Fixing Loose MINI Seat Bottoms

If your seat bottoms have pulled loose of the cushion, here’s what you need to know about reattaching them. The process is not complex and can be completed with common hand tools. Start by disconnecting the battery and waiting 15 minutes before removing the seats from the car so you do not trip the Airbag light (and have to make a trip to the dealer to get it reset). Use a Torx 40 bit to remove the four seat bolts, and disconnect the electrical connectors under the seat.  Do not reconnect the battery until the seats are plugged back in again.

Place the seat on its side with the seat height adjuster lever facing up. Use a pry tool to remove the center circle, and then use a hex key to remove the lever. Starting at the front pull to release the side trim (numbers 2 and 3 in the diagram below). There are two press-in connectors (number 9) and one plug (number 7) to remove. Switch over to the other side and remove the other piece of trim.

Working under the seat, look at the long pieces of black plastic that attaches the seat cover to the front and rear of the seat frame. This plastic is very brittle and care must be taken to free the cushion without breaking it. Look at the sides of the seat and gently remove the parts that wrap around the bottom. The cushion should now come free of the frame. Keep track of the routing of wiring for the seat-heater and the seat occupancy sensor (on 2005-2006 models).

Looking at the bottom of the seat cushion, notice the wire frame that is embedded in the foam. The first image shows the problem most clearly (though not a MINI seat.) There is a frame sewn into the seat cover that can become detached from the cushion over time. The second photo shows this structure from a MINI seat upon which the Seat material must be reattached. To do this, you will need a set of hog ring pliers and clips. In the MINI, the seat material attaches in four places on each side of the cushion. Installation of the cushion is the reverse of removal. Reconnect the electrical connections before reconnecting the battery and be sure to torque the seat bolts to 26 ft lbs of torque.

example Loose Seat Cushion Reattach hogring-pliers seat base parts

MINI Front Brake Ducts, Part Deux

I finally got around to installing the brake ducts and hoses that I bought last summer. For the most part, the switch to Wilwood calipers and ducting into the wheel well solved my brake temperature problems during short track sessions of 25-30 minutes. But for longer sessions of 45-60 minutes or more, especially during hot, humid days, I was still having heat management issues. Oddly enough, not with the rotor or caliper, but with the ABS sensor in the carrier, which would turn off ABS mid-session.

The brackets I used came from Sneed’s Speed Shop and the hose is from Pegasus Racing. Chris Sneed makes a nice bracket that mounts behind the foglight opening of the R53 MINI, as well as a bracket that bolts into the dust shield mounts. The bracket to the bumper attaches via a couple of pop rivets. Aerodynamically, it’s not the ideal location, but the front of the MINI is fairly flat so I think it will work well enough. The highest pressure area is closer to the center of the bumper, but I didn’t feel like fabricating a bracket that worked around the radiator mount.  I’m also using a 3 inch silicon hose attached behind a 2.5 inch opening in the bumper. I’m sure that’s not ideal, but since the hose is ribbed, I figure what I loose in turbulence is made up for in volume. (Sounds plausible at least.)

Installation is fairly straight forward. You want the straightest possible routing for the hose that doesn’t pinch or rub against other moving bits (like the crank pulley, axle or serpentine belt.) You have to cut away a fairly substantial chunk of the front panel (#5 in the drawing) to create a path to run the hose behind the wheel well liner. (Try to save the tab to mount the liner.) Use Zip Ties to keep the hose tight against the frame rail. Be sure the hose is long enough for full travel of the steering.  Also be sure to leave enough hose to facilitate mounting of the bumper cover.

You do have to remove the brake caliper and the rotor to mount the bracket to the carrier. Sneed’s brackets are designed for stock rotors (stock Cooper S or JCW). If you are using an aftermarket caliper and rotor like the Wilwood’s I used, you may have to make some adjustments to get the to fit without binding. In my case, it just took a little persuasion (with a hammer) to get the brackets clear of the rotors.

Bumper bracketCut away to pass hoseclear bracket from rotorziptie hosefinished right sideexcess hosecut out for left side hoseClear rotor

left side excess hoseFinished Ductfront panel

Rennline Pedals and DiamondMats for the MINI

Building out the MINI trackcar, we’ve been trying to balance weight savings, safety, and utility. We removed most of the interior trim, but decided to keep the panel that runs along the bottom of the door jam to the fuse panel (called “trim panel leg room”) to protect the fuse panel as well as the wire bundle that runs along the door.

Once you remove the carpet, you’ll realize that the floor beneath the pedals is quite uneven. To fix that, we filled the voids and leveled the floor with closed-cell foam and bolted plywood to the chassis. To improve heel-toe downshifts we added a set of Rennline pedals like we have in the GeorgeCo Porsche. The pedals are fairly straight-forward to install. (The accelerator pedal is easier to install if you remove the accelerator module first.)

