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Subframe Removal
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Subframe Removal

Time:

2 hours2 hrs

Tab:

$0

Talent:

****

Tools:

floor jack & jack stands, socket set, screwdrivers

Applicable Models:

R50 MINI Cooper Hatchback (2002-06)
R52 MINI Cooper Convertible (2005-08)
R52 MINI Cooper S Convertible (2005-08)
R53 MINI Cooper S Hatchback (2002-06)

Hot Tip:

Use quality jacks and jack stands

Performance Gain:

Allows easy access to various components in the engine compartment

Complementary Modification:

replace control arm bushings
How to Maintain and Modify your new MINI

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 2015. See The Official Book Website for more details.

The concept of space saving was one of the goals of the original Mini as designed by Sir Alec Issigonis. BMW has carried most of this design aesthetic over to the new MINI quite well. In some ways, even ingeniously. While this makes for a compact design and ease of manufacture, it also has the downside of making certain items on the MINI difficult to access when repairs are needed.

The MINI uses a subframe to hold the bottom part of the engine as well as providing the mounting points for the steering and suspension systems. There's just no way around it, for some jobs, the subframe must be removed from the car. In this article I will go over the steps involved to remove and lower it down.

The first step is to disconnect the battery, then jack up the car and support it on jack stands (See Pelican Technical Article: Jacking Up Your MINI for more info). Remove the wheels and the plastic expansion rivets holding the front splash shield and wheelhouse liners to the car. Now remove the front bumper cover and carrier (See Pelican Technical Article: Front Bumper Removal for more info) The front bumper must be removed in order to access the nuts holding the crush tubes to the bumper carrier (See Figure 1 and Figure 2). Next, loosen and remove the bolts holding the crush tubes to the subframe and pull the crush tubes off. It may take a little effort to free them up. Also, make sure you don't lose the plastic inserts seated in the end of the subframe rails (See Figure 3).

Next remove the front sway bar links. You only need to remove the lower connections to free the links from the sway bar (See Figure 4). Now remove the 15mm nut securing the tie rod end to the wheel housing. You may need to counterhold the whole strut assembly with your other hand to keep it from moving. It also helps to turn the steering wheel all the way to one side for more access. Sometimes, tie rod ends can be a real pain to remove. If you can't get the end out by lightly tapping on it, use a tie rod end puller. It also helps to spray a bit of penetrating oil over the top of the tie rod end. As you tighten the tool, it pushes the tie rod end down and out of the housing See Figure 5 and Figure 6). You will also need to remove the outer ball joint assemblies from each steering knuckle. Remove the two 13mm bolts from each knuckle and separate the joint (See Figure 7 and Figure 8).

Above the engine compartment, you will see the power steering fluid reservoir. Remove the nut securing the clamp around the reservoir and the two nuts and rubber grommets holding the bracket to the rear firewall (See Figure 9). You will want to position the reservoir to fit through the space right below it.

Slide underneath the car and remove the two nuts holding the power steering fan in place. Lower the fan, disconnect the wiring harness and set it aside (See Figure 10). With the fan removed, you have access to remove the two electrical connectors that plug into the power steering pump. Clearance is a bit tight and it's bit hard to see what you are doing (See Figure 11 and Figure 12). Now remove the 16mm bolt securing the lower engine mount to the subframe (See Figure 13).

Now place your floor jack under the center of the subframe and begin to remove the mounting bolts. There are 6 mounting bolts at the rear of the subframe, three on each side (See Figure 15). Move up to the front of the subframe and remove the two long mounting bolts located up under the struts (See Figure 16). Lastly, remove the bolts mounting the rear of the control arm bushings to the chassis (See Figure 17).

Removing the front subframe on the R55/R56/R57 MINIs is a similar procedure to the earlier cars except there are a few key differences. Begin by removing the front bumper and bumper brackets (Refer to our article R55/R56/R57 Radiator Service Position for more info).

