NHTSA Investigating MINI Power Steering Failures

Tuesday the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into potential power steering problems of the 2004-2005 MINI. The site lists this as involving MINI “Coopers” but we believe this could likely include both the Cooper and the Cooper S given that the agency says that this could involve about 80,000 vehicles.

If the power steering should go out the effort needed to turn the steering wheel (mostly at low speeds) would increase dramatically.

At this point MINI claims it has no confirmation on any accidents that may have been caused the issue. We’ll have more shortly.

  • Greg W

    I know a few people with older cars that have lost the power steer in tricky situations. Its an expensive fix with no warranty. This should be a safety related recall.

    • Titolopez

      We just experienced the disengagement of the Power steering as we were pulling into driveway, we were lucky but clearly this is a safety hazard that should be recalled.

  • Rocketboy_X

    Happened to me. It was traced back to the tensioner on the belt. Of course, if the dealership would have listened to me the first time that I told them that my car lost all power and went into ‘limp’ mode if I made to big of a splash, they may have caught it before I needed to get my car towed.

  • Ric

    My son drove into oncoming traffic while turning right off of a 55 mph road due to the electric PS dying at an inopportune moment.

    We were lucky no one was coming and he had the presence of mind to muscle it back into the correct lane.

    He was 2 months into his learners permit with my wife in the passenger seat.

    Could have been MUCH MUCH worse.

    $500 later it was repaired and I have the old one as a core.

    So yeah it is a safety issue and it does extend beyond the years noted.

    2002 Mini Cooper S

  • Puppetmaster2u

    My R52 power steering went out on the Dragon in 2008, but after stopping for a few it came back & was able to continue with the twisties albeit a little slower… Back @ the dealership when I got home I was told it was a result of the power steering pump overheating & was replaced under warranty.

  • Had this failure at about 140K km on my R53’04. Thankfully it was not sudden. Actually can be fixed by creative mechanic. The problem is in electric part, not hydraulic.

  • Would be nice if we could get an answer before I install the replacement one being delivered to my house tomorrow! Since that isn’t likely, does anyone know if people who make repairs before a recall are typically reimbursed?

  • Been through three PS pumps, each one failed in a different way, at a different time. The kicker? Nobody that looked at any of the dead pumps had any idea what exactly caused them to die.

    Every single one was repaired out-of-warranty, and out-of-pocket.

    ’04 JCW MCS.

  • Volkan

    I’ve gone through 2 PS pumps on my 03 MCS. The first one died around 30Kmiles and was replaced under warranty, the second one died around 95Kmiles and cost me $700 at a MINI shop. Luckily, I was going straight on the freeway when the pump went out in both occasions.

    It’s strange that the they are investigating this for 2004-2005 model years. Is it safe to assume that if they find the part(s) faulty (somewhat unlikely based on the previous “investigation”), the coverage may extend to other model years – earlier and later? Of course, I dont expect to get reimbursed for the PS replacement cost, just for people who haven’t experienced the “joy” of PS failure, yet.

  • Michael

    I experienced this issue in both a ’03 Cooper and S. Twice in the Cooper and once in the S. I had to replace the PS in both cars within 6 months of each other. Ended up being a deciding factor in trading the cars in 🙁

  • that.guy

    140k miles, big sticky tires and many track days on my original PS pump with no issues. I think pump failures are generally due to the very poorly designed cooling fan dying due to immersion in water or being jammed with road grit. Once the fan dies the pump can overheat and fail. I never drive in the rain and always sweep off the road surface in front of my car. Kidding. I guess I’m just lucky.

  • that.guy
    Rocketboy_X Happened to me. It was traced back to the tensioner on the belt.

    Uh, what belt? The PS pump is driven by an electric motor. I hate when mechanics take advantage of an owner’s ignorance as opposed to using a repair as a “teachable moment.”

  • A lot of the failure are due to a build up of brush dust inside the case. I know this because I took one apart and talked to many others who have as well. There will be so much dust in there that it both blocks airflow through the winding and will actually rub against the stator really causing tons of drag an heat generation.

    For those of us whom have had a problem, go to the NTHSA site and lodge a complaint. They may expand the years of the investigation. Without complaints, it’s unlikely they will expand the scope.

    I think only a very small percentage of people report anything at all on the NHTSA site. It’s usually just easier to complain about the problem on internet sites!



