something that requires multiple stitches. I have my doubts that this will solve the problem.

  • illegalhunter

    Only 3 years later wooooohooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • lavardera

    I had commented in another post that I had the service order performed on my car and it has remedied the sound completely. I had it done in the fall so I would know fairly quickly whether it was effective as my Mini made the sound more frequently when it was cold – say 40deg or less.

    It would be useful to know the timing of this new fix, and the service order numbers associated with prior, and current fixes – so that owners could get a handle on what was done to their cars, or what to request when they bring their car in (particularly when you get the “never heard of that” response).

    When I brought mine in I had a reference number that I got from MF, and the service managers told me there was an even newer one. So I’m not even sure if I got the one mentioned in this article, or if this has been out after my work in September09?

  • James Irmiger

    Well, I actually have the newest fix, as per my service department. The sound did go away for most of this year, but now that the winter has hit us again, it’s come back. Though honestly, it is much quieter than before. Now it only clatters for maybe 2 minutes, not the 5-10 it used to.

    I get a feeling that they’re shooting darts at a target and hoping they’ll hit something. As ‘illegalhunter’ said, “Only 3 years later”! I really do expect they’ll work something out, right as my warranty runs out 🙁

  • >>tom

    The fact of the matter is that the PSA & BMW/MINI engineers who designed and developed the engine botched their design verification testing. US OEMs perform cold start tests at -40C and spend several days in places like Wawa, Ontario during the dead of winter to evaluate engine startup, heater/defroster performance, etc. Did MINI even think of REAL cold testing? From the SOUND of it, they didn’t. The R56 turbo has a variety of sounds that shouldn’t occur during cold start. The hydraulic timing chain tensioner does not function properly at startup and the chain drags noisly over the guides. In combination with poor control of valve dry lash in the PSA engine plant, the INA hydraulic lash adjusters have inadequate oil reservoir capacity, lack oil recirculation, and ingest air at cold start, causing the tick tick tick sound that can last up to 20 minutes. The vacuum pump can also make noise. More than the annoyance of a noisy engine is an engine that loses power and unexpectedly quits. Moisture from blowby can condense and freeze in the intake manifold, jamming the throttle. It’s apparent that BMW/MINI clearly dropped the ball on cold temperature testing. These vehicles are sold all over the world and are used year around. They should work at -40C. They could have/should have discovered and fixed all of these problems before releasing the engine for production.

  • This affects just the R56 S models only, right? In my research, that seems to be the case, but please correct me if I am wrong.

    Why would only the S be affected? To my limited knowledge, the timing chain has nothing to do with the turbo. Or does it? Maybe its the additional power of the motor. Curious. Thanks!

  • lavardera

    Mark – the valve train design is different in the S and Cooper versions, being that the Cooper has the valvetronic (or whatever they call it) control on both intake and exhaust sides, where as the exhaust side of the S engine lacks this. Somebody else will explain this better I’m sure.

    Ok, since this is shaping up like this, its a good a time as ever to brain dump on the noise.

    torn – or whoever posted that, it looks like a quote from the Mini of detroit club messageboard where lash was discussed? At this point I don’t think you can pin this on cold weather testing – the sound happens at all temperatures, in my experience more likely when cold, but something that happens well above freezing, never mind -40c. This was pretty elusive, for me it hinged on the overnight temperature, how long the car sat between starts, the length of the trip immediately preceding a overnight length shut down, and sometimes that angle of grade the car was parked on. It took me two years of observations, keeping some notes, to finally see a pattern – eventually I could predict pretty reliably when I would hear the noise.

    Pinning this on cold weather testing is just naive. I would not be the least bit surprised that BMW’s cold weather testing regime is much more rigorous than anybody in detroit. Not looking for a debate here (and again I suspect that was just a cut and paste from the messsageboards), I’m just saying that this was probably just something difficult to replicate, difficult to pin down. It just happened to fall through the cracks of their testing. And this is born out by the fact that the majority of R56 owners have never heard this.