We finished it off with a set of DiamondMats that will be bolted to the plywood as well.

carpetremoved-1 plywood finished


Light Weight Power by Braille

One of the easiest weight-saving mods you can make to your MINI is to replace the stock battery with a lighter weight one.  Lithium Ion batteries are ridiculously expensive, but Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) are not and they weigh about half of stock.  For this application we used the Braille B2618 which an 18 lb., right side positive sealed battery.  It has 472 cold cranking amps and is rated for 26 amp/hr. Braille also makes a very slick aluminum cage to mount it that fits nicely in the MINI battery compartment (with some slight modifications). The neat thing about sealed batteries is that the can be fitted wherever you want and mounted vertically or horizontally.  If we ever corner balance the car, we’ll think about relocating it, but it works fine now where it it.

stock sized batterybraille AGM batterymounted braille battery

Leap Alpha C Spoiler Extension

I know the MINI has the aerodynamics of a brick, but we can still try to maximize the brick. In a previous post we showed how to smooth airflow under the car with underbody panels and a belly plate. In this post, we install the Leap Alpha C spoiler attention. We had been exploring how to install a gurney flap when we found this product online. It comes in gray primer and ready to paint.  We decided to paint it black because the shape matches the splitter.  Installation is very easy with the provided 3M automotive adhesive and is an exact fit.

above sidesplitter

GP Body Panels

At the end of production for the first Generation new MINI came the GP. It was the fastest MINI to date at the time and had some interesting aero tweaks including full length under-body panels to smooth the airflow under the car. Those panels run at least $200 each if you can find them, but there is an alternative that is almost as good (but also at end of life.) The second generation (R56) Cooper S had optional underbody panels which were 90% the same shape as the original ones and only about $60 each.  Fitting them is fairly straight forward, but does require some modification of the panels and perhaps fabrication of one bracket.

The first Gen cars have two of the necessary mounting points already attached.  Just remove the air flaps ahead of the rear tires and the panels slip on.  Once you work to the front of the car you will see the bits that need to be trimmed away to make them fit. You will need to drill six new holes in the floor pan to attach the rest of the mounting points, but don’t worry, there is nothing in the way of the bolts on the other side. On the passenger side, you will need to use a thread cutting tool to capture a bolt for the outboard side and the bracket for the inboard side.  On the driver’s side you will need to thread the outboard side then figure out how to attach the bracket.  I had it welded in place.  Now move to the front.  You do not want air washing over the leading edge so get some 1/8th inch thick ABS plastic, bend it to fit and attach using screws or pop rivets.  That’s it.  If you have a lift, it could be done under 2 hours.  If you’re working on jack stands like I was, plan to double that and add a trip to chiropractor to the list.

The first parts list shows the R53GP part numbers.  The second one is from the R56. The next three are before, after, and the leading edge modification. The last photo is the Rennline Skidplate we installed the week before.
R56 partsR53 GP partsbeforeafterabs plasticMINI Skid Plate


New Door Cards

Since we’re turning the MINI into a dedicated track car, we gutted most of the interior.  The Gen 1 MINI has a huge oval opening in the middle of the door once you remove the door panel. It has a rather sharp edge (protected by a piece of weather stripping) and since we were not able to find any aluminum panels pre-cut in the right shape, we just decided to build our own out of existing materials and cover them in vinyl.  The new door cards are there to protect the occupant and keep out water. They also give us more clearance for the wings of the Sparco seats. We also wanted to rework the door handles since they stand away from the door when the stock panel is removed and looked out of place.

First we had to re-think the door handle.  Since the door handle just pulls a cable much like you would find on a bicycle brake system, we decided to take advantage of the cable housing.  By fixing the wire to the door, then when you pull on the housing it activates the latch.  Put a strap on the handle, and you have a Porsche RS style door pull. It works well and is very clean.  The photos show how the cable attaches to the door as well as the finished look. We still have some stray bits of tape to clean up, but they look pretty good.

cable attachedcable securedCovered in plasticalmost completehandle and pull

Meet the Shadow

We didn’t expect to be in the car market so soon, but life tends to throw you curveballs every once in a while. We certainly got one last week when our daughter totaled her Jetta. Fortunately, she walked away with only a minor airbag burn, but the Jetta was a total loss. So we decided to get my wife a new car, and hand down the old one.

We were on our way to see a 2012 Audi when the dealership called to say it had sold already. Starting the search anew over lunch, we ended up at Rockville Audi. Alex, our salesman was a great guy, and took us on a tour to find the 2013 car we had seen in the ad. We didn’t find it (it was out for a test drive with its eventual owner) but we did find this 2015 CPO car with 27,000 miles. Amazingly it had only the features we wanted (nav, powered heated leather seats) and no extras. It had only been in service for 12 months but was only 58% of the new price. So we took it. We weren’t in the market for a black car, but this one is gorgeous.

When Alex was explaining how the car achieves maximum cooling, he mentioned that the car figures out the best combination of vents to use for maximum effect. When asked how it knows, he said it just knows. That’s when the name was born, because The Shadow knows.

AudiA4 - 4

AudiA4 - 3

AudiA4 - 2

AudiA4 - 1

Removing R53 MINI Accelerator Pedal

If you’re removing the carpet from your Gen 1 MINI, here are a couple of helpful hints. Besides the fact that the thick backing makes the entire piece of carpet somewhat unwieldy and hard to maneuver, the last sticking point in removing it will likely be the removal of the accelerator pedal. This image shows the two pieces that make up the assembly:

MINI Pedals

For cars built aver 10/01, the accelerator consists of these two parts. There’s the accelerator pedal module (in this case, for manual transmission cars) and the base. To remove the module, push down on the tab below the bolt and insert a screwdriver just above the number 2 in the drawing, and then pull the module to the left. It slides off. Pinch the sides of the electrical connector to remove the plug. Removal of the base is a little more difficult.


To remove the base, first remove the bolt with a 13mm socket. Carefully pry the two tabs simultaneously and pull up on the base. You can see the tab in the photo below (and the one on the right that I broke off.) Given the position of the base in the car, it’s hard to get a good visual before you begin, so be prepared to break it when you try to get it off. The part number is 35 42 6 772 703. Expect to pay about $20 for it on ebay or your local dealer. Online dealers have it for as low as $8.

broken tabs

With the pedal module off, it’s a good time to think about a couple of upgrades. Consider adding a Sprint Booster module or larger pedal set.