Hope it's not an input bearing in the transmission! Just started making noise on my R53.
Speaking of which, I learned to wrench on my Mini when a shop quoted me upwards of $5k for various repairs last year. Including tools, it cost me $1500 to fix.....unless you're getting $40-50k of "BBI credit," it's not worth the trade.
Just took my 2003 Mini Cooper S in to the dealer for a power steering recall. Even though I had other hoses leaking, they gave me a brand new pump and fan, with no other "recommended" services. Chris is right, I think if you go in and talk to a manager, they'll take care of you.
I did subframe bushings, steering rack, & lower control arms without a press on the MINI myself...the DIY's on the forum were more than sufficient, and I was able to make do with a bench vice...and I'm a 20 year old who basically learned to work on cars on this MINI.
BTW, if Zach looks into INPA coding on the BMW forums, he would be able to activate/deactivate hidden dealer-only comfort/convenience features. On my MINI, you can:
Code in the car to roll down windows/convertible top with a long-hold of the unlock button on the key
Enable double-blink turn signals, flashing tail lights
Disable door chime, seatbelt chime
and more! Definitely something for an enthusiast to look into.
Liquid Yellow R53 owner here! Best car a 20 year old could have, honestly. Come join us over at NorthAmericanMotoring, we're always happy to help with recommendations!!
Preventative maintainance/oil leak elimination (in order of importance): PowerFlex LCA Bushings, Ball Joints, Belt Tensioner, Timing Chain Tensioner, Oil Pan Gasket, Valve Cover Gasket, Crankshaft Position Sensor O-Ring, Motor Mounts, Thermostat/Housing, Spark Plug Wires, clean off the rust on the coil pack terminals (especially cylinder 3), ATi Super Damper
Easy cheap mods:
Operation Vacuum Gain System (VGS): The most interesting all cheap power mods. Essentially free, adjusts how S/C bypass valve operates by using fuel regulator pressure. Boost comes on instantly, and at like 2000rpm instead of 3500. http://www.northamericanmotoring.com/forums/how-to/38268-drivetrain-operation-vacuum-gain-system-vgs.html
One Ball Exhaust http://www.northamericanmotoring.com/forums/drivetrain-cooper-s/23789-your-mcs-exhaust-reference-thread-videos-sound-clips-etc.html
Supercharger Pulley https://www.reddit.com/r/MINI/comments/1n8v3b/just_had_my_r53_fitted_with_a_15_pulley_and_dynod/
Alta Adjustable Short Shifter
One of the best podcasts to date, IMO.
Especially Zack's segment on TJ and Rally North America! I had no idea it was seriously affordable--count me in for next year!!!
My girlfriend and I just did our own little rally this summer in my '03 R53 that we rebuilt together, I wish I knew it was so cheap..we would've gone
Dude...I live like 20 minutes away from the shooting range you guys are talking about (Ben Avery, right?) It's literally like a half mile strip where people shoot guns at things.
I'm going to find that damn Mercedes.