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Pelican Technical Article:
Strut Tower Reinforcement Plate Install

Jared Fenton
 

 
Time: 30
Tab: $100-$250
Talent:  
Tools:
Floor jack, 13mm open end wrench
Applicable Models:
R50 MINI Cooper (2003-06)
R53 MINI Cooper S (2003-06)
R52 MINI Cooper Convertible (2005-08)
R52 MINI Cooper S Convertible (2005-08)
Parts Required:
Reinforcement Plates
Hot Tip:
Replace your strut mounts if they are bent
Performance Gain:
Prevents damage to upper suspension towers
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 expected to be released in 2015. 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!
   
     As good as the stock suspension is on the Mk1 MINI Cooper is, there is a inherent design flaw in the upper strut tower area. Over time, with repeated forces pressing up on the sheet metal, the strut tower can begin to bow in the center, leading to an effect called "mushrooming" which deforms both the upper strut mount and also the sheet metal in the strut tower.

     The solution is to reinforce the area around the strut tower to better distribute the loads placed upon the sheet metal. Various companies offer solutions to this problem by offering reinforcement plates mounted on the top of the strut mount. The problem with this approach is that in order to fit across the top of the mount, a notch must be either cut or formed into the plate to clear the stiffening rib formed into the top of the strut tower. To do this reduces the effectiveness of the plate.

     Mini Madness has come up with a different approach to this problem by mounting the reinforcement plate UNDER the strut tower, on top of the strut mount. The benefits of this approach include having a flat surface to transfer the compression load to. Also, the reinforcement plates are made out of thicker gauge steel than the strut tower sheet metal. This means that if your strut towers are already deformed, installation of the plate will pull the towers back into alignment when the mounting nuts are tightened.

     Installation is relatively easy. The first step is to take your floor jack and place it under the outer ball joint on the front control arm. (See Figure 2) Once secured, remove the three 13mm nuts securing the strut mount to the strut tower. (See Figure 3) Carefully and slowly lower the floor jack. This will lower the front strut assembly enough for the strut mount to clear the strut tower. (See Figure 4) Take care as you are lowering the strut to see that it is not hanging up on any suspension parts in the system. You just need to lower it far enough as seen in Figure 4.

     Now, take one of the strut reinforcement plates and maneuver it into position over the top the strut mount. It can only go in one way on either strut. Once it has been lined up with the threads on the strut mount, it will fall down into place on the top of the mount. (See Figure 5 and Figure 6) Next, carefully jack the strut assembly back up into position until the threads from the strut mount emerge from the strut tower. Re-fit the 13mm nuts over the three threads and torque them to 34Nm (25 ft/lbs.) (See Figure 8)

     In the case of strut towers that have already been deformed, I recommend replacing the front upper strut mounts. (This procedure is explained in our article on Front Strut and Spring Replacement) As the towers deform, it bends the strut mounts outwards, preventing the threads from being able to move in or out of the tower. I have heard of situations where the threads had to be cut flush at the tower to remove the mount.

     To straighten the tower, you would want to install new strut mounts with the reinforcement plates on top, then slowly jack the strut assembly until the threads start to penetrate through the tower. Thread the 13mm nuts on, and carefully tighten each of the three nuts equally until the reinforcement plate is firmly sandwiched between the tower and the mount. In theory, this should pull the tower back straight.

