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Old 06-11-2018, 06:10 PM   #31
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Oooooooh now I'm looking forward to this.

Duly sub'd.


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Old 07-11-2018, 01:22 PM   #32
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looking forward to more updates

can i ask which Code reader you use to read ABS and airbag codes
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Old 07-11-2018, 10:31 PM   #33
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Hi all,

I have some updates on the way, both cleaning and some mechanical work. Just not had time to write it up yet. Generally takes a full evening to do an update. Should be up before the weekend

Originally Posted by Uncle Winnet View Post
looking forward to more updates

can i ask which Code reader you use to read ABS and airbag codes

I use a C310 tool. Link below (I believe itís the same one). Itís able to read codes and view live data for a lot of stuff. Iíve not used it for airbags although I think it works with them.

What I would say is that Iím not sure how good it is at actually erasing the codes - it didnít seem to always manage it in the past!
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Old 07-11-2018, 10:31 PM   #34
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Subscribed and looking forward to more updates
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Old 07-11-2018, 11:37 PM   #35
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looking forward to this too
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Old 08-11-2018, 09:18 PM   #36
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Jbenekeorr pull your finger out and get this update written
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Old 08-11-2018, 09:22 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by Disco Smudge View Post
Jbenekeorr pull your finger out and get this update written

Iím doing it now. 3 hours in. I shouldnít have had dinner - thatís whatís put me behind
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Old 08-11-2018, 10:02 PM   #38
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Part 2 - Compression test, Interior clean, Oil cooler

Hi all,

Here's an update of work carried out so far. Glad to see plenty of you are up for following this one!


Having searched and asked around on the R53 group - it was suggested that this car COULD be suffering from a failed oil cooler, rather than a head gasket. So I felt that this must be checked and ruled out before stripping the engine at all.

The oil cooler (or heat exchanger as it is referred to by BMW) is mounted on the oil filter housing. Coolant flows through one side (via an inlet and outlet) and draws heat out of the oil which flows through the oil filter housing into a tiny radiator type thing. If the heat exchanger should fail - it mixes oil and coolant - I believe it generally sends oil into the coolant rather than the other way round - as the oil is under higher pressure when the car is running. It's not an entirely uncommon thing to happen, so certainly worth checking. Back to this later.


I had picked up a compression tester from Halfords - so thought there was no harm in giving it a go. I mainly just wanted to have a go at doing a compression test as i've never done it before.

First job was to reinstall the battery which had been charged in the garage. I left it off charge over night and tested the voltage. It was at 12.67 which was reassuring to see. It took a lot of effort to take the first picture below, as I had to balance the multimeter probe so that it would make contact with the terminal without me holding it

I disconnected the coil and unplugged the fuel pump so that there was no chance of the engine firing, then pulled all the plugs (rendering the previous step slightly redundant..).

Normally, you can now just unplug the HT leads and remove the plugs - however the massive Forge intercooler covers 3 of the plugs! So this had to be removed. It's held on by a few 10mm bolts, and the snoot boots (rubber connections on the sides) are held on by 4 clamps. I used the cordless drill driver to speed things up - however the battery ran out after doing 1 so it actually just slowed me down

On the subject of the Forge intercooler - I'm not sure how effective it can possibly be - as looking inside the bonnet scoop , it blocks most of it up!

These R53's are notorious for having valve cover and spark plug tube leaks - you may also have spotted that the seller included a replacement. The plug on cylinder 1 came out pretty clean and healthy looking. However the remaining 3 cylinders had a lot of oil in the spark plug tubes, so when I pulled the plugs out - it all ran down into the bores and also covered the plugs. Look at the state of this

Plug 1

Looking into the spark plug tube of cylinder 4

And rather inevitably - the oil ran down over the plug and into the bore

Compression tester hooked up

The readings I got were

1 - 170psi
2 - 195psi
3 - 190psi
4 - 195psi

The readings for 2,3 & 4 which oil had leaked into are artificially high - as it creates a lovely seal round the piston rings - giving an artificially high reading. However as cylinder 1 was not as oily - hence giving a more sensible reading of 170psi. As a test, I dripped some clean engine oil into cylinder 1 and re-tested. It went up to 195psi - proving my point.

Whilst the test was probably a bit useless - it presumably proved that I don't have any mega compression leaks on any of the cylinders. Someone with a better understanding may be able to enlighten me there...

I wiped the spilled oil off the spark plugs and ensured they went back in the correct place.

On the last crank, the battery was already about dead - so I fear it may not be in good health.


This car doesn't have front fog lights - they were optional (an option virtually every other MINI has!) However there don't seem to be any blanks filling the holes. I don't know if they're missing or just were never fitted!

The lack of fog front lights means you have a dreadful blank switch on the nice characteristic bank of toggle switches


Next I wanted to tackle the interior. Regardless of what happens with the car, I couldn't stand the dirt inside it. It's mainly psychological - I don't like sitting in cars with other people's dirt! Whilst I'm not sitting in it much - I wanted it to be pleasant when I did need to. It did have a bit of a 'used car pong' about it - a mixture of dirt, people and cheap air fresheners that seems identical in most un-loved cars of this age.

