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Is MINI Preparing a New Campaign for the Infamous Chain Tensioner?

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The R56 has been been incredibly successful for MINI in terms of sales and growing the brand. But one issue has stuck around with the R56 since 2007. From 2007 to 2010 the chain tensor (a $15 part) has been failing and wreaking havoc for MINI owners.

Sources are telling us that BMW is prepping a campaign to replace these in affected cars. But they still have not decided what to do with people that have already paid to have the fix out of warranty. To make matters more interesting there are also reports that a California law firm is preparing a class-action lawsuit about the issue.

Of course it’s all a bit of a shame considering the chain tensioner is a $15 part. Additionally it’s compounded by the fact that a lot of the N14s consume oil, and the OBC advises ridiculously long oil intervals. So you get some people who don’t know, and don’t check their oil, chain looses tension, jumps and valves crash into the cylinders. And even if you don’t burn up the engine on low oil you may still wreck the valve train.

What about you? Have any R56 owners dealt with replacing chain tensioners on their own dime? If what support would you like to see from MINI?

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Written By: Gabe

  • Bor

    yeah, that would be nice, just started hearing the rattle occasionally on my 2007

  • Kev50027

    Did they fix it with VANOS in 2011?

    • flyinace2000

      Right, which is why this is a 07-10 issue.

    • walk0080

      Double VANOS. Earlier models had single VANOS (intake only).

      • Kev50027

        Thanks! I remembered reading something about VANOS, but wasn’t sure what it was. The double VANOS explains the fuel efficiency and power gains in 2011. Gotta love BMW technology.

        • Papa fox

          I owned 2011 MCS with the n18 engine and there was a recall for the tensioner. Also, at about 16000 miles I started to get the timing chain rattle just like my previous 2007 MCS

  • walk0080

    I wonder if the 2012 JCWs (N14 engine) are affected by this issue? I have read conflicting information so far – my assumption is that I am at risk too. And is this expected to be a BMW USA or Worldwide campaign?

    • Caine

      I seem to remember reading some where that they fixed the part on the 2011 cars so it’s no longer an issue.

      • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

        Correct. The 2011 and on engines have a completely new valve train and head, and this issue was also addressed.

        • Kev50027

          But didn’t it take them longer to get these enhancements to the JCW engine? I thought I read that the 2011 JCW engine did not have the enhancements that the Cooper S version got that model year.

        • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

          Yes, but my understanding is that the JCW engine can more or less be considered a completely separate animal. It may not be included in this service campaign. Any R5X JCW owners out there have chain or “cold start” issues?

        • Karl

          I’ve got a 2009 factory JCW and had mine done under warranty a couple of years ago. The problem never returned.

        • Jay Williams

          I also have a 2009 JCW. I had mine done under warranty about a week ago. So far, problem solved.

        • walk0080

          That’s what I thought too… the 2011-2012 JCW did not get the engine improvements like double VANOS, etc. of the ‘S’ until the 2013 model.

  • Stew

    Hope the New MINI F56 does not have problems like this !!!!!

    • ams

      No, it will have totally different problems.

  • Andrew

    Two things: - I am a little suprised you guys haven’t reported on the R50/R52/R53 power steering pump extended warranty and refunds available for those replaced their pump. - There seems to be a lot confusion about the timing chains/ tensioners. In many cases, the tensioners were not the cause of failure. Often, the timing chain would elongate and wreck havoc, updated tensioners were installed to compensate for timing chain strech. In other cases, the tensioner would back out causing a massive oil leak, resulting in a loss of oil pressure/volume. The idea that all timing chain related failures were caused by the tensioner is incorrect. The issue a lot more complex than a “$15 part”… That being said I hope MINI does the right thing.

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      We will be reporting on that shortly. We’ve been discussing it on WhiteRoofRadio but it hasn’t made its way over here yet.

      • R.O.

        What a minute, Mini has a program or is offering refunds for those that paid to have the power steering pump fixed? How long as Motoring file known about this? You’ve been discussing it on WRR but not reporting on this site? Why not? That makes no sense. Isn’t Motoringfile that reports on things Mini, or is it only to every so often stir the depart of Manual vs Automatic? Sheeze. And no my Mini dealer hasn’t informed me of any refunds. Had my PSP replaced last year.

        Motoringfile is not the site is use to be back in the days.

        • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

          Easy there, cowboy. I’m going to put this story up as soon as I have all the info in front of me, and right now I don’t. I didn’t receive the recall letter because it doesn’t apply to my car and we did not receive info from MINI itself. So I’m going to make sure I have the full info before I just start posting things.

  • Melis Heerens

    I’ve had the rattle fixed on my 08 R56 with the revised parts, but it still rattles sometimes. If they’re working on a new fix, I definitely want it. Glad I got an extended warranty.

  • Lapounk

    Il serait temps qu’ils se réveillent !!!!!

  • Dane

    This thing failed on me and it destroyed my engine, I had to have it replaced. MINI made me pay to have the engine replaced even though the car was only 2 years old at the time. I even paid for an extended warranty from the dealer which also didn’t cover it. It cost me ~$8000. So ridiculous. I love the car but I HATE MINI service!!!

    • Dane

      I just noticed the blurb about there being a class action lawsuit being prepared. Does anyone have any information about this? I would like to contact them.

      • Dane

        Update: I just called my local MINI dealer and they are aware of the class action lawsuit but he said that he is unable to comment on it to me since he is a MINI dealer and there is a conflict on interest.

      • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

        In my personal opinion, you’d probably be better off working with MINI on this once they figure out what the Campaign is going to be. You’ll have a better chance of actually getting most or all of your money back. That, instead of the law firm doing the class action suit taking the lion’s share of any settlement (presuming they win, and probably years later) and you getting $100. If the campaign won’t take care of you, then absolutely jump on that bandwagon, but if you’re looking to actually be “made whole” in this, MINI is your better bet at this point, in my personal opinion.

        • Hoover

          Totally agree.

  • Dusty S

    This was one of several issues is why I traded my MINI off for a VW. I knew at 50K miles that I should have traded the car off though I kept it for another 20K. That was a mistake. The chain tensor was replaced on my 2008, though had problems afterwards. The car burned oil like crazy. The oil feed to the turbo also leaked, which from researching is a very common problem. The dealer here wanted $1500 to repair it, while a co-worker of mine has the exact same model year and leak of which they quoted him $800. This is a common problem MINI should be recalling. An import auto mechanic was going to charge me $630. I traded it off instead. I was going to buy a new paceman, but the engine has to many issues and I didn’t trust it in a bigger vehicle. Also going 17K miles a year on an oil change probably lead to a few problems itself. All the rest of the manufacturer makes I looked at have 10K mile oil change intervals. That’s reasonable, BMW/MINI oil change interval is not. I still check this sight from time to time, though with the recent bad services I had with MINI, the issues and poor trade MINI was offering, they lost a customer. I’m really loving my new VW Tiguan SEL.

  • hi please reply thank you

    So the N18 engines in the countryman/paceman won’t suffer from this problem. Am I right??

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      Right. They’re post 2011 engine refresh.

      • Frank Granados

        Are you sure?

        • Annie00

          I am currently having this same issue with my 2011 Countryman. Waiting to take it to the dealership on Tuesday. Unfortunately warranty was up at 50,000 miles and my MINI is at 58,000. January of last year I had to have my MINI towed to the dealership. The engine light had come on and the fan would continue to run after shutting off. They replaced a faulty temperature sensor. I also noticed on the paperwork that they replace a seal for the chain tensioner because of leak. While still under warranty, July of last year we were on vacation out west. We had to take my MINI in to the nearest dearlership we could find, because the oil light flashed on and off and the car had barely any power to go up hill. The dealership said they couldn’t find anything wrong with my car, yet my MINI had thrown all sorts of weird codes, including codes for the camshaft. They printed me out a copy of said codes. Nearly 2 months ago while driving my MINI it seemed to buck or misfire. This happened only if you pressed down on the gas for a little extra power. 4 times the engine light came on. Each time I turned my car off and back on the engine light would turn off. When the light WAS on there was a definite loss of power. Max speed of 35 mph going uphill! A few days ago I took my MINI over to a local mechanic I trust. He is 15 minutes away from me, compared to 2 1/2 hour drive each way to the dealership. I was hoping the issue was just faulty spark plugs, and nothing more serious. I told him what was going on, and asked him to check any codes the car may have from the engine light. He took it for a spin, got the engine light to come on, came back and checked for codes. The code P0015 came up. I have been researching and looking for known problems like this for the Countryman. This is how I have come across this article. I have found a ton of info regarding other MINI models but not for the Countryman….. I am hoping the dealership will have answers, and that if this is the same issue as the other MINI models, is will be covered. I will not be a happy camper if I have to pay out of pocket for something that shouldn’t be happening to a fairly new MINI!