    The root problem may have to do with oil supply at the valves at start up as described. And frankly that is supported by my experience. My Mini would only make the noise with a sequence of 10+ trip, 6hr+ rest, 2min trip, 8hr+ rest, start with noise. To me it suggest the short trip was draining down the valve train’s oil supply for start up, without enough run time to build it back up for the next day’s start up – compounded in cold weather by the oil being more viscous and I imagine moving more slowly through the engine.

    So the question of the chain as fix – clearly they identified this as the source of the sound, and whether they know about the lash issue or not they acted on the symptom – the noise that customers would be and are complaining about. Obviously an easier fix even replacing the chain and tensioner than getting into the valve train of each and every car. That leaves us with the question of whether or not there is still oil starvation going on and if that will harm the life of the engine long term. That’s all speculation, and I’m sure some will add this to the many strikes they like to keep against the R56 generation. Whatever – I’d still take this car over an R53 and whatever surprises that engine has for its owners – supercharger seals or oil pan seal leaks, or power steering pumps, etc. Don’t kid yourself, you are certainly not convincing us.

  • cct1

    Lava, do we have to turn this into another R53/R56 debate? You love the R56, hate the R53, blah blah blah, we get that…As for R53 “surprises”, just be patient, as the R56 ages I’m sure they’ll come up with some more pleasant doosies too–every new generation of car always does.

    The R56 hasn’t been out long enough to know what, if any impact, this stuff will have on the engine long term. Hopefully none–in a perfect world this is nothing more than an annoying, but harmless, noise. One positive thing is I haven’t seen anyone actually complain of having any significant damage to the engine yet.

    The weird thing about this is effects cars here and there, and not all of them. As was alluded to earlier, it’ll be interesting to see how cars that weren’t initially affected (and thus aren’t eligible for the fix now under warranty), but develop the problem a few more years down the road, once the warranties are all gone, are handled. Hopefully BMW will do the right thing in this situation; time will tell.

  • lavardera

    I think it is sporadic because it depends on the pattern of driving. For me my office is a very short distance from my home and so I typically have this very short trip at the end of the day. Without that my Mini might have never made the sound.

    Does the warrantee matter with this issue once it becomes an official bulletin? Do these service bulletins only apply to cars under warrantee?

  • For me, BMW and MINI have done everything possible to fix this problem. In my case I feel they went above and beyond. If you have the noise, I think you can feel confident that BMW/MINI will do whatever is required to fix it for you. You’re dealing with a company who has pride in their vehicles and their brand. Relax people!

  • @Tom – in my experience the noise was more likely to occur in a cold start (compared to a warm start) and more likely to occur if you parked the car on an incline (vs. flat). I disagree with you about BMW/MINI’s cold-weather testing. I live in Auckland, New Zealand. It has never snowed here. It never gets that cold. My car still made the noise. Cheers…

  • cct1

    Lava, that’s a good question with regard to the official bulletin. Looks like they’re taking it on “case by case” basis, maybe this will extend beyond the warranty? This would be a good question for Motoringfile to clarify from BMW/MINI, if possible.

  • QQQ

    My 09 has already started doing this after sitting several days. 6K miles on a $33K subcompact and now I get to fight the dealer over a POS engine component that should be RECALLED! Grrrr! Screw BMW. I could’ve just bought a damned KIA and kept $22K in my pocket.

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  • lavardera

    If your car is making the noise I would keep a log and start to look for a pattern. When you have some clues then start to experiment with seeing if you can recreate it. When you can then you will have what you need to convince your dealer.

    Not all dealers will treat you that way – I told my service manager about it as soon as I was sure my car was making the noise – via email so there was a record. Then I kept him in the loop as I watched for a pattern. I made videos too and had those for the record as well. When a bulletin was announced I waited till fall, as I said so I could evaluate it soon after the work. My dealer did not question it at all when I scheduled it.

  • minilemon

    My 09 JCW had this after 2k km, and the (large) dealer here in Toronto refused to fix it. So, after nearly 40k for a new lifestyle car, you’re going to tell me;

    “Of course keep in mind that this will be a case by case process and you should work through your dealer”

    When its really a recall issue?

    F* BMW.

    I sold this piece of junk after it was towed out of my office parking lot for high pressure fuel pump failure. I bought a 30 year old Mercedes, at least it starts.

