Mini Alignment Tips

Mini Alignment Tips

When looking over the service information or ordering parts for a MINI, you may run into the R-series numbers.

When BMW bought the assets of Rover in 1994, the sale included the iconic MINI brand, as well. In 2001, BMW introduced the first completely new MINI in more than 40 years. The modern MINI was more of a tribute to the previous MINI, rather than a continuation of the British icon.

Is it a BMW? Yes, and no. The platform for the MINI is not shared with any other BMW. But, a lot of the diagnostic tools, software and service information have all the trademarks of a BMW. The same is true with the alignment procedures. 

Ordering Parts

When looking over the service information or ordering parts for a MINI, you may run into the R-series numbers. The R-series number closely resembles the E- and F-series numbers for BMW models. The R stands for Rover. However some newer models use an F.

  • R50: “Mk I” MINI One & Cooper (2002-‘06)
  • R52: “Mk I” MINI Convertible (2004-‘08)
  • R53: “Mk I” MINI Cooper S (2002-‘06)
  • R55: “Mk II” MINI Clubman (2007-‘14)
  • R56: “Mk II” MINI Hatch/Hardtop (2006-‘13)
  • R57: “Mk II” MINI Convertible (2009-present)
  • R58: Coupé (2012-present)
  • R59: Roadster (2012-present)
  • R60: Countryman (2010-present)
  • R61: Paceman (2013-‘16)[58]
  • F56: MINI Hatch/Hardtop (2014-present)[59]
  • F55: 5-door Hatch (2015-present)

Front Suspension

On MINI models, the main culprit of front suspension problems is lower control arm bushings. The second most common failure is the upper strut mounts. Both component failures can result in poor alignment and noise.

The 2002-‘13 models are equipped with a conventional strut front suspension. In 2007, BMW redesigned the MINI to make it wider and improve the geometry of the rear suspension so it could accommodate a differential and axles for an all-wheel-drive system.

Some MINIs have adaptive headlights that use ride height sensors in the front and rear to adjust the Xenon HID headlights. The sign a vehicle might have this option will be washer jets on the front bumper. The next sign might be rain-sensing wipers. If the sensor is damaged or the ride height is incorrect due to weak springs, the adaptive headlight will not work. The customer may comment the headlights are not as bright as they think they should be. Typically, a failure will not trigger a warning message in the driver information center, but codes might be present in the body control or lighting module.

Most MINIs use a knuckle that clamps the strut to the knuckle. The strut can slip through the clamp. This can change the front ride height. The worst-case scenario is that the strut slips enough that it impacts the CV joint. So, check the ride height and inspect the knuckle. 

Replacement of the steering knuckle and spring strut damper are required, along with any damaged components like tires, axles and wheels.

Front Camber or Caster: There are no built-in factory adjustments for front camber or caster. The only way to adjust these angles is to purchase adjustable upper strut mounts. These kits can typically adjust camber by ±2.00º and caster by ±0.75º.

Bushings: The MINI uses four hydraulic bushings. In the front, the hydraulic bushing is located at the rear of the control arms. In the rear, the hydraulic bushing mounts the trailing arm to the body. These mounts can leak when they fail. The camber and toe will change when the bushings go soft. BMW recommends replacing the bushings in pairs.

Steering Angle Sensor (SAS): On MINIs without Electronic Stability Control (ESC or DSC), SAS is not installed. Reprogramming the sensor on ESC MINIs requires an enhanced scan tool that can communicate with the ABS and BCM modules.

Rear Toe: Rear toe is adjusted by an eccentric bolt and plate that secures the lower transverse link to the trailing arm. The rear toe and camber angles on the MINI have a considerable amount of cross-talk.

If the rear camber is in spec but at the fringes, a toe adjustment could push it over the edge. Also, be sure to check ride height before doing a drastic adjustment.

Rear Camber: The rear camber is not adjustable. If the rear camber needs to be adjusted, it requires replacement of the lower control link with an adjustable part.

TPMS: The first-generation MINI has two TPMS systems and one reset procedure. The base system is an indirect system that works off the wheel speed sensors. The optional system is a direct system that was an option and often standard on cars with run-flat tires. To reset these systems, switch the engine off and the ignition on, press the “Set” button and hold (approximately 6 seconds) until the words “Set tire pressure” appear in the instrument cluster (instrument cluster high) or the yellow LED lights up (basic instrument cluster).

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