The teardown has begun.

(Yes, these are long updates. I am aware of this. If you don’t want to read them in their entirety or even read them at all, that’s perfectly fine. I’m just keeping a record of recent events for those who do want to keep up.)

For those who missed the previous entries in this saga, you can catch them on my Kinja profile..

Last night we were able to map out a route from my house to my friend Ian’s house (his garage and lift are pictured) that eliminated as many stop signs and stoplights as possible. We waited until late at night when traffic was light and babied the Mini over there, shifting as little as possible and being sure to keep the RPM’s low. The throwout bearing voiced its displeasure more than once during during the 8 mile drive, but it made it there safely.

This morning myself, Big Kyle, Little Kyle (Daender here on Oppo), Ian, and our friend Harlan began work on my 2006 R53 Mini Cooper S. Harlan’s father has an R53 Cooper S, so he had some experience on taking off the body panels which proved to be very helpful. Throughout the day we referenced manuals, articles and Mod Mini videos and made steady, careful progress. We made sure to bag and label nuts, bolts, washers, etc. and and sort individual pieces together based on what they went to.

Note to others: Roll the windows down before unhooking the battery. Otherwise you can’t open or close the doors without risking breaking the frameless windows. Luckily we caught this before we shattered a window, but we had to have Little Kyle crawl through the driver door and back to access the boot of the car, hook the battery back up after we hooked up the battery box. We unhooked it again after we were able to roll the windows down so we could close the doors all the way.

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Since space at the front of the shop was at a premium, Big Kyle and Ian focused on that, since they have more experience, and myself, Harlan, and Little Kyle began working on swapping out the rear brake rotors and pads, since I’d already had the new pads and rotors in my garage awaiting install before all of the transmission issues began. That’s actually on hold until Ian can get to Harbor Freight to grab a caliper piston retraction tool, which is something he’s been meaning to get for a while. Turns out the ol’ needle-nosed pliers approach doesn’t really work with Mini Cooper S brakes. We’ll get it taken care of another day, along with installation of some factory splash guards I got months back from a fellow Mini club member.

Overall we made good progress throughout the day, but eventually we hit a wall at the upper bell housing bolts, along with issues getting the throttle body loose so we can continue removing the supercharger. At this point we were all getting tired and decided to call it a night. We were able to get the front subframe off the car and most of the bell housing bolts loose, so the transmission should be out of the car by the end of the day tomorrow. Since Harlan and Little Kyle drove 2 hours from Columbia to help today, they went ahead and made their way back home, but the rest of the teardown should be able to be done without them.

Right now, we’re not rushing, as none of the parts we need will ship out until Monday morning anyway. Once the transmission is out and we have a look inside, we’ll have a better idea of what the damage is, but right now we’re anticipating needing to install a new clutch kit (93,000 miles) altogether since we’re already so deep into everything. If that happens, I’m going to convert to a single mass flywheel in order to save cost and maximize reliability.

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We’re also planning on flushing the supercharger with fresh oil and checking all the seals. The oil leak I suspected to be from the Crank Position Sensor o-ring was very much confirmed so we’ll be replacing said o-ring as well. The entire front of the engine will need a thorough cleaning, thanks to that stupid thing. A minor leak from the power steering reservoir supply and return hoses was revealed, but it’s not at all major and is common enough that we’re not particularly worried about it. I’ve only need to top off the power steering fluid once in the year I’ve owned it. We’ll see what a pair of new hose clamps does and go from there. We may also need to replace a chunk of rubber hosing for the throttle body coolant line, but that’s just a 5” length of basic rubber hose that can be had for a couple of dollars from the local parts store.

In the process of the teardown, it was also revealed that my air filter needs replacing, as well as my upper long radiator hose. I can hardly be surprised or even mad about the air filter- it’s a wear and tear part, after all. Neither part is particularly expensive, but it’s still an expense we didn’t account for. I didn’t have much of a choice but to grin and bear it, but with finances being what they are, it didn’t do much for my current stress levels.

As it stands, thanks to the help I’ve received from a very kindhearted few, I’ll be able to get the parts for the clutch assembly, supercharger, air filter, and radiator hose so long as nothing else reveals itself as needing to be replaced, as well as just barely make my car payment this month, but it’s still going to be touch and go in regards to the rest of our bills after that. I’m working short hours right now due to the car situation, so my paycheck isn’t going to amount to much, but at least it’s some sort of income whereas the week of Christmas I had no income at all.

