You may have heard me gripe about my wife’s 2008 Mini Clubman S before, but I was just getting warmed up. Shortly after my last piece about this British nightmare was published, something incredible happened to it.
I was driving the Mini on the highway doing nothing out of the ordinary. I was driving in a straight line with the cruise control locked in at 70 mph in perfect road conditions. Sounds like something any modern car with 64,000 miles on the clock should be able to handle fairly effortlessly, right?
You’d be right if you were thinking of most cars, but this little shoebox isn’t most cars. While I was cruising on the highway, something suddenly changed. The car started shaking rather violently to the point where I couldn’t safely continue my journey. I turned on the hazard lights and managed to limp the car to an off ramp so I could park the thing at a gas station. After a couple of frustrated phone calls, both myself and the car got home.
So, what happened to the car? Why did it suddenly start shaking like that? These were the questions I wanted answered, so I drove the thing over to a parts store to get it scanned and the Mini threw 12 codes — a new personal best (if you can beat that, please comment below). To be fair, a lot of those codes were repeats of misfires, so only about six or seven of the codes were different.
The signs pointed to an airflow problem. You can’t just replace the PCV valve on these engines (because of course, you can’t) — you need to replace the whole valve cover instead. Needlessly complicated, but still an easy enough fix. I ordered a new valve cover, installed it, and naturally, the problem didn’t go away. That’s when I turned to a professional.
I had the car towed to a local shop that exclusively works on European cars. The owner of that place must be seriously masochistic. After a little bit of diagnostic work, he called me up to deliver the news of what happened to this car. Are you ready for this?
One of the ignition coils in the N14 engine shorted out, which caused one of the spark plugs to break apart inside of the engine, which blew the engine entirely. There was zero compression in cylinder three. The only way to fix this car was with a new engine.
An ignition coil shorting out is never good news, but never in my life have I heard an instance of an entire engine needing to be replaced because of it. Mind you, the spark plug in question only had about 15,000 miles on it — and you bet it was a genuine Mini part.
I took it to the local Mini dealer, and this is where the silver lining of the story comes in. Since this car was so unusually unreliable the whole time I had it, the dealer spoke with Mini to see what they could do to help me out, despite the car being out of warranty. Mini generously offered me two options: They would either cover 90% of the cost of the engine replacement, or they would give me an attractive deal on a new Mini. Since I had such a bad experience with the car I already owned with the blown engine, I must say it was hard to get excited about the idea of bringing another Mini into my life. To me, it was an easy decision and I opted to get the engine replaced with Mini paying for the bulk of it and the dealer giving me an admittedly good deal on the remainder of the cost — since they knew firsthand what a bad experience I had with the car. It’s fun to complain and all, but I must admit, getting this car fixed could have been a much bigger headache than it was. Let’s just say I’ve never been so happy to spend $2,200 on a car repair bill.
If you’re a big Mini fan, before you crack those knuckles to light me up in the comments, let me throw a few disclaimers out there. Yes, I know this is just one car and Mini makes many, many cars. But the number of different things that have gone wrong on this car in the three years it’s been in my life have been so significant and such a pain to get fixed that I will never trust another Mini again. I know this is all anecdotal, but the fact that any car built in 2008 couldn’t hit 65,000 miles on its original engine is astonishing to me.
It would be one thing if the blown engine is the only thing that’s gone wrong with the car, but this thing needed multiple major components replaced. I got a free turbo replacement because of a class action lawsuit against the car which BMW settled by replacing everyone’s turbos. This car is so bad that its owners got together and sued it.
It also needed a new high-pressure fuel pump, which was replaced under an extended warranty for that particular part because so many people had problems with it. It wasn’t just a blown engine, it was a pattern of unreliability resulting in (what would normally be) very expensive repairs. The fact that the engine blew at 64k miles was just the punchline of the whole bad joke.
In the Star Trek universe (yeah, we’re going there, just stay with me), there’s a training exercise for Starfleet cadets called the Kobayashi Maru. The exercise simulates a disabled civilian vessel called the Kobayashi Maru stranded in the Klingon Neutral Zone. Entering the Neutral Zone would result in the Klingons destroying your ship, but leaving the civilian vessel alone would mean certain doom for its innocent passengers.
This was designed to be a no-win scenario. Either your crew dies or the civilians on a different ship die. The Kobayashi Maru tests one’s character in a no-win scenario rather than their problem-solving skills. Owning this Mini R55 has been an automotive Kobayashi Maru. I feel like no matter what I do and no matter what moves I make, the car can’t be beaten. Owning a Mini is a no-win situation.
The Mini R55 with the turbocharged N14 engine is garbage. If you’re thinking about buying one, don’t or get a warranty. If you MUST have a Mini, get a 2015 or newer model. Find a Mini for sale
MORE FROM OVERSTEER:
Video | The 2020 Hyundai Palisade Is a Bargain Luxury SUV
It’s Amazing How Fast a Used BMW 7 Series Depreciates
A $25,000 Used 2011 Jaguar XJ Looks Just Like a New $125,000 Jaguar XJ