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Pelican Technical Article:
Manual Transmission and Differential Fluid Change

Jared Fenton
 

 
Time: 30 min
Tab: $15-$50
Talent: 
Tools:
14mm hex key socket
Applicable Models:
R50 MINI Cooper (2002-06)
R53 MINI Cooper S (2002-06)
R52 MINI Cooper Convertible (2005-08)
R52 MINI Cooper S Convertible (2005-08)
Parts Required:
Transmission Fluid
Hot Tip:
Make sure that you have a drip pan and plenty of paper towels
Performance Gain:
Longer life transmission & differential
Complementary Modification:
Use Swepco transmission fluid for better shifting
 
  

 This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Pelican Parts' new book, How to Maintain and Modify your new MINI. The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 500+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any MINI owner's collection. The book is due to be released in late 2012. See The Official Book Website for more details.
 

Check out some other sample projects from the book: 

Need to buy parts for this project? Click here to order!
  
     One of the easiest tasks to perform on your MINI is to change the transmission fluid. It’s very important to make sure that the fluid in your transmission is at the proper level, otherwise your transmission will experience significant wear. The synchro rings and sliders all depend on a slick surface in order to match speeds when shifting. If your transmission is low on oil, the wear on these components will accelerate significantly. In addition, shifting the car will be more difficult. One of the first things that you should check on a MINI that is having problems shifting is the level of the transmission oil. In addition, keeping the differential and all of its associated gears well lubricated should also help increase your fuel mileage.

     The transmission oil also helps to keep temperatures down inside your transmission. The engine is one of the primary sources of heat for the transmission as it conducts and radiates through and around the points where the engine and transmission are mounted. The transmission also creates heat itself as the gears and synchros turn within its case. Keeping the transmission fluid at its proper level helps to mitigate heat problems. Having a large reservoir of oil to spread the heat throughout the transmission helps to keep temperatures down. On some of the higher performance BMW transmissions, often there is an external transmission cooler installed that operates similar to the engine cooler.

     The MINI Cooper and Cooper S specifies the use of 'lifetime' fluid. This means that the fluid is designed to never be replaced. I'm not a believer of lifetime fluids in general. In my opinion, the transmission fluid should be changed every 30,000 miles or about once every two years. This number is a rough estimate, and may vary depending upon your use of your MINI (track vs. street). There are many moving parts in the transmission, and they have a tendency to drop small microscopic metal particles into the oil. Specifically, the synchro rings wear down slowly over time, each time you shift. While the transmission bearings are not as sensitive as the engine bearings, they can still exhibit wear from these particles in the oil.

     MINI Specifies the use of MTF-94 oil in the Getrag 6-speed. There seems to be some confusion about this oil and what exactly it is. Based on my research it appears to be a Texaco product re-branded for BMW and MINI. Attempts to purchase the oil at the local dealer resulted in them offering to sell me a transmission oil replacement service. Based on my research I have found an equivalent for all MINI transmission. Redline MTL is a fully synthetic 75W/80W GL-4 oil designed for use in BMW manual transmissions. It has been the gold standard in BMW transmissions for years and is highly recommended to use in your MINI. At this time, Pelican Parts can supply you with either quart or gallon sizes (See Figure 1).

     The MINI’s manual transmission has two plugs for filling and emptying the transmission oil, located on the side and bottom of the transmission case. Note that the location of the fill/drain plugs are different on both the Cooper and Cooper S (See Figure 2 and Figure 3 ) If you are simply checking the level of oil in your transmission, start by removing the top filler plug on the side of the transmission (See Figure 4). This is the plug that you add fluid to. When you have the plug removed, take your finger, and stick it inside the hole, angle it towards the ground, and see if you can feel any fluid in there. Make sure you do this when the car is cold, and parked on level ground. If you can feel the fluid level with your finger, then your fluid level is about right, or perhaps will need only a little topping off.

     If you cannot feel the fluid level, then you will need to add transmission oil to the case.  If you are planning on changing the oil, then remove the small plug on the bottom of the transmission case (See Figure 4). It’s a wise idea to try to empty the transmission oil when the car is warm, as this will help it will flow out easier. Make sure that you have a drain pan capable of handling at least 4 quarts of transmission oil. Check the fluid in the pan to see if you see any unusual metal pieces, or grit in the oil (See Figure 5).

