Renewing your Mini’s vital suspension components pays dividends for ride quality, and is a relatively simple DIY job.
A worn dry suspension set-up can make your Mini a chore to drive. Fit new rubber springs and dampers with our guide.
It’s testament to the late Alex Moulton that his compact rubber-sprung suspension design for the Mini is still a firm favourite today. Over the years there have been many attempts to improve upon it, including coilovers, coil spring replacements and Moulton’s Hydrolastic set-up, but rubber springs are still the most popular solution.
The system is generally reliable, but the springs – sometime called ‘doughnuts’, or erroneously ‘cones’ – don’t last forever. Over time the rubber deteriorates and the springs can effectively collapse into nothing more than a large bump stop, creating a harsh ride regardless of damper performance. Later cars were fitted with softer rubber springs in an effort to make the car more refined, but the knock-on effect was premature collapse compared to the older types.
Replacement is the only remedy for worn rubber springs, and there’s a wide variety of types on the market. These range from more comfortable options like Mini Sport’s Smooth Ride, through to competition-spec items. Some, including the Smootha Ride and competition versions, are taller than stock ones and require adjustable trumpets to maintain a sensible ride height. The original Ripspeed brand name, Hi-Lo, has largely become the generic name for such trumpets, although Mini Sport sells its own version as the Adjusta Ride. Adjustable trumpets allow the ride height to be tweaked as you desire, but bear in mind that altering the height affects suspension geometry, so you’ll need to get this checked and altered if you make changes.
Fitting new springs presents a great opportunity to change the dampers too. After a while a Mini’s standard dampers will wear out, which will become evident by a bouncier ride as they fail to do their job of arresting the oscillating effect of the rubbersprung suspension. Again, various options are available, but we’ve always been fans of Kayaba (KYB) Gas-A-Just units for road use. If you plan on running your car low, you may need shorter dampers to cope – specialist vendors should be able to advise.
Replacing the springs and dampers yourself is a lengthy job, but should be in the scope of a home mechanic. Specialist tools will be required, in particular a cone compression tool (£18-£45), which must be used to safely remove the front suspension cones and springs, and a torque wrench to ensure fixings are correctly torqued back up after re-fitting. Pre-1976 springs had a fine, 1/2-inch UNF imperial thread and post-’76 ones had a coarser, 14mm Metric thread. The cheaper tools only cater for the Metric thread, so make sure you have the right one to avoid the headache of cross-threading. Here’s the process, step-by-step.