Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Back on the flatbed!

Deja vu.
You'd think with everything that's gone wrong and been replace on my MINI that there couldn't be much more to fail on me. Sadly, you're wrong. 

Whilst having a leisurely drive through town (read stuck in rush hour traffic) on a regular local run with the car full of family, the clutch pedal suddenly went...  no back pressure, so it was stuck to the floor. 

Panic set in. This wasn't good, and highly embarrassing. I tried to lift it back up with my foot and see what I could do to get it going with a hope and a prayer. Traffic in front of me was moving forward and I was still stationary. 

I restarted the engine, and still no pressure. Uh oh. So I put the hazard lights on and jumped out to try and push it to the kerb. With a queue of traffic behind me, the guy in the car behind me quickly realized the situation and also jumped out to help me move the Mini.

With the car to one side, I sat back in the car and contemplated my next move. I was about a mile from home, mostly downhill. At this time (5pm) garages will be shut or shutting, and my repairers of choice - Mintech - would be closed too. As is always the case when I breakdown... it was a Friday. And you know what that means. Nothing is open for the weekend either. This always seems to happen!

I gave my pals at Mintech a call and they agreed to come and collect it on Sunday for me and lend me their Minivan so I would have a car to get the kids to school and stuff. Now that's what I call customer service!!!  Absolute legends...again!! I called StartRescue, my recovery service, and arranged collection.

Ok, so now I start planning. I'm thinking, if I'm going to be without a car all weekend I'm going to have to stock up on stuff. I figured I could walk to the shops and pick up some supplies and a McDs for the kids while I waited for the recovery truck. I also had to get my girlfriend's kids from the next town, so decided to ask the recovery driver to take us there, and I left the car outside a friendly garage until Mintech came in a couple of days.

After getting all the kids we got a taxi home and had a quiet one until the heroes turned up to fix my crisis and lend me their little motor. The kids certainly liked it.

The next day I gave Mintech a call and if you've not already guessed, it was the clutch master cylinder seals that had gone. So I had to have that replaced too. Crikey!

By Tuesday my Mini was ready to pick up - and they wanted their van back. Martin said the clutch might feel a bit spongy for a couple of days but it would return to normal. Sure enough it was quite tricky getting it into gear for the return journey back home, but by the next day it was pretty much back to normal. And I gave it some extra pumping too for good measure.

Next up around the corner is the MoT. Dun dun duuuuh!!

Thanks to 
Mintech Spares
No.1 in the UK for BMW MINI Spares
0161 761 1615

Rule 1.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

No more premature deaths

Right, so enough is enough. With the Mini dying on me and more fuel cutouts than I care to remember I decided to address the issue once and for all. 

Firstly, I had got some STP Complete Fuel Cleaner in an effort to clean out the fuel system and hopefully unblock/unclog whatever it was I thought was preventing the engine getting power in the low-revs. We had a day out planned to Blackpool Sandcastles Water Park so stuck a bottle of this in. 

Sadly, it didn't seem to have any effect, but like a lot of problems, finding the solution or the actual cause is a case of trial and error.

How cool is my MINI!
After this had failed to help in any way I paid a visit to my trusty friends at Mintech in Bury. They'd found time to book me in for a fuel filter and pump change. In many cases it's quicker, easier and cheaper for them to just replace suspected dodgy items rather than taking lots of time to accurately diagnose the problem. It works for me, as long as the problem gets fixed.

Apparently it's not a huge job and the expert hands of Mintech's Martin was able to knock out the two items in just a few minutes before pillaging a replacement from the stacks of MINIs they have piled high - some good advice when buying second-hand - try and get stuff from low mileage vehicles!

Martin hooked out the back seat with a pull and lift, exposing two circular black panels. The one behind the driver is the fuel filter and the one behind the passenger seat is the fuel pump.

See all the crap the kids have stuffed down the seats!

After removing the nuts holding the panels down, Martin prises them off to reveal heavily dust-coated components. Using a big screwdriver or chisel and hammer he rotates the filter anti-clockwise to release it. 

