2014 Mini Cooper: What's That Whine?
February 5, 2015
There is only one thing worse than a troubling car sound. And that's a troubling car sound you can't replicate.
I was driving our 2014 Mini Cooper from Long Beach to Irvine at 6:00 a.m., and from the Mini's right rear, I heard a high-pitched, whistling whine that I usually associate with someone else's car in need of a power-steering fluid transfusion. But as I accelerated away from the car I thought had the problem, the pitch rose and stayed with me. I realized it wasn't someone else's car, but the Mini. The whine persisted throughout the trip whenever I exceeded 40 mph.
The whine wasn't coming from the engine compartment and the steering felt normal, so I preliminarily ruled out the power steering as the culprit. On the return trip, I turned off the radio and listened again. Same thing, an airy whining noise with variable pitch. At home, I checked some Mini discussion boards, and came across this, in reply to a very similar complaint:
"My hatch whistles sometimes when it is especially dry outside and the seals don't stick 100%. My driver's door does it too, sometimes."
The author recommended using some Mothers Back-to-Black trim treatment or peanut oil to lubricate the rubber around the front windows and around the hatch. "My Mini hasn't whistled all summer," the writer concluded.
Peanut-oil-averse vehicle testing manager Mike Schmidt offered me different advice:
"Here are some questions I'd have to try and diagnose it. Is it a whistle like wind? Or is it a whine like gearing? Is it completely absent below 40? Does it change if you crack a window? Most importantly, is there a condition under which you can recreate it 100 percent of the time, or near that? That's where I'd start."
Let's hear it for the scientific method. As luck would have it, I could not recreate the sound, not in the same conditions (early morning, temperatures in the mid-50s) or at any other time or temperature. Windows up, down or cracked. Nada. As Schmidt says, no replication, no chance of repair. All we can do now is see if the noise recurs.
How do you diagnose atypical noises in your car?
Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @ 7,719 miles