Corbeau A4 Seats in MINI

Looking for a supportive seat for autocross or HPDE, but still use your car as a daily driver? The Corbeau A4 might be a good option to consider. Available in cloth or leather, it has the option of a 5/6 point sub hole in the lower cushion that even works with optional seat heaters.

The A4 is narrower in the shoulders than many competitor seats so it fits in small spaces like the MINI without rubbing on the door panel. Keep in mind that if you still have carpet in your car, you’ll need to phish the power leads to the center console before you install the seats.

The seat brackets include sliders and a mounting point for the stock 3-point belt receptacle. One thing we did notice with these brackets, however, is that the stock mounting position is not centered on the steering wheel. To fix that, we drilled new holes about an inch closer to the inboard side and had the old holes welded closed. After we painted the bracket, you really couldn’t tell anything changed. As an added bonus, there is now an extra inch or so of space between the seat back and door panel, making it easier to grab the seatbelt.

The challenge for MINIs after 2005 is the passenger occupancy sensor, though you do have a couple of options. If you are skilled with NCSexpert, you may be able code it out in the ABG module. Just look for OC3_1 and OC3_2, and change to “nicht aktiv”. If you want to keep the occupancy sensor, you can remove it from an OEM seat and place it below the cushion on your A4 seat, which is what we did.

In this car, we installed optional seat heaters in addition to the 5/6 point sub slot. Since this car came with OEM seat heaters, wiring was very simple. Start by removing the stock switch panel. Remove the OEM heater switches. Use a drummer tool to remove the lip and slightly increase the size of the hole. Fit the switches provided by Corbeau. Now turn your attention to the stock wiring connector.

You’ll want to grab power and ground from this part of the wiring loom to take advantage of the stock fused power. Using the supplied power lead, trim off the in-line fuse and cut the black and red wires to about 12 inches. Connect the black wire to the brown ground wire in the loom. As you look at the stock connector, you’ll see a green/violet wire on one end, and a green/gray one on the other. The green/violet is the one going to the OEM seat so the one on the other end of the connector (color may be different) is the power lead from the loom. Verify it has power with key in position two and check with a volt-meter. Cut that wire close to the connector and attach to the red wire of the supplied lead. Now hide all of the wires within the center console. installation looks very OEM.

Vibra-Technics Motor Mount

After destroying two upper motor mounts and two exhaust flex joints in successive track weekends, I decided to try a more robust motor mount to see if I could reduce some engine movement. Vibra Technics makes two versions of this mount for Gen 1 MINI and this is the track (harder) version.

My first thought when it arrived was that it belonged in a museum. It was beautiful.

Installation is actually fairly simple. Get the car up on jack stands in the front. Remove the right road wheel and fender liner. Support the engine from below with a jack to relieve pressure on the mount. Remove the grounding strap from the mount carrier and the vapor return line which is in the way. Loosen but do not remove the nut at the top of the mount. Remove the four bolts holding the mount support to the top of the engine. Remove the nut at the top of the mount and carefully remove the upper mount support. Remove the stock Torx bolt from the bottom of the mount. Remove the side bolt and the stock mount should pull free. Installation is the reverse of removal.

I also replaced the lower dog-bone mount earlier with a semi-solid mount from Torque Solutions.

So what was the net result? I accomplished my first goal, completing over 200 track miles without breaking anything. An interesting side effect was to lower lap time by almost a second. To be fair, I made two changes to the car for this weekend: I replaced the motor mounts and I ADDED 50 lbs to the rear end of the car. I think the combination of better balance and less wheel hop gave me higher apex speeds. Here’s a lap.

How is it on the street? It’s probably not a combination you want to use on your daily driver. NVH is definitely increased. Depending on your RPM, the vibration through the steering wheel could make your fingers go numb. On the track, or any time you are constantly working through the revs, I can’t say I noticed. But cruising at steady speed — brutal.

Since the upper mount can be changed in about 30 minutes once you figure it out, I swapped back to a new OEM top mount and left the lower mount. That does have some increased NVH over stock, but it’s a good compromise. And next time I have a track weekend, I’ll drop the Vibra-Technics back in before heading out.

New Exhaust Header and Wrap for R53 MINI

Toward the end of my last track session for 2018 I noticed a significant change in exhaust tone. I thought the larger second position OEM cat had finally failed, but it turns out it was the first smaller cat ahead of it. If you see a break like this, you should also check your motor mounts. Chances are one or more of your mounts is broken or weak, causing excessive movement of the engine. This additional rocking of the engine finds the weakest point in the exhaust and causes either the flex joint or this joint to fail.