Remove the connector before trying to lift the filter out. There is a fair bit of piping attached that needs to be carefully lifted out too. Expect some fuel spillage and have something handy to wipe it up with.

The fuel pump was also being replaced, and is removed in much the same way. There is a connector on the top that needs to be taken off and again some piping which will need to be disconnected by feel. Expect a lot of fuel spillage!

Whilst both units were out, we had a look inside the tank, which I had deliberately run low prior to the visit. It looked remarkably clean, with no crap or anything floating around or even visible. 

Compare the colour difference between the one removed from my car (far) and the low mileage item (near).
After sourcing another pump, Martin put the two side by side and said something like he's never seen one the colour of mine before. And it's true, it was noticeably darker. 

I decided to take the old pump and filter home to crack them open and have a look inside. Funnily enough BMW claim the fuel filters are 'lifetime' items on MINIs. In reality, 'lifetime' to BMW is 100k miles. The filters ARE serviceable if you want to do that. There are guides for opening up the filter housing itself on YouTube etc. and you can find replacement filters on eBay.

Charcoal filter.

Found in here.

Whilst I was there, Martin gave the car a checkover - probably to pre-empt the next problem! - and decided to replace this charcoal filter thing I had no idea about. It's stored underneath the rear driver's wheelarch. Apparently this is to help vent the fuel vapours and burn them off within a closed system within the car. The charcoal filter only lasts so long, and with mine being an older car with plenty of mileage, I guess he thought 'not much else has been maintained, I bet that needs changing too...' so popped one on. 

When in doubt... swap it out!

Underneath the bonnet he had a look at the fusebox because I had another recurring problem with the engine light coming on and throwing up a Lamba sensor error codes all the time. After replacing the sensors a couple of times the past six months, Martin noticed the fusebox lid was deformed, so offered to switch it out for another one to see if that was the issue and not the sensors themselves. It seems to have worked. 

That's two big issues fixed for me. No more engine light - obviously a dodgy fusebox the cause of that - and even better the car hasn't cut out on me since (dodgy pump and/or filter) - fantastic!!  Once again, Mintech save the day for me!

Mintech - No.1 for BMW MINI Spares
0161 761 1615

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Joining the MOGgers

I've had my MINI, Charlie, for a little while now and haven't really styled it in anyway. Having hung around on the forums and groups for a while on social media, I like the look of the stickers from the MINI Owners' Group (MOG), and have seen a fair few on cars at shows. 

When you register - for free - you can pick your own number (if available) and buy a variety of stickers with your unique id.

They are made and sent out in batches so can take a couple of weeks to be received, but they are good quality and look the business. So on a day off I thought I'd go and stick it on. 

I've chosen the A-pillar to contrast with the white lettering. 

It's pretty simple, give the area a clean. Then dry it. 

Flatten out your sticker using a credit card or something similar. 

Trial fit it into position to see exactly where you want it. 

Peel off the backing paper slowly, ensuring none of the lettering comes off with it. 

This is the important part. Hover the sticker over the position you want it. Then slowly place one part of the sticker into position. 

Once you are sure it is lined up correctly and there are no air bubbles caught underneath the piece you have placed, then you can slowly start flatten out the rest of the sticker. Try to do this smoothly, and you can use the credit card again to help eliminate bubbles.

Once it is all flattened down it is fixed in place. You can't change it now. Slowly peel off the front paper and take a deep breath. Now is the moment of truth. Is it lined up? For me, the answer was...  not quite. But not that noticeable. Make sure you do a better job!

I did a little experiment on the headlights too. Using some electrical tape I created some eyelids. However, despite initially looking ok, electrical tape shrinks, so after a while it looked a bit crap.

MINI Owners' Group:

Orders MOG Stickers:

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Clunk, clunk, boom!

It's a good job I know Minis enough to keep my breakdown cover updated. With the classic Mini it's pretty obvious why it's required (although you cold argue I could fix the classic myself nine times out of ten), but you'd think with a 'modern' car it would be more reliable. But I suppose with any second-hand car that has done over 120k miles you can expect some problems - unless you've already replaced everything! And having already suffered an engine failure and host of other problems since buying it 18 months ago, it should have been no surprise that something else was coming.

