Wednesday, 21 September 2016

D-Day at Lohen... MINI inspection part 2

So we're at Lohen, the leading MINI specialist in the UK. We've already settled in and had a look round in part 1 - now we're going to get some proper diagnosis.

Once the MINI is up on the ramp I get my pad and pen out and prepare to make lengthy notes. Some say ignorance is bliss, but you can only be ignorant to your car's problems for so long before they come back to bite you - in the wallet! I take a deep breath... here we go.

It's definitely a Mini - it leaks oil.
Luke is our friendly technician and he will be casting his keen eye over the motor. First of all he raises it right up and takes a good look underneath with a torch. Here he points out the various places where oil is leaking from (for the record: rocker cover, gasket for oil filter housing mount, oil sump and timing chain cover).

A check of the bushes and mounts is also done; here he says the wishbone bushes are on their way out and the lower engine mount needs replacing.

Meyle HD bars rubbing the driveshaft
A surprising find is that the new Meyle Heavy Duty stabilizer bars I got from my local autofactors were infact rubbing against the driveshaft and had 'polished' them as you can clearly see! What the....   Needless to say, I wasn't best pleased and soon returned them with a complaint.

Carbon deposits indicate a blowing exhaust
Further back, Luke tells me that the exhaust is blowing and points to a carbon stain on the exhaust indicating the leak. This must have been when I had the new catalytic convertor put on in January, and it wasn't mated up properly. There was also a missing heatshield at the rear of the exhaust which had been absent since I bought it. I pointed out the big blog of crud on one of the rear callipers, but given my luck I thought twice about asking them to investigate it. They're on my list of things to upgrade anyway, and they're still working at the moment, so don't fiddle.

Engine mount rubber worn
No Cold Air Intake pipe
Bringing the car back to down to ground level and Luke was able to check out the engine topside - which is where my notes start getting longer and my ears prick up.

Immediately from just a visual inspection you can see a missing archliner (which has covered the engine bay in tar), a comical VW coolant reservoir instead of the MINI one. Oh, and the Cold Air Intake (CAI) pipe is missing, so the engine is drawing in warm air from the engine bay, which obviously won't help performance.

Further inspection finds the LH top engine mount is worn and a filter which is meant to cover the brake fluid reservoir is missing also. As far as those points are concerned, I can't complain. Fairly simple fixes, but it's not the pipes and filters that are missing that are my main worry - it's inside the engine!

Brown and black plugs...  guess which ones are bad!
So it's here that the serious business starts. Taking out the spark plugs we inspect their colour and condition. As you can see the two on the right are black, rather than the nicer mild browning of the other two. This clearly indicates some fuelling issue inside the cylinders, so using the torch Luke takes a closer look.

He calls me over to have a look myself and tells me that there is oil leaking into the cylinders. Asking what could cause this he says potentially the piston or piston rings, or valve stem seals - but the only way to know for sure would be to take it apart and have a look.

The news was bad. Tragic. Terminal even. But I put on a brave face, cracked a few jokes and soldiered on. Looking on the bright side, the car was still working for now... but for how long?

Compression test on the cylinders
However, the inspection wasn't finished. After checking the plugs Luke did a compression test, and unsurprisingly found two cylinders down on power, but one significantly more than the other. This along with the airleak that was recently fixed would explain the misfire I had had.

Combustion gas test
Finally, they decided to do a combustion gas test. This gizmo would monitor the gasses in the coolant reservoir, and if the engine had a gas leak, it would leak into the coolant and be indicated by the fluid indicator changing from blue to yellow/orange. See a video here to watch how it works

If there are any saving graces from the bad news discovered today, it was that the head gasket hadn't blown.

Look at the size of this place!
For this type of Gen 1 MINI health check with an oil, oil filter and pollen change it will only cost you just £99 (see it here), and you can get the next level of servicing for just £149 (saving £50). 

That's very competitive when you look what MINI are charging - and oil service alone is £115, with inspections starting at £185! Wow.

Alternatively you can get a health check with 3x dyno runs for £90. Amazing value! Mmmm dyno!

Can I be honest for a moment? Ask yourself, who would you really rather give your money to? MINI and its overinflated prices and questionable knowledge - following computer instructions and not being able to answer basic questions - or people like Lohen, who live and breathe MINI, who are happy to give advice and share their knowledge and recommendations. They are enthusiasts, just like you.

As you can see from my experience, they have done a good, thorough and comprehensive inspection of my MINI. Picking up numerous issues I wasn't aware of. And when these people see only MINIs, day in and day out, you can rest assured they know where all the common - and not so common - faults lie. It is this extra special knowledge and experience that sets Lohen apart from the rest.

Performance MINI owners trust Lohen.

So here is the full list of issues identified.

Worn tyres
Wishbone bushes
Link stabilisers rubbing driveshaft
Archliner missing
Cold Air Intake (CAI) pipe missing
Coolant tank incorrect (from a VW)
Filter on brake fluid reservoir missing
LH engine mount rubber worn
Oil leak from rocker cover
Oil leak from gasket for oil filter housing mount
Oil leak from oil sump
Oil leak from timing chain cover
Heat shield on rear of exhaust missing
Exhaust blowing
Lower engine mount needs replacing
Compression down in cylinders 3 & 4
Oil in cylinders 3 & 4

Thinking about it? Do yourself a favour and just do it.

Take a look for yourself...

So lots for me to consider. Find out how I survive....

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