Why Does the Timing Chain Rattle in Minis?

Owning a vehicle can be a great experience and necessary for everyday life. It can also be stressful, with the many potential problems that can arise and the maintenance required to prevent expensive repairs. The BMW Mini Cooper is known as a reliable vehicle, but can at times start exhibiting rattling noises. This can be a sign of a serious problem with the timing chain. Thankfully, there are ways to help prevent this issue.

Why Are There Timing Chain Issues in BMW Mini Coopers?

Several BMW Mini Cooper models are more prone to timing chain issues, which is due to the type of engine that these models have. Some Mini Coopers made from 2007-2010 use a Prince engine, and the design of those can be problematic. For the Prince engine, “both the timing chain and tensioner are located inside the engine; this design can allow for catastrophic damage to the engine should the chain fail,” according to the BBC.

It is important to be aware of rattling noises that are occurring with Mini Coopers that have this type of engine because it is likely the timing chain. According to ClassAction.org, the rattling noise can be more noticeable “in cold weather, or when the vehicle is idling or being operated at a low speed”. These three scenarios can make it easier to detect this noise, so it can be useful to occasionally listen for it when in those situations.

Why Are Timing Chains Important?

Timing chains are crucial to a vehicle and can cause serious damage to an engine if it breaks. According to BBC, “the timing chain links all the moving parts of an engine that work together in order to drive a car forward”. The timing chain is essential to the entire engine, and a vehicle will be unable to do basic functions without it or if it loses tension.

Timing chains usually work for the entire lifespan of a car because it is positioned toward the back of the engine. It is not common for a timing chain to break, but it can lead to engine failure with possibly no warning. This can be dangerous especially if it happens suddenly while driving, so it is important to detect the rattling noise and repair the timing chain if necessary.

What Causes the Rattling Noise?

BMW Mini Coopers can develop a rattling noise, though many people may initially be unaware of the cause. The rattling noise coming from the engine known as the “Death Rattle Noise” is caused by the timing chain. The rattling noise can be caused by the support rail losing the ability to create enough tension for a timing chain, which is due to the support rail being made of a durable plastic that can become brittle and break.

It is important to get a Mini Cooper checked out if it is making this noise. The timing chain may need to be replaced before it snaps and causes serious damage to the engine. This is a simple cause that can lead to costly repairs, but in many cases, the solution is simple if caught early enough.

How to Prevent or Delay the Timing Chain from Breaking?

Replacing a timing chain can be costly but there is a way to prevent or delay this issue. In some cases, the timing chain breaking is due to low oil levels or not changing the oil very often. That is because the timing chain is operated via hydraulics using the engine oil.

Timing chain problems can arise when there is not enough oil or if the oil is old, so it is something to keep an eye on. BMW recommends changing the oil in a Mini Cooper every year or 15,000 miles, but it is recommended to be changed every 6 months or 5,000 miles for models that use the Prince engine. It is cheaper to get an oil change 2-3 times a year than it is to replace the timing chain, which can cost anywhere from $5,000-$8000.

Frequent oil changes can prevent the timing chain from breaking, which can potentially save thousands of dollars. However, there is no guarantee that the timing chain will not break, so it is important to be aware of this issue and know to listen for rattling. For the best MINI service, bring your BMW Mini Cooper to Orion Automotive Services located in Ann Arbor, MI for oil changes and timing chain repairs.

* Mini Cooper Clubman image credit goes to: bruev.

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