So, for a fair while I've had this issue with the car cutting out on me despite fuel etc..., and I had hoped the replacement engine I needed would have remedied this too, but it seems not. When I first got the replacement engine it was great and seemed to fly, almost literally sometimes, but more recently the power doesn't come on and it chuggs a bit and I am having to rev it more to keep it going sometimes. It's not right.

Well eventually this came to a climax when I was on my way to my cousin's daughter's party with my kids when suddenly there was a horrible knocking sound whilst I was on the motorway - and the car sounded like it was in real pain. I was bricking it. I managed to get it up a sliproad and limp it on to a roundabout layby and turned off the engine. I turned it over again but I didn't like the sound enough to keep trying. It sounded bad. Really bad.

As a began with, I'm wise to the way of Minis, so I was prepared. I had my breakdown recovery service on speeddial. FYI it's StartRescue. Cheap as chips and been as good as gold.

I'm surprised they don't recognise my number when I call, and I'm well versed in the script. It'll take upto an hour and they'll text me when approaching. Fortunately I know the local recovery company is only a few miles away, so it probably won't be long. So with the kids all dressed up, we were about a mile away from the party venue, so we walked down and I leave them with my mother while I head back to sort the car out.

When I returned to the Mini with the recovery operator, I explained my concerns about starting it, but I decided to try it again anyway. Brrrruuuum! Bloody typical isn't it... it started up fine. But I was still cautious though. Stuff like that sounds that bad doesn't just go away. I chat with the recovery guy and tell him my thoughts and he says he can escort me home to see if it is ok. So I agree.

We set off for the 10 mile journey, and before I'm even off the sliproad onto the motorway I can hear the clunking coming back. Yeah, this definitely isn't good. So I pull over on to the hard shoulder and the recovery truck does too.

He takes me home and the next day I give Mintech in Bury a call. These guys have been awesome since the day I met them and they have really looked after me. They sent out a recovery truck and took the MINI back. Within two days they'd replaced the engine again and it was all back and working. An amazing turnaround for a man in a desperate situation. I can't thank them enough.

After they'd had time to look at the other engine, they tell me I had somehow "knocked the crank out" somehow, either through poor maintenance, low oil or over revving...   hmmm. I'm not so sure, but anyway it's sorted now.

Yes - this is my second engine in a few months, but obviously there was something up with the previous one so I'm not counting it ok!! 

Mintech - No.1 in the UK for BMW MINI Spares - 0161 761 1615 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Mini valet and tar removal @Red Rose Detailing & Valeting

The sun is here and the Mini show season is well underway. Now is the time that we all set about getting our Minis all shiny for the adventures we have planned for the rest of the year.

The winter weather has no doubt taken its toll on your beloved Mini, and for us, we've had some motorway resurfacing locally which has led to a serious tar splattering all over the bodywork.

We called in the experts at Autoglym who told us to visit one of their approved valeters who would show us how to use their products to get our Mini all clean again.

On a sunny day in East Lancashire we headed over to Red Rose Valeting & Detailing in Burnley, and met Michael who showed us what to do.

We've got a set of products from Autoglym which should be all we need to get a top quality shine from our MINIs paintwork.

There are a number of quality products available from Autoglym to suit whatever your needs. Our MINI had a heavy coating of tar and some minor scratches that needed attention. For this we used just a few products, as shown.

Scrubbing the wheels before rinsing the whole car.

First of all Michael needed to give the car a good wash. Using a pressure washer he removed all the loose dirt and grime with a quick blast.

Then it is back to basics, washing the car manually. Fill two buckets. Fill the first one with some water and some Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner, following the instructions on the bottle; and fill the other bucket with just some clean water. The purpose of this is to ensure you do not contaminate the soapy water with dirt picked up on the mitt. Alternatively you can use a snow foam lance.

It is recommended to use a lambswool cloth or mitt to apply the soapy suds to the car. Start from the roof and wash the dirt downwards off the car. Rinse the mitt often - the last thing you want is to scratch the car with some grit caught in the mitt - and rinse it in the 'water only' bucket, ensuring it is clean. Then you can get some more shampoo from the first bucket.

