Lotus F1 R31

Lotus Renault F1: An In-Depth Look at the R31

The Total Company had a Renault F1 car at their booth during the SEMA show in Las Vegas. There wasn’t even a plaque saying what it was. I guess since SEMA isn’t really about F1 they figured nobody really cared. After all, you’d be hard pressed to find double-dubs that would fit.

Lotus F1 R31

As best I can tell by searching the Google, this is the R31 from the 2011 season. It isn’t the most recent car, but it was completely unguarded so I took the opportunity to get some detailed photos. Though the names on the car are of the current drivers, this was the car driven by Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov to two surprising 3rd place finishes at the beginning of the 2011 season. The car went on to place Lotus Renault 5th in the constructor’s championship, which given the size of their budget that year, was a good accomplishment.

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Jefferson Extension

Track Analysis: Summit Point Jefferson Circuit Extension

Last weekend I had the chance to drive and instruct on the extended Jefferson Circuit at Summit Point. Below is my analysis of the changes and a description of my line around the track. This works for me in a FWD MINI on summer street tires. Your results may vary. No wagering. (In-car video by ReplayXD.)

Jefferson Circuit Extension
The extension (turns 4 – 10) adds about a half a mile to the old track and doubles the number of corners. I think most old-timers would have preferred if they had just renumbered the new section as corners 4a to 4g instead of renumbering all of the corners, but we’ll use the new numbering scheme. The old track could be run in both directions. The new layout only works in a counter-clockwise direction (though you can still use the old course in the other direction.)

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MINI Rear Swaybar DIY

One of the most trans-formative mods to make to any MINI is to add a larger rear anti-sway bar (RSB). In fact, we list it in the top three: RSB, Pulley and Exhaust. Installing a RSB is a fairly simple DIY project for anyone with a basic set of hand tools, some jack-stands, and a little bit of determination. If installing an adjustable RSB for the first time, start with the bar in the softest position first, that’s the hole the furthest from the bar. But before we begin comes the required disclaimer: The following instructions are presented for general education purposes. Be sure to follow the appropriate technical manual for your vehicle and double-check that all fasteners are tightened to the recommended torque specifications. Use at your own risk. No wagering. OK, with that over, we can begin.

First let’s set the scene. Be sure to work on level ground with enough room next to the car that you can maneuver the new RSB into place. This usually requires as much room as the bar is long to be safe. Safely place your vehicle on jack-stands and check that the vehicle is securely positioned before getting under it.


  1. You will need to raise the back-end of your car high enough that you can get under it and reach the bolts that attach the sub-frame to the chassis.
  2. Remove the road wheels and on one side, remove the rear strut assembly. The bottom bolt is going to require a breaker-bar and possibly an extender to break loose.
  3. Remove the drop-links from the old RSB, but leave them attached to the wheel hub on the other end.
  4. Moving to the rear sub-frame, loosen but do not remove the two bolts toward the front of the car. Back them out about an inch but ensure the threads are still engaged.
  5. Remove the two bolts that attach the sub-frame toward the back of the car.
  6. Lower the sub-frame to create a gap, you may have to gently pry the bar to make the gap big enough to slip the bar through.
  7. Remove the bolts on the RSB bushing brackets and slide the old RSB out the side where you removed the strut. Take care not to catch the RSB on the wire bundle in the middle on the way out.
  8. Installation is the reverse of removal. Double check that you are installing the new RSB with the correct side down if it is not symmetrical.
  9. Grease bushings if indicated by the manufacturer.
  10. Do not over torque the bolts on the bushing brackets.
  11. Use a floor-jack to raise the sub-frame and tighten the sub-frame bolts. Torque to spec.
  12. Attach the rear strut and torque to spec.
  13. Attach the drop-links to the new RSB. You may need to raise one wheel carrier with a floor-jack to get the bolt to align with the hole in the RSB.
  14. Reattach road wheels.
  15. Lower vehicle from jack-stands and torque the road wheels to spec.

Some additional considerations: Expect some creaking and groaning from your new bar. This is normal, especially with a 22 mm bar. Move up to the stiffer settings on the RSB only after you know how the current bar performs. This usually involves a trip to the skid pad or autocross: “Sorry honey, I have to go autocrossing….”

