MINI Scoop Grille DIY

I found that the intercooler hood scoop tended to scoop up leaves, bugs, and cigarette butts. Maybe it was just because I was doing a lot of driving in NJ (sorry). I saw a MINI catalog featuring a grille and thought I might try to make one myself. Putting a screen to keep the junk off of your intercooler will sacrifice a certain amount of air-flow and I suppose there is some risk of having snow and muck block it as well, but if it’s that cold out, I don’t think it will matter. I much rather have to stop to unclog the scoop than pay for a new intercooler. (And as I would later find out at the track, it helps keep the rubber klag out as well.)

Remove your air scoop by removing the two screws and two bolts that hold it on. Take care not to let the trim piece fall from the hood. There is a gap between the scoop and the trim piece that seems to have been built for this purpose. Trim a piece of cardboard to get the right shape then cut out a grille from a piece of $2 Gutter Guard from the Home Center. Paint the edges with flat black paint to prevent rust. If that’s too complicated for you, send me $5 and I’ll mail you one. Motor on.

Rear Strut Bar & Spare Tire for MINI

This summer is flying by. Just yesterday I was getting ready for annual training at Fort Dix and now we’ll be off to the Monterey Historics in a few short weeks. Along the way, I had a chance to make a couple of mods to the Mini: a rear strut bar and the fog/brakelight mod.

shelfSince I made the switch away from the runflats, I’ve been carrying a compact spare in the boot. Thanks to the nifty carrying bag I got from the Baglady, I have the spare, jack, and tools all in one convenient indi-blue package. It was previously secured by a complex web of bungie cords. I’ve been concerned what might actually happen to this +40 lbs package in the event of an accident or sudden stop. So I started looking for a way to secure it without throwing the weight into the seat-back. It finally occurred to me that I could get one of those strut bars for the rear and just tie the tire bag to it and the bar would take the weight of the tire and also strengthen the rear end. Win-win. I started looking at the usual Mini related websites and typically found one for around $130 but I didn’t want to spend that much, especially since I wasn’t really using it for it’s intended purpose. Once again, eBay came to my rescue. For about $70 delivered, I found what appears to be the same product. Installation took less than 10 minutes. The bar repositions the rear seats to a slightly more vertical position and creates a 1 1/2 inch gap between the seat back and rear package shelf, but when the hatch is closed you cannot really tell the difference.


You also lose some versatility by having the bar in the way of larger packages, but it comes out in just a few seconds with a 13mm wrench.

Rear Brake Light Mod for 02-04 MINI DIY

Updated: January 2015: The mod comes courtesy of Richard Lin, aka OctaneGuy. He used to maintain a website called and the instructions and photos below are from an archive of that site since it isn’t active anymore.

Minis sold in Europe come equipped with rear fog lights. MINIUSA didn’t think the U.S. market would want them, so the U.S. spec cars didn’t have them, even as an option. Cars shipped to the U.S. were prewired for them and since it’s easier to not have to customize your manufacturing process, they also have the light sockets (including bulbs) in the regular rear light housings, just no switch and no programming to operate the lights.

After some intensive lobbying from loyal Miniacs, MINIUSA authorized a retrofit. So by replacing the toggle bank with the one having the missing switch, U.S. owners can have their cars reprogrammed to have functioning rear fog lights too. That works out to something like $200 for the switch bank and $50-$100 to have installed and programmed. And if you want to install the switch bank yourself, you have to figure out which of the 12 versions listed in the parts catalog is the right one for your car. Another option is to use the lights for another purpose such as to double the amount of brake lights available from 2 to 4 lights.

For less than $2 and about 10 minutes of your time, you can place a diode in the wiring harness that will switch on the unused fog lights when you activate the brake lights. The neat thing about using the diode method rather than merely jumping the wires, is that you do not lose the fog light functionality if at a later date you want to add the extra toggle and reprogram for the lights. If you merely jump the connection, then when you activated the fog lights you would also activate the brake lights. That would be bad…. Below are the instructions originally from Richard Lin’s website. It works on all Mini’s through the ’04 model year. If your back-up light is NOT integrated into your tail lights, this will work.

Like all other guides on this website, this is intended as a general reference. Proceed at your own risk. This should take you about 10 minutes to complete.

You will need two diodes, some electrical tape, and some needle nose pliers. The diode is a 3amp 50 PIV diode from Radio Shack, part #276-1141 $1.59 (for 2)

In order to make this mod, you need to remove the rear access panels in the boot. You then want to unplug the connector for the brake lights. There is a release clip that you need to pinch in order to remove it.

diode wrapped

Hold the straight diode up to the connector. You will want to bend each end 90 degrees to make a U shape with the width in between the bends approximately the distance between wires 1 and 4 on the connector. If you bend the diode leg after the 90 degree bend into a Z pattern and push the Z into the connector it will hold better. Wrap the diode in electrical tape before inserting it.

/\/\== [diode] ==/\/\
bend ^ rt angle ^ two places, then install.