The u-joint connector for the steering shaft is located inside the car, behind the pedals. Remove the pinch bolt from the steering coupler before lowering the subframe

Carefully lower the subframe enough so you can remove the electrical connectors to the steering rack. Thee connectors must be unplugged before lowering the subframe completely

The lower engine mount is similar to the one used on the early cars, except that is located in a slightly different position

The subframe mounting bolt locations are slightly different then on the earlier cars.

After removing the front bumper cover, remove the bolts and nuts securing the bumper carrier to the front of the car, then remove the two nuts on each side of the carrier to free it from the subframe crush tubes (green arrows) NOTE: Passenger side shown, driver's side is similar.
Figure 1

After removing the front bumper cover, remove the bolts and nuts securing the bumper carrier to the front of the car, then remove the two nuts on each side of the carrier to free it from the subframe crush tubes (green arrows) NOTE: Passenger side shown, driver's side is similar.

Shown here are the two crush tubes with the bumper cover and bumper carrier removed (green arrows).
Figure 2

Shown here are the two crush tubes with the bumper cover and bumper carrier removed (green arrows).

Remove the two large bolts holding the crush tubes to the front of the subframe and pull the tubes off.
Figure 3

Remove the two large bolts holding the crush tubes to the front of the subframe and pull the tubes off. Also don't forget to remove the 10mm bolts at the front holding the crush tube to the plastic support frame.

Shown here is the lower sway bar connection with the 16mm nut removed.
Figure 4

Shown here is the lower sway bar connection with the 16mm nut removed. A long hex key driver may be helpful to clear the sway bar while removing the nut.

Remove the 15mm nut securing the tie rod end to the wheel housing.
Figure 5

Remove the 15mm nut securing the tie rod end to the wheel housing. You may need to counterhold the whole strut assembly with your other hand to keep it from moving. It also helps to turn the steering wheel all the way to one side for more access.

Sometimes, tie rod ends can be a real pain to remove.
Figure 6

Sometimes, tie rod ends can be a real pain to remove. If you can't get the end out by lightly tapping on it, use a tie rod end puller as shown here. It also helps to spray a bit of penetrating oil over the top of the tie rod end. As you tighten the tool, it pushes the tie rod end down and out of the housing.

Remove the two 13mm bolts (green arrows) securing the outer ball joint to the bottom of the wheel housing.
Figure 7

Remove the two 13mm bolts (green arrows) securing the outer ball joint to the bottom of the wheel housing. This allows the wheel housing to move downward and slide off the strut assembly.

Once the bolts are removed, pull the control arm downward.
Figure 8

Once the bolts are removed, pull the control arm downward. This will pull the outer ball joint out of the wheel housing.

Above the engine compartment, you will see the power steering fluid reservoir.
Figure 9

Above the engine compartment, you will see the power steering fluid reservoir. Remove the nut securing the clamp around the reservoir (yellow arrow) and the two nuts and rubber grommets holding the bracket to the rear firewall (green arrows).

Slide underneath the car and remove the two nuts holding the power steering fan in place (green arrows).
Figure 10

Slide underneath the car and remove the two nuts holding the power steering fan in place (green arrows). Lower the fan, disconnect the wiring harness and set it aside.

With the fan removed, you have access to remove the two electrical connectors that plug into the power steering pump.
Figure 11

With the fan removed, you have access to remove the two electrical connectors that plug into the power steering pump. Clearance is a bit tight and it's bit hard to see what you are doing. Remove the smaller harness plug (green arrow) from the connector on the pump (yellow arrow).

Now remove the larger electrical connector towards the back of the pump by prying it out.
Figure 12

Now remove the larger electrical connector towards the back of the pump by prying it out. This is the main power feed to the power steering pump.

Move over to the driver's side of the car and remove the nut and bolt holding the steering rack to the steering column.
Figure 13

Move over to the driver's side of the car and remove the nut and bolt holding the steering rack to the steering column. Once the bolt is out, you can fold the joint back, which will free it from the shaft.

Remove the 16mm bolt securing the lower engine mount to the subframe.
Figure 14

Remove the 16mm bolt securing the lower engine mount to the subframe.

