MINI Scoop Grille DIY

Here’s another easy DIY brought to you by Home Depot Racing. If you notice that you’re picking up a lot of debris (klag, cigarette butts, rocks, etc.) then you might want to consider adding a grille between the scoop and the air duct plate that attaches to the underside of the bonnet. That’s the easy way: Just remove your scoop, trace the opening on cardboard, cut the grille to be just a bit larger, and then trap it between the back of the scoop and the forward edge of the air duct. But if you’ve removed the air duct, then it’s just a bit more complicated. But I’m ahead of myself. Start at the beginning.
Make template
Go to Home Depot, and get some Gutter Guard material, and a set of heavy-duty wire cutters or tin snips. You’ll also need some cardboard to make a template and some masking tape to transfer the template to the gutter guard material. If you still have the stock air duct on the underside of you bonnet, follow the instructions above. If you have removed the air duct, you’ll need a different method to attach the grille. For this you’ll need some stainless steel fine wire, an electric drill, and a small drill bit.
tie it off
For this method, you want to cut the grille from the raw stock to be about 1/4 of an inch larger than the cardboard cutout you made so you can bend the material around the back edges of the scoop and have enough material to catch with the wire. Drill 8-10 holes at various locations on the scoop about 1/8 of an inch from the back edge. Cut a 4 inch piece of stainless steel wire for each hole. Carefully feed the wire through each hole and loop through the grille, twisting until tight. Bend the excess wire out of the way.
finished grille
You can still see the stainless steel wire twists from the front. I though about painting them flat black, but they really aren’t that noticeable, and besides, if I can see them, then they’re still there.

Hella Fog Lamps

October usually marks the end of track season here in the Mid-Atlantic. Since the first event of the new year is normally in April, we like to swap out some of the go-fast bits that will take a needless beating during the winter months. That generally means swapping out track pads, removing the cold air intake and splitter, and eventually putting on winter tires. Since we removed the stock fog lights to use the openings for brake ducts, this also meant we would drop the bumper cover, remove the wheel liners and put the lights back. But this year, we thought we’d try something different. Since we had a few of the Alta Rally Light Bars in the shop, we thought we’d see how difficult they are to install. (Feb 17 update: Unfortunately it appears Alta has stopped making these. We’re working on making our own instead.  Check back soon.)
The Alta Rally Light Bar mounts to the rear of the bumper and protrudes through the lower grille. It has four light mounting points, but we only used the two outer positions. If you’re adept at removing the bumper cover and bumper, this project could be completed in about an hour if you are using the exiting fog light wiring. Double that if you are wiring up a new switch, and double that again if you’ve never removed the bumper.
Drill Here
Follow the instructions included with the bar, though you can probably use a smaller drill than the 7/16 inch bit they recommend. Just be sure your bit is slightly larger than the bolts used. Also note that the bumper is curved. Once installed and tightened, you will need to use a large philips screwdriver to get leverage to bend the mounting points back toward each other in order to fit the cross member. Do this before you place the bumper back into the cover to decide where you need to cut the grille for them to pass through.
mounted lights
Since we know we’ll be removing the lights to install the splitter again in the Spring, we added quick-connects near where the wire comes through the grille, and attached the other end of the wire to the connectors for the stock fog lights. This way we use the stock fog light switch, and the fogs dim when the high-beams are activated. The Hella lamp kit includes mounting brackets, wire, a relay, and a switch. The lamp kit is available with either fog lamps (short, wide beam) or driving lamps (long, narrow beam). We chose the fog lamps and also optional yellow lens shields.
side view
For about $200 plus a couple hours of your time, this kit provides ample lighting and is quite a bit less expensive than the stock kit. You do have to remember, however, that the lamps sit a couple of inches in front of the front bumper.

MINI Brake Duct DIY

For the most part, stock MINI brakes and even the beefier JCW calipers do a decent job of dissipating heat at the track. I generally advise students to run a higher temperature brake fluid and to get some better brake pads like Hawk HP Plus and they should be good for most 20-25 minute HPDE sessions. But for those days when you want to run longer or the ambient temperature is already approaching 100 degrees, you may need some additional cooling. That’s when this DIY will pay off.

