Ignition Upgrade on your Mini Cooper

My Mini Cooper S has a lot of miles. I just turned over 191,000 this week and I’m well on my way to 200,000 in this car. It’s been fun. Alright, so it’s been about as much fun as a front wheel drive car can be. I really can’t complain. The Mini Cooper S is a go-kart that rewards you with superb handling and excellent fuel economy. The Mini Cooper’s do have their flaws though and maintenance costs can nip at your wallet if you’re not careful. Factory rubber front control arm bushing replacement is common. The parts are cheap but the labor to install them isn’t(no matter where you go). The power steering is cooled by a small electric fan that’s mounted under the front of the car, and if it stops working, you could be looking at a power steering replacement. If you drive with aftermarket suspension on rough roads the shock towers are known to mushroom. Oh, and the factory ignition coil terminals tend to rust causing less than adequate spark.

Since purchasing my 2003 Mini Cooper S, I’ve replaced my control arm bushings with poly units from Mini Madness, installed an adjustable H&R rear swaybar, mounted sticky Dunlop Z1 Star Spec tires, and Ireland Engineering camber plates. All of which have made a remarkable improvement on my daily driver. A few weeks ago I noticed the car was stumbling on throttle so I began to investigate. Sure enough, the terminals on the coil were in bad shape, especially #2 and #3. Narrowing the culprit down to the ignition, I gave George at Mini Madness another call for some MSD replacements. George sent me the MSD coil pack and MSD wires along with NRK’s iridium spark plugs.

The install was cake. If you’ve never worked on your car before, this is a great place to start. With a 10mm and spark plug socket you’ll be done in about 15 minutes.

  1. Start by popping the hood and tracing the spark plug wires to a central coil pack. It’s to the right of the Mini logo on the valve cover. Take a picture of it, along with the wires coming off of it for future reference so you know where each plug wire goes.
  2. Locate the wiring connector at the back of the coil pack, closest to the firewall. There is a red security pin that must first be slid out before the connector will come off.
  3. Remove the four plug wires from the coil by pulling from the thick insulation nearest the coil pack. They’ll be on there tight. Don’t yank them off by the cord if you’re not replacing them, too. Lay the plug wires to the side, out of the way, but don’t remove them from the spark plugs at this time.
  4. There are four 10mm bolts that hold the coil pack in place. Loosen each of them with a 10mm socket. There are two rubber grommets on each bolt, one on the top and one on underneath of the coil. You’ll want to transfer those over to the replacement unit. Lift up on the coil pack to remove it. Reinstall new coil pack using the grommets. If you have the MSD replacement like I do, it should include four longer bolts with washers. Installation is opposite of removal.
  5. Now remove the spark plug wire on the left most side by pulling from it’s base. This is cylinder #1. Using the spark plug socket, remove the spark plug and install the new replacement. Don’t over tighten these. They should be snug, not torqued. Finally, drop in new plug wire of equal length and attach to the proper terminal on the coil pack. Repeat for the process for the three remaining cylinders.

Start the car and go for a drive. You may not notice a difference in power, but chances are fuel economy will increase, the engine will start easier in the mornings and hesitate less. Keep it running strong with regular maintenance.