NHTSA Investigating MINI Engine Fires

The Detroit News is reporting that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the ’07-’08 R56 Cooper S after 12 complaints were filed, including five vehicle fires. At this point we can only speculate as to the cause of these incidents (as to whether or not they’re turbo-related), but it’s important to keep in mind that we’re talking about five cars in approximately 36,000 vehicles, with no injuries or crashes reported. So we’re pretty sure it’s safe to go ahead and drive your Cooper S to the office this morning. While only preliminary at this point, we’ll keep you posted on any findings this investigation turns up. Full story excerpt after the break.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the 2007-2008 BMW Mini Cooper S for engine fires.

NHTSA said in a notice posted on its website Saturday it is probing 36,000 models sold in the United States after receiving 12 complaints, including 5 alleged fires resulting in a total vehicle loss.

The investigation covers the Mini Cooper S, the Mini Cooper S convertible and the 2008 Clubman edition.

Eight complaints said fires occurred while the vehicles were parked with the ignition off. The complaints show an apparent increasing trend with most complaints received within the past year, NHTSA said.

NHTSA has reviewed field reports submitted as part of its Early Warning Reporting data. A preliminary evaluation has been opened to assess the cause, scope and frequency of the alleged defect by the agency.

NHTSA said no injuries or crashes have been reported as a result of the fires.

BMW didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Saturday.

[Source: The Detroit News]
  • Lee Langston

    So, is there any chance the R56 has the same power steering as the R53? If so, I ‘d say thats a good place to start.

    Kind of shocked that they never investigated or recalled the first gen cars as there are quite a few documented fires on NAM and many more power steering pumps that melted down without buring the car up and many many more that just started intermittently functioning and their owners paid to have them replaced for fear of their house burning down, like me.

    • Anonymous

      no, steering on the R50-53 was a different system.

    • faster,Tobias!

      No, not the same. The R53 was an electric/hydraulic system. The R56 is fully electronic.

  • Dr Obnxs

    Another thing to keep in mind is that this is 5 vehicle fires were reported, not that only 5 vehicle fires happened. Actual events are always higher than reported events. But by how much, we have no idea.

  • Griffin

    They need to recall the midland 5 speed put in my early MC ’04.  71,000 miles and  3 bad trans. I love my car but MINI/BMW can and should do better.

    • Chilly

      Wow, 3 bad trans!  I also have a ’04 MC; no transmission issues after 163,000 miles.

  • that.guy

    fire bad.

  • R56JCW

    Someone must be pushing the correct buttons to get the Feds looking into this after 12 Gen2 vehicles.

    Given how many Gen1’s went up in flames, I’m shocked this is even happening.

  • Anonymous

    of course there have been the many documented cases of 1st gen CVTs going bad as well. Did the gummint ever look into that?

  • For a touch of perspective, car fires happen out in the general population of automobiles independent of what the NHTSA may or may not be investigating. In fact, car fires make up the majority of fire-related (non-medical) municipal fire department alarms. When you think about it, this isn’t surprising. We’re talking about a machine (the car) that literally turns highly-combustable liquid (gasoline) into kinetic energy via several thousand intense explosions per minute. Frankly, it’s surprising that car fires don’t happen more often. I have a very good friend of mine who’s actually had two different cars randomly catch fire and burn to the ground (and no, neither of them were MINIs). 

    That said, if there is a pattern of issues with these early R56 engines, I’d hope that the NHTSA and MINI get to the bottom of it immediately. To their credit, MINI has so far done an excellent job of evolving the cars as they build them to account for a lot of issues that have come up. While they haven’t directly addressed every single common issue in the moment (power steering cooling fans on 1st gen cars, for example), their record is better than most in fixing issues in the short run rather than waiting for a whole new generation of the car to come out. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised that if there is a persistent problem in these early engines (and my money’s on the hot turbo if anything), then it’s been addressed, if indirectly, as they’ve evolved that early Prince engine into the motor we have today. 

    Whatever the outcome, we’ll keep you posted on any findings that get published. 

    • Dr Obnxs

      excellent? Hmmmm…. Remember the “pen test” to see if they’d cover the cracking windshields? Strut tower mushrooming that was NEVER fixed until the 2nd gen chassis? How about the power steering pump in the first gen cars? How about the dual mass flywheel that eventually they just said was “normal”? Melting hoodscoops on 2nd gen cars took how many years to straighten out? How about the high pressure fuel pump issues (happened to BMWs as well. One of the “fixes” was to just dial back the power in the engine!) How about carbon build up in the prince turbo engine? How about the valve train rattle that was a) normal, b) fixed, c) fixed again, d) fixed again and eventually just engineered away with dual vanos?

      Sorry, but I just can’t sign onto MINI “having done an excellent job of evolving” the car in a pro-active way. It can be better characterized by the following flow: 1) First we’ve ever heard of it! 2) Must be how you drove it…. 3) We’re waiting to hear back from headquarters…. 4) That’s not covered by the warranty…. 5) The parts are on backorder…. 6) you name the excuse.

      Way it looks to me is that the brand was getting hammered on warranty costs, and because the unit price was a lot less than a 5 series or something pricier from the BMW mother ship, there just wasn’t the profit cushion to really shell out tons for warranty repairs.

  • I too have an 07 MCS which had an engine fire about 3 months ago. I brought it to mini. They said some wiring was rubbing on the turbo fan. Should I report it?

  • MINImofo

    So if your car catches fire and its due to the car itself, Does the warranty cover it? Or do you have to make a costly insurance claim?

  • Guest

    I find it strange that the Cooper S convertibles are also involved since in ’07 and ’08 they were still supercharged and of the 1st Gen.