Friday, 1 May 2015

Expert inspection from Bowker MINI

So last time I was telling you about all the little niggles I had discovered and how I was finding driving the 6-geared MINI compared to a 4-gear classic, and one cause for concern was a regular misfire at idle.

The plan in my head was to assess the MINI, work out what was wrong with it and get it up to full health before deciding what customisation to go for. With that in mind I contacted my local MINI dealership in Blackburn to see if they had any services to check over the health of my MINI - and they did. Called the Bowker MINI inspection, it's supposed to be a quick 30 minute visual once-over where a MINI technician will assess every area of the car and produce a report which can include photos and video which highlight the problem areas.

As I'd decided to do a write-up on the Bowker MINI Inspection - and because my MINI has so many faults - it took a bit longer to do and in the end the technician refused to drive the car claiming it was "too dangerous", despite me having covered 1500 miles in it already. I was a bit miffed at this ast there were some drivingnoises I wanted him to check, but you can make your own mind up whether he was being over-cautious or not.

Anyway so here's what happened:

Chris the technician gets out his iPad with the checklist on it.
First fault is rear numberplate light not working/cover missing.
The rear wiper doesn't work and the washer jet has a clever trick of spraying directly backwards (watch out tailgating cars!).  So a washer jet cap is needed too.

Rust bubbles under the paint on the driver's rear quarter.
Some rust bubbles just above the boot handle.
 Plugging in the Fault Code Reader

That's not a standard coolant tank. It's from a VW.
 Ariel is broken.
 Computer reading the fault codes.
 Oil leak.
 Exhaust heatshield missing.
Driver's side rear wheel sticking - not rotating freely.
Scored pulley belt.
Oil sump bolt has been rounded off and araldited into the block!
Bottom ball joint rubber is split.
Front end insecurely fastened. Missing fasteners.
Missing front end fastener.
Missing front end fastener.
Second exhaust heatshield missing.
Nail in passenger rear tyre.
Rusty floor near rear floorpan.
Tyre tread depth check.
The scrape bar - as I like to call it - because it scrapes over the many speed bumps around my area.
 Checking the antifreeze in the coolant.
Driver's front rubber suspension mounting has failed.
Taken back to the showroom ready for valeting.
Chill out at Bowker Blackburn with free drinks and biscuits.
Little Anekin takes full advantage of everything on offer! Time to restock the biscuits.
And check out the 5-door MINI. Hmmm.
Barry looks at the inspection report with me.
There's a lot of Red items.
All cleaned inside and out! Thank you very much.
But now you can see how kerbed the wheels are - not my fault BTW!!


On the day I felt a little frustrated after the Health Check. I had hoped that an inspection from a MINI dealership would give me a full assessment of the health of the MINI and inform me of what needed addressing - and in a way, it did - but not to the extent or depth I was hoping.

For example, the misfire - the technician was able to identify the misfire (as it came up on the Fault Codes) but he couldn't tell me why... and that's what I really wanted to know. I had thought with the experience they had, they would be able to give me some inkling of what was causing it. And sometimes there is loud unnatural whirring noise which I wanted him to check out, but after finding the suspension mount and ball joint rubber issues, he refused to take it for a spin. So I did feel a bit deflated at the time.

In hindsight, I can see how the technicians are limited in what they can tell you - guessing what a problem might be - in case they get it wrong and a customer kicks off about it, but at the same time I wanted that experienced insight into what my main misfire problem was.

Nevertheless, I had come away now armed with a list of issues to address on Charlie, with the most pertinent being the suspension mount and balljoint.

For the record they did fail to check the wheel bearings, tracking and emissions, but to be fair we had gone over the allocated time. 

I spoke to the Service Manager at Bowker, Stewart Rose, who addressed some of my concerns and explained the limitations of the inspection and on-board computer diagnostic system. After this I felt more at ease and pleased with the way they had treated me - and I managed to blag a winged MINI keyring. 

If you've just bought a MINI the chances are it wont be as bad a condition as mine, and so I would definately recommend getting some kind of expert in MINIs to take a good look at it to give you that peace of mind.

Bowker MINI's Vehicle Health Check is £24.99 and takes just 30 minutes (with free tea and biscuits). For more information on this visit:

Washer/Wipers and Horn
+ Front Wipers
+ Rear Wiper
+ Front Washers
+ Rear Washers
+ Headlight Washers
+ Horn

+ Dashboard Warning Lights
+ Front Lights
+ Rear Lights
+ Indicators

Heating and Ventilation
+ Heating System operation
+ Climate Control operation
+ A/C Next Service Due Date

Mirrors, Glass and Trims
+ OSF Door Mirror
+ NSF Door Mirror
+ Windscreen
+ Rear Screen
+ Front Windows/Mechanisms
+ Rear Windows/Mechanisms

Under Bonnet
+ Coolant System
+ Engine Oil Level
+ PAS Fluid Level
+ Aux Drive Belt
+ Washer Fluid

+ Front Brakes
+ Rear Brakes
+ Handbrake
+ Brake Pipes and Hoses

Steering and Suspension
+ Front Suspension
+ Rear Suspension
+ Steering system

Drive Train
+ Clutch Operation
+ Gearbox
+ Engine
+ Engine Electrical
+ Oil Leaks

Exhaust System
+ Exhaust system condition

Wheels and Tyres
+ OS Front Tyre
+ NS Front Tyre
+ NS Rear Tyre
+ OS Rear Tyre
+ Spare
+ Inflation Kit exp date
+ Wheels
+ Road test to assess wheel alignment/tracking

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