Quality Parts Matter

This story comes to us from WhiteRoofRadio host and Detroit Tuned founder, Chad Miller.

The automotive aftermarket has a lot of great parts to offer. That said, not all replacement parts for your MINI are created equal. When your looking to repair or maintain your MINI, don’t just look at the price and go for the cheapest option. Many parts on the market are not made to the same high standards as what comes in your car from the factory. These substandard parts can actually cause damage over time. For example: oil filters.

Here at Detroit Tuned, we do a lot of oil changes. Cars come in at many different intervals, and customers use a variety of different oils in their MINIs. What I also see are several different kinds of aftermarket oil filters, and folks, they’re bad news.

First Generation MINIs

Many of these filters have a very thick paper element that can actually clog almost right away, causing cause the filter to be ineffective or fail entirely. Or, when they are inserted into the canister they seam to fit tight at first, but after as few as 1000 miles, the felt-like seal will fail — allowing oil to pass through with out being filtered. Often when I take one of these filters off the car, it falls out of the canister. Beyond bad sealing, other filters do not have the internal cage to stabilize the filter element. This can cause the filter to twist and shrink, which causes the filter to fail in several different ways.

Second Generation MINIs

There was no aftermarket filter for these cars until about a year ago, and within the last month we have started seeing a few more options. And as you can see, they are not fairing as badly as the aftermarket filters for the R50/52/53. Part of this is just because it’s a smaller element. However, they are still not staying as straight as they should — as straight as the OEM filter. We have also seen that they do not clip in as tightly, but to this point I have not seen any fall out.

So when you really think about cost, you can save a dollar or two per oil service with a cheap filter. In the long run, though, it might cost $5,000-$8,000 to rebuild an engine due to premature wear. That’s no way to save money. Finally, the best bit of maintenance you can do on any MINI is to check your oil often and change it every 5,000 miles. Sure, you’ll spend a few extra dollars a year, but $5,000 buys a lot of oil changes!

  • Those are some great pics, and make a great point.

  • Jerry

    The only aftermarket filter worth its price is Mann. I use either theirs or the OEM on my 05 S.

  • Makar

    Chad, can you name these bad filters?

  • Paul LaDolce

    You say you should change the oil every 5,000 miles. I used to change my oil every 3,000 miles. On my 2012 MINI, it recommends every 15,000 miles. I’m nervous going this long even though it is synthetic oil and is paid for under its maintenance program . Will I pay the price later?

    • It’s pretty much impossible to change your oil too often. It’s cheap insurance for a healthy engine. Modern oils and filters do a good job of trapping crud, but at some point that crud needs to come out of the motor. As far as I’m concerned, that can’t happen too often.

      Synthetic oil doesn’t break down as quickly as conventional oil, but that is only part of the equation. The chances that any car, even a new MINI, won’t use any oil over the course of 15,000 miles are very slim. There have unfortunately been many low mileage MINIs that have blown up engines or turbos because of oil starvation issues.

      Intervals aside, the most important thing is to make sure your engine has enough oil in it. I check my oil every time I get gas. Then, the newer that oil is, the better. Oil’s cheap in the grand scheme of engine repair. I’m not as good about changing it as I ought to be, but I still manage to get fresh oil ever 5,000-7,000 miles.

      The dealer will do those 15,000 mile oil changes for you for free while you’re under your free maintenance period, but there’s nothing to stop you from getting them done more often, or doing them yourself. Just don’t reset the counter, as often those service intervals are about more than just oil.

      • Great advice!

        • Dr Obnxs

          If everyone changes their oil every 3k miles, that’s a lot of oil. I did an article on oils and change intervals, and talked to a couple of oil analysis labs. One of the labs owns even drives a MINI! Based on thier testing, 3k is way overkill, 5k is pretty much overkill, 10k-12k is where the oils start showing degredation, and 15k is just nutty. If you want to be safe, 7.5k-10k is a pretty good place to be. If you want to be really sure, have your oil tested. The problem is more low oil from not topping up over the long change intervals.

          FWIW, large trucks go 200k miles without changing oil, they add additives, top up and replace filters.

          Also, car manufacturers and oil suppliers are working on formulations that are targeted to go 30k…. Don’t know when they’ll be out, but we’ll all live to see the day.

          3k for oill changes is a bad hangover from a bygone era  when engines were looser, additives didn’t last as long, and no one was using synthetics….

          While it’s easy to say “change early, change often, it’s cheap insurance” when millions and millions of car owners do that, we’re talking a lot of oil with perfectly good service life being replaced needlessly.


