Thursday, May 8, 2008
A Shopping List of Basic Improvements for the MINI Cooper
One of the great things about the MINI Cooper is the robust nature of the basic engine. It is capable of producing much more power than it does right out of the showroom, even with the supercharger. There are some good reasons why it doesn’t.
For one thing, an engine that produces better performance costs more money. Materials used in a high-performance engine are better and the engine is assembled with greater care, both of which add costs.
However, most people really don’t care enough about performance to want to pay the extra price. Also, with higher horsepower, the engine doesn’t produce as many miles per gallon, and is more difficult to tune to meet emission limitations, so the product designers, even in the MINI, simply had to make some compromises.
But you don’t have to compromise. Aftermarket suppliers (the companies that make products that are bought by owners after the car is bought from the dealer) have developed a number of products that will allow you to improve the engine performance in your MINI to get better pick-up, higher speed, and simply more driving satisfaction under all speeds and situations.
If we think about that basic air/fuel/spark/exhaust equation, we want to do four things. We want to increase the amount of air entering the supercharger and we want to increase the compression capability of the supercharger, both to get more air into the combustion chambers. Then, we want to have the ECU take advantage of that added air flow to by altering the fuel mixture and timing for performance efficiency, and we want to make sure that all the smoke from the combustion can get out of the combustion chambers quickly.
We can make those improvements by upgrading the throttle intake and supercharger pulley, reprogramming the ECU, and upgrading the exhaust system. Since each of these components operates as part of the overall internal combustion cycle, you’ll get the best performance from each if you upgrade them all at once.
However, if you can’t do that, you can upgrade these components in any order that appeals to you and you’ll still notice the improvement that each component contributes to overall engine performance. And when you’re done, you’ll really have an engine you can brag about. We’ll discuss the upgrades in the order that they occur in the operation of the engine and describe the upgrades you should consider.
Before we can have combustion, we have to have air. If we can increase the amount of air flowing into the supercharger intake, and keep it as cool as possible, then we’ll be helping the supercharger do its job by giving it more air to breath.
A typical cost for the parts for an upgraded Mini Cooper cold air intake system is about $200. The design is simple, and can be installed by anyone with the instruction sheet and the proper wrenches in a few hours or less. If it is done in a MINI service shop, it shouldn’t take more than half an hour of shop time.