Using a similar technique to that on my other MINI, I didn't waste time trying to work with the seats inside the car - I just removed them. The front seats are held in with 4 bolts each plus two connectors underneath. The rear seat squab (the bum bit) pulls upwards and out. This leaves the backrest part of the rear seats totally accessible - they're a faff to remove too, so they were able to stay in. With that done, this is what I was working with. The carpet wasn't very dirty overall - mainly down the sides of the seats. I get the impression the previous owner did give it the odd basic hoover out every so often. Being the drama queen that I am - I wore a breathing mask. When I took my clothes off after working on the car - I realised that they stank of the interior smell ...

I found quite a lot of money under the rear squab and also the cup holder. The car now owes me £497.89

I also cleaned under the boot carpet in the battery tray. It wasn't too bad, but it needed a hoover out and APC wipe. I also cleaned up the battery terminals with some wet & dry paper as they showed some signs of having been damp (regular thing with these MINIs). Before picture of the battery tray.

The vast majority of the filth lay on the seats as many of you have already commented! The colour and pattern on the seats plays havoc with my phone's camera - so some of the pictures can look a bit weird.

Not so easy to make out - but a lot of the 'miscellaneous brown' dirt lay at the base of the backrest ... in the butt crack area
I'm just being silly of course - it's a high contact spot where your clothes rub against.

After hoovering the whole interior, I sprayed all surfaces down with APC. I use a generic supermarket all purpose cleaner diluted in roughly equal measure with water. It's dirt cheap and does a good job - perfect for jobs such as this on a lower value car. I just sprayed generously and wiped down with a few microfibres.

Here's how the bare interior looked after a good vacuum and APC. A LOT better I'm sure you will agree.

For the seats - I used my Vax carpet cleaner. I've had it for a few years but it's not something I particularly rate. It's very old school in design (they've made these for years) and has countless pieces that have to be assembled to use it, plus it's massive and has nowhere to store any of the accessories or the hose. It also functions as a regular vacuum but the effort involved in swapping bits over isn't worth the bother. The machine is able to inject the cleaning solution and suck it back out. However the hand held attachment for this cracked just as I was finishing this job meaning it just sprays out everywhere now.

The following pictures are shamelessly stolen from the Argos website.

I use a far cheaper version of the Vax cleaning solution mixed with nice hot water in the machine. For a bit of extra 'oompf', I also sprayed the seats with Halfords upholstery cleaner. It's cheap and has really good reviews, I've used it for a while now. I worked it in with a medium bristle brush before going over with the Vax again - spraying in more of the cleaner solution at the same time as drawing it back out on medium power, then finally went over again with the solution pump turned off and the vacuum on max to suck out as much of the water from the seats as possible.

A rough 50/50 on the backrest. The high wear areas are a bit 'fluffy' on the driver's seat as seen below. I seem to remember you can rectify this with a razor blade lightly over the surface, but I'm yet to remember to try it.

The water that came out of the Vax...

It leaves them dry enough that you could usually sit in them within an hour or so. But being colder weather - I opted to leave the seats in the conservatory over night by the radiator. The cat was happy to give his seal of approval.

The seats were dry by morning, so I was able to reinstall them in the car and get them out of my way in the house! Here are some finished pictures. I'm so happy with how the interior looks now and pleased to report it smells CLEAN! As I mentioned before - the seats seem to play tricks with the camera - they can look 'shadowy' for some reason. But they look good in person!


Back to the oil cooler. It resides down the back of the engine and is part of the oil filter housing. I was told the best course of action would be to remove the entire housing and split it on the bench afterwards. It is accessed by reaching down the back of the engine and also from the front offside wheel arch. I started by jacking the car up by the sill with a length of wood, then placing an axle stand under the front jack point - leaving the jack under too for safety. The wheel centre pops off with a flat head screwdriver. This car doesn't have locking bolts fitted, however one bolt on each wheel is of a different style - indicating to me that it probably used to have lockers, but the key was lost and they were forcibly removed and replaced with standard bolts. I like finding little clues to the car's past.

With the wheel off, I then removed the arch liner. This should be held on with roughly 4 screws and 6-8 scrivets. Some kind soul had saved me the trouble of getting frustrated with all the fixings by not fitting almost any of them it was held on by 1.5 scrivets and two screws with rounded off heads. I keep a supply of new scrivets and a collection of car screws I've amassed over the years. Access with the arch liner is much improved.

Before going any further, I drained the oil - as I wasn't sure if I would lose much when removing the oil filter housing from the back of the block. I was pleased to see that the oil just looked like regular dirty engine oil. No water obviously present ... unlike my JCW when the HG went!

I then removed the oil filter which looked pretty normal. The car has done about 12k since its oil change last year (I have the invoice). Displayed delicately on a very old pair of pants.

