MINI Shortens Oil Change Interval

A regular topic on White Roof Radio is our opinion that the factory-specified 1 year/15,000 (approximately) mile oil service intervals on the R56 MINIs are far too long. WRR co-host and MF contributor, Todd Pearson, snapped this photo of a window sticker on a recent MINI showing a new oil change interval of 1 year/10,000 miles. Given the number of R56s (and R50/R53s) that have had oil-related troubles, it makes sense that MINI would re-consider this interval. However, we don’t yet have any information as to exactly why MINI has dropped the interval back to 1 year/10,000 miles, which was the original service interval on the R50/R53.

Speculations under the White Roof and here at MotoringFile abound. Did the costs of warranty engine repairs finally cross a line where it made more financial sense to take steps to prevent issues? Did oil usage data make a separate case for shorter intervals? Is this a reaction to common consumer behavior — i/e owners never bothering to check their oil in the first place until they got a warning light or it was time for their scheduled oil change? Does this change in service policy open MINI up to litigation over past engine troubles?

Whatever the reasons, it’s a good thing to see the interval shortened. Now responsible owners need only do one 5,000-7,000 mile mid-cycle oil change instead of two. New owners, what are you hearing from your dealer? Who’s been changing their oil regularly? Sound off in the comments.

  • hfred

    I changed at about 1500 and 7500. The computer says I have 8000 or another year (!) to go before my first oil change.

  • walk0080

    Is this for only new owners or existing owners of R56s? And does this apply at all in Canada? I haven’t had my first oil change (10,000km to go) and it would be nice if MINI paid for an early oil change instead of me.

    • vereinmann

       I’m in Canada, my dealer just recommends an oil change every 12 months, regardless of what the car tells you.

  • Gil-galad

    At least when I’ve done mid-cycle changes I could leverage my own high QC standards and loving TLC.  Now the service department will have 33% additional opportunities to screw something up.

  • Birddog2

    I’m confused. The text refers to R56, but the pictured window sticker has an Openometer listed as included which indicates either a R57 or R59. My R59 purchased in March 2012 makes no mention of oil change interval at all on the window sticker.

    • Evan

       I’d assume it’s for all Prince engine models.

      I’ve always done every 5-6k miles on my R50. My dad does every 7-8k on his R56.

      15k miles is a very long time.

  • guest

    If you do your own oil changes, when you reset the oil service counter, how do you change the reminder so that it’ll reappear in ~10k miles or 12months, and not  previous ~15K?

    • If you do mid-cycle oil changes at 5,000 mile intervals, you don’t reset the service counter. Not only would you miss out on your “free” oil changes at the dealer, those service stops aren’t just about oil. They’ll inspect and maintain other systems depending on which service visit it is. So leave the counter alone, just change your oil on your own more often than the counter tells you to. The counter isn’t actually tied to oil usage. It’s tied to fuel consumption and its estimated relationship to oil usage. You should still be checking your oil regularly and changing oil at intervals of actual mileage, not just the miles on the counter — as they are not even a 1:1 relationship.

      • Ali

        Nice info Nathaniel, but what did you mean by ‘actual’ mileage and not just the miles on the counter?

        • The service counter is not tied to your odometer. It’s tied to fuel usage, so just like with the OBC where it shows you miles remaining on your current tank of gas, the service counter is an estimate of when your oil service should be done. That could be less than the actual mileage traveled, or more.

          So just like with the OBC, if it says you have 100 miles indicated range on a quarter tank of gas, but then drive the car really aggressively, that counter will count down really fast and you might only get 50-60 miles of actual range on that amount of fuel. Or, if you gear up and back off, you might stretch that out to 120 miles. It’s the same thing with the service indicator. This is why regardless of what the counter says, you should be changing oil at least once a year.

    • Dr Obnxs

      You can do this with the Bavarian Technics software. It’s one of the featurs that I like the most about it. I’m a reseller of it but it can be bought direct as well.