Complementary Mods: If you bought your bar used, consider upgrading the bushings to poly before you install. If you have lowered your suspension, consider adding adjustable end-links to correct the position of the bar. With the vehicle on the ground, look through the wheel to the top edge of the bar where it meets the drop-link. The bar and drop-link should form a right angle to get the most out of the bar. If your car has been lowered, you will need shorter drop-links in the back and longer drop-links in the front to get back to right angles.

Using Video and Data to Improve Driver Performance, Part 2.

In Part 1, we discussed camera placement and capturing data. In this post we’ll explore what we can learn from the data we’ve captured. The track this time is the Shenandoah Circuit at Summit Point Motorsports Park. This is a challenging 2.2 mile, 22 corner road-course used primarily for driver’s education events that features a dimensional replica of the Nürburgring-Nordschleife’s banked Karussell turn complete with 20 degrees of banking (but without the Graffiti).
Shenandoah Circuit Map
The configuration in use this day omitted the three chicanes and used the short Range Straight between turns 9 and 11. (I’ve driven more than 40 days on this course and I’ve never seen cars use the chicanes.) It is not a very high-speed course and the walls do seem very close at times, but I really enjoy it, especially in the MINI. This lap at 2:06.75 is about average for me on this weekend. The fastest of the weekend was a 2:04.67. (My best ever in this car was a 2:01.78 but that was on R-comp tires; I was on street tires this weekend.)

Video was captured on a Replay XD MINI 1080 mounted on my rollbar; data was provided by a PLX Devices Kiwi WIFI; positioning was provided by a Dual AV XGPS; and timing came from Harry’s Laptimer (HLT) on my iPhone. The video was edited in Quicktime and later added to the HLT dataset on my iPad.

In this post, we’re going to focus on an examination of cornering speeds. This post isn’t about outright best lap times, rather improving driver smoothness and carrying as much speed as possible through the corners. Lap time is just one of many ways to measure performance. Using data from HLT that was exported to Google Earth, we can plot cornering speeds and lateral G-forces over the track-map. We’ll compare the two laps of this weekend to the reference lap of 2:01 (fastest lap last year in R-comp tires in this car). The color bars are supposed to represent the direction and intensity of the G-forces: Green is 0.4 – 1.0 G; Yellow is 1.0 – 1.25 G and Red is greater than 1.25 G. Our goal for the weekend was to see how close we could come to this level of performance using street tires.

Reference Lap

The best lap of the weekend on street tires was a 2:04.67. (The spikes in the data show how much less composed the car was on street tires at these speeds than on the R-comps the previous year.)

This weekend's lap

Here’s the lap we’re trying to analyze, 2:06.75. Let’s try to find where we’re losing almost two seconds. Lower apex speeds mean lower exit speeds, leading to lower top speed at the end of the next straight. We know that we can’t expect the same level of grip from these street tires that we got with the R-Comps, so let’s look where we might make up some speed.

Lap for analysis

We can then overlay the 2:06 lap on the 2:04 lap to help see where we’re losing time. The data suggests our theoretical best time is closer to 1:59, even on street tires. In HLT, the image is dynamic so you can drag your finger around the course and see the plots in the data, you can get a similar result using the HLT data export and looking at your laps in Google Earth.


Start with Point A, The Loop. Both the reference lap and the 2:06 lap show an apex speed of 42 MPH which is interesting considering that the reference lap was on R-comps. This shows that there’s a lot of grip on corner entry because of the crown on the road. Use it to your advantage. (This was actually the one spot where the 2:06 lap was better than the 2:04 lap indicating I could have done better than 2:04 had I carried more speed into the corner.) At Point B, the Stone House Straight, I carried a lot more speed into the Hook on the 2:04 lap. As the weekend progressed I gained confidence in braking later, resulting in the same apex speed, but the line exiting Turn 8 was much better in the 2:04 lap, resulting in higher apex speed at Turn 11 (Point C). That extra speed carried all the way to the entry of the Karussel, Point D. Through the Karussel and into the Karussel Esses, however, I actually had better speed on the 2:06 lap since I had a better exit from the banking. (You can see the slight movement to the inside of the Karuessel on the exit where I lost speed heading up the hill — red spike in the wrong direction).

