First Exposure: February 2010 after taking delivery of the JCW
Incubation Period: I think I was pretty resilient, nearly 9 months from exposure to first mod
Symptoms: Crawling North American Motoring and DC Metro MINIs forums; perpetually full fantasy shopping carts at FastMini and OutMotoring; snapping spy photos of other MINIs at rallies; obsessive usage of the Tire Rack configurator; frequent trips to Mach V ‘just to browse’
Severity: Minor, so far…
Treatment: To combat the latest flare-up of mod fever, I stopped by FastMini / Mach V in Sterling, VA and picked up the NM Engineering Billet Aluminum Tie-Bar in black (NM Engineering product site, currently on sale at FastMini).
In addition to its therapeutic value for my aforementioned condition, the strut tower brace also offered several tangible benefits:
- Reinforced mounting plates to strengthen the strut towers and prevent ‘mushrooming’ (apparently the R56 is less susceptible to this than the R53 but with the stiff suspension and rapidly degrading DC metro roads I guess you can’t be too cautious!)
- Additional chassis stiffening to reduce flex and improve handling and steering response (chassis is already stellar so any improvement off the track will likely be minor)
- Aesthetics – ok, this was my primary motivation, needed a little under-bonnet bling!
As there are many other people who are far more ambitious with their mods, it’s worth noting that I 1) live in a small apartment in a high-rise, 2) do not have a garage, 3) only have room for tools that will fit in my trunk or in a small closet shared with my fiancée. I’m not going to be able to attempt anything that requires lifting the car or the usage of any specialty tools. Expectations now properly calibrated, understand that installing a strut brace is one of the more adventurous things I can accomplish on my own.
That said, setting up the strut brace was actually pretty straightforward and could be more or less accomplished with two metric wrenches / sockets and one hex key. A precision torque wrench is helpful if you know a friend with one. I took a couple pictures as I was installing the strut brace, which I’ve included below, although I got a little into the moment and left out a few steps…
Remove the 3 nuts on top of the strut tower (yes, I know the engine bay is dirty but it’s the middle of winter, cut me some slack)
After removing the hex nuts, seat the mounting plate on top of the strut tower (it’s a good idea to clear the top of the tower of any grime / dust first to get a solid seat)
Using the supplied long-reach hex nuts, secure the mounting pad to the strut tower – make sure all are aligned and hand-tightened before torquing them down
Now repeat for the opposite side
Here’s where I forgot to take pictures… the strut brace has a u-shaped bracket on each end with two pre-drilled holes that align with the mounting pads seen above; each of the brackets are threaded so you may need to rotate them to get the proper span between the two strut towers. It helps to loosely attach a bolt on one side of the brace and then adjust the other side for proper fitment. Once you’ve got the span right, insert and tighten the remaining bolts and then turn the blue locking collars so that they are flush and tight with the strut bar.