Mini Cooper – Chain Tensioner Troubles

P3 Autokrafte is primarily a Porsche and BMW facility which also services Audi and Volkswagen. We can’t forget the fantastic little brother under the BMW umbrella; Mini.  Without a Mini specific dealer in the Dayton Area, some Mini owners may feel a bit underserved. That’s where we come in to help.

If you are on the Mini forums, and are enthusiasts like we are, you know about the potential damage of a tensioner failure. With Mini Coopers, Clubmans, and Countrys on their second, third or even fourth owners, sometimes critical info doesn’t get passed down about the items in a recall or recommended dealer services. Not everyone in an enthusiast, so we want to spread the word. Preventative maintenance is key to trouble-free years of use, and ‘failure’ will not be in your future.

Depending on how you search or what part you believe to be the first to fail they are all interconnected; VANOS, cams, tensioner, vac pump, chain, pulleys, guides, etc. Each one of these can be affected with a catastrophic failure, and you can then throw in the valves, head, etc, etc. This is not a pretty picture to be painted, but we wanted to bring this to light before it’s the case for your Mini. There have been recalls on the chain and tensioner since the inception of the Mini, they have made a change to the tensioner and the chain to hopefully prevent this in the future. When it comes to Minis with the R56 motors we recommend changing the tensioner, and closer oil change intervals.

We see the chain, tensioner, and guides as a routine maintenance items that should be replaced (before 100k for the standard Mini and 60k for the S). Some recommend it sooner, but keeping a close ear to any rattling before these intervals; especially noises within the few seconds after start are good indicators that you should have it inspected. It’s a fairly inexpensive service, and should be considered like a water pump replacement or other long duration component in your service intervals. The Mini the tensioner, chain, and guides are relatively inexpensive parts. This can cost-effectively be added into your Inspection 2 services.

We recently received a Mini that had gone ‘a bit too long’ before addressing. The result was not pretty, and the service became a major overhaul. When the first component failed it caused the chain to break, the motor to skip timing, bend exhaust valves, fail the vac pump, etc, etc. It was a mess. After a re-machining on the head, full top-end re-build, new tensioner, VANOS actuator, vac pump, and a number of other affected items, and re-sync the cams, and VANOS sensors, it is back on the road like a champion.

We wanted to make this information as accessible as possible for Mini owners, so we can keep you on the road and out of the shop. Below is a breakdown for a widely accepted Mini Service descriptions  and intervals. Please feel free to call us to schedule and appointment, or discuss the details of your Mini.


Mini Maintenance Services

Mini Coopers have 3 types of service: Oil Change, Inspection 1, and Inspection 2. Service notifications are in displayed in the middle of the speedometer. Similar to a BMW this mileage will countdown to next service interval.

If display is flashing and mileage is negative you are in need of service. The applicable service should be performed. They are performed in the following order; Oil change (x3), Service 1, Oil Change (x3-x4), Service 2. Repeat.

Service 1 is also known as a Minor service and service 2 is also known as a Major Service.


Oil Change (5000 – 7500 mile increments)

Change oil and oil filter and reset the oil change indicator.

Inspection 1 (Minor Service) (25k miles)

Includes services in Oil Change (above) plus: change Interior Ventilation Filter, change Transmission fluid if CVT, add Windshield Washer fluid, check Wipers and Washers, lubricate doors and locks, check Battery condition, Suspension, CV boots, Exhaust System, Manual Transmission fluid level, pressure check Cooling System, and reset Service Indicator and road test for overall performance.

Inspection 2 (Major Service) (50k miles)

Includes services from Oil Change and Inspection 1 plus: change Air Filter, Engine Coolant, flush Brake fluid, and mileage. Model dependent add on’s include: Spark Plugs (100K), Belt change (100k cooper 60K S) and Oxygen Sensor (100K).  ADD tensioner to this list with the belts


If you have any questions, feel free to call, email, or send a PM on Facebook or Twitter.


P3 Autokräfte