So what’s the take-away from this analysis? I can brake a little later and carry more speed into the apex of the Loop (A). Likewise, I can carry a bit more speed and brake later into the Hook (B), concentrating on getting a good launch out of Turn 9 (avoiding the curb on the inside) to carry more speed into Turn 11, carrying more speed at the exit (C) which will result in more speed at the end of the Bridge Straight leading to the entry of the Karussel (D). In other words: Brake later, brake less. Words to live by.

Next time: Keeping the petal to the metal. Full Throttle. Brake. Accelerate to Full Throttle. There is no “Coast”. And the data will show it.

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Orbital & Machine Polish 3

We started carrying Griot’s Garage products in the stop this month and as part of the dealer agreement, we have to be familiar with the full line of products. So dang, now we have to stay in the garage until everything is polished. I now completely understand why one of their kits is called “weekend garage therapy” – I’m a believer.

Start with the book young Jedi: Once you admit you don’t know what you’re doing, read the Detailer’s Handbook cover-to-cover and you can start the journey of learning. Turns out I’ve been polishing, waxing, and buffing wrong all of these years, likely doing more damage than good. Fortunately the Porsche has a really thick layer of clear coat and quality paint.

It’s hard to try to photograph before and after pictures of scratches in paint, but I think this one spot is a good example. This was a scratch on the driver’s side just past the driver’s door. Probably came from a parking lot. There was no ding or chip, but this mark would not come out even with a clay bar.

different view of scratch

But just by following the right steps: wash, claybar, machine polish, and wax – it disappeared. I haven’t completed the whole side of the car yet, so right now there’s this one two-foot section that has a very deep shine surrounded by a rather dull, much larger field of blue. Ah something to do for the long weekend coming up!

and it is gone

Using Video and Data to Improve Driver Performance, Part 1.

So how do you best use video and telemetry to improve driving performance of HPDE Students?

Video can be a valuable tool if it is used appropriately.  Search the internet and you will quickly find many videos of your favorite track — some more useful than others.  The good ones can help you learn the line before you drive the track for the first time.  Others are intended merely to show the world that you drove on the track.  If that’s all you want out of video, then stop reading, this article isn’t for you.  This article is about learning from your videos. So let’s build up to it, starting with camera placement.

Before you place a camera on your car, think about what you want to get out of it and what restrictions there might be that limit your options.  Do you just want to show your friends the track?  Do you want to learn the line?  Do you want to see how close your wheels really are to the apex on certain corners?  Do you want to record what happens in front of you?  Or do you want to see your inputs as you drive around the track? Those decisions will help guide camera placement.

Compare the views from the two videos below.  The first one is mounted inside on the front windshield (old, non-HD camera) and the second (iPod 4G) is positioned behind the driver.

Driving through some fluid, understeer quickly becomes oversteer (and oversteer again).  How did the driver?  You cannot tell from this view.

In this second video, we see the driver quickly catch the over-steer and accelerate out of the corner, showing the importance of quick hands.

Camera Position and Live Timing.

Most High Performance Driver Education (HPDE) events run by car clubs have rules against live timing.  You will need to position any recording or timing device in the car in such a way that it does not give live feedback to the driver.  For external cameras, many clubs restrict the use of suction mounts, requiring a hard mount.  Check with  your club before you buy. Even if suction mounts are allowed, be sure it can withstand the wind and vibration of being driven at speed.  Position the camera so it does not impede the driver’s vision and locate it in a place that it is visible to the driver directly or in a mirror.

Never consider externally mounting a camera you aren’t willing to sacrifice to the Goddess of Speed.  Low positions such on tow hooks are visually interesting, but not very helpful for learning.  Better is mounting on the roof along the center-line of the vehicle, above the interior mirror with a view of the front hood and fenders.  This will show car placement on the track and traffic directly ahead.  This placement creates a video that is a good tool to show general car placement, learn a track, and to film following a car directly in front of you.  Because it does not capture driver inputs, it is not our preferred placement.

If your camera is light and small enough (Replay XD 1080 Mini for example) consider using a suction mount to place it on the windshield inside of the car and tether it to the mount for the passenger visor.  For cars without rollbars, this is often your best option. It offers a similar view as on the roof and the camera is protected from the elements. It can easily be controlled by the instructor from the passenger seat.