Shown here is one of the two mounting plates that hold the rear of the subframe to the car.
Figure 15

Shown here is one of the two mounting plates that hold the rear of the subframe to the car. Make sure that the subframe is supported with a floor jack and remove the three bolts on each side (green arrows). NOTE: Driver's side is similar.

Now remove the two front bolts up underneath the struts on both sides (green arrow) NOTE: Driver's side is similar.
Figure 16

Now remove the two front bolts up underneath the struts on both sides (green arrow) NOTE: Driver's side is similar.

Now remove the two bolts securing the rear control arm mounts to the chassis.
Figure 17

Now remove the two bolts securing the rear control arm mounts to the chassis. NOTE: Driver's side is similar.

Lastly, if your car is equipped with automatic headlight adjusters, disconnect the sensor locater on the driver's side A-arm.
Figure 18

Lastly, if your car is equipped with automatic headlight adjusters, disconnect the sensor locater on the driver's side A-arm.

As you lower the subframe, pay attention to the power steering reservoir.
Figure 19

As you lower the subframe, pay attention to the power steering reservoir. You will need to guide it as you lower the subframe incrementally.

Now carefully lower the subframe down centered on the floor jack.
Figure 20

Now carefully lower the subframe down centered on the floor jack.

Here is a side view of the subframe being lowered.
Figure 21

Here is a side view of the subframe being lowered. Note: drive axles have been removed in this picture.

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Comments and Suggestions:
MJH Comments: I have a 2010 Mini Cooper R56 are there any differences relating to removal of the front sub frame?
Thanks Mike.
October 26, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Minor, the article and procedure is similar. Mostly the difference will be the power steering, but once you get to it, you will see the connections. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
boomtrike Comments: hi.can i just lower the fronmt subframe just enough to fit a new front wishbone rear bush if so how easy is it
thanks
October 24, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It is worth a try. You may have enough space to work. Just be sure you don't put stress on hose or wiring when lowering it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
TexasTom Comments: I am replacing the control arm bush and ball joints inner and outer based on comments here I have to also pull the drive axles , but this is not included in the instructions above. Do you have a write up for pulling the drive axles?
June 23, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Axle removal is covered in this article: (start at step 2)

http://www.pelicanparts.com/techarticles/MINI/25-TRANS-Clutch_Replacement/25-TRANS-Clutch_Replacement.htm - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
ZackP Comments: Hey Pelican -
I dropped my subframe a while back following your steps and it really helped quite a bit, even with my Bentley manual in hand.
My question is about the steering column grommet - the two piece rubber/plastic cover that fits up to the oval cutout in the firewall. I must have dislodged it while raising the subframe back up - any advice how to reinstall it into position? Is the thinner rubber bit supposed to wedge between the stiffer cover and firewall?

Thanks,
ZP
March 3, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Push it into the body from the interior of the vehicle. Set the sheet metal of the body into the lip of the grommet.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jose Comments: Any trick to getting the ujoint back on? It seems like the joing is too small to get it back on; can I wedge it open?
January 30, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: for the steering shaft? It is likely misaligned. They can be tough, it has to be just right. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Scott Comments: I just finished doing this. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. One thing that I would recommend adding in this tutorial is once you get the bolt removed from the steering column in Figure 13, you may need to take a pry bar and open up the joint in order to be able to remove it from the shaft. I had to turn the steering wheel just enough to give me access to pry it off. This tutorial was awesome! I went step by step and had the subframe removed in less than 2 hours. Thank you very much for this write-up.
January 16, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Blaise Comments: Thank you!!! This was extremely useful and I referred back to the photos several times during the project. One note though, I found it a bit easier to skip figures 11, 12 and 13 until everything was free and then drop it and inch or so. That way the power steering pump cables were easier to access and there was a bit more room to get at the steering column bolt. I also removed the fenders to open it up even more.
December 16, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
XCoach Comments: Why is it necessary to remove the drive shafts to drop the sub frame? I have my front shocks off to install new ones and was going to drop the frame to install new bushings and ball joints and a larger sway bar...But I don't understand what the drive axles could be interfering with. Please help!
November 16, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Because the motor and trans remain attached to the vehicle body, using an engine support. The subframe can't come down with the axles attached. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
John Comments: I'm thinking of doing this to replace the LCA bushings and ball joints when they're worn out. I'm a bit confused on the drive axles though, do they have to come out to drop the sub frame? why? It doesn't look like they interfere with dropping the subframe.
November 11, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It looks to me that the axles were removed in the article.