This turns out to also be the most common cause of emissions test failures for this car. The joint fails causing a leak and then the second O2 sensor throws a code. If you’re looking at a used car to buy, check out the area circled in red below:

It can be repaired, but if you’re going to go to the trouble to pull off the manifold to weld it, you might want to consider buying a new one so you don’t have to repair it again in a couple of years when something else breaks. The stock part number is 18407566102 and it costs about $1100 to replace with OEM parts. Alternatively, you could go with an aftermarket OE style manifold which costs about half.

A third possibility is to go with a performance header and supply your own cat if you want to keep it road legal. That’s the route we’re trying. We got a Megan Racing Header along with a MagnaFlow 49-state catalytic converter and had it fabricated to match the cat-delete pipe.


MINI placed the electric power steering pump and steering rack very close to the header. If the pump ever over-heats it turns itself off. If this happens on the track (which it has to me) it can be very unsettling as the steering instantly becomes VERY heavy. So before installing the header, I decided to wrap it with DEI header wrap. This video shows how to do it.

MINI R53 Lower Engine Mount Replacement DIY

Your MINI motor mounts will fail. It’s a matter of “when” not “if.” The stock rubber bushings age and harden over time especially if you track your car. The stock bushings were designed to reduce vibration not for performance.

We already replaced the top motor mount on this car, but ended up sticking with the stock mount since we were still daily driving the car at the time and the racing mount was just too harsh for the daily commute. Now that this is a dedicated track car, we’re going to replace the bushings with racing mounts as they wear out.  The first one to go is the lower mount.

When it comes to replacing the stock mount you have a couple of options. You could just go with OEM which runs about $140 for the mount. Go aftermarket for $40-$60. And then just add a polyurethane insert for about $33. We decided to try the semi-solid mount from Torque Solution. Made of billet aluminum and 70 Durometer polyurethane. It should significantly reduce engine movement without transmitting too much engine vibration to the chassis. Installation is very simple and should take less than 30 minutes.

Safely jack the front of your car high enough that you can get a wrench on the mounting bolts. You don’t necessarily have to jack the engine, but we wanted to make sure there wasn’t any pressure on the mount when we unbolted the bracket from the engine.

First remove the center bolt of the large bushing with a 16mm socket, and then remove the other 16 mm bolt that runs through the bracket on the small end. Remove the four 13 mm bolts that hold the bracket to the oil pan.

Installation is the reverse of removal. Tighten the four 13 mm bolts to the oil pan and torque to 28 lb-ft. Hand tighten the two 16 mm bolts and lower the engine if you jacked it for removal before torquing to 78 lb-ft. 

(not so) paintless dent repair

A few years ago, a strong wind blew the telephone line off of our house and into the MINI. Parked six inches to the right it would have missed.  Six inches to the left and it would have broken the rear window. I suppose I should have been happy it just dented the fender. The dent was in a place that made it a poor candidate for pointless dent repair, but that didn’t stop me from trying. Ultimately I fell back on the wiz – scratch wizard that is. Here’s the journey:

The dent wasn’t huge, but I noticed it each time I opened the hatch. The hook didn’t crack the paint, but it did crack the clear-coat, which will become an issue shortly.

I started by buying a cheap set of PDR tools on Amazon.  First tool to try is the external dent puller. This tool pulls the dent from the surface using small glue tips that pull and release.  

After several pulls, you can start to see the dent getting smaller. That is, until it just pulls off the clear-coat that was damaged by the falling hook. I was getting the dent to move, but crossed the line  into “not-so-paintless” dent repair. I chipped away additional failing clear-coat and pulled a few more times.

I was making progress, but since I was now pulling on the base coat, I thought it best to shift to the inside and try pushing with other PDR tools in the bag.

I made pretty good progress pushing from the inside and hammering from the outside. I probably would have kept up with this approach if the clear-coat wasn’t missing.  Another hour and it would be almost undetectable, but since I was going to have to use some filler to try to level the clear, I just switched over to the Scratch Wizard body filler. 

After a little bit of filler…

and a little bit of primer…

It was ready for paint.

And clear-coat.  All together, there were 5 coats of primer; 4 coats of paint; and 3 coats  of clear-coat that I tried to feather into the rear quarter panel.  I need to level the paint after it hardens a bit and then seal. Total repair cost: $125. I’m pretty happy with it. Now on to the hatch lid where the clear-coat is failing in large chunks.

I’ve been thinking about covering the hatch lid in vinyl then removing it. If it works like the test area above, it will come off in sheets.

Update: I finally got around to refinishing the hatch. Looks pretty good and a solid color match.