     While the fluid is emptying out, you can use this time to clean out the drain plugs. Using a cotton swab or a paper towel, carefully clean out all of the black debris and particles that may have found their way in there.

     Replace the bottom (drain) plug on the transmission, but don’t tighten it too tightly (32-50 Nm or 24-30 ft-lbs).  These plugs do not have a tendency to leak (transmission oil is thicker than engine oil).  If it does leak later on, you can always tighten it a little more.  Now, add transmission oil to the case.  The best method of doing this is with a hand operated oil pump.  These are available from most auto parts stores and attach to the top of the plastic transmission oil bottle. (See Figure 6 and Figure 7 ) They work very similar to the liquid soap dispensers you find in most bathrooms.  Pump the transmission case full of fluid until it just starts to run out the filler hole.  R50/R52 MINI Cooper models up to 07/04 use 2 quarts of oil. From 07/04 to 2008, they use 1.5 quarts. The R53 MINI Cooper S uses 1.5 quarts up to 2007. R55/R56R57 MINI Coopers use 1.8 quarts and MINI Cooper S models use 2.0 quarts from 2008 on.

     Replace the filler plug and clean up the few drips that might have run out of the hole.  Re-install the top (filler) plug into the transmission and torque it to 20-30Nm (15-22 ft-lbs.) (for the MINI Cooper S, torque the top plug to 43Nm (32 ft/lbs.)).

     (R50 Cooper): The procedure for changing the transmission fluid on the Non-S cars is the same, although the drain and fill ports for the car are different. On these cars, the drain and fill plugs are 17mm bolts instead of internal hex plugs and are also mounted on the opposite side of the differential. Be sure to replace the two copper crush washers that sit on the backside of both the drain and fill plugs (part number 23-10-0-630-776).
Shown here is the gold standard for BMW and MINI transmissions, Redline MTL.
Figure 1
Shown here is the gold standard for BMW and MINI transmissions, Redline MTL. This fully synthetic transmission oil is suitable for GL-4 applications. This oil is a great alternative to the factory fluid and available from Pelican Parts.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Shown here are the two plugs for the transmission on a MINI Cooper S with the 6 speed transmission.
Figure 2
Shown here are the two plugs for the transmission on a MINI Cooper S with the 6 speed transmission. The fill plug (green arrow) is above the drain plug (yellow arrow).
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Shown here are the two plugs for the transmission on a MINI Cooper with the 5 speed transmission.
Figure 3
Shown here are the two plugs for the transmission on a MINI Cooper with the 5 speed transmission. The fill plug (green arrow) is above the drain plug (yellow arrow). The difference here is that the fill and drain plugs are on the opposite side of the transmission. The procedure for draining and re-filling the transmission is identical.
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If you are only checking the transmission fluid level, remove only the top plug.
Figure 4
If you are only checking the transmission fluid level, remove only the top plug. The fluid level should just be at the bottom of the top plug hole.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
It's a good idea to let the car warm up or drive it around the block a few times to allow the fluid inside to warm up.
Figure 5
It's a good idea to let the car warm up or drive it around the block a few times to allow the fluid inside to warm up. This will help it drain from the transmission. Remove the lower drain plug after removing the top plug.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Be sure you have a drain pan of at least 4 quarts capacity prior to draining the tranny fluid.
Figure 6
Be sure you have a drain pan of at least 4 quarts capacity prior to draining the transmission fluid. Be sure to have paper towels on hands to clean up any spills.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Shown here is the drain plug removed from a MINI Cooper with the 5 speed transmission.
Figure 7
Shown here is the drain plug removed from a MINI Cooper with the 5 speed transmission. A magnetic plug is used to collect metal shavings in the transmission that occur when the moving parts inside wear. Changing fluid often helps prevent this. Wipe the drain plug clean before re-installing with a new crush washer.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
After the fluid has completely drained from the transmission, replace the drain plug.
Figure 8
After the fluid has completely drained from the transmission, replace the drain plug. It's a good idea to use a hand-operated fluid pump to fill the transmission with the new fluid. There isn't a lot of space to fit a bottle up there so the hand pump is a great alternative.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Shown here is the tube from the fluid pump entering the fill port on the transmission.
Figure 9
Shown here is the tube from the fluid pump entering the fill port on the transmission. (green arrow) Keep pumping until fluid just starts to flow out the fill port. Then carefully remove the fluid hose and re-fit the fill plug back into the transmission.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
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Comments and Suggestions:
miguelComments: Can I put royal purple in my trans . I have an 03 cooper s
April 14, 2014
HowieComments: I have a 2005 Mini Cooper S 6 speed. It has been getting consistantly louder the higher the speed and lower the gear. My first thought was tires, but am thinking more like drive train issue. Could this be caused by the need to change the fluid or do you have another possible cause. I appreciated the help.
April 9, 2014
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: My suggestion is to pinpoint the noise. if it sounds like it could be related to wheel speed. Inspect tire and wheel bearing condition. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
jown.ivComments: would just like to point out, under "tools", 14mm hex key socket is listed. on an r53 cooper S, it is an 8mm hexy key socket. fortunately, i picked up an entire metric set of hex key sockets, rather than just the 14mm, otherwise i would have been pretty irritated.

