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The Mini Cooper Can Spontaneously Combust

May 13, 2012
Colson Hicks Eidson

In January 2012 CNN reported that BMW is recalling 89,000 Mini Coopers in the United States for the same sort of problem that led to earlier recalls of BMW and Rolls-Royce luxury cars. Comparatively worldwide, the Mini recall covers a total of 235, 535 cars. The problem addressed in all of the recalls is that a computer circuit board controlling a turbocharger cooling system can fail. The end result: a smoldering water pump and in some severe cases, a fire in the engine compartment. On a global scale to date, there have been 81 reported cases of water pump failures in Mini Coopers.  Twelve Mini Cooper owners in the U.S.  have reported the vehicle catching fire in the compartment, with five of the 12 fires resulting in a total loss of the car.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched a preliminary investigation into the vehicle fires in October 2011. Specifically, NHTSA is looking into the Mini Cooper S, the Clubman (the larger, four-door SUV Mini) and the convertible. Non-turbo-charged Mini’s are not included in the recall. The fires have occurred in the 2007 and 2008 models.

Fortunately, none of the fires has resulted in injuries or deaths to drivers or passengers.

In a  responsive letter addressed to NHTSA, BMW advised that the cooling system in the Mini Coopers operates differently from that in BMW and Rolls-Royce cars. Nevertheless, some turbocharged Mini cars have caught fire in the same manner the larger models have. BMW is still investigating whether the cause of the problem is related or just coincidental. Germany’s BMW AG (BAMXF) owns and operates all three car brands.

What is particularly alarming about the Mini Cooper fires is that eight of the car fires happened when the car’s engine was not even operating.

Do you own a Mini Cooper or know someone who does? If so, what precautions are you taking against a possible vehicle fire?