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2003 Mini Cooper S (R53) - To bling or not to bling, that is the question


Peter C
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I bought a lovely Mini Cooper S from @Sunny Jim which my wife and I collected yesterday. See here:

The Cooper made the 250 mile 4.5 hour journey to Buckinghamshire (from North Wales!) under its own steam but all was not well under the bonnet. The fresh air vents were providing anything but fresh air, I was choking on oily fumes. I stopped on route and wiped a lot of oil from the rocker cover and gently kept going, keeping the engine revs below 3k.

Before you read any further, I have absolutely no qualms about the car or the deal I made with @Sunny Jim I bought an 18 year old car with 120k, sold as seen, of course there will be problems! 

I investigated further this morning. There was oil all over the front of the engine and on top of the exhaust manifold shield.

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I went to remove plug lead No 2 and it came off in two pieces, the metal connector has split from the cable.

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Next I removed the sparkplugs. Plugs 1 and 4 were a little moist but plugs 2 and 3 were sinking in engine oil.

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The rocker cover gasket and plug well seals were obviously knackered, a typical R50/53 fault. 

To get the rocket cover off...

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All this had to be removed. It's by no means a difficult job but it was time consuming. There is a bit more space under the bonnet of my W123 & W124!

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I've bought a new set of leads £18 and I'm picking up the gasket set tomorrow morning (£40). Hopefully the whole lot will go back together without any issues.

Look at this engine, it's hard to believe that it's done 120k miles in 18 years. Everything under the rocker cover looks mint!

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In other news, to replace a blown brake light bulb I had to remove the entire light unit. How stupid. Modern* cars ehh?

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The annoying rattle from the tailgate was silenced with a 4 inch length of insulation tape, wrapped around the lock catch.

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I do like a clean exhaust pipe. Or two. Out came the Brasso and I am pleased with the shine.

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And finally, I've noticed that the small lights in the front bumper flick on randomly. According to the experts on a Facebook group, the presence of LED bulbs is upsetting the system.

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  • Peter C changed the title to 2003 Mini Cooper S (R53) - Day 2, still got dirty hands

I got the rocker cover gasket set from ECP. Even with a discount, it cost £40. Why so much?

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Good news is that the gasket and seals fit, I reassembled the rocker cover, ignition system and intercooler and the engine started first time. Win. The strip down and re-assembly process took about 6 hours, which is not bad considering I've never worked on a Bini before.

Next I tackled some cosmetics. The windscreen wiper arms were manky, some of the paint had worn and there was localised corrosion.

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A quick rub down and squirt of black gloss...

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And job done.

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The front ends of the sills were looking scabby, with part missing gloss black paint.

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Another quick rub down, bit of masking tape and squirt of black gloss and job done.

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I like the floor mats but the fabric on the driver's side mat was knackered.

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Rather than buying a new set, I fashioned a repair by cutting up a rear footwell mat that I removed from my wife's old (leased) 4 series BMW coupe. 

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Looks a lot better and cost £0.00.

Tomorrow I will give the interior a good clean.

I have ordered a replacement Cooper S badge for the boot lid. It should be with me by Friday.

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Finally, I was pleased that my ladder fits in the boot, which is great, as I may wish to use the Cooper S for work on occasion.

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More tomorrow.

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1 hour ago, TheOtherStu said:

This is the one with the supercharger? I love the whine. Not sure I could live with it as a daily though.

I used mine when I ran for parliament and was doing mega miles every day all over the countryside - it was brilliant!

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2 minutes ago, GeordieInExile said:

I used mine when I ran for parliament and was doing mega miles every day all over the countryside - it was brilliant!

I never realised you ran one (actually, I didn't realise you ran for parliament either - you know who I am on the other place?)

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9 minutes ago, TheOtherStu said:

OK, think laptops ;)

I miss your bangernomics thread too. Some utter shite in there. Quality.

Wait... What do you mean by the "other place"?

If RR then I think you've got me mixed up with someone else...

I'm *shite* at bangernomics, if I was any good at it I wouldn't have just forked over £420 to get the Volvo's water pump replaced!