    I just had my PS Pump replaced at 71K I could barley turn the steering wheel. One expensive repair, not to mention dangerous…..

  • Rocketboy

    That.guy… It wasn’t a full fail, but when the tensioner on my serpentine belt was going, my MINI became increasingly harder to steer. (There were other things going on as well).

    Unless they made some off-invoice repairs to my car, that was all that was replaced.

  • To file a complaint, go to this site and start the form on-line.



  • my 2006 cooper S has had its power steering pump replaced twice, and was traced back to the power steering fan…the mechanic said its because of the location of the fan that causes it to go…both times were under warranty.

  • Crashton

    It’s about time. Maybe no accidents, but a few MINIs have burned to the ground. I hope 06 MINIs are also in the investigation.

  • If this has happened to you make sure that you file a report. There are a lot of 02 and 03 cars out there that have had this problem. Your voice will count.

    Happy Motoring, Jack

  • Dodgy

    Pardon my ignorance, but was the PS system radically redesigned ’07+?

  • lavardera

    sympathies to all

    and note to self: not a single R56 owner piling on their bad luck

  • Knowrecolection

    I’m not sure why this is any different than any other power steering failure on a convential power steering system. ie a fluid leak, broken belt, failed pump. The result is the same, the steering wheel is more difficult to turn. Does anyone know the actual reason for the investigation? By the way eventhough the power steering pump on the MINI is a electrohydrulic unit, it uses a signal from the altenator to tell it that the motor is running. Therefore if the drive belt was broken or slipping it could A: not recieve signal from alternator, B: not enough voltage to supply pump motor.

  • cct1

    Taking Dodgy’s post a step further, are there any differences between the PS system between years of the R53? I thought they were the same. Is there something different about 2004-2005? If not, then Matt’s advice is going to be critical, as this really applies to every R53.

    I have a 2006, never had an issue with the PS, at least not yet.

  • The R56 has a different system. The difference between this issue and other is the frequency indicates a design deficiency…


  • My 2003 R53 has lost power steering when the system became overheated. The pump eventually went out and had to be replaced all together around 55K miles. Just outside of the warranty period! Don’t remember how much it cost me, but I know it was a lot.

  • I experianced this with my 04 MCS on my way home from AMVIV 06. I was approaching Hoover Dam on a down hill sharp curve when it went out.. I took all I had to keep the car from hitting a safty wall. If it had been a person with weak strength, they would have hit. It was harder to steer then my 57 Chevy that didnt have power steering.

    It wasnt bad driving the rest of the way to Phoenix, even at the slower speed when I was aware of the situation. But the inital loss was quite hair raising since it happened just as I started into the turn, and the car all sudden wanted to go streight.

  • that.guy

    @Knowrecolection & Rocketboy_X Point well taken on potential slipping belt-to-alternator-to-PS pump connection. My bad. But that would be some major slippage which I’d imagine would lead to other problems – dead battery, low power (if an S), etc…

  • millernoel19

    I’ve got that problem right now on my 03 Cooper. Went out around 85k miles – still haven’t replaced it – $$$ and it IS VERY hard to turn at slow speeds. Got a few other problems to worry about right now, short somewhere draining battery and overheating issues. With winter just around the corner, getting the electrical and heating is my first priority. Not even considering letting my car go though – still too much fun.

  • My PS unit has developed the PS Whine. I’m just waiting for it to go out and saving the $$ needed. Dealer wants $1,100! No thanks. Time to dust off the tools.

  • Joel

    I have had the PS go out on both of our MINIs (05 and 06). I replaced the 05 myself twice (failed twice) and had a shop install my wife’s. The repair is not too bad to DIY, just not all that fun. I used bba remanufacturing for all the replacement parts (the 05 second replacement was free under lifetime war). I drove for a week without PS waiting for BBA to send the part, it is not fun. I am a fairly big guy and wrestling the steering wheel is very hard at slow speeds… even moderate speeds are tough.

  • gasmini

    As some have said before this is not just a R53 problem but all models between 2002 and 2006. I understand that the pump is the same design. My R50 is going out @ 87,000 mi. Thanks Matt for listing the web site for our complaints.

