Entries in jcw (2)


What happens when your car is written off - and how to buy it back

Scroll below this post and you'll notice how I gave up on this blog about my car in early January. Anyway, to quickly sum up I got the exhaust fitted (sounds great, bit anti-social), replaced the front run-flat tyres with regular ones (improved the ride quality no end), and had my steering wheel retrimmed in leather and Alcantara. It looks and feels amazing, see below; huge thanks to Jack at Royal Steering Wheels.

Anyway, a few months later my beloved Mini was written off. But that isn't as bad as it sounds...here's a quick (ish) story about what happens when your car is written off, how you can keep your car, and even make a decent financial profit.

Here we go:

I went to wash my car one day and noticed a mystery gash in the roof. Pictured below, it runs from the top of the A-pillar on the passenger side and back towards the sunroof. It has punctured the outside skin of the roof but is not a major problem. It's not an MOT failure and with a bit of gaffer tape is waterproof. Tape also stops it making a whistling noise while driving.

The police couldn't help, I had no witnesses, and the only security camera with a perfect view turned out to be the nearby shop's only fake. Typical.

Wanting it sorted, I called up my insurer, Admiral. They booked me into a local garage of their choosing for an inspection and valuation, but this is where the bad news continues. The garage decided the car should be written-off because fixing it is 'beyond economical repair'. At this point I was able to drive the car home and continue using it as normal.

Admiral got in touch a week or so later to negotiate a settlement. They said the car is worth £5,000, which I was quite happy with given I'd paid £5,650 a few months earlier and insurers are renowned for under-valuing cares in these circumstances. The cost of any work or modifications done does not raise this price, and neither does the fact I had insured the car for £5,650. The insurer basically looks at similar cars for sale and offers you what it deems to be a fair price.

You should definitely negotiate here, as you've nothing to lose. I got them to raise the price to £5,200.

At this point I could have taken the money, which would be £4,875 after my insurance excess is take away. I'd get a cheque in the post and my car would go to the scrap yard. There, I could remove all parts of value and pay a small fee per part to the scrap dealer.

Instead I went for option two, which is to negate the amount of money a scrap yard would have paid Admiral to buy the car off them. This means £5,200 minus my £325 excess and minus the £1,500 the scrap yard would have bought it for. This left me with a cheque for £3,375 and, crucially, I got to keep my car.

The car was perfectly driveable, according to Admiral, did not require a new MOT and was insured just as before.

However, having taken the money and settled with Admiral, I accept my car is now (and will forever be logged as) a Category D write-off. Category A and B vehicles have suffered major crash damage and/or fire, flooding etc and don't come back onto the road. Cat C and D cars are written off due to their damage being beyond economic repair. That phrase again. The damage was relatively small, but the car will now be worth less when I come to sell it.

Next came my insurance renewal, which was due a couple of months after the damage appeared. Admiral original quoted me £1,900 for 12 months, and of course took away my no-claims history because I had to claim off my own policy. I phoned up, haggled, and got this knocked down to £958 for the year, which isn't too bad considering.

Finally, I'm now looking to get the damage fixed. Admiral and the garage said it had written off a car worth £5,000, yet I have received a quote from a local bodyshop of £500. Bargain. Hopefully I'll have it sorted in the next few weeks and my car will be exactly as it was before the incident, minus the Cat D status.

So that's what happens when your car is written off. It's not the end of the world, and sometimes you can even end up with some money in your pocket.

And no, I've absolutely no idea what caused the damage in the first place.


The upgrades have begun - and one involves walnut shells...

This car was never going to stay standard for long. Even before I bought the Mini I had an idea of what I wanted to do to it. To be clear, I'm not looking to replicate a car from Need for Speed or a Fast and Furious film here, I just want to give my Mini a unique character and make it mine. I also enjoy tinkering, so I get as much enjoyment from cracking the toolkit out and fitting the parts as I do from enjoying the extra performance.

AEM air intake system

The first change I made was the addition of a cold air induction system by AEM, which uses the bonnet scoop (that hole above the front badge) to feed air into the engine more aggressively than normal, helping the car to breathe better and produce more power.

It was a fairly simple procedure. I ordered the kit from Lohen, a Mini specialist, and it took me a couple of hours to get it all installed. Removing old parts was easy enough and the included instructions (plus a YouTube tutorial published by AEM) made fitting the new parts simple. The kit included an air filter cone (the red thing in the photo), a box for it to sit in, the large pipe running down the right side, an AEM branded heat shield to fit over the car's turbocharger, and a funnel which directs air through the bonnet scoop and into the air box.

AEM claim the kit can give an extra 20 horsepower to the 170 the car came with. I'm not sure the increase is quite as dramatic as that, but it certainly makes a difference. Acceleration is stronger from lower revs, making the car feel sharper and more eager to get going. The larger air intake also produces a sucking noise as you accelerate and a hiss when you lift off. It's a long way from The Fast and The Furious, thankfully, but gives the car a subtle but interesting new soundtrack.

I paid £340 for the intake kit, but at the time of writing Lohen's sale had taken the price down to £289. Just make sure you check if your car has a MAF sensor or not. Mine doesn't, which meant I had to add an extra housing to the kit, bumping the price up by £20.

A blast of walnut shells

Next up was a trip to TWG Automotive, a Mini and BMW specialist in Camerley, for what's known as a decoking. The N14 and N18 engines of the second-generation R56 Mini has a habit of building up carbon deposits inside. On higher mileage cars - mine has 85,000 on the clock - this results in decreased performance and a sluggish reaction when you accelerate. Decoking sees the engine's innards blasted with walnet shell dust, cleaning it all out and giving back the car's original performance.

The difference was immediately obvious, giving the Cooper S sharper and more positive acceleration with less hesitation than before. There's also the peace of mind knowing eight years of carbon deposits have been blasted away. TWG charges £180 for its decoking service, which takes around four hours. As my car was due a brake fluid change, this was done at the same time for an extra £40.

John Cooper Works

As my car has the optional John Cooper Works bumpers and door sills, I wanted to get a pair of front and rear JCW badges to complete the look. Purists will argue this is wrong, because the car isn't a true JCW, as could be bought new with several other changes, not just the body. But sod that, I like the badges so I bought a £20 pair off eBay for the front grille and boot, and stuck them on.

And finally...

While most people spent New Year's Eve buying last minute champagne, I was heading up the M1 to collect an exhaust I'd bought on eBay from Durham. I hadn't planned to buy a John Cooper Works exhaust, because they are rare and expensive, but then this backbox came up for £160 I couldn't resist. It was bought a year ago for £445 and has done 10,000 miles, but looks pretty much as new.

For now it's taking up my boot and back seats, but once it's fitted - a £20 job, once I can get it booked into the local garage - it'll give my car a nice new soundtrack and more aggressive look from the rear. There will be more popping and burbling, and it'll sound lovely.

Last of all, here's a quick video I took with a GoPro driving down from Holm Moss and into Huddersfield. Unfortunately, the suction mount failed so I'll need to buy a new (better) one soon.