other than that, i appreciate the write up. worked out well. thank you.
March 20, 2014
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. We will make the needed updates. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
POYComments: I discovered your web site with information on replacement parts mini cooper good. Thank you.
March 18, 2014
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
AnaCComments: Hit a concrete bumper-like head on, no damge to actual car bumper but scraped and bent a little the transmission pan. No fluid leak. just wondering what I should do, if anything. Car run very well, no light indicating somethings is wrong. Please advice. Had car for 2 month only! not use to such low cars.
March 16, 2014
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would inspect the radiator support for damage. They usually break upon impact. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
artComments: Just had trans fluid changed in my 2005 Conv. mini. Still hard to shift through h pattern goes into gear ok but. Very gummy through shift pattern. Any suggestions?
March 2, 2014
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: The cables may be faulty. I would remove them from the shift lever and check if they move freely. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
sebsComments: What type and how much transmission fluid would I need for a 2005 Mini Cooper R50 5 Speed, Can I use 75W/80W GL-4 ?
February 25, 2014
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: The fluid amounts are listed in the article:

http://www.pelicanparts.com/techarticles/MINI/30-TRANS-Manual_Transmission_Oil_Change/30-TRANS-Manual_Transmission_Oil_Change.htm

Replace the bottom (drain) plug on the transmission, but don’t tighten it too tightly (32-50 Nm or 24-30 ft-lbs). These plugs do not have a tendency to leak (transmission oil is thicker than engine oil). If it does leak later on, you can always tighten it a little more. Now, add transmission oil to the case. The best method of doing this is with a hand operated oil pump. These are available from most auto parts stores and attach to the top of the plastic transmission oil bottle. (See Figure 6 and Figure 7 ) They work very similar to the liquid soap dispensers you find in most bathrooms. Pump the transmission case full of fluid until it just starts to run out the filler hole. R50/R52 MINI Cooper models up to 07/04 use 2 quarts of oil. From 07/04 to 2008, they use 1.5 quarts. The R53 MINI Cooper S uses 1.5 quarts up to 2007. R55/R56R57 MINI Coopers use 1.8 quarts and MINI Cooper S models use 2.0 quarts from 2008 on.

Any questions about fluid types, give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right part.


- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
vanComments: great article,but you don't mention what type of fluid you use in a automatic non s cooper, I have a 2006
So could you tell me what type of fluid is recomemded for this mini?
thanks
January 14, 2014
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right fluid. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Notamecanic Comments: Well for some reason my question didn't post. .. Now my ep light went off and it's in limp mode 3 gear. So I took it to the shop they told me. They can reset the trans control module. So after I paid 125 bux for them to reset the computer. Still won't shift .. Took it to another shop where they let me use there lift. Seems to have a leak from the black pan under the trans Seems like the gasket is blown out What do you think is a good price. To have this repaired ???? Replace gasket and fill it with new fluid ???
November 13, 2013
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: I cannot comment on price, as I haven't seen the issue. You can get a detailed estimate, then call around to different shops to compare the price. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
NotamecanicComments: I have a gnarly leak in my trans looks like it's coming from the pan part the black part
November 13, 2013
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: Try cleaning the area of the leak, this will help with pinpointing it. It could be the pan, pan gasket or cooler line. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
BillComments: Are there two different 5 speed manual transmissions for the 2005 Mini Cooper base model R-50, VEC Code: RC33, Eng W10. I have one mfg'd date 2005/03. I thought I heard some where some changes were made to the 5 speed transmission around that time.
November 12, 2013
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: I believe as of 2005, there was only one 5 speed manual gear box. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
JSKComments: Can I use Redline MT-90 75W90 GL-4?
October 31, 2013
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: Personally I would stick with MINI MTF 94. However, our parts specialists can help you find a substitute. 1-888-280-7799 - Nick at Pelican Parts  
SalzundpfefferComments: Do you recommend any additives like SLICK5000, graphite based - any experience with them - clumping or clogging. I know OEMs do not recommend them, just curious if there is some real world experience.
October 3, 2013
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: I have no experience with it.