        • Great insight Matt – thanks!

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        • Jerry

          Viscosity breakdown is only one half of the equation. You can’t extend dirty oil out to unreasonable mileage, regardless of what service intervals call for. If you’re oil is dirty after 5k, or you live in a dirtier/dusty area of the country, you have to change your oil more often. No utopian notions will fix that. Also, modern engines with tighter tolerances will suffer dirty oil more readily than older designs. Yes, the viscosity won’t be affected, but it won’t matter.

        • Anonymous

          Couldn’t agree more. The air/oil filters are more of an issue than the actual oil.

          As an aside-

          Here in Germany the rec’d Castrol is €39 so changing it at 3k intervals is ridiculous. We are going 10k on the Clubman- do for one soon and going to order via US this go around..


      • Bill in Iowa

        Nathaniel:  I totally agree with you.  As for the guy that talks about over-kill, then he has never had a oil filter burst, crumble and twist out of shape, or dirty get into places that it shouldn’t.  I was down to Texas, yes I love my Mini, from Iowa last September.  We went to the Galveston beach area.  Actually drove on the beach. When we got back to Dallas, I took it into the dealer and got my 15,000 mile free oil change.  Let’s see now:  Sand from the beach, more sand, and dirt in the air around Houston.  YES I had it changed.  As for what do we do with all this used oil?  Anyone ever hear about how they now recycle oil products?  Just my way, anyway.

  • Mark

    A valuable article, but I disgree strongly with some of the advice presented.  Too-frequent oil services are not only unnecessary, they are wasteful & bad for the environment.  Oil & filter technology has come a long way.  Here’s a quote from Edmunds making the case:

    “Today’s longer oil change intervals are due to:

    Improved “robustness” of today’s oils, with their ability to protect engines from wear and heat and still deliver good fuel economy with low emissionsTighter tolerances (the gap between metal moving parts) of modern enginesThe introduction of oil life monitoring systems, which notify the driver when an oil change is required and are based on the way the car is driven and the conditions it encounters” http://www.edmunds.com/car-care/stop-changing-your-oil.html?articleid=164686

    Califormia has acknowledged this reality now has a campaign out to discourage unnecessary oil service:  http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/UsedOil/OilChange/

  • Jerry

    This article is primarily about OIL FILTERS, not about about oil change intervals, although yes, it does mention it in the 2nd-to-last sentence. And frankly, I don’t give a damn about what California says about when to change my oil. 5000 miles is a good compromise. California has an obvious agenda. Also, I would think that the tighter tolerances in modern engines make it all the more necessary not to skimp on changing your oil.

  • Bosfordjd

    I’ve used the napa gold filters for all but 2 changes that were done by the dealer. Change oil every 7-8k and at 97000 miles currently.

  • Bdob

    FRAM is garbage… I have had the o-rings fail on my R53 after 1k miles…twice. When the O-ring fails all your oil is pumped out and the low oil light won’t come on until the valves are tapping! Not Good! Never had a problem with Mahle or Mann.

  • Bill in Iowa

    Guess that I’m from that bygone era of 2-3K oil changes.  Dirt in the oil, as has been mentioned, will cause all sorts of problems with the internals, including the turbos.  I can’t for the life of me understand why, or how ANYONE can go the 15K on a synthetic oil change, unless they only intend on keeping their Mini for a couple of years, then let the next guy pay for the new engine.

    Synthetic oil is great, but still as shown in the in the article, the oil filter STILL has to hold up too.  I remember when Mobil One first came out and they talked about their 12-15K oil changes.  Guess what?  They recommended changing the oil filter at every 5,000 miles.  Let that sink in folks.

  • Bill in Iowa

    Oh, I forgot, I change the oil in my 2011 JCW hatch every 5,000 miles.  My dealer actually gave me a free oil change this past month when I went in for the water pump recall.  I had 4,000 miles on it from my previous free early oil change.  It’s nice to have a good dealer.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been using Mann filters in my 09 MCS. Mann is the OEM supplier for both Mini and BMW. 

    • rick92f

       Not on your 09. The OEM oil filter supplier is Purflux.

      • Anonymous

        Rick you are correct. You would think MINI would be using Mann since it’s parent company BMW uses Mann on most of their filter applications. 

  • Kristopherbell

    not really related but makes me think…i wish i would have changed my transmission fluid in my mcs auto like i did my oil. the fluid cooked and now my valve body is toast out of warranty and i can’t drive the car for over 20 min without it shifting extremely hard. Lifetime fluid…..