  • guest

    We were only allowed two free oil changes within the 36k mi free maintenance window.  If the revised 10k oil change is true, MINI should give another free oil change for those outside the 36k mi free maintenance window, as there should be a free oil change at 10k, a second at 20k, and a third at 30k. 

  • Dusty

    I’ve questioned that from the start with my 2008 Cooper S.  When I hit 15,000 miles before the first year was up, the computer said I still had 3,000 more miles to go.  I regularly checked the oil and it seemed fine..  That was year one…  Then year 2.5 I forgot to check it a few times and low and behold I was low on oil when the light came on.  I was over 2 quarts down, so the car got an unscheduled oil change.  It uses oil more than it used to.  About a quart every 7,000 miles, but then I’ve been getting it changed at about 10,000 to.  One thing I wrote into MINI on is trying to read that coiled dip stick.  With clean oil, it’s hard to see.  

  • I want a diesel Mini

    I went against my gut and decided to go with the factory scheduled changes.   Checked the oil regularly and had to add about a half a quart around 7K.  Did the scheduled maintenance as soon as the light came on, at 14K.  Hasn’t consumed any oil since and I’m now at 20K.  Sort of wished I still changed it at 1K, however, on my bikes during break in I have changed the oil at 600 miles as directed, and the oil has come out pretty clean.

    • The issues at play here are less about break in than they are about oil usage and oil wear out. Changing the oil close to break in is more about flushing out the small metal particles created as new engine parts wear into each other. The oil itself is not nearly worn out, but it’s the medium containing all those shards of brass, steel and aluminum you don’t want roaming free in your engine.

      Additionally, the motorcycle break in isn’t quite an apples-to-apples comparison, as most motos use a wet clutch, which adds a whole extra set of variables that don’t apply here.

      The most important thing is what you’re already doing: regularly checking your oil. Oil starvation has been much more of an issue in problem cars than actually wearing the oil out. So you’re probably fine. The problem is that the average, non-mechanical owners aren’t checking their oil at all and are frying their motors. These closer oil change intervals should help prevent that, although we don’t know for sure that’s the motivation here.

  • IowaM1N1

    Curious to know….does this mean that there will be an ECU programming change on the ‘oil change timer’ for all us R56/Prince engine owners that will reflect this new standard? 

  • Cinimin

    There is no such thing as a “FREE” oil change from MINI or any other manufacturer – what you get is a “PRE-PAID” oil change that is included in the purchase price of the car.  If you pre-paid for 2 oil changes in the 36,000 mile coverage, that is all you are going to get.

  • Petkunterä

    The oil change interval for MINIs and BMWs is approximately 30000 km or two years in Europe. You are required to use BMW approved long-life oil though. So, no, I don’t think that 1 year / 15000 miles is bad at all.

  • I still say the interval is too long.  I had a SAAB turbo long ago and I was religious about changing its oil every 3500 or so.  I’m very certain I’ll be changing the oil in my ’12 Countryman S about every 5k.  Modern tech or not, turbos are still finicky and even the slightest collection of gunk or grime in the oil channels of the turbo can spell death for it.

    • Dr Obnxs

      We’ve come a long way from the early SAAB turbos that had quite the coking problem from cooking the oil that was used to cool and lube the bearings.

      • JbkONE

         Yet that’s almost exactly what happens in MINIs sometimes… when people drive them hard and then shut down the engine, the oil in the small tube going to the turbo cooks a bit and over a couple years can gunk and block the passage and blow your turbo.

  • vereinmann

    Interesting, because MINI recently updated the Countryman order guide to say “Oil Chg 15,000 miles/24 months – SOP 03/12”

  • otter

    Personally I have always viewed the complimentary service as, at best, not much of a selling point.  Pushing the oil life to the point where oil related failures occur and then backing up a bit is just stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime, oil changes are cheap way to maintain the life and performance of an engine.  I am glad that Nathanial pointed out that one can change the oil at 5K and let MINI pay for the 10K interval.  I change my oil every 3K for conventional oil, every 5K for synthetic. I have never had an engine fail due to lack of oil or degraded oil; all of my vehicles have had long hard service lives and ran like new when I sold them.