Windshield Mounted View.

Positioned behind the interior mirror, this is the view you get of the track.  This view is useful for general track orientation. But you really can’t learn that much about the driver’s inputs from it. [Note: I’m using an old camera that is not HD. The new cameras integrate with the data overlay much better.]

Same Lap with Data Overlay

By adding telemetry data from Harry’s LapTimer and data from PLXdevices Kiwi 2, now we start to get a feel for use of throttle, corner speed, lateral forces, and gear selection.

Same Lap with Camera Behind Driver

In this video, we’re using an iPhone 5S in an Optrix XD5 Case mounted to our rollbar. By mounting the camera behind the driver, now we start to get a feel for driver input.  Is the driver struggling to maintain position because the seats are not supportive.  Is the driver looking into the corners?  How are the driver’s hands on the wheel? If you don’t have a rollbar or harness bar, you can get a similar view using a head-rest mount such as the CruiseCam Mount.

Same Lap with Picture in Picture

Finally we can put it all together and see both the driver and the road ahead. Harry’s LapTimer (HLT) has the ability to control certain secondary cameras via Bluetooth, such as a second iPhone, an iPod G4, or GoPro Hero3. In this case, we imported and synced the video from our Replay XD camera within the HLT application.

That second camera could be showing a view back toward the driver from the front, it could be showing feet on the pedals, or it could be a reference lap to compare one lap (or driver) to another. You are really only limited by your imagination (and equipment).

Next time:  Learning by the Numbers.

Not All Nuts are Created Equal

Choosing the Right Stud Length

You don’t want to use a stud that’s any longer than what you need for your application. Studs that extend significantly beyond the lug nut can pose a safety hazard.  Let’s compare a stock MINI lug bolt to a 50 mm H&R Quick-Safe wheel stud and 19mm nut.  We want to figure out if this is the appropriate length for using with our various sets of wheels.  At most, the thickest spacer we run is 5mm.


Comparison of Stock Bolt to Stud and Nut

In comparison to the stock lug bolt, approximately 25mm of threads extend beyond the nut of the 50mm stud. Allowing for a 1.5 to 3 thread (5mm) Safety Margin, that leaves enough threads for 20mm wheel spacers. (If the nut were longer, that amount would be reduced.)  There’s plenty of threads for our 5mm spacers — too many.

The importance of Bolt Seat. Before you decide to go with a compact nut or a tuner nut, you need to understand the interaction between bolt seat and wheel safety.  Each wheel is designed to fit a certain seat.  That seat can be tapered (BMW) or round (Porsche).  It can also be of a standard size or compact.  Most wheels that require a “tuner” (i.e., smaller) lug also have a compact seat.  You do not want to use a compact seat nut with a standard seat wheel.  This may compromise the safety of the wheel mount. In the photo above, you will notice the wear markings on the stock bolt.  This nut was used with a wheel with a compact seat.  You can see where the wheel interfaced with the bolt.  So for this application, we’re going to be OK going with a compact seat nut.

Dimensions of a 50mm Wheel Stud used for MINI

Dimensions of a 50mm Wheel Stud

Example: R53 MINI & H&R Quick-Safe M12x1.5 50mm Wheel Stud

  • If you are not using wheel spacers, this stud is 20mm too long.
  • If using 3-10 mm wheel spacers, recommend using a 40mm stud.
  • If using 10 – 20 mm wheel spacers, 50mm is the recommended stud.

How many Threads need to be engaged? A good rule of thumb is as many threads as the diameter of the bolt, but the actual calculation can be made here: http://www.engineersedge.com/calculators/iso-minimum-thread-engagement.htm. For the M12 bolt in this example it turns out to be about 10mm of engagement.  All three of these nuts exceed that requirement.