New R90 Wheels & Summer Tires

My previous solution (15 inch wheels) was a vast improvement over the stock 17 inch R85s with runflats, but they just didn’t look right. I wanted something with a low profile tire, but not too low. I wanted a larger wheel, but not the weight of the 17 inch S-Lites. In the end, my favorite wheel turned out to be the best value as well….

I reviewed the wheel galleries on Mini2 and North American Motoring before finally deciding that I wanted to stick with a MINI branded wheel. I got a great deal from Mini of Sterling and be sure to mention “” for a great discount. It wasn’t the lowest price I could find on the internet, but since they threw in free shipping on orders over $100, it was as competitive. I knew from my time with the runflats that I didn’t want another 17 inch wheel. The R82s with Falken ze-512s did great in the snow, but the 15 inch wheel just doesn’t look right. I’ve always like the R90s so I decided the 16 inch R90 was the wheel for me. I reviewed many tires and found a summer performance tire that got excellent reviews in both consumer reports and on the Tire Rack — the Goodyear F1 GS-D3. The tire has a very square sidewall construction so the contact patch is huge in the 205/50R16 tire size. So far the ride is comfortable and quiet; the tire has great grip and the wheels look great.

End of MINI Year One

So after a year and 23,750 miles, what advice can I offer someone in the market for a new MINI? Here are some observations in no particular order:

  • Storage. You will need help to organize what little storage space is available inside of the car. Start with an organizer for the glove-box; add a cubby organizer under the toggle switches; replace the knee-bolster under the steering wheel with a parcel shelf; and finish up with an arm-rest. All together that will set you back about $500 but you’ll have room for your sunglasses, CDs, cell phone, charger and owners manual.
  • Tires. Ditch the run-flats for lighter rims and tires. Originally I bought some lighter 15 inch rims for winter use, but found the look was wrong and the performance weak. The ironically-named 17 inch “S-Lites” with Goodyear RS-A runflats (205/45R17) tires weigh almost 50 lbs each. I replaced them initially with 15 inch “Silverstone” rims and Falken ze512 (195/60R15) tires weighing 40% less. I’ve noticed an improvement in stopping distance, turn-in and ride quality, but have lost some grip. The runflats were very harsh. Now I don’t live in fear of every pothole and bump. My passengers appreciate the change as well. Thinking about 16 x 7.5 inch rims as a good compromise.
  • Music. XM Radio and the AUX input jack. Both of these are easy add-ons for the do-it-yourselfer. I originally used a Delphi Roady going through the AUX jack for XM, but last week upgraded to the XMDirect/Blitzsafe unit directly to the radio booster in the boot. It makes for a very clean install (completely hidden) and you can use the steering wheel controls to control the XM radio. I also have the jack available for my iPod. Just don’t buy XM from your dealer. It takes less than 10 minutes to install and they will charge you $299 plus an hour of labor when you can get it on the internet for about half of that.
  • Cold Air Intake. I haven’t ventured into many mechanical mods yet while still under warranty, but this is one I can highly recommend. I immediately noticed an increase in throttle response without an appreciable increase in noise.
  • Shift-knob freeze. The stock shift knob is pretty cool looking, but unfortunately it’s too cool. It is quite massive and in the winter it will never warm up. Even through gloves it would make my hand numb it got so cold last winter. And in the summer if in direct sun it will scald. I replaced it with a leather Momo Anatomic short shift knob. What it lacks in style points it makes up for in functionality. The stock knob pulls straight up, but to get a good fit with the Momo knob, you have to remove the plastic stock collar. The easy way would be to use a dremmel tool (and make a mess in the car). My way was to use a pocket knife and make a mess of my fingers. While you’re at it, replace the cheap shifter boot with a nice leather one as well.
  • Repairs. I think the 2002 and 2003 model year cars had issues with fit and finish. I’ve gone to the dealer for a bunch of oil changes (every 5K miles even though the interval is 10K) but I think only two warranty repairs. The passenger window leaked air at speed and that took them two attempts to fix (but it turns out you can adjust the window in about six ways so it’s sort of hit or miss to get right). While there, they did a software upgrade to fix an emissions issue and replaced to hatch latch which hadn’t been a problem. The other issue was a tinny sort of rattle from the door speakers in the front. Some sound deadening took care of that and that was covered too. I’ve been very happy with the service I’ve been receiving.
  • Yo-yo. The 2004 model year MCS suffered from a condition called “yo-yo”. The drive-by-wire throttle would sometimes feedback and cause the car to buck under moderate acceleration under 2500 RPM. My car had a minor case of it that got worse with a software upgrade in the spring (v. 36). The latest software (v. 39) has completely eliminated it. I decided to buy an OBDII cable and some software commonly used by so-called “chippers” to be able to download the current software and archive it in case I get updated in the future and want to go back to the one that works. Late when I’m off warranty I’ll think about modifying the ECU programming, but until then, I’m happy with the way it’s driving, so “why mess with a good thing” is my thinking.