  • SimTechDJ

    Every 5k for me or more as needed by track days.

  • scott

    although the sticker says 10K, my OBC says 9K miles to oil change. the service manager confirmed 9K is correct and that it was an 03/2012 running change.  i will be changing ALL drivetrain fluids at 1.2K followed by engine oil/filter at 4.5K, 1 DIY followed by a dealer change at 9K. still pondering the other drivetrain fluid change intervals.

    • Brian

      I’m sitting at my dealer right now getting a complimentary wash, so I decided to ask… The service tech confirmed as you said, that the schedule is only changed for 03/2012 or newer models (at least for mine, an R56).

  • Rainman768

    2011 Cooper S Clubman: Oil change at the 15K mark. Determined by computer. I’ve changed it every 5-6K on my own.

  • Warrencheswick

    i went for my first oil change at like 22,000 km’s. The dealer asked if I actually wanted it done since I had another 3,000km’s left til the computer indicated I needed to change it. I don’t have any scheduled changes covered. i check my oil level regularily and add a bit when needed. Personally plan on changing my oil about when the computer tells me. I trust the engineers at BMW more than the local grease monkey who lives by the 3,000 mile oil change interval from 30 years ago invented by jiffy lube.

  • Warrencheswick

    For those interested in the rationalle behind the longer oil change intervals:

    (I’ve read other similar oil studies that indicate the frequent changes are just no neccessary)

  • robblef

    The oil change interval is NOT going to be retroactive to earlier cars.

  • IowaM1N1

    What I heard from the dealership last week…the change to 12,000 oil change intervals starts with March 2012 builds.   Older cars are stuck with the longer intervals. 

  • Greenerk

    My local dealer twice told me they would not change the oil @ 15,000 miles unless the Service Indicator sent me in. It was changed @ 19,000 miles. Today, @29,800 miles,my Service Indicator sent me to the dealer and they told me they would not change the oil until 15,000 miles from the last oil change!  Obviously this is the last time I will go to a Mini dealer unless I have too. I will not buy another Mini because of the feeling of being ripped-off by their “free” maintenance program. In 30,000 miles I got one oil change, one brake fluid flush and one car wash. Not a good value in my opinion, even if the supposedly provide it for free.

    • Hotrod hemi

      With my 2011 JCW, I changed the oilon me, at 4500 miles form two reasons: 1. To get the dirt and little engine particles out. 2. I get a guilty conscience over 500 miles. As I said, I paid for the first oil change. No oil useage. The second oil change was at 11500 (ran a little long here) and Mini did that one. The third was on Mini too at 15500 with the recall check and replacementof the turbo cooler.

      A lot of this is on the dealer and how much he wants to retain you as a happy customer, in my opinion. A Mini warrantee orfreeoilchdnges is only as good as the dealer. It’s been that way since the beginning of long warrantees in the 60’s.

  • Joe

    The changes are for all MINI models produced after March of 2012,  there will be no retrofit for any models produced before march of 2012.

    Service Director MINI of Fort Myers.  Joe Pitt.

  • It looks like MINI isn’t the only one realizing that longer oil change intervals can lead to increased issues later on. As least GM is forthright in saying as much:

  • Brandon Murphy

    Be smart and have the oil changed every 3-5k mi. If you have a turbo you are going to burn oil. I just installed a brand new engine. Trust me, its better to spend a little money on an oil change than to pay for a new engine.

  • Martingard

    My 2015 R57 gets a transfusion every 4,000 miles, Castrol Edge 5w30 and a genuine MINI filter. I’m about 300 miles from the nearest dealer so I do it myself. Puter shows 8K changes. 4K is just cheap insurance to me. Changed it at 2K, 4K and 8K.