However, not always necessary, if you drop subframe down just enough to get to fasteners. BUT - in my area the fasteners are often rusty and require direct access from above to break free. - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
jamesb Comments: Hi, I did this job at the weekend, replacing the rear wishbone bushes, everything is back together now and the car is running and driving fine, however now there is a loud wind noise coming from the drivers footwell, like the window is open but it isnt. The only thing I didnt do was put the plastic caps back into the subframe as I forgot didn't loose them just didn't reinstall them, there is also a whining noise like the power steering pump but louder, I spilt a bit of fluid but the res is still over half full could this be the reason for the whine?



Any help would be greatly appreciated as its my girlfriends car and she isn't too help at the moment.



Thanks

March 17, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The pump could be culprit. When steering with the vehicle parked, does the whine sound like the one you have developed? if so, the pump may be at the end of it's life. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
JamesB Comments: Hi, I did this job at the weekend, replacing the rear wishbone bushes, everything is back together now and the car is running and driving fine, however now there is a loud wind noise coming from the drivers footwell, like the window is open but it isnt. The only thing I didnt do was put the plastic caps back into the subframe as I forgot didn't loose them just didn't reinstall them, there is also a whining noise like the power steering pump but louder, I spilt a bit of fluid but the res is still over half full could this be the reason for the whine?

Any help would be greatly appreciated as its my girlfriends car and she isn't too help at the moment.

Thanks
March 17, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The pump could be culprit. When steering with the vehicle parked, does the whine sound like the one you have developed? if so, the pump may be at the end of it's life. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
colt Comments: is the removal of both drive axles necessary? Or can i at the very least leave the drivers side in?
October 5, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: They both have to come out to drop the suspension. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
jewl Comments: Figure 13 mentioned in paragraph 6 is suposed to be figure 14. Figure 13 is only shown in the outline.
June 6, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks, I will have someone look into it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jim Comments: Are all of the above steps required to drop the sub frame assembly the ~10mm for clearance when removing the transmission pan? I attempted to just loosen the main supporting bolts on the sub frame assembly but nothing was moving. I assume lots of the other steps you outline are holding things in place.
June 2, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: This tech article shows what is needed to remove the pan.

http://www.pelicanparts.com/techarticles/MINI/28-TRANS-Automatic_Transmission_Fluid_Change/28-TRANS-Automatic_Transmission_Fluid_Change.htm - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Buzzard68 Comments: Execellent instructions,my subframe is out. This was my first major project on my mini I'm not a pro mechnicOnly thing you left out is removing wires in a grommet on both lower control arms, and the Resevoir clamp must be completely removed to clear the heat shield
May 13, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Auto-X Fil Comments: On older cars, the outer ball joint may be seized in the knuckle. Be ready to use PB Blaster and a sharp cold chisel to get it free. An air chisel would probably be the easiest tool, but I didn't have one.

I was doing the control arm bushings, and found that once the subframe was as low as the power steering hoses and cables would allow, I had plenty of clearance to work. I did need to remove the steering U-joint, but I never unhooked the PS stuff or pulled the crush tubes completely out.
May 1, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Fir3Chi3f Comments: Howdy Pelican! We're have a lot of trouble pulling the lower control arms down in figure 8. Any tips? We've removed the bolts and as far as we can tell followed the rest of guide verbatim.
November 22, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The ball joint is likely rusted and seized in the hole. Try tapping it with a soft-faced hammer to release it. Then you can pry it out slowly, working each side until it comes out. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
SGratz635 Comments: When performing this job on a car with CVT, the shift linkage must be disconnected at the transmission to allow the subframe to be lowered since the cable runs under the sway bar and over the subframe.
February 8, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the tip. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Ernesto Comments: Excellent instructions.I have a 2006 Mini R50 and have to replace the lower control arm bushings.
December 1, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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