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20 minutes ago, GeordieInExile said:

Wait... What do you mean by the "other place"?

If RR then I think you've got me mixed up with someone else...

I'm *shite* at bangernomics, if I was any good at it I wouldn't have just forked over £420 to get the Volvo's water pump replaced!

I'd be surprised if there were 2 people with the same username on a Football Forum with a Volvo 850 🤣

If I'm wrong here, I apologise

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Sorry to take over your thread OP. As I said above though, interesting supercharger whine on that one.

Someone has recently taken one and used it in the back of an MR2 roadster in the 1.8 VVTi. Looks like it might become a "thing" on our scene.

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Looks like a tidy example. I'm using mine this week and thoroughly enjoying it. 

I've used a mixture of OEM and Victor Reinz gaskets on mine, they seem to be the best rated in Mini circles but the above rocker gasket should be fine too. 

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  • Peter C changed the title to 2003 Mini Cooper S (R53) - Day 3, the car if finally clean
  • Peter C changed the title to 2003 Mini Cooper S (R53) - Day 3, the car is finally clean
4 hours ago, Liggle said:

Looks like a tidy example. I'm using mine this week and thoroughly enjoying it. 

I've used a mixture of OEM and Victor Reinz gaskets on mine, they seem to be the best rated in Mini circles but the above rocker gasket should be fine too. 

I’ve read about your R53, there’s a lot to like.

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  • Peter C changed the title to 2003 Mini Cooper S (R53) - Day 4, Hopefully it's all sorted

I was conscious that the engine oil leak has caused oil to spill down the front and rear of the engine and onto surrounding elements. Before I got my pressure washer out, I drove the Cooper onto ramps and had a good look underneath.

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EVERYTHING was covered with engine oil. The rocker cover gasket must have been leaking for quite some time to cause this much mess.

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Ten minutes later, I had most of the crud off and the underside was looking better.

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It was a hot and sunny day and before starting on the engine bay clean, I created a funky tent outside my garage. Considering how much of a mess I was making, I did not want to undertake this job in my pristine garages.

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The engine bay was dusty and dirty and the plastic bulkhead linings and PAS reservoir and coolant header tank were covered in oil.

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I wasn't going for concours quality, just a freshen up. An hour later, the engine bay was clean. The Cooper will be another garaged dry weather use only kind of car, so keeping the engine bay clean shouldn't be a problem.

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And the replacement Cooper S badge arrived and was promptly stuck on. 

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I'm driving the Cooper to London this evening to see my parents. WCPGW?

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  • Peter C changed the title to 2003 Mini Cooper S (R53) - Day 5, Still having issues

Yep, the S part of the boot lid badge was not on properly. I stuck it on as per the template without checking if it's right. Now corrected.

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I took the Cooper to west London and back last night, approx 60 miles. It drove great but whenever I stopped, the same oily smell was coming through the dash vents. Today I spent more time cleaning up the engine bay. I removed the exhaust manifold upper heat shield and found it to be coated with oil along its underside and where it abuts the cylinder head. The lower shield was even worse, in places it had approx 2mm of oily deposits. Also, pipework that extends towards the oil filter housing was also filthy.

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Another hour, a few squirts of Jizer and half a pack of wipes later, everything looked a lot cleaner.

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I removed the cabin filter and thought it might be best to get a new one. The old one smelt bad and was no doubt contributing to the problem.

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That's as far as I'm going with this issue now. I will let whatever oily deposits are left on concealed parts of the engine and ancillaries to dry up and all being well the problem will go away.

Whilst the exhaust is well concealed behind the rear bumper, I thought it would be a good idea to give it a clean.

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8 hours ago, Liggle said:

The oil filter housing gasket is very common, so could contribute to what's collecting underneath. It sits lower than the manifold heatshield though so doesn't explain it collecting there. 

Oil on the exhaust heat shields most likely dribbled down from the leaking rocker cover gasket.

Is it possible to renew the oil filter housing gasket with the engine in situ? It looks a bit tight.

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  • Peter C changed the title to 2003 Mini Cooper S (R53) - To bling or not to bling, that is the question

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