The basic idea is pretty simple: The air in front of the bumper is a high pressure area. The area behind the wheel in the wheel well is a low pressure area. Create a path between the two and air will flow through and aid cooling. It won’t be as dramatic as dedicated ducting pointed directly at the hub, but it also isn’t as troublesome for the 99 percent of the time that your aren’t at the track. Expect to spend $10 to $75 and a couple of hours of your time. You’ll need a three inch hole saw, some zip-ties, and some tubing. You’ll loose the use of your foglights (if you have them) but you can put them back in the winter.

Guard on duct

You might have luck just holding the tubing behind the bumper cover with compression, but I ended up fashioning a make-shift duct out of an old set of fog light covers (MINI part numbers 51711481435 and 51711481436) which are about $19 each. Just cut the center out and add a screen to keep out debris. Attach about a foot of tubing to the other end and pick where you want to cut the wheel liner.

Tubing inside wheel well

If you’re trying to stay really low tech, use dryer vent tubing and gutter guard, otherwise invest in a three foot section of silicon brake duct tubing and some wire mesh (I’ve tried both, silicon tubing is easier to work with.)


Attach the tubing to the wheel liner with zip ties. Wire mesh comes in handy here too. when you’re all finished, you can hardly tell anything has changed. Good for a 50 degree drop in caliper temps at Summit Point in August.

All Done

Brake Caliper Rebuild DIY

If your brake calipers have had multiple track events where they’ve exceeded 450 degrees or any one event where they exceeded 500 degrees, many brake manufacturers recommend a rebuild. You also want to rebuild if you notice the dust boots have cracked or ripped like the ones in the photo above. Why take the risk of a caliper dragging because klag got past the boot or finding out too late that a seal has failed? It’s a relatively easy, but messy job. Have plenty of towels on hand to clean up. Remember: Brake fluid can ruin your paint. Do not grab a fender with a brake fluid soaked glove hand if working in a confined area. Instructions below are provided for illustration purposes only. As usual, refer to your workshop manual for guidance. Use at your own risk — no wagering.

Verify that you have all of the parts on hand before you begin. You will need a caliper rebuild kit and a bellows repair kit for each caliper. (On the first generation MINI, only the front calipers can be rebuilt.) You will also need replacement crush rings for the brake lines (2 per caliper), and since you will have to bleed the brakes, you might as well flush and replace all of the brake fluid. (Consider high temperature brake fluid if you track your car often.) It is critical that you not let the brake fluid reservoir run dry while you do this job. Modern brake systems are very difficult to purge if you allow air to get all the way to the reservoir. This would be an excellent time to change the brake pads and rotors as well. (This DIY only covers the caliper rebuild. See this old post for changing pads.) Expect this job to take 60-90 minutes the first time you do it.

1. Safely jack the car and remove the road wheels. Never work on a car supported only by a jack or one that is not fully supported by jack-stands.

Safely Jack Car

2. Remove the caliper from the carrier. Note any cracking or damage to the bellows jackets of the caliper pins. This is a also sign the caliper has seen some serious heat cycling.

Remove Caliper

3. Note the type of brake pads in use. These Carbotech pads have a pin in the center that won’t allow the caliper to be slid off of the rotor until the piston is slightly retracted. If you pads are shot, just use a screw driver to carefully pry between the pad and the rotor to create clearance, but if you plan to reuse the pads, then carefully apply pressure directly to the piston to make room. Be careful to not damage the surface of the piston. Notice also the Brake Caliper Temperature Strips. This is a great way to keep track of the max temperature sustained by the caliper.

Remove old pads

4. Hang the caliper so the weight is not supported solely by the brake line.

Do not leave it hanging

5. With the caliper off, inspect the rotor for excessive checking, cracking, or deep grooves. Replace as necessary.

Check for Grooves

6. With the pads removed, briefly reattach the caliper to the carrier. Wearing gloves, put down plenty of towels to absorb any spilled brake fluid and have a sandwich bag and zip-tie handy. Use a socket wrench to loosen the banjo bolt and catch dripping fluid into the sandwich bag. Place the bag over the end of the brake line and secure with the zip-tie. You have about 30 minutes before gravity will fill the bag. If you do not expose the fluid to air or grime, you can recycle it (well long enough to put it back and purge it when you do the pressure bleed later.)