  • beken

    My friend (Wrks4Me) who has a 2006 MCS CE edition has her car in the shop for precisely this reason right now. I have not had this problem in my 2005 MCS. So I wasn’t sure how prevalent this issue was.

  • works4me

    Actually, it’s the power steering aux pump fan being replaced for the 6th time since January 2008. And the horns are also being replaced for the third time.

    MINI Canada has previously covered both with no problem but has now stopped covering failures if caused by road debris, even under the basic 80,000km bumper to bumper warranty. I am currently trying to get them to cover these parts as long as I own the car. After all, I didn’t design a car that sits so low to the ground with no protection for important components that sit under the chassis. They did.

    And I’m told that if I install the after market fan shroud it will void all manufacturer’s warranty on the fan.

    Unfortunately, having to fork out about $500 for the same repairs every three to six months would be enough to cause me to sell my Competition Edition, which I love.

    Wish me luck.

  • Gary (the other one)

    I’ve been researching this subject for some time, initially motivated by the implied connection to the ’02-’04 engine bay fires but evolving into a more general assessment of the EHPS pump and its associated components.

    To amplify Matt’s comments, the Achilles Heels of these pumps comes in the forms of heat and brush dust, the latter being highly conductive. Though the general idea of the EHPS pump to avoid robbing power from the drive train was good (the hydraulic side of the pump and most of the motor components are actually quite robust–the brushes are beefy enough to last 300K miles), this subsystem suffers from some symbiotic design flaws:

    (1) the motor is contained, so there is nowhere for the accumulated dust to go; (2) the external pump cooling fan is notoriously inefficient at what it is supposed to do and is vulnerable to failure from debris getting caught in the fan or ingested into the bearing and (in the early years) being protected with a fuse common to other components of the cooling system; (3) the motor casing encloses a small controller circuit card that, because it is enclosed, is readily subject to failure due to heat, conductive brush dust, or both (and as Matt states, the more accumulation of dust, the worse the heat problem becomes) — shorts in this card leads to the observed strange behavior of the pumps as they fail, such as continuing to run after engine shut down (4) the early year models purportedly allowed moisture to creep into the electrical harness causing sporadic short circuits (or so says the 2008 NHTSB report on this item)

    Periodic tear-down and cleaning of the EHPS pump motor (prior to the start of failure symptoms) would likely go along way toward extending the life of the pump, for those who want to take the initiative or don’t want to wait for the possibility of an extended warranty.

  • R53tuning

    To make things clear. The power steering pump is ELECTRIC meaning; no belt drives the motor. On a convential system if the power steering pump fails, you wouldnt notice it because it only use’s the power when the vehicle is not in motion. Mini’s are different, once they fail there is no power steering PERIOD. Regardless if your driving or parking your car, it’s very stiff and hard to turn. The concern has nothing to do with the pump itself, it has to do with it’s cooling system. Located right in front of the pump is the electric fan that cools the pump. What happen’s is dirt, water, debris get’s jammed and short’s out the fan. Once the fan dies (which is only $125.00 and install’s in 5 mins) it’s only a matter of time before the pump fails. Try disconnecting your computer fan’s and run your computer for 2 hours. What do you think will happen? Everything inside will melt due to heat. The location of the electric fan is the problem NOT the pump! ATTENTION ALL MINI DRIVERS: When you are getting your oil changed, check the fan. All you have to do is spin it and see if it spins freely. Also turn the vehicle on to ensure it turns on.

    I own a MINI (2006 Cooper S) and I wouldnt trade it for anything!


    SOMC – R53tuning

  • So how are we explaining failed pumps with functioning fans?

  • that.guy

    On the very early cars, 02-03, the PS pump cooling fan was on the same circuit and fuse as the primary engine cooling fan. So if the PS fan shorted and blew the fuse, then engine fan would go out also and the car would overheat. Happened to me on my 02 Cooper.

    It’s that kind of completely screwed up electrical design that made the early R50/53 MINI so endearing and so… British.

  • Greg W

    Any businessmen out there willing to make a replacement pump for half the cost? Let’s say there are at least 800,000 customers out there an just a matter of time before replacement time.

  • joe

    Not a safety issue unless you’re weak.

