MINI Engine Replacement - R60 Countryman
Updated: Sep 15
Our scrap metal guy always says the same thing, week after week: 'You guys do SO many engines!' And yes, we replace a lot of them.
1. Repair or replace?
Sometimes replacing the entire engine is a better alternative to repairing it. In the US, (rightfully so) labor costs are very high, and given the size of the market, engines are relatively plentiful. So jobs with a very high labor content may not make sense vs. replacing the entire engine.
Some cases where we recommend an engine swap are:
- The repair has a low likelihood of success. In the MINI world, engine overheating issues are pretty common, as the N12/14/16/18 engines are not great at complaning about low coolant, and the R-series cars don't have a temperature gauge. Combine this with an all-aluminum block, and you can imagine why we see so many melted MINI engines. Doing a head gasket job in an overheated engine is a fool's errand, and an expensive one at that. Swap that engine.
- The repair is complex, and the engine has high miles. We have seen cases where we diagnose a burnt valve (or a few) in an engine with over 125,000 miles. That is a 15-20 hour job - is it worth investing that many hours if you are not sure what else will break in that engine? Are the piston rings fine? Are the bearings healthy?
- The engine has other potential damage. You may think you know what the issue is, but if an engine is not running, there may be multiple issues at play. We had a case once where we replaced the valves in an engine - only to find out the piston rings were bad too.
- The engine is plentiful, and therefore inexpensive. If you have a pretty common MINI, such as an R52/53/56/60, non-JCW edition, chances are we can get you a low-mile engine from one of our trusted suppliers. The more exotic the engine the more difficult to find, but you never know.
2. The Engine Swap process
Planning is a very important part of the process. We have done so many engine jobs, we have learned a ton of lessons the hard way. Some are:
- Pick your supplier VERY carefully. Even if you're offered a warranty, you cannot just Google 'MINI engine' and hope to get a good one. You're not buying a pair of jeans. CarHavn has 3 trusted suppliers of engines - that's it.
- Make sure you have the right tools. May seem obvious, but tools like the timing chain tools and many others are sometimes specific to make, model, and year.
- Plan to refurbish the engine, even if it's a low mile one. The donor engine needs to be carefully inspected before it goes in the car. The specific areas to inspect vary depending on the engine, but we always check timing chain, piston rings, valve cover gasket, oil filter housing gasket, turbo, water pump/thermostat.
- Plan to reprogram electronic components. We had a case once where a non-specialist shop threw in an engine in an R56 and did not properly program CAS/ECM and IMMO. Car was an expensive paperweight. You gotta consider the electronics in addition to the mechanics.
- Cover the basics. Of course you're going to need oil, coolant, power steering fluids, spark plugs, coils, filters, and a new A/C recharge.
With that in place, we get to work on the swap. This is what the job looks like in progress:
And this is the happy ending, a smooth running MINI Countryman-S ALL4 with a 54K mile engine!