     If your strut towers are badly mushroomed, you may have to resort to other means to straighten them. Online, I have seen a few jigs fabricated by some clever owners in which the reinforcement plates were used underneath with a large metal ring with a hole in the center on top to "press" the tower back into shape. This seems to be the best approach. The one thing that I don't recommend however is using a hammer to beat the tower back flat. This method, while seemingly reasonable, could have the effect of weakening the metal even further.
Shown here are the strut reinforcement plates from MINI Madness.
Figure 1
Shown here are the strut reinforcement plates from MINI Madness. Made of 3.5mm carbon steel, they are a very effective means of reinforcing the strut towers on the MINI.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Start by placing a floor jack under the outer ball joint on the control arm.
Figure 2
Start by placing a floor jack under the outer ball joint on the control arm. The idea is to support and lower the strut assembly enough to install the reinforcement plate on the top of the strut mount.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Carefully lower the floor jack.
Figure 3
Carefully lower the floor jack. This will allow the upper strut mount to drop down enough to expose the studs on the top of the mount.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Carefully lower the floor jack.
Figure 4
Carefully lower the floor jack. This will allow the upper strut mount to drop down enough to expose the studs on the top of the mount.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Insert the reinforcement plate up and over the strut mount.
Figure 5
Insert the reinforcement plate up and over the strut mount. Make sure to not the orientation of the plate. It can only go in one way.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
The plate should look like this once you place it over the studs on the top of the mount.
Figure 6
The plate should look like this once you place it over the studs on the top of the mount. At this point it is ready to be jacked back up into place.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Carefully jack the strut back up inside the strut tower until the plate is sandwiched between the upper strut mount and the strut tower.
Figure 7
Carefully jack the strut back up inside the strut tower until the plate is sandwiched between the upper strut mount and the strut tower.
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Once in place, re-install the 13mm nuts and torque them to 34Nm (25 ft/lbs.
Figure 8
Once in place, re-install the 13mm nuts and torque them to 34Nm (25 ft/lbs.)
Large Image | Extra-Large Image
Need to buy parts for this project? Click here to order!
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Comments and Suggestions:
Steve_LV Comments: I want to install these on my MINI, and my strut mount is cracked. Can I get it off and replace it with this process, or do I need to take it apart further to get the strut mount off?
July 27, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would suggest repairing the cracked strut mount. Do not leave it, it will continue to crack until it fails. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
GBB Comments: Doesn't this increase the front ride height by the thickness of the plate? Is this an issue?
June 4, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: By 3.5mm, not much. I would suggest having the vehicle aligned when done. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Patrick Comments: I have a 2006 MCS with stock suspension. When I unbolted the 3 bolts and lowered it down I could not for the life of me get even close to enough room to fit these plates in.

I notice you have lowering springs and the bolts are smaller in your pictures than the ones on my stock car.

