19 Mar Is Your Mini Cooper Power Steering Failing?
For many years, the Mini Cooper has remained a leading star in the league of subcompact cars. At one point in time, it was ranked as one of the most influential vehicles of the 20th century. Many reasons contribute to these accolades, most notable the quick acceleration, great handling and a quirkiness of this tiny powerhouse which is well-loved. However as much we admire the Mini, as with all great cars, it has a few weak links. Today, we are talking about one of the most common Mini Cooper issues, the dreaded steering pump.
How does the Mini Cooper Steering Pump Work?
The Mini Cooper steering works with an electro-hydraulic power system; meaning that it’s powered with electricity and hydraulic energy. Thus, instead of the common use of belts, the Mini Cooper uses an electric motor in driving the hydraulic steering pump. The upside in all this is that the system affords the car to work with taking less horsepower from the engine (as compared to powering a traditional mechanical hydraulic pump) while ensuring that the control and steering feel is nimble and near perfect.
The downside, however, is that the system builds up a lot of heat during operation. If you’ve ever looked for your steering pump, you may have noticed that it’s underneath the exhaust manifold; so it’s a ‘double whammy’ when it comes to heat build up. Consequently, it often experiences overheating and this causes problems in the power steering, which is typically the root cause of so many Mini Cooper power steering failures.
To combat the heat build up, a small electric fan is used to cool the pump, however, BMW placed the fan (perhaps foolishly) underneath the pump and close to the road. What this means is that we see a lot of bad Mini Cooper steering pumps seize and overheat because the cooling fan was damaged by road debris. Now, whose design and idea is behind the steering pump is a huge debate online and in Mini Cooper message boards, but that controversy is for another day.
The first truth of the Mini Cooper is this: if you want to enjoy an optimal performance of your Mini Cooper, you must adopt and practice the habit of regular maintenance.
Let’s take a look at why this steering pump fails.
Reasons for the Failure of Mini Cooper Steering Pumps
A lot of factors can be responsible for the failure of the power steering pump of the Mini Cooper. Some of them are:
- Wear and Tear
All automobile parts suffer wear and tear. The steering pump of the Mini Cooper is no exception. After a while, the power steering pump will eventually become subject to wear. To prevent this from happening sooner rather than later, regular maintenance is strictly advised.
- Engine Overheating
This was slightly highlighted before, but here we are talking about the engine and cooling system itself. A Mini Cooper that overheats often has collateral damage and one of the items that suffers in the breakdown is the power steering pump. High heat takes a toll on electrical components in general so you can imagine what happens when a Mini overheats in that tiny engine compartment!
- Faulty Cooling Fan
The cooling fan is definitely a weak part of the overall design as we mentioned above. (Who the heck puts a plastic fan….under a car….near the road??) Besides being physically damaged, electric fans have a tendency to develop shorts or ground faults. Once the cooling fan develops faults, it can’t regulate the heat in other parts of the car. When the heat becomes too much without control, the pump will stop working and this leads to steering failure. Hence, your cooling fans must be checked frequently to avoid any problems.
How to You Know You Have a Failing Steering Pump
Figuring out whether a steering pump is bad or faulty is basic. The main catalysts to all the problems of the Mini Cooper steering pump are the lack of a belt system. Although this issue was allegedly fixed in 2005, it remains a recurring cause of concern to all Mini Cooper drivers. In case you’re wondering if you have a problem with your steering pump, the following warning signs will come in handy.
This one is easy. If you ever notice reddish-brown fluid on the ground under your Mini Cooper, it’s most likely coming from the power steering system. There are a number of spots in the system that can start leaking such as the pump itself or the hoses. Nipping a leak in the bud is extremely important with a Mini Cooper. As with most cars, a steering pump that is running low on fluid will cause the pump to work harder than it should and can lead to premature failure.
- Hard Steering
Usually the first sign that there is an issue with a Mini Cooper power steering pump is stiff steering, almost to the point of feeling like its a manual system. This can also be accompanied by screeching or whining noises. This is a very dangerous warning sign and it could lead to a road accident if not attended to in a timely manner. A heavy or slow steering wheel is the last thing you want on a highway. The moment you experience anything like this, you should see a local Mini Cooper mechanic.
- Unusual Squeals
Strange squeals may be heard often when turning the steering wheels. If you hear such squealing sounds frequently, know that there is a problem with the steering pump. Usually, the cause of this is traceable to a dry pump or a strain on the belt that drives the pump. I should clarify here quickly – even though the mini cooper steering pump is electric, it still uses a belt in the system. The big difference is that the belt is not attached to the main crank of the engine for its power, thus it doesn’t put a strain on horsepower from the engine. If this is not checked, it can result in the total breakdown of the steering system.
- Knocking Sounds
If you haven’t noticed any of the above issues, the last and biggest sign that you might have a problem is if your steering starts to make dull knocking sounds. This can be attributed to two things, a bad or failing steering pump or the universal joints in the actual steering column linkage that can start to ‘kink.’ Often, the steering pump makes a loud knock when it is approaching the end of its life span. This should be checked and fixed quickly before it leads to consequential damage of other parts.
If you’re reading this and don’t yet own a Mini Cooper, don’t let the steering pump discourage you. Just like all BMW’s, Mercedes, etc, they are high performance machines with high-caliber issues. Think of it as more of a ‘cost of ownership’ in exchange for the amazing driving experience. Look at it this way, if you want a compact car, buy a Civic, if you want a screaming little pocket rocket, buy a Mini Cooper…