Is Your Car a Victim of the MINI Cooper Low Oil Level Epidemic?

by | Mar 29, 2017 | Auto Questions, Car Problems & Repairs, Preventative Maintenance

1.  a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.
2. an outbreak or product of sudden rapid spread, growth, or development

Based on the above definition, #2 to be exact, there is no doubt that we are experiencing an epidemic. Over the past year, we have seen dozens of Mini Coopers coming into our facility with a very low oil level. This is serious because it can dramatically reduce the life of a Mini Cooper engine!

MINI Coopers parked on lot at British American Auto Care.jpgNot long ago, we received a letter through our “Auto Answers For You” service. Connie, from Wisconsin, wrote in to ask about her son’s 2011 MINI Cooper S. She came across our website while trying to find out how common carbon buildup is on MINI’s. Her son’s car had 70,000 miles on it, no previous owners, and they religiously abided by their maintenance schedule.  In fact, they had purchased the 100,000-mile maintenance plan when they bought the car. At the time of her letter, the car was in the shop because the check engine light came on. Here’s a bit of additional history that Connie shared.

  • Mileage:  1,630   Problem:  Check engine light is on, and there is a misfire on cylinder 1
  • Mileage:  2,371 Problem:  Check engine light is on, and the problem is determined to be a loose gas cap
  • Mileage:  (not given)  Problem:  Update tensioner in recall
  • Mileage:  56,000  Problem: Check engine light is on for misfire again in cylinder 1. The spark plug was excessively worn and replaced.  There was oil in the solenoid connector but not DME, so it was serviced and replaced.  The oil pump was leaking and replaced.  The right axle seal was leaking fluid and replaced.
  • Mileage:  62,000   Problem:  Regular maintenance, had spark plugs replaced
  • Mileage:  70,000  Problem:  Check engine light on again, and the fuel pump needs replacing.  Additionally, there is excessive carbon buildup that needs to be cleaned, and the gasket needs replacing.

Connie told us that every time she or her son had work done on the car, they were told there was carbon buildup, and that it is common with these cars. The problem is, she was left with a huge repair bill, and she felt the problem should have been caught.  You know what? It should have been caught because the problem was with her maintenance plan that covered oil changes only every 10,000 to 15,000 miles.  Connie’s religious adherence to her plan was exactly what caused the problem with her car. She wasn’t getting the oil changed often enough, and the resultant, low engine oil levels likely caused the problems. But Connie got lucky; MINI covered the cost of the carbon buildup repair under her extended warranty!

The fact is carbon build up is an issue on its own, and to some extent, it cannot be avoided. But, the most common reasons for problems are 1) not getting oil changes frequently enough and 2) letting the oil get low between oil changes. Driving any more than 6000 miles (3000 miles for turbos) can cause the piston rings to clog. Then the blow-by causes buildup on the valves. The oil level should be checked everything 1000 miles and topped off.

Oil consumption issues are made dramatically worse by:

  • Not knowing how much oil your Mini Cooper uses
  • Not keeping the oil level in the “safe” zone
  • Changing the oil at intervals between 8,000 and 15,000 miles

As auto mechanics, we hate to see these engines wearing out prematurely.  As customer-focused automotive professionals, we hate to see our customers saddled with high maintenance costs. These repairs can range from special cleaning services to complete engine replacements. We especially hate to see this as THE PROBLEMS CAN  BE PREVENTED!

We can’t just stand by and do nothing.  BA Auto Care is taking steps to change this situation. We are by asking ALL MINI Cooper customers to STOP BY FOR A FREE OIL CONSUMPTION TEST.


  • Check your oil level and top it off.
  • Recheck the oil level after 500 miles, and top it off again.
  • Calculate your oil consumption and recommend a maintenance schedule to protect your engine.

ALL this will be FREE of charge for up to the first two quarts of oil. (If you require more than two quarts of oil, we recommend an oil change.

Please call and make a five to ten minute “while you wait appointment” so we can protect your Mini Cooper.  We will do our best to get you in and out as quickly as possible.

We can help keep your MINI running well and avoid PREVENTABLE repairs. We know you love your Mini Cooper.

While you are here at BA Auto Care, share your story of why you brought a Mini Cooper.  We love MINI stories!


  1. Marc W.

    If it were possible to read the dipstick it would be easy to check the oil but that thing is impossible for people who know cars like me even to read properly… how can there be no oil pressure or oil temperature gauge in the car I have a mini 2010s

    • Brian England

      Yes Marc it is tricky to read the dip stick. I have always said that a car should have an audible signal when the oil level is low! In the meantime it’s worth perfecting checking the oil level to save costly repairs. Brian

  2. Carlos Pacheco

    We just learned the hard way on a 2016 Clubman with $4K in damage. Only warning we got was a drivetrain malfunction error message which was already too late, even the dealer didn’t figure out what caused it until a full day of investigation. No low oil or any other warning to mention before that.

    • Brian England

      Sorry to hear this Carlos, we have got use to cars not using oil. The 4 cylinder Audi suffers from similar issues. Brian

  3. Eliane

    A quick question today my mini cooper 2005 suddenly lowered in speed and shut down i checked the oil it was no oil at all what should i do in auch a case add oil will be enough?

    • Brian England

      Hi Elaine, Adding oil may be enough but sometimes running low on oil can badly damage an engine. I would take it to a technician and have them listen to the engine before driving very far. Brian

  4. Kim Anne Marcotte

    I just put a used, with 65,000 km on the engine. Agree that dip stick is problematic. Something readable would help. I think I keep over filling mine. But also wonder if it is transmission fluid because there are no dip sticks or console light indicators. For a luxury car, there are some necessities that are certainly lacking. All I have done since replacing the motor is sink more money into it since Aug 1st of this year.

  5. john Alfred Bartlett

    I have aMini1’6 2014 reg only done 6099miles due to ill health my neighbour drove car to local garage as oil light and drive train came on changed oil said the oil smelled of petrol i am at a loss what to do can you help please full service records and MOTs

    • Brian England

      Hi John, The only option open to you is to have a technician diagnosis the problem. Lack of use is often more damaging to a car than one that’s driven daily. Brian


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About the Author

About Brian England

Brian England, the current president of BA Auto Care (formerly British American Auto Care), got his start with an auto apprenticeship in a small town in northwest of London. He came to the U.S. in 1972 to work for a Land Rover dealer in Rockville, MD. A few years later, he started British American Auto Care with his wife, Jennifer. Brian is a big believe in preventative maintenance, and his philosophy is to encourage and educate drivers on the benefits of a regular maintenance plan.