Am I missing something here? Do I need to remove something else or use a spring compressor on the spring
October 18, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The difference in the ease of installation in our tech article may be the spring height. You may have to remove the strut and install the plate onto the top of the bearing plate, then reinstall the strut. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bob Comments: I purchased an 06 cooper S with 39k miles and want to reinforce the strut towers to prevent mushrooming. My questions are: Do you recommend reinforcing all four towers, front and rear? I understand that there is little room for adjustment to camber and caster in the stock arrangement. can I install camber plates and the reinforcing plates together? Is it likely I will need the additional adjustment which camber caster plates provide to properly set alignment to maximize tire wear? Does the installation of camber caster plates defeat the need for reinforcing plates? I also would like to purchase a large sway bar for the rear and was considering the Alta 22 mm bar because it is adjustable and can provide significant stiffness to the rear end. Do you recommend this bar?
October 16, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You do not have to reinforce the rear strut towers, they should be fine. If using a camber plate, it adds a good amount of material to the strut tower. I wouldn't think you need the reinforcement plate and the camber plate. The Alta bar is nice, however i would do your research and settle on something that fits your driving habits. I wouldn't recommend making the vehicle too harsh if you only drive it on the street. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Vincent Comments: Hello there, I installed the Madness Motorworks reinforcement plates in my MINI R50. I would definitely recommend to, as commented previously, undo the lower stock sway bar from the struts. This allows you to slide the plates in place without too much trouble gives you more room. One more recommendation would be to not tighten the nuts to 25ft/lbs as it caused one of the strut mounting bolts to brake off. It could very well be a simple manufacturing fluke on my set of strut though. Just tighten by hand, without cranking too hard on them. I would recommend using some medium strength thread locker, as there are not very many threads available, due to the added thickness of the plates.
Thanx for all the awesome info you guys provide!
October 3, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional Info. We appreciate it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Nick Comments: I just bought new strut mounts and I am installing them this weekend. Is it possible to compress the spring, use an impact driver on the 1 nut on the strut then the 3 nuts on the strut tower and replace the strut mount without any further disassembly? It looks liek there is enough room in figure 4 after lowering the assembly.
September 27, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, I would advise against it. You can easily mis-align something and end up worse off that before you started, - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Emmy Comments: how would you compare the Mini Madness plates with the Ireland Engineering Fixed camber plates? I believe Mini Madness is 3.5 mm carbon steel and the Ireland Engineering plate is 4.75 mm not sure what the material is. Which one would work better on the mini cooper S? and why?
August 19, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I have not used the Ireland Engineering plates so I cannot comment on them. However, the MINI madness plates have been awesome, great build quality and fit. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
george Comments: I have thought about this plates and yes a very good idea but, I don't want to give up my m7 strut brace and studs on the mount are to short to have both .I would just like to grind of the studs and use 3 button head bolts longer with a flat spring clip to hold in place .Then I can use both bottom plate and the m7 stut brace . Let me know what you think . also ,Nick how would the plates change alignment? I am not savy about struts ,first mini
August 3, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Not sure how I would go about removing the stud from the strut bearing plate. You might want to contact the manufacturer of the plate and see what they recommend. If you can find knock the old ones out and replace with a longer version, I am sure that would work. You will need to align the vehicle once the pklates are installed. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Qi Comments: I just received the plates...From the PDF instruction on madness motor works's website, it says I need to remove sway bar end link, but pelican's instruction didn't mention it. Is that something I have to do in order to lower the strut assembly? mine is R50. THANKS!
June 5, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The sway bar end link is attached to the strut. Removing it allows the strut to drop down much easier. I would do it to save yourself the struggle. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
DDMD Comments: This is a bit confusing to me. Is the problem that the sheet metal body isn't strong enough? Does the plate increase the contact area that much more than the existing strut mount? When the failure happens does the strut mount bend as well? Is that how this plate is solving the problem, by preventing the strut mount plate from bending as well? Or, does is just increase the suface area enough that the sheet metal will not deform? Thanks,
DDMD
June 4, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: These notes in the article explain what the plate does: It is reinforcing the area to prevent deforming.

As good as the stock suspension is on the Mk1 MINI Cooper is, there is a inherent design flaw in the upper strut tower area. Over time, with repeated forces pressing up on the sheet metal, the strut tower can begin to bow in the center, leading to an effect called "mushrooming" which deforms both the upper strut mount and also the sheet metal in the strut tower.

The solution is to reinforce the area around the strut tower to better distribute the loads placed upon the sheet metal. Various companies offer solutions to this problem by offering reinforcement plates mounted on the top of the strut mount. The problem with this approach is that in order to fit across the top of the mount, a notch must be either cut or formed into the plate to clear the stiffening rib formed into the top of the strut tower. To do this reduces the effectiveness of the plate.

Mini Madness has come up with a different approach to this problem by mounting the reinforcement plate UNDER the strut tower, on top of the strut mount. The benefits of this approach include having a flat surface to transfer the compression load to. Also, the reinforcement plates are made out of thicker gauge steel than the strut tower sheet metal. This means that if your strut towers are already deformed, installation of the plate will pull the towers back into alignment when the mounting nuts are tightened.


- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Qi Comments: I just ordered a pair of these from pelican website. have a question though... should an alignment be done after installing these? i just had one of strut mounts replaced a few days ago and had the alignment done right after that ... thanks.
May 27, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would suggest having the alignment check after installing the plates. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

Check out some other sample projects from the book: 

 

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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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