Not All Nuts Are Created Equal

The nut on the left in the photo below is a compact 19mm nut from H&R. On the right is a 17mm standard nut also from H&R. In the middle is a tuner nut from Gorilla. Check the opening in your wheel to see not only if the nut will fit, but if you can get a socket on the nut when it is on the wheel. For example, if the socket driving the 19mm nut fits the opening in the wheel, the compact size of the nut means that you could run a 7 mm shorter stud than if you were using the Gorilla Tuner nut.  Many wheels imported from Japan require the use of the Tuner (Muteki) nut.  If that’s the case in your application, you’ll have to remember to have a 5mm longer wheel stud than if you were using the compact 19mm nut.  If you are using a traditional 27mm nut, the difference is not significant.



There are Different Shape, Size, and Diameter Nuts Available

When you go to install your wheel studs, screw the stud into the hub by hand, then use the double nut method to torque to spec. Most studs require no more than 16 foot-pounds of torque.  The H&R Quick-Safe studs are already coated in Loctite. Don’t rely on an hex-key socket or you will strip the opening.


Don’t use Hex-key to Torque Studs

MINI Brake Caliper Rebuild DIY

If your brake calipers have had multiple events where they’ve exceeded 450 degrees or any one event where they exceeded 500 degrees, many brake manufacturers recommend a rebuild. You also want to rebuild if you notice the dust boots have cracked or ripped. Why take the risk of a caliper dragging because klag got past the boot or finding out too late that a seal has failed? It’s a relatively easy, but messy job. Have plent of towels on hand to clean up. Remember: Brake fluid can ruin your paint. Do not grab a fender with a brake fluid soaked glove hand if working in a confined area. Instructions below are  provided for illustration purposes only. As usual, refer to your workshop manual for guidance. Use at your own risk: No wagering.

Verify that you have all of the parts on hand before you begin. You will need a caliper rebuild kit and a bellows repair kit for each caliper.  (Only the front calipers are rebuildable.)  You will also need replacement crush rings for the brake lines (2 per caliper), and since you will have to bleed the brakes, you might as well flush and replace all of the brake fluid. It is critical that you not let the brake fluid reservoir run dry while you do this job. Modern brake systems are very difficult to purge if you allow air to get all the way to the reservoir. This would be an excellent time to change the brake pads and rotors as well. (This DIY only covers the caliper rebuild. See this old post for changing pads.) Expect this job to take 60-90 minutes the first time you do it.

1. Safely jack the car and remove the road wheels. Never work on a car supported only by a jack or one that is not fully supported by jack-stands.

Safely Support Vehicle

Safely Support Vehicle

2. Remove the caliper from the carrier. Note any cracking or damage to the bellows jackets of the caliper pins. This is a also sign the caliper has seen some serious heat cycling.

Remove Bolts from Caliper Pins

Remove Bolts from Caliper Pins

3. Note the type of brake pads in use. These Carbotech pads have a pin in the center that won’t allow the caliper to be slid off of the rotor until the piston is slightly retracted. If you pads are shot, justuse a screw driver to carefully pry between the pad and the rotor to create clearance, but if you plan to reuse the pads, then carefully apply pressure directly to the piston to make room. Be careful to not damage the surface of the piston. Notice also the Brake Caliper Temperature Strips. This is a great way to keep track of the max temperature sustained by the caliper.

Note Pin on Pad and Temperature Strips

Note Pin on Pad and Temperature Strips

4. Hang the caliper so the weight is not supported solely by the brake line.

Don't Support Weight of Caliper with Brake Line

Don’t Support Weight of Caliper with Brake Line

5. With the caliper off, inspect the rotor for excessive checking, cracking, or deep grooves. Replace as necessary.

Look for Deep Grooves and Checking

Look for Deep Grooves and Checking

6. With the pads removed, briefly reattach the caliper to the carrier. Wearing gloves, put down plenty of towels to absorb any spilled brake fluid and have a sandwich bag and zip-tie handy. Use a socket wrench to loosen the banjo bolt and catch dripping fluid into the sandwich bag. Place the bag over the end of the brake line and secure with the zip-tie. You have about 30 minutes before gravity will fill the bag. If you do not expose the fluid to air or grime, you can recycle it (well long enough to put it back and purge it when you do the pressure bleed later.)

Reattach Caliper to Get Leverage for Brake Line Removal

Reattach Caliper to Get Leverage for Brake Line Removal

7. Carefully empty any remaining fluid from the caliper and inspect the dust boot. If it looks like this one, replace and rebuild the caliper.

