When it comes to Mini Cooper cars, one of the most commonly occurring problems that leads drivers to visit our garage is a failure in the power steering pump. In this article we’ll provide you with the basics so you can understand what causes these problems and how to know when your power steering pump might be failing.
The System Is Unique
MINI Cooper cars are petite compact vehicles that were designed not just to save money, but also for the sheer thrill of a joyful driving experience. Therefore, just having a great hydraulic system or an electronically assisted steering rack wouldn’t do. The engineers at MINI decided to come up with a completely different system. The system is a hybrid that includes electric and hydraulic steering, called Electro-Hydraulic Power Assisted Steering.
This hybrid system has an electrical motor that propels the power steering, which is hydraulic, instead of using a belt. The advantage of that is that extra engine horsepower is freed up as the system is not using the power of engine belts for steering. However, as innovative as this system is, it isn’t without its faults.
What the engineers unfortunately didn’t see coming was that the power steering pump was going to pay the price for this new system. The placement of the pump as well as the new system combined to create a fatal flaw. The problem is the build-up of heat.
Why the Power Steering Pump Fails
Like all electric systems, heat is the power steering pump’s worst enemy, as it reduces the proficiency and lifecycle of the system. Whenever the pump is hard at work, as it does on all-terrain drives, overheating can happen. Furthermore, because of the position of the pump below the manifold of the exhaust, it is even more prone to overheating, even in easy highway drives, affecting performance as a result.
An auxiliary fan stationed just underneath the pump steers cooler air over the area where the pump is situated, but because it is too close to the ground, premature failure is not uncommon due to rocks or debris from the road that may strike.
A principal part of the car that affects the power steering pump directly is the drive belt. This means that problems with this part are going to be passed on to the pump itself. If there’s a drive belt problem, you might notice that your steering wheel vibrating noticeably while the car is idling. This will eventually cause the whole unit to experience excessive heat, shut itself down, seize or burnout.
This often happens without prior warning and can be dangerous when you are caught completely unprepared for it. The steering will not lock up, but your steering will become manual. The steering wheel will be quite heavy as the tires will be moved entirely by manual force without any help from the hydraulic pump.
What to Do
If you believe that your power steering pump or something related to it might be on the road to failure, it is in your best interests to get the problem looked at by a specialist who knows foreign cars well.
If you’ve already experienced power steering system failure, determining exactly what has caused the failure is in your best interests, so you can avoid a recurrence. Be sure that you invest in a mechanic who will not overlook system complements like an auxiliary fan, or else you could be on the way to a new pump failure.
If you’ve experienced the loss of power steering on your MINI, bring your vehicle to our experienced service technicians at Foreign Automotive. We have a long history of handling European vehicles, including Mini Coopers, with skill, and we will work to get your car back on the road as soon as possible.
Foreign Automotive proudly services European vehicles in and around Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge, Ontario from our location in Kitchener. If you suspect power steering issues in your MINI, stop by today. Whether you need us for unexpected repairs or routine maintenance, we are always here with our specialized training and dealership-quality tools and equipment so you can get back to enjoying your Mini Cooper.