  • glangford

    This is something they should have done long ago.

  • lawrothegreat

    Has this issue been formally confirmed as causing engine failure? I had a 2007 MCS with the issue, which I drove for three years and 70,000 miles (110,000 kms). During that time it made some rough sounding noises in the mornings, but on the last dealer fix the engine was left feeling very smooth and quiet. I know that people experienced the rattle and had engine failure but that doesn’t mean the two are connected. As nearly everyone has/had the rattle and you would expect a % failure rate on any engine, there were bound to be instances when people had both.

  • Tim H

    I had to get mine done on my R53. I even had the dealership do it…what a pricetag…if that’s what the aprt costs i got hosed.

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      The part itself is inexpensive, but the labor to install it is not. It’s also not the only part that would need replacement when that tensioner fails. There’s a domino effect there. However this is not uncommon for any machine. Simple parts often cause complex problems.

    • r52mini

      Wait, you had this problem on the first-gen engine? Is that even possible?

      • Tim H

        chain tensor is what they said i think. i’d have to get the reciept out. My mechanic thought it was that, but wasn’t sure so he recommended i go to the dealer. so i did and had them do the work. there was an oil issue that led to it i’m told.

  • Bor

    so what is the timeframe for this campaign ? Is this a matter of weeks before they announce anything ?

  • mic

    I have a 2007 mini that has 58000 miles on it , I have had the tensioners and chain replaced twice in the last two years. and are pretty sure it needs it again. My mini goes through oil like crazy. I check it every couple weeks and always have to ad oil. I get my oil changed every few months. and only run chevron super in it. Have had to have carbon cleaned out with walnut shells and water pump circuit board replaced. now i have a fault code for dmt fuel vapor pump thing. love my car but it is a nightmare of issues

  • TheGadgetMan

    I have R56 LCI late 2011 mini one and had both Timing chain and tensioner replaced, as well as VANOS sensor due to rattling and erratic engine performance. It still rattles sometimes when cold started but touch wood it’s fixed!

    • Frank Granados

      Really sad to hear this. I was hoping the N18 would have been a significant improvement but it doesn’t seem that way.

  • Reese

    ’08 JCW and on 2nd chain tensioner replacement.

  • Alex

    The problem IS NOT the tensioner alone. As evidenced in BMWs own TSB for the issue, it can be an elongated chain. When that is the case (and it most often is), you need to change all the ancilliaries (guides, bolts, chain and tensioner). That is what makes the problem expensive to fix. The tensioner and its installation can be done by a DIYer, not the chain however (due to the cost of specialized tools).

    BMW should cut the crap and replace all the affected vehicles with a new chain, not the tensioner band-aid solution.

  • Frank Granados

    Our ’08 Clubman S has had its chain tensioner replaced twice. First time under warranty, second time on my dime. In addition, car has had secondary water pump replaced under recall, main water pump and thermostat replaced (50% of the repair bill picked up by MINI USA). Bear in mind this has all taken place on a car under 38K miles. Oil and filter has been replaced every 5K miles due to the horrific design defects of the N14 engine. Car is now sitting back at the dealer since yesterday afternoon with another check engine light incident and waiting to hear about what other problem we are about to get dinged with. Needless to say we are TIRED and DISSAPOINTED with the horrid engine defects exhibited by the N14 Prince turbo engines. We are looking at unloading the car within the next 9-12 months at the most. MINIUSA: You need to step up to the plate and stand behind your defective piece of crap PSA engines. These defects are unacceptable on supposedly “Premium” priced vehicles. The N14 is a wonderful engine when it works and on paper but its real world reliability is no better than that of a communist bloc made automobile (Yugo, Lada, etc). You need to do 2 fundamental things in order to restore confidence not only in these garbage engines, but in the MINI product in general: 1) Reimburse IN FULL owners for timing tensioner chain repairs made out of pocket (Be it whether these were made at the dealer or at an independent with original OEM MINI parts and receipt) 2) Extend the engine warranty on these cars to 6 years or 100K miles AT A VERY MINIMUM. These engines have a well documented tendency to self grenade, and they are defective no matter how much you want to spin it. We have owned 4 new MINIs since 2002. This 2008 could well possibly be our last MINI ever, if MINIUSA doesn’t do the right thing and stand behind an embarrasingly defective product. Do the right thing, MINIUSA, don’t stall anymore!