Reattach for leverage

7. Carefully empty any remaining fluid from the caliper and inspect the dust boot. If it looks like this one, replace and rebuild the caliper.

Check Boot

8. Once the boot is removed, check the piston for debris and damage before proceeding.

Check Piston

9. Place the caliper on a workbench and use an air pump to push out the piston. Place a towl under the piston to catch it as it comes out. Do not use excessive air-pressure or you will shoot the piston from the caliper. 20 lbs was enough to slowly release this one.

Do Not Launch the Piston

10. Inspect the piston and the chamber before proceeding. Remove the old seal and inspect it for damage. Ensure the new seal is the same size and thickness.

Check Seal Ring

11. Once you’ve cleaned the piston and the caliper chamber, seat the new seal ring.

Place New Seal Ring

12. Push the new dust-boot so the end that fits into the groove on the caliper is exposed and can be fitted before the piston slides in to the chamber.

Fit dust boot

13. Engage the boot seat into the caliper and then slowly push the piston back into the caliper until the dust-boot engages in the slot at the far end.

Align and start by hand

14. Reattach the brake line using new crush rings. Use hangars to support the calipers again.

15. Reinstall/replace the brake pads.

16. If it hasn’t been contaminated, pour the brake fluid from the bag back into the brake reservoir, otherwise top off your reservoir with fresh fluid before bleeding. Be sure to top off before starting to work on the other side as you DO NOT want to allow air past the reservoir.

17. Bleed the brakes according to your workshop manual once booth calipers have been rebuilt.

18. Torque banjo bolts and caliper bolts according to workshop manual specs.

19. Once both calipers have been rebuilt and reattached, bleed the air from the brake system and replace fluid with new.

MINI Horn Repair DIY

Unless you toot your own horn often, you may not find out it doesn’t work until you need it. Luckily for you, the trouble-shooting process is fairly straight forward, even if the eventual repair might not be. The three most likely causes of horn failure are: 1. Blown fuse; 2. Water-logged horn trumpet; and 3. Bad horn clock-spring. Let’s figure out what’s wrong first.

fuse panel

Assuming your car runs and has electrical power, start by checking the fuse-panel inside of the vehicle. For first generation MINIs, it’s located on the left side of the driver’s foot-well. On the back-side of the panel cover should be a chart listing fuse number and function starting from the upper left and counting down each row left to right. For my car it was fuse F28, a 15 amp fuse. Use the fuse removal tool located at the bottom of the panel and gently remove the fuse. Hold it up to a flashlight and check that the filament is still intact. If you get lucky, all you need to do is replace it with a new fuse and you’re back in business. There should be a spare fuse stowed on the left side of the panel. If not, grab the fuse from a non-essential system (like the cigarette lighter, F32) and plug it into the horn fuse slot to check that it is in fact the fuse that’s causing your problems. If the horn works, go to your local auto-parts store and buy some spare fuses and remember to replace the one you moved. If it isn’t the fuse, then go to the next step.

Normally the next step would be to remove the horn relay, but given that those rarely fail on the MINI and that it’s located on the back side of this fuse panel (and a pain to get to) we’re going to skip the relay and go to the next two most likely points of failure: the horn trumpets themselves and the steering wheel connector. If you recently removed or replaced the steering wheel, skip ahead, otherwise, start with the horn trumpets.

