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Overheard at the Police Fleet Expo

Written by Ed Sanow

Premature brake pad and rotor wear—this is the most frequent complaint from fleet managers, and it is aimed at all three police sedans. The 2006-2007 Charger did indeed have a very short pad and rotor life, even for a police vehicle. Dodge has long since resolved that issue, so that even though you buy Mopar brake parts for these cars, you get the upgraded versions.

However, compared to all other retail and even admin police vehicles, rapid brake wear is a reality of patrol vehicles. Rapid brake wear is normal, should be expected and is not actually a problem! So, what is rapid wear? In most cases, if you are getting 12K to 15K on brake pads, you are doing really well. Less than 10K is what drove Chevrolet to make clear changes to the Impala brakes.

Less than 8K is unusual, but not uncommon, and perhaps attributable to aggressive traffic enforcement. Less than 5K is what drove Dodge to make dramatic changes to improve the Charger brakes. More than 18K is also uncommon! So much so that it is actually unrealistic to expect more than 18K in patrol use.

Regardless of