The whole area behind the wheel arch is disgusting. The valve cover has been leaking a lot of oil, the coolant bottle has vomited oily coolant all down the back of the engine and just for good measure, one of the CV boots (MOT fail item) has sprayed a good amount of grease all over the general area too. There's no getting away from the fact that you WILL get filthy working in this area!

Looking down behind the engine towards the oil cooler

The oil cooler viewed from the offside wheel arch

And the same but zoomed out

The oil filter housing is attached to the block with 3 bolts. Below is a parts diagram obtained from RealOEM.

You can't see any of the bolts, but it's possible to get a socket on two of them working by feel and referring to the parts diagram. The third bolt took me ages to find. I used a YouTube video which said I should remove a bolt for the lower heat shield which allows it to be moved to one side - giving some access to the one remaining bolt. When it was free from the block, I used a pair of needle nose pliers to remove the two hose clamps holding the coolant inlet and outlet hoses on. I removed a fourth by mistake bolt which was nothing to do with the filter housing - I must remember to put that back from wherever it came!

This is a stock picture of an oil filter housing removed from an R53. This will give you a better idea of what it looks like - as mine is an oily mess.

Now here is a picture of mine stood up on the bench looking directly at the heat exchanger. You'll note that one side is blocked up on the coolant side of it. I poked at it with a screwdriver and it's full of a thick muddy substance, totally blocking it. I dug a good amount out and then tried running water through it but it was still completely blocked. After a lot of poking and spraying water into it - I eventually managed to get water to flow through it in some capacity. The substance does smell oily. The oil side of the heat exchanger looks normal.

These two pictures are after I removed the heat exchanger itself from the oil filter housing.

So I'm not sure exactly what conclusion to draw from this. I posted this on the R53 group - people said that this could well be the problem with the car, but not to rule out the head gasket. The recommendation was to buy a new heat exchanger, flush the coolant and refill the oil - then run the car and see if the mayo in the expansion tank should reoccur.

Deep down, I still feel that the head gasket (or the head itself) may have an issue - possibly between an oil and coolant 'hole'. Because I can't see why the manky coolant oil would be spraying out of the expansion tank - that would suggest to me that it was being pressurised. So i'm not getting my hopes up. But regardless - I have found an issue of some kind which needed rectifying - a totally blocked heat exchanger cannot be a good thing! In my view - the blockage could either be caused by the oil cooler failing and letting oil/coolant mix to go gloopy and block the heat exchanger up. OR it's a buildup of rusty crap caused by the coolant not being changed in many years. Although I must say the coolant thats actually in the system is a clean green colour as it should be.

In summary, I'm not jumping to any conclusions - there is an issue with the heat exchanger which COULD be all that's wrong, but it must be replaced before we go any further. I'm really glad I checked it and found that it was blocked solid - regardless of the cause.


This morning, I was still waiting on the new oil cooler, and still feeling dreadful from this bug i've had for well over a week now so I decided to stick to light duties. I had broken my own rule of tidying all my tools away after each day working on the car - so I cleaned them all and put them back. I'm very regimented in wiping all tools clean before they go back in the trolley!

I've run out of disposable gloves and the new pack hasn't arrived yet - so I wore an old pair of socks on my hands! The postman knocked the door and had my new expansion tank and cap. Only after I closed the door, did I realise I was still wearing a pair of oily red socks on my hands he must think I'm mental.

It seemed like a good time to remove the old hideous expansion tank - I saw no point in reusing it, as they are known for splitting and the caps for losing their seal. The old tank comes off with 1 x 10mm bolt, two hoses to remove and lift the tank from its plastic retaining lugs. I won't be installing the new one until the system has been flushed. It actually doesn't look THAT bad inside - there is no oily goop in the bottom of the tank or on the baffles which hopefully indicates that the whole cooling system isn't completely full of sludge.


I removed and cleaned up the MSD coil pack and the Magnecor plug leads with some WD40. They will go back on the car when I run it again - but ultimately I may sell them and replace with standard if I do repair the car. The MSD coil pack looks nice because it's red - but isn't well regarded by all, as there are suggestions it can cause running issues or something. It doesn't offer any kind of perfromance increase other than being red (the fastest colour of all...).


I will be pinching the jack set from the car as my JCW doesn't have one I also only have part of the tool kit, so I'll pocket that and leave this car with the nice red piped bag and towing eye. The jack is pretty redundant when these cars don't carry a spare wheel anyway!!!


Here's a picture of one of the headlights - it failed because they are cloudy. This should be a good candidate for wet sanding and polishing up!


I've ordered a pair of standard tail lights so I can swap them with the smoked LED lights and sell them on. The smoked version of the LED units really aren't to my taste at all anyway! I have also ordered a couple of oil filters from Euro Car Parts as I will need to refill the car with some oil when I give the engine a test run with the new heat exchanger when that arrives.

Hope you have enjoyed this update!
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Old 08-11-2018, 10:12 PM   #39
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those compressions look pretty even to me.

so it's not blown the fire ring, however it could have gone between oil and water seals like others have said
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Old 08-11-2018, 10:20 PM   #40
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Great update, thanks for posting
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