Unfortunately for you, the horn trumpets are located behind the front bumper. You can remove the front bumper with the car on level ground, but it’s easier with the front wheels removed. Chock the car so it won’t roll while you jack the car and place the front on jack-stands. Remove the front wheels. Remove the two 8mm bolts from within the wheel well. Slide under the front of the car, and remove the three 10mm bolts and two screws that hold the bottom of the bumper-cover to the front of the car. Now remove the two Torx bolts that hold the top of the bumper-cover to the car, but brace the cover with your knee so it does not fall forward and strain the electrical connections. Remove the side-marker lamps, parking lamps, and turn signal indicators. Remove the temperature probe and carefully lower the bumper-cover to the ground. The bumper is held on by three 13mm nuts and one 13 mm bolt on either side. Use your knee again to hold the bumper as you remove the last nuts and lower the bumper to the ground. Now you will have access to the horns on either side of the car.

service mode

Remove the Torx bolt holding the trumpet to the chassis and unplug the electrical connection (blue arrows above). Inspect the trumpet, turning it over to see if any water comes out. The vehicle horn is an important safety feature, especially in a small car. If you have to replace it (or rather them since there is one on either side), consider upgrading to a louder model. Stock replacement horns are available from your dealer (parts 61337193996/7) and are a direct replacement using the factory electrical connection. Hella Twin Trumpet Horns are a less expensive, slightly louder option, but require splicing the electrical connection. Otherwise they fit in the stock location. Check the trumpet function by providing 12-volt power (briefly) to it directly. Next check the electrical connection by hooking it up to a DC volt meter and pressing the horn button with the ignition on. One (or both) of these tests should fail. If you have power from the horn button, but no sound when directly powering the trumpets, then all you need to do is replace the trumpets. If you are not getting power from the horn button, then the problem is probably in the steering wheel. (We’re going to come back to the red arrows next to the radiator later.)

If you really want to be thorough, now would be the time to remove the fuse panel and check the horn relay. It’s relay K2, at the bottom left of the panel and is probably gray in color. But chances are that it’s OK and the problem is in the horn clock-spring.

Word of Caution here: To get to the horn clock-spring, we’re going to remove the airbag. We have detailed instructions here, but remind you that you are proceeding at your own risk. You must respect the power of the airbag or it will hurt you. Make sure the front wheels are straight, that the steering wheel is level, remove the key and lock the wheel level. Start by disconnecting the car battery and taking a break for 15 minutes. Remove the airbag per the instructions above and remove the steering wheel. It should look like this:

mini clock ring

The horn clock-ring (officially the “Slip Ring”) is the white component with the wires attached. The blue arrow shows where the horn wire from the steering wheel attaches and the red arrow shows the locating pin that’s critical to fitting this component properly. The MINI steering wheel moves 5 complete turns, lock-to-lock. Since your wheels are pointed straight ahead and your steering wheel was level when you removed it, this pin needs to be at the bottom and in the middle of the 5 turns. You can check it by turn it left or right 2 1/2 turns to stop (be gentle). The most common source of horn failure is this component. Either it was damaged when the steering wheel was removed/replaced or it gives up with time since it’s plastic.

To replace it, start by removing the lower cover from the steering column. It is held on by two Torx Screws and a snap fitting down by the knee bolster. Remove the snap fitting by working the tips of your fingers in from either side and pull apart. Remove the rubber ring around the ignition and the lower half will fall away. Remove the two small screws holding the upper half to the Switch Unit Housing (number 4 in the drawing below).

mini slip ring

Remove the three Torx screws and pull on the white slip ring. Disconnect the two electrical connections on the back, and remove the slip-ring from the housing. When you order a new clock-ring (slip ring) which is number 3 in the drawing, it comes with a new housing (number 4), but you do not need to replace the housing. Remove the new slip ring from the housing, connect the two electrical connections, replace the 3 torx screws. Replace the two small screws. Check that the slip ring is in the correct position as above (if you are using a new factory part, it ships in the correct position if the retaining clip was still in position when you got it. If the retaining clip is not present or if it detached, then center it before proceeding.) Replace the steering column cover, ignition ring, and reattach the steering wheel as per the original guide instructions. Reattach the battery and check for horn function. Return to tooting your own horn as appropriate.

Before you put the bumper and cover back on, this would be a good time to clean out your condensor and radiator. Look again at the photo of the radiator above. Remove the two 10mm bolts by the red arrows. Carefully lift up and out to remove the condensor from the pocket holding it to the radiator. Use compressed air to blow out and debris between the condensor and the radiator. Remember to place the condensor back in the slot and reattach the two bolts. Installation of the bumper and bumper cover is the reverse of removal.