First thing Monday morning I’m going to call the Unemployment Agency and see if they’re back from holiday yet. They’ve been out of the office ever since before this began and I need to see what I need to do to claim the one week of unemployment I qualified for before I got hired as a delivery driver at the pizza place. I’ll also want to discuss with them the fact that I’m currently only employed part time and at half of the pay rate I was at 2 months ago. I doubt anything will come of that, but if I can at least get the one week’s worth of unemployment, that will help us stay somewhat afloat until I can get some level of steady income. Hopefully the Windstar will sell for SOMETHING fairly soon so that I can put that money into getting caught up on bills.

(UPDATE: I’ve found out that I can NOT get any sort of compensation for the week I was out of work because I wasn’t unemployed for long enough. Wow....just....wow.)

Once the Mini is on the road reliably again, I’ll be pulling the Audi into my garage and pulling the front end apart to find the source of the prodigious oil leak. If I can find that, replace the battery and distributor, and find the source of the unhealthy level of play in the rear suspension, the Audi should be roadworthy enough to give my fiancee something to go run errands in. She’s been house-locked ever since the van went down and the cabin fever has not been good for her.

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Between the 25 year old, 260,000+ mile Audi quattro and the 10 year old, 93,000 mile Mini, the Mini is undeniably the more reliable vehicle of the two, but with the aformentioned issues taken care of, the Audi should be okay for short trips around town. Big Kyle and I jumped it off and let it idle for a while the other day and aside from the oil leak and the distributor, the engine seems to be fine. I’ll investigate the throttle-related suspension ‘clunk’ once it’s in the garage. I replaced the transmission mounts, diff mounts, lower control arm bushing, and ball joint a while back when I did the clutch and those didn’t fix the issue, so it’ll probably be a fun little mousehunt.

For those who are currently placing their fingers on the keyboard in order to type the words ‘Corolla’, ‘econobox’, etc., please know that myself and those helping me have discussed that issue and the options available to me up and down and we’ve all come to the conclusion that it’s not really feasible with my current resources. Please also remember that other than this, the Mini hasn’t been even remotely unreliable in the least. It has been first-crank reliable since the day I bought it. As for the current situation? Clutches go out. It happens. They’re a wear item just like brakes, bushings, and filters. This was just a case of bad timing.

The course of action we’ve decided is the most responsible is to fix the Mini and keep up on my payments to help build my auto credit, sell the van for whatever we can get for it, get the Audi back on the road to replace the van for the limited amount of driving my fiancee needs to do, and just save every penny we can to work towards getting caught up on our back utility bills and make progress on paying off the Mini.

It’s obviously not going to be easy or fun, especially with two autistic little boys at home, but it’s not impossible, either. We’ll find a way to make it work and we’ll press on.

P.S. - It’s been asked a few times, but no, I don’t have a lot of aftermarket stuff on the Mini. I’ve only done a resonator delete, put in a used aftermarket stereo head unit (for Bluetooth), and installed strut tower reinforcement plates. I have no plans for doing any major modifications (limited slip differential, expensive suspension bits, major power mods, so on and so forth) either until the title is mine free and clear. It’s as stock a 93,000 mile R53 as you’re likely to find and were my employment situation not what it is, we’d probably be fine right now, even with the clutch repair, broken dryer, and junker van. Again, it’s just unlucky timing.

As it is, we’re focusing on seeing the silver linings and taking this opportunity to go ahead and do some preventative maintenance in acknowledgment of the mileage. At some point in the future I will need new front lower control arm bushings, shocks, and strut tower top mounts, but those items are just now getting to the point where you can even recognize that they’re getting worn and can last many, many more miles before they become an actual repair need.

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I think if we can get through this month, get the Mini and the Audi back on the road, get caught up on bills, and get me some full time hours, we’ll be okay. We’ve been through worse as individuals- this time we get to survive the fires of the crucible as a family. As it is, we probably would’ve been much worse off if it weren’t for the fact that I have such an amazing group of friends and the love and support of an awesome community of fellow Mini-loving gearheads.