In 2008, I started working for MINI Cooper at one of the local dealerships in southern California. That was my first encounter with the continuously variable transmission (CVT). Not knowing exactly how it worked, I was eager to learn. When I was sent to the training center to learn about the R50, R52 and R53 models of the MINI Cooper (this is considered the first-generation MINI), I found that only the R50 and R52 models came with the CVT transmission. These are the regular MINI Cooper Hatchback and Convertible. Seeing the cutaway display model only caused me to ask more questions about the transmission. The instructor told us that there was no fixing the faulty transmissions, and that if there was a problem, you would replace the whole assembly as opposed to fixing it. OK, I thought, no big deal.
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The next time that I got a MINI that had a transmission problem that needed to be replaced; I put in the up sale and waited for the approval. The job did not get approved. When I asked the service writer what happened, he just laughed at me and said that those never get approved. I asked why, and he replied that the final quote with the transmission, tax and labor was over $9,000. I was shocked! For the next four years I did not do much with the CVT transmission — just the regular fluid flush for maintenance.
After I left the dealership in 2011, and started my own independent MINI repair shop (Figure 1), I remembered how expensive it was to get a CVT fixed. In an effort to give my customers a better deal, I found a transmission rebuilder who said that he could rebuild them. As a result, I started to advertise the CVT rebuilds on craigslist.
I soon got a call from someone who needed CVT work, and I eagerly accepted the job. The customer had the car towed in and I pulled the transmission out and sent it to the rebuilder.
After two weeks we were nowhere. We could not find parts, and after extremely thorough searches for an article, video, Partsfish or anything that would give us a direction, we found nothing. And to top it all off, the owner of the transmission shop basically said “Here is your transmission. There is nothing I can do for you, you are on your own.”