This article applies to the Gen 1 2002-2006 R50 MINI Cooper and R53 Cooper S Hatchback.
A Little Background...
The early MINI with production dates up to 07/2004 has a couple extra pieces inside the oil filter cannister cover - a spring and plastic cage. These items were eliminated on the later models after 07/2004.
The oil filter specification with the initial production of the MINI required a 'paper filter' which necessitated a plastic cage in the cannister cover to prevent the filter from collapsing under pressure. For this reason, the early production MINIs have a spring loaded plastic 'cage' built into the oil filter cannister cover. This 'cage' provides a rigid structure within the filter to maintain its shape under pressure. The cage also helps to 'seal' the top of the filter for proper oil circulation thru the filter.
The early 'all paper' oil filters designed for use with the caged cover did not have any internal support structure (or 'built-in' cage). BE CAREFUL when purchasing aftermarket oil filters as there are still some of these 'uncaged' filters in the market.
Beginning with the 07/2004 production, they changed the filter specification and a plastic 'cage' was built into the filter itself, eliminating the need for the cage in the cannister cover.
The potential problem...
A potential problem arises with your 2002-2004 MINI during a filter change when the plastic cage 'detaches' from the cannister cover and gets pulled out with the oil filter, allowing the spring to pop free. If the technician is not familiar with the early filter setup - the plastic cage gets thrown out with the dirty oil filter. Without the spring and cage in the early cannister, the filter fails to seal against the cover resulting in 'low oil pressure' warning light.
Since the cannister cover is built differently for the 'cage version' vs. the later version, the filter will not seal properly without the cage, allowing unfiltered oil to circulate around the filter. Circulating unfiltered oil is NOT good for your engine... not to mention the low oil pressure.
Another problem arises if you should happen to purchase an early 'un-caged' oil filter. If you use this filter with the later 'uncaged' cannister cover, the filter will collapse affecting filtration and oil pressure.
If you find a loose spring with the oil filter without the plastic cage, MINI recommends replacing the entire Oil Filter Housing module with the newer style housing.
We've had occasional reports of the oil light staying on at idle and going off as soon as the rev's are up. We have seen a couple issues that have caused this:
1. The plastic Cage and/or Spring is missing.
2. One of the valves inside the filter base is damaged (missing pieces).
3. Aftermarket oil filter with inadequate 'stiffness' on the ends of the filter causing oil to bypass the filter (Wix filter caused this problem for one customer). The factory oil filter has a rigid black plastic base on the bottom to press against the valves at the base of the oil flter housing.
Helpful Hints for changing the oil...
Frequently, the cannister cover will be very difficult to break free. Use a breaker bar with CAUTION! You may need a 'low profile' socket due to the limited space available.
If you loosen the filter cannister cover enough to break the seal, it will help drain the oil from the filter as you drain the oil pan. Less mess later!
When replacing the O-ring (which is included with the new factory filter), save the old one just in case (will explain later).
When replacing the O-ring on the cannister cover, make sure you lubricate the O-ring with PLENTY of fresh oil before you install it, and lubricate again after it is in place on the cannister cover. If you fail to do this, the O-ring will bunch up and cause a leak, not to mention a BIG mess!
The new oil filter should be 'pre-seated' into the base and cover before installation. Take the filter (plastic side down) and press firmly into the base until it is fully seated. Remove and do the same into the cannister cover. This reduces the resistance from initial seating. You can leave the filter seated into the cover and screw the cover back onto the base, or you can leave the filter in the base fully seated and screw the cover back onto the base.
Getting the Cannister Cover started into the base is a little tricky - having the O-ring well lubricated will make it a little easier. Start the cover onto the base carefully, confirming the cover is 'square' with the base to prevent cross-threading. Once you have it started, you will still have slight resistance from the new O-ring, but you should be able to get the cover well onto the base by hand.
Torque the cannister cover to 18 lb-ft.
The factory Drain Plug gasket is a plastic gasket that is molded into the Drain Plug. Best to replace the drain plug at every oil change. The cost is minimal compared to headaches from a leaky plug! (The linked filter part numbers above includes a new drain plug.)
Torque the Drain Plug to 18 lb-ft as well.
You can also use a magnetic drain plug that will help trap microscopic metal debris and can be re-used.
Fill with a name brand FULL SYNTHETIC motor oil. It should take a little over 4 quarts (4.7 quarts dry). MINI recommends oils in SAE classes 5W-40 and 5W-30. MINI likes Castrol Synthetic, many MINI owners use Mobile 1 Synthetic.
After you confirm everything is buttoned up, and you have fresh oil in the engine, start the engine. The red Engine Oil Pressure warning light should go off in a couple seconds. After a running the engine for 15 seconds or so, shut off the engine and let sit for a few minutes. Check for leaks, and re-check the oil level. If everything is dry and the dip stock shows 'full' - go for a drive!
If you run the car and find a puddle of oil under the engine, there is a good chance the O-ring was damaged when you installed the cannister cover. Take the old O-ring that you saved, and re-install - with care!
To reset the oil service reminder, see this article .
We have also had reports of 'oil pressure warning light' at idle and customers finding a 'small spring' loose at the bottom of the base.
Here is a photo of what the Filter Cannister Base should look like:
If either of these valves are damaged, you will need to replace the entire housing.