When I bought the car the mechanical integrity was listed as "Engine could use refresh".
In the space of time I have had my Mini, I have had the following issues:
- Excessive oil consumption.
- Spark Plugs fouling due to carbon deposits of oil burning, had to drive 70km on 3 pistons.
- Contacts for fuses (there are only two fuses) cut electrics off.
- Handbrake virtually useless, brake adjustments are fairly constant.
- Double clutching to go down gears, as the syncro's aren't quite up to the job anymore.
- Water hose old and perished, leaking water on engine.
The issues listed are moderately superficial, fuse contacts just had to have a bit of scratching back, spark plugs need replacing, so carry spares and an appropriate spark plug socket set.
But here are some things I would have liked someone to tell me before I bought it. Firstly, you must be prepared to be an enthusiast with one of these cars, as they are getting on in age, and simply need constant attention (Not particularly in a bad way).
The first step is to check for rust. This is evident in bubbling paintwork, cracking paintwork and simply exposed rust. Check in the boot around the battery box and the clamps, the guttering and seams, and under the wheels. Rust is rust in many cars, but in Mini's - rust is death.
The second step is to check the engine. On a cold start, turn the key, listen for a rough engagement of the starter motor, as this can indicate brush wear.
Ask the seller what engine oil they use, a thicker oil is obviously a measure to counteract engine wear. Rev the engine and check (Through sight and smell) for smoke. Normal gray smoke is fine, but blue smoke is oil, and oil is pistons. If it blows smoke, expect to be thinking about anything from piston ring wear, piston cracking, cylinder wall wear etc and an engine recondition (Anywhere from $1000 - $4000 for 850cc/998cc, to $7500 for 1275cc engines) Mini's do make a lot of noise in the head, with the tappets and valves, but anything unusual should be investigated. Also check electrical wiring, and cooling system hoses for condition, including the cylinder bypass hose (Google it).
Check the brake lines and clutch lines for wear.
Next is driving. Monitor the rear constantly for smoke while driving. Also, check the valve condition by driving down a steep hill in third or second gear, and allow the gears to do the work, not the brakes. When you reach the bottom of the hill, accelerate and check for smoke. If smoke occurs, it is a good indication of valve wear. Travel up and down through the gears and pay attention to crunching or refusal of gears to enter properly, this indicates syncro wear. A juddering or slipping clutch will point to clutch renewal further down the line.
Mini's are not as temperamental as people may first assume, and make great everyday cars. Understand that small bore engines are not as up to the task of excessive speeds as large bore engines are. So constant highway use may not be so ideal, for the most part you can get away with 80km/h on the highway.
The 998cc engines are the most reliable and accessible for parts, and 1100cc through to 1300cc become progressively more expensive to service and repair as they are more sought-after/rarer cars/parts to find. Parts generally are quite easily accessible to buy, and there are many specialists around the city centres of Australia.
Mini's are a fantastic and interesting car to own, but expect to be looking after it. A good owner will replace components if and when needed, check fluid levels and warm up engine etc Mini's require frequent oil changes to dispel harmful fragmentations, so expect to be underneath her at least every 3 months.
There is plenty of literature and internet resources on owning a Mini. So read up!
My Mini is blowing smoke and I am looking at a $3500 engine rebuild. It could be anything from the piston rings, to the valve guides. This is to be expected from a 35 year old car.
There is nothing like owning one of these cars, life is to be enjoyed I say, I had to buy one, even if sometimes you feel like you're learning the hard way. It costs $30 to fill up, on premium fuel, and some lead replacement fluid (I use Flashlube) in the mix. But tearing around corners, listening to the sound of the engine screaming, jiggling in the tight suspension is priceless.