Damaged Dust Boot

Damaged Dust Boot

8. Once the boot is removed, check the piston for debris and damage before proceeding.

Check Piston for Visible Damage

Check Piston for Visible Damage

9. Place the caliper on a workbench and use an air pump to push out the piston. Place a towl under the piston to catch it as it comes out. Do not use excessive air-pressure or you will shoot the piston from the caliper. 20 lbs was enough to slowly release this one.

Be Careful not to Launch the Piston

Be Careful not to Launch the Piston

10. Inspect the piston and the chamber before proceeding. Remove the old seal and inspect it for damage. Ensure the new seal is the same size and thickness.

Check the Seal Ring

Check the Seal Ring

11. Once you’ve cleaned the piston and the caliper chamber, seat the new seal ring.

Replace the Old Seal Ring

Replace the Old Seal Ring

12. Push the new dust-boot so the end that fits into the groove on the caliper is exposed and can be fitted before the piston slides in to the chamber.

BrakeCaliperRebuild 19
13. Engage the boot seat into the caliper and then slowly push the piston back into the caliper until the dust-boot engages in the slot at the far end.

Use Caliper to Align.  It Should Push in by Hand.

Use Caliper to Align. It Should Push in by Hand.

14. Reattach the brake line using new crush rings.  Use hangars to support the calipers again.

15. Reinstall/replace the brake pads.

16. If it hasn’t been contaminated, pour the brake fluid from the bag back into the brake reservoir, otherwise top off your reservoir with fresh fluid before bleeding.  Be sure to top off before starting to work on the other side as you DO NOT want to allow air past the reservoir.

17. Bleed the brakes according to your workshop manual once booth calipers have been rebuilt.

18. Torque banjo bolts and caliper bolts according to workshop manual specs.

19. Once both calipers have been rebuilt and reattached, bleed the air from the brake system and replace fluid with new (subject of a future DIY.)

MINI Heavy Steering

If you experience “heavy” steering; notched steering; and/or crunchy steering, try checking these three items below. The first two are caused by faulty designs.  The third was probably caused by someone (not me) forgetting to disconnect the lower steering knuckle before lowering the rear portion of the front sub-frame.  The steering column is designed to move in many directions: That isn’t one of them.  It’s a $125-$150 part if you can find it (part number 32306763722).

Lower Steering Column Location #1 in Drawing

Lower Steering Column

Heavy Steering.  Power-steering pump failure.  Common failure on 1st Gen MINIs.  For me, the PS fan failed and then the pump soon after.  Listen for excessive whining from the pump when turning close to lock.

Notched Steering: Sound comes from the front of the car, not the interior. At first I thought it was spring binding, but it turned out to be the strut bearing in the mount had failed.  The large washer isn’t enough to protect the bearing from all of the road gunk from this past winter causing the strut spindle to bind in the bearing race as the wheel was turned.  Replacing the mount solved the problem.  (See this post).

Creaky Steering:  My steering sounded like the groaning deck plates of the Black Pearl.  Not just at lock, but any movement off center caused creaking and groaning. Sound was inside the cabin. Cause was the lower steering column shaft failure.  Sometimes it can be lessened by applying grease, but if the shaft is bent, you have to replace.  Not difficult to do, once you figure it out.  (Hint:  Connect the upper knuckle before the lower one.  I just saved you an hour of frustration.)  Here’s how to replace it:

1.  Raise the front of the car safely on jack-stands and ensure it’s high enough that you can safely work under the steering rack.

2.  If you have any security codes for your radio, be sure you have them handy, then disconnect the battery.

3.  Go get a cup of coffee and wait 15 minutes.  You are going to disconnect the airbag and you don’t want it to blow up in your face.  That would be what we call “bad.” (You don’t have to remove the steering wheel, but it will make it much easier to work on the lower steering column if you do.  In the long run, you’ll save time and save your back.)

4.  Remove knee bolster or parcel shelf and set it aside.

5.  Make sure the wheels are pointed straight forward and remove your key to lock the steering wheel in position. Unlike other cars, the MINI wheel is very easy to remove and very easy to center.  Still, having it centered before you begin makes it even easier.

6.  Remove the airbag and the wheel.  (Follow the instructions here.) Mark the bottom of the spindle so you know how to reorient the wheel later.