I opened a post in our forums. A Pelican community member may be able to answer your question. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
ProdigiumComments: How do you get underneath a Mini on level ground, take the plug out to check the oil level? Most of us have to do this with the cars front wheels on ramps and that will give a false full reading of the level. Filling with the fronts on ramps will result in a fill that isn't filled. Any suggestions? If I fill with the cars rear wheels on ramps it will overfill, maybe a pint or so, but is that bad?
September 20, 2013
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would suggest getting all four wheels off the ground. This can be done with jack stands, or a combination of jack stands and ramps. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
DavidRComments: Thanks, Nick.
September 16, 2013
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: No problem. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
DavidRComments: 2007 base Cooper - I haven't looked underneath yet, but there's no need to remove the subframe, right? That is, I can reach the plugs OK - assuming that I have the right wrench - with the subframe in place?

Great articles. Thanks! My 07 has 80K on the clock and is getting to the age where I need to keep a closer watch on its needs.
September 11, 2013
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: You do not have to remove the subframer for a transmission fluid service. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
DandoComments: I cant call as I'm in England. No worries, thanks very much for getting back to me anyway.

Dan
June 17, 2013
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the follow up. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
DandoComments: Can I just ask.. Once the Drain and fill plugs are removed, when fitting them back on 6 speed gearbox do you need to replace the washers? If so does anyone know the size of the crush washer needed? Thanks in advance.
June 16, 2013
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would suggest replacing the sealing gasket. Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right part. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
BojanglesComments: As an engineer I would like to clarify the incorrect statement above.
Multigrade oils are for comparing viscosities at the same temperature.. and EVERY automotive oil gets runnier at higher temperature.
a 10W30 oil means that when at room temperature, the oil has a viscosity of a 10 weight oil, and at operating temperature it has the viscosity of a 30 weight oil AT THE elevated temperature. 30 weight oil at operating temperature is still less viscous runnier than 10 weight at room temperature.
There is a lot of confusion out there. For sure the transmission oil 70W90 is definitely easier to drain when warm.
June 15, 2013
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: - Nick at Pelican Parts  
elioComments: Really interesting, a good number of mini owners doesn't know that they should change the transsmision fluid even if they minis have manual transmission.
May 31, 2013
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
RandyComments: What type and how much transmission fluid would I need for a 2004 Mini Cooper with an automatic 6 speed tranny?
March 26, 2013
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call: 1-888-280-7799 They will get you the right type and amount of fluid. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
ChrisComments: Nice write up on fluid change. One comment regarding Cooper non-S with 5spd Getrag transmission late 2005 and 2006 R50s. The 5spd Getrag fill and drain plugs are the same as shown in Figure 2 for the S transmission also Getrag. Recently changed trans fluid in our '06 R50 with 5spd Getrag...very easy and quick procedure.
January 12, 2013
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
LeeComments: Great article. One typo to note: in paragraph 6, the phrase "...the car is warm, as this will make the oil more viscous...". When warm, oil is *LESS* viscous lower viscosity.
August 27, 2012
 Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for catching that. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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 Applies to: R50 MINI Cooper (2002-06) - R53 MINI Cooper S (2002-06) - R52 MINI Cooper Convertible (2005-08) - R52 MINI Cooper S Convertible (2005-08) - R52 MINI Cooper S Convertible (2005-08) - R56 MINI Cooper (2007-) - R57 MINI Cooper Convertible (2007-)
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