What is the 2007-2009 “Death Rattle”?

As more MINIs are reaching the second hand market people regularly ask “What goes wrong with them?”. Potentially the most expensive is the “Death Rattle”, or timing chain tensioner and timing chain. Ok, so you’re not a mechanic. So what do all the big words mean? The team at ProMINI in the USA have put together a nice article on the fault which you can read here.

This was a major problem following the launch of the all new R56 MINI range, and affected all of the early Peugeot based 1.6 litre petrol engines. The diesels were a very different design (don’t mention “emissions”…) The later LCI (facelift) models didn’t have to worry about this problem.

So what’s the deal?

There’s a timing chain that keeps the parts at the top of the engine (cam shafts) spinning in time with the parts at the bottom of the engine (crank shaft). If they get out of time the valves can get into a punch up with the pistons, closely followed with your credit card deciding to disown you.

When the cars left the factory they all get tested and are running perfectly. Whether the timing chain adjuster wasn’t long enough, or the chain was made just a little too long, either way very early in the life of the engine the chain would stretch. The engine will start rattling and running rough, and if left untreated, would eventually cause the chain to come off, resulting in inevitable loud and expensive noises under the bonnet.

A short term fix was to fit a longer tensioner which was capable of keeping the pesky chain under control. In most cases that just wasn’t enough, and MINI developed (strangely) a longer chain, matched to an even longer tensioner, which has permanently fixed the problem.

Check out the wonderful world of the Internet for more articles on the R56 “Death Rattle” and speak to your mechanic if you have any concerns about the health of your precious MINI.