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Product Liability

Mini Cooper Timing Chain Problems May Stem From Defect

This Alert Affects:

Consumers who purchased certain Mini Cooper vehicles.

Timing chain tensioner failure, engine failure, loss of power.
Additional Details
Unlike most vehicles, these Mini Coopers use a metal timing chain as opposed to a traditional timing belt.
It is believed that Hardtop (model years 2007 through 2010), Clubman (model years 2008 through 2010), and Convertible (model years 2009 through 2010) Mini Coopers may have been outfitted with defective timing chain tensioners. In January 2008, BMW issued a technical service bulletin addressing the problem, but did not issue any recall.
Type of Lawsuit
Class Action

Consumers who purchased certain Mini Cooper vehicles may be entitled to compensation. It has been alleged that models with the N12 or N14 engine, sometimes known as the “Prince” engine, suffer from a defect in the timing chain tensioner. These engines have been installed in Mini Coopers since 2007, and a class action lawsuit against BMW claims that the company knew about the defective timing chain tensioners since 2008, yet failed to warn consumers or issue any recall. Failure of the timing chain may cause the vehicle to completely lose power or experience engine failure, and can require expensive servicing by a mechanic. 

If you have purchased a Hardtop, Clubman, or Convertible Mini Cooper (model years ranging from 2007 to 2010), you may be able to participate in a class action lawsuit. 

Is My Mini Cooper Prone to Timing Chain Problems?

It is believed that the following models are prone to timing chain problems:

  • Hardtop R56, model years 2007 through 2009
  • Clubman R55, model years 2008 through 2009
  • Convertible R57, model years 2009 through 2010

The Mini Cooper models listed above are outfitted with the “Prince” engine, the design of which may present several problems. First, both the timing chain and tensioner are located inside the engine; this design can allow for catastrophic damage to the engine should the chain fail. Second, although a tensioner only costs about $15 dollars, its location within the engine requires many hours of labor and can cost roughly $1,000 to replace.

It has been alleged that a defective tensioner can cause engine failure at any time, causing the vehicle to stop suddenly and lose power. Some consumers have reported engine failure while driving on freeways or in traffic, while others have filed complaints concerning the vehicle’s safety with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Office of Defects Investigation.

Even if a consumer cares responsibly for their Mini Cooper by following maintenance and service schedules, it is believed that the defect can still go unnoticed and cause extensive problems. The vehicle’s on-board computer does not monitor the condition of the chain tensioner since BMW advertises it as “maintenance-free,” and the Mini maintenance program does not require chain and tensioner services.

One common warning reported by consumers is called the “death rattle,” a rattling sound coming from the engine near the passenger side of the car. The “death rattle” becomes more prominent in cold weather, or when the vehicle is idling or being operated at a low speed. It has been reported that this rattling sound may develop when the tensioner is close to failure.

Mini Cooper Timing Chain Lawsuit Claims BMW Knew About Defect

BMW is facing a proposed class action lawsuit in New Jersey alleging that timing chain tensioner defects in the Hardtop (R56) and Clubman (R55) models of Mini Coopers cost plaintiffs thousands of dollars in repair and replacement costs.

The plaintiffs claim that they bought new Mini Cooper S models in 2007 and experienced timing chain problems when their vehicles reached 75,000 and 90,000 miles – well beneath BMW’s suggested maintenance period of 120,000 miles, or 10 years.

In January 2008, BMW issued a technical service bulletin addressing the problem; however, the company did not issue a recall or reimburse consumers who already replaced their tensioners or engines, according to the complaint. The two individuals who filed the suit against BMW claim that the company knew about the alleged defects for years and failed to issue any recalls or provide reimbursement to consumers. 

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