A good technique is to wash the top half of the car first, down to the bodyline or halfway down the doors all around, before washing the lower section. The reasoning behind this is is that the lower part of the car will be a lot dirtier, and if you wash that area at the same time as the top half, you could pick up more dirt that will scratch or damage your paintwork. Once you have washed the car, givie it a rinse with clean water.

 Michael then dried the car using a towel.

From here we worked a little bit on the details, but the amount of time you could spend doing this is endless. Using the clay bar, Michael pulled off a small amount. You can use this clay anywhere on the car, from the wheels and bodywork to the glass. In this case, our wheels probably weren't the best place to start, but this is just to show you how it can be done. Using alongside some Autoglym Rapid Detailer, the clay picks up microscopic dirt and contaminants which can cause imperfections. When you can see it getting dirty, just fold it up again like play-doh until you get a clean bit and carry on.

This is enough clay to start with.

With time not on our side, we didn't have all day to clay the whole car, but we were keen on seeing how well the Autoglym Intensive Tar Remover worked.

Yak. Nasty stuff and difficult to remove without the right product.

Wow. On the left a couple of swipes with Autoglym Tar Remover and on the right the untreated area.

It's clear to see on most of the pictures that the car had been heavily assaulted by soft tarmac, and in many hard-to-reach places. Could this product be the saviour? In short - a big fat YES! After a little application of the Tar Remover you could literally see the tar dissolve and start to run down the bodywork. After a few minues, a quick wipe removed most of the splattering. We've previously tried some other products to remove the tar, but nothing has come close to cutting through it so quickly and easily as the Autoglym Intensive Tar Remover - it really is that good!

The tar literally dissolves with the Tar Remover.

Now our MINI has never had the best paintwork, and when looking at it closely you can see there are a number of swirl marks and light scratches. To try and remedy this, or at least improve its appearance, we used Autoglym's Paint Renovator - this is simply worked into the paintwork like a polish - and the results are outstanding! Look at the front and rear of the door to compare the results of before and after of the Autoglym Paint Renovator. This is really a starting product to see if we need something a bit more abrassive to remove the scratches. If that is the case, Autoglym have just released the Autoglym Scratch Removal Kit.

Using a small amount of product Michael dabs it onto the affected areas and applies it as you would do with normal polish, in a circular motion until all the product is worked in. Repeat if necessary on all affected areas.

Lots of scratches

Compare the untreated side (left) to the shiny treated side (right).
We took a photo of the door he was working on. Michael was working on the rear part toward the handle and we left the front part for comparison. As you can see it's like night and day. The scratches on the front portion of the door stand out like a sore thumb but the rest is pretty good in comparison. Some more work on the scratches and maybe a good polish and they could hopefully be gone!

When polishing out in the sun like we are, it's best to work on one area at a time to ensure the polish doesn't dry. Using small amounts as before, dab some around the area you are going to polish and work the product into the paint using a circular motion. Use another clean microfibre cloth to buff out the polish again using the same technique.

On the bonnet we had some fairly visible marks from where the stripes decals have been removed. Using the Autoglym Super Resin Polish made a big difference in helping to fade and blend the paint colour to match the rest of the bonnet. It wasn't perfect, but a lot better!

Finally Michael applied some Autoglym Instant Tyre Dressing to give the tyres a nice wet-look shine. The rims on our MINI don't do it justice, but he's a professional... so it had to go on.

Where's the scratches?


Stripes residue less noticeable.

Clean ass.
And tada... the beautifully shiny MINI with a rejuvinated bodywork thanks to Red Rose Valeting (Burnley) and Autoglym. What a transformation Michael at has done in a couple of hours.

We're delighted with the tar removal, the stuff they use is very impressive, and even how well a quick couple of passes reduced the visibility of the scratches.

Find your nearest Autoglym approved valeter or order products from

Red Rose Valeting in Burnley
Unit 1 Smallshaw Industrial Estate, Phoenix Way
Burnley, Lancashire
07713 888784