  • lavardera

    Dealer clearly shooting themselves in the foot here. I understand the anger, but realize the dealer is the one who dropped the ball – not BMW. The dealer would be reimbursed for this work by BMW, so they have nothing to lose by satisfying you on this front – in fact its easy money warrantee work for them, keeps the service bays filled. BMW worked the problem, has issued the bulletin – the dealer are fools to not service you.

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  • David

    After the original cold start fix, did anyone experience a drop in their fuel economy? I do mostly highway, and had a yearly average of 6.8l/100km. pre-fix. Immediately after the fix and ever since the car is doing 7.3l/100km. Half a litre per 100km is pretty significant.

    I don’t know how much of the top end the dealer has to remove to apply the fix, but if they didn’t torque the internals or cover back down properly, would this cause a vacuum/pressure drop and cause the fuel economy drop? The only reason I suspect this is that the car is also now “buzzy”‘ It vibrates around 2000rpm regardless of what gear or accel/deccel…

  • Russell rogers

    What was the original cold start fix? wasn’t that just the chain tensioner? That shouldn’t have caused a drop in fuel economy.

    Usually the most common problem for a drop in fuel economy is underinflated tires which comes with colder temperatures outside. You could also try some fuel injector cleaner.

  • Russ

    What is the part number of this new timing chain?


    Does anyone know what SIM # relates to this PuMA case fix?

  • Recall petition starting.

    Please register with the US Office of defects to get our cars registered and help to move this along. (800) 424-9153

    Information needed


    * Model Year
    * Make
    * Model
    * Component*
    * Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) (Optional, but very important)
      Found on registration or insurance card.

    • Component — Part or system of concern

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  • Barry Levy


    Just had latest fix (so dealer advised)done on my July 2007 Mini S. With about 39,000 miles started to make bad sounds on every start up. And this in summer in NAmerica. Chain was found to be 70mm as opposed to 68max according to factory. Anyway – work was done -chain/guides/tensioner said to be changed / with work order noting bulletin #, etc. A few days later – noise returned – perhaps worse than before. Scheduled apptmnt for this coming week. B. Levy

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  • msh441

    Interesting (dissapointing) to see this is still an issue with owners.

    Since I first wrote the first article here on MF about my experiences with my rattling 2007 R56… I’ve had my engine replaced by MINI (JCW) and haven’t experienced the issue again since (now passing 38,000 mi.).

    At the same time the engine was replaced, I asked for and recived the extended warranty MINI was offering (EasyCare 10yr, 100,000 mi bumper-to-bumper) so I have no intention of getting rid of my R56 any time soon.

    Still, I’ll be watching close… just in case.

  • Voici un groupe FACEBOOK qui devrait vous interesser : « Pour que PSA/BMW prennent en charge avaries & casses du THP – GTi/RC »

    In order that all of the PSA Group cars manufacturers (Peugeot and Citroen) & BMW Motors Group, are supporting 100% of the THP engine breakage: Turbo + timing chain + power loss on acceleration + cold-start problem

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  • Eric1245

    I had the dealer fix my timing chain at 38K and with the 2011 loaner it happened too.  Now about 2K after the fix, the symptoms are coming back. WTFO?

  • Anonymous

    Well, I bought my slightly used 2009 MCS with 33K in November 2011. Which did not have the death rattle when I bought it. I took it in for it’s first dealer visit in December. Which it had it’s timing chain tensioner replaced. Well not even a day after it had the death rattle. It was so bad that it sounded like a diesel truck at idle. So I complained to the dealer. I was told that it just a common noise for the MCS. Well I’ve been down this road before with a car under warranty and that needed a timing chain replacement. Which I was told that is a normal noise for that engine. Well as soon as the power train warranty was up the car needed a full timing chain setup replacement. Which costed me $3200. Anyways the timing chain ended up being replaced with the updated parts a month ago on the MCS. But it still has the death rattle. Which I am not to happy about. I’m thinking that I’ll be unloading this car right when the warranty expires at 50K and move on to a different manufacturer that I’m not going to have to fight with everytime there is an issue. No wonder I see used Minis with 50K to 70K on other manufacturers lots for sale.