  • Pat White

    Just spent 1900 at my mini dealer to replace my timing chain on my 2007. I only have 43,000 kilometers on it. Not right

  • It’sNotCute!
  • ED

    I paid $1,671.56 to have my 2007 MINI – S timing chain repaired. When I sold the car I also took a bath because of the same issue. I hope the class action suit forces MINI to reimburse me.

  • Iain Gartley

    Hi all. Well my 2009 JCW is in at present getting the timing chain & tensioner bit done for the 2nd time. Had it done at 2 years old, 37,000k on warranty and it’s just gone AGAIN. 4 years & 4 months old, 70,000k and it’s just not good enough I say. This time they’re offering to supply the parts, but I need to pay the labour which is just under $1000. This car replaced my earlier 2007 Cooper S, which had the same thing happen twice in 2 years, and the wifes Clubman S has had it done once just after the warranty expired so I had to pay for that one. You’d think if they can put Hyundai’s on the road for $15k with 5 year 100000k warranties that BMW could build a car that lasts a bit better. So my summary to the dealer today was: *6 years *3 MINIS *5 timing chain issues *2 waterpump issues (factory recall) *Oil Pipe to turbo failed & replaced (on JCW JUST OUT OF WARRANTY so $900) *1 Head replaced (1st Cooper S, fixed on warranty but with 25000k on the clock & 2 timing chain issues was enough to make me trade it in) *Numerous subframe & brake issues (1st Cooper S) I’m really dissapointed. Drove my 1963 mini to work today which was fun, but I think it’s time the MINI’s got traded on something a bit more durable. Pitty, as they are such a fun car to drive, but I think it stinks that there is such an obvious on-going problem & they expect me to pay for it to be fixed over & over.

  • mbaisley

    I’ve been told the new service campaign is called SI M11 04 13. Can anyone confirm this? I can’t find the bulletin online. It must be internal for MINI dealers only.

  • mbaisley

    SI M11 04 13

  • Pepper

    Dealer Replace replaced mine twice. the tensioner was corrected after they replaced it the first time. in order to do this they had to change the entire timing chain. the second time they replaced it the car was out of warranty. none the less they warrantIed all of the work and I did not have to pay anything. thank God!

  • Mikem

    I received my campaign repair letter a week ago for my 2008 cooper “s”. They replaced the tensioner, chain, and also installed a heat shield on the oil line by the turbo. I have a 2008 with 28k miles and the chain was stretched enough to need replacing. The campaign adds a 2 year warranty on the engine. Also, my mini is in excellent condition with low miles and the dealer offered me a $10k buy back. That’s $4k lower then bluebook.

  • Brian

    2012 Cooper S ( N18 ) Sounds like a diesel at 30k. Anyone else had problems with a 2012?

    • walk0080

      The Prince engine tends to sound like a diesel even when running 100% perfectly well due to direct injection.

      My 2012 JCW is getting noisier on/off… or I am just paranoid. May get it checked next time.

  • Gshmonroe

    I just had this exact problem this week. My 2009 JCW only has 39k miles on it. I started hearing a rattling so I took it in. They told me I had to replace the timing chain to the tune of $1335.00.. They said they would attempt to get my money back through a good will request from Mini. I still had t pay first to get my car repaired because I needed it back. It is ridiculous with such low miles the chain would go bad. At 28k miles the clutch went out. They did cover that but not until they had to confirm it was defective and not abuse even though it was under warranty at the time. Just a short time later, my water pump had to be replaced. I was out of warranty by then and they covered part of it. I love my car, but I’m not sure I would buy another at this point. I’m not in a position to sell it right now and I feel like I am held hostage. Not good.

  • Fields Carlisle

    The N18 is having the same issues as the N14 with regards to the timing chain tensioner. I just had to have my tensioner replaced about a month ago, along with several other malfunctioning engine parts. These engines are prone to problems, more so than I have seen in most other cars. I think this will be my first and final MINI, simply because of the number of issues my car has had. It’s terrible that a tiny little car that costs over 30 large has to be in the shop once a week for numerous issues.


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