  • I have a 2007 MCS cabriolet, 25k. and no problems yet

  • Marco F

    I had it happen to me in my 04 MCS a few years ago, it happened at a low speed in a turn and it only gave out for a second or two, but then it kicked back in. Then when i got to my destination my car’s power steering fan didnt shut off, killing my battery. The dealer paid for a tow and fixed the problem under warranty. Never had any problems after that…but i did total it in an unrelated event a few months later 🙁

  • rosmakloma

    Anything more on this?

  • Tom Morsberger

    I have an 05 MCS production 07/04 (one of first of the new design gen 1 models). Have 40k on it and still have the org steering pump/motor. Reading all the Mini forms have heightened my awareness. Very expensive repair and a very dangerous scenario. Hope mine stays OK. I changed the fluid and try and keep the fan clean and hope for the best. Mini needs to step up with this. Mercedes just did a recall for the same thing. Bought this car new but, long term reliability is really starting to concern me.

  • Lauren

    This happened to me. This year, my family bought a 2005 mini cooper r53 second hand from a private seller. When I was driving it home straight after we had made the purchase, about 1hr into my trip home, the power steering failed. I called up the previous owners and notified them. They told me it was my problem….

    For an 18 year old (me) it was pretty traumatic. So much money and then the day you buy your dream car….something goes wrong. I tried to fix it by flushing the system out, but it turned out that we needed to replace the whole power steering pump. We initially took it to BMW who had quoted us over $4000 to fix it. We were lucky enough to find a mechanic up the road from us who would fix the car for us. $280 later and the car is running beautifully. BMW will get you. They charge so much, because they know there are not many mechanics out there that specialise in minis.

    Anyway, I still love Min. She’s beautiful. Canary yellow (liquid yellow) with a white roof and white racing stripes.

  • Anton

    Hey guys, where is the electric fan located? Can anyone post a picture? Thanks.

    • It’s on the underside of the car, aft of the oil pan, just behind the drain bolt. It’s the only part of the power steering pump you can really see from under the car.

  • Gio

    I just got this issue on my 2004 R53 🙁

  • Minimoder

    Happened to me at an on ramp corner to a state highway….unexpected and bit nerveracking as I was driving the MINI the way it was designed and had gotten up to highway speed to enter an interstate……

  • Scott_g

    2006 with 38,800 miles.  I purchased this vehicle about a month ago in a private sale.  A few weeks ago, the MINI developed a strong power steering whine.  This is not the electrical buzzing noise typical of these models but a noise heard above the engine at all speeds or in neutral regardless of whether you turn the wheel.  Several days ago, the steering began to stiffen up especially when parking.  Yesterday, it failed entirely and this was while driving!  Now, I’m a 6′ 180 lb male and was able to react and wrestle it safely but I’m thankful that my 5′ 100lb wife was not behind the wheel.  Make no mistake THIS IS A SAFETY ISSUE THAT THE MANUFACTURER REFUSES TO ADDRESS!!  Just research the problem and you will see hundreds (probably thousands) of complaints across the globe about the same thing and it appears to be primarily 2001-2007 models.  Other countries have mandated a recall but not the safety conscious U.S. which surprises me greatly.  When other major manufacturers have listed recalls for things like seat belt anchors “that could crack” or air bag switches “that could corrode” why the heck isn’t a MINI Cooper recall done for power steering systems “that ARE failing”? 

    This is my first import and with everyone bashing American cars for service issues (I’ve spent about $600 total in necessary repairs on a 2006 Chrysler mini van, doing the work myself over a span of 6 years.  My Mini Cooper pump cost just about that in only a few weeks of ownerhsip),I can honestly say that I’ve really never had a major league problem with any of them. 

    Bottom line, if you value your family’s safety, do yourself a favor and steer (no pun intended) clear of this vehicle.  I will be dumping this t urd as soon as possible.  My family is too important to waste on a fad car. 


  • A. E. Reeves

    I have a 2005 cooper S convertible. Higher mileage but well maintained as I intend to keep it for many years. Recently my EHPS pump began to makeover noise than usual. Fluids were fine. Then I noticed it stayed on after turning the car off. I disconnected fuses and check them, checked the relays, etc. and finally concluded that there is an electrical fault I’m the pump itself. Had to quit driving it until I can make enough to cover the estimated $1,400 repair bill. Since this is such an obvious design problem. Why does the NHTSA not force a recall. Fire danger and loss of control are clearly a public safety issue.