7.  Using an interior trim removal tool, carefully remove the rubber boot that surrounds the ignition keylock.

8.  Remove Key Surround

Remove Rubber Surround from Key Lock

9.  Locate and remove the two hex screws at the top of the lower column cover and release the two clips at the bottom.

Remove Lower Steering Column Cover

10. Remove Lower Cover and set it aside.

11. Locate the upper knuckle on the lower steering column shaft, it has a 10mm nut on one end.

12. Place the steering wheel back on the spindle, put the key in to release the steering lock, turn the wheel until you get the nut into a position you can wrench it.  Loosen the nut and recenter the wheel. Do not remove the upper knuckle from the spindle at this time. Remove the wheel, leave the key.  When it comes time to reinstall, remember to start with the upper knuckle.

Line Shows Orientation of Lower Column Shaft

13. Working under the car, locate the nut on the lower knuckle.  You may have to spin the knuckle to get into a position for wrenching.  Remove the nut and bolt. (MINI recommends replacing the nut [part no. 32206782616] whenever you remove it.) Recenter the wheels and then fold the knuckle out of the way.

lower knuckle

Lower Knuckle Folded

14. Working from inside the cabin.  Remove the key to lock the steering column.  Separate the steering shaft rubber cover from the boot at the foot-well.

Rubber Boot with Cover and Lower Shaft Removed

Rubber Boot with Cover and Lower Shaft Removed

15. Separate the upper knuckle from the spindle and remove the lower steering shaft by pulling it into the cabin.

16. Installation is the reverse of removal.  Connect the upper knuckle first before extending the new shaft into the foot well.  Get the rubber cap seated and then pull the lower knuckle onto the steering rack spindle.

Words of Caution.  Don’t worry too much about losing center if you don’t have a steering angle sensor (no DSC).  The mini steering rack is only five turns lock to lock.  The wheel can go on in only one position.  If you get totally lost take the following steps: Fold the lower knuckle back up.  Get the front wheel pointed more or less straight forward.  Go into the cabin and move the spindle so the lower mark you placed earlier is straight down.  Reattach the lower knuckle.  Looking at the steering wheel interface you’ll notice a white plastic ring.  Grab the pin and spin it slowly to lock right or left. Do not force it, let it stop.  Go back the other direction five turns and stop.  Now go back the other way 2 1/2 turns.  The pin should be located at the bottom and match the hole in your wheel when you put it back on.  If you have a steering angle sensor (have DSC) the process is similar but you have to first do it with the spindle and then do it with the white plastic ring.  Working with the lower knuckle folded, spin the shaft left or right to lock.  Turn five times to the other lock, and then back 2 1/2 turns.  It should be centered with the mark at the bottom.  When in doubt, refer to your service manual.

Dragging Caliper Solved

I think I finally solved a nagging problem I’ve been having with my right rear brake caliper. The right rear brake always ran hotter than the left. In normal city driving, it wasn’t a big problem, but at the track, that meant I would cook the brake pads at the end of a long session. It was all the more confusing because I was at Summit Point main and that’s the unloaded side. I replaced the brake caliper thinking the piston wasn’t retracting and that didn’t help. I disconnected the emergency brake cable thinking it was somehow binding under suspension compression and that wasn’t it either. Pressure was good and the brake line was unobstructed. It was perplexing.

While changing brake pads last weekend, I noticed the brass bushings had seized. Not only that, but they had seized in two different positions, as if under a very strong twisting force. Then I realized, the one thing I hadn’t ever checked was the brake carrier. At first I thought maybe one of the posts was cross-threaded, but sure enough the carrier itself was bent.

bent carrier

It’s bent. Dang.

The direction of deflection made it difficult for the caliper to move once brake force was released. This would cause the inside to remain in contact with the rotor causing increased heat and wear. I installed a new carrier  and no more heating problem.  The piston retracts, and the inside pad moves away from the rotor again.

So the question now is why did it bend? It was binding because the brass bushings allowed no room for play, but did the bushings somehow cause the bending or was it just a manufacturing defect? For now I’m running OEM rubber bushings, but will keep an eye out for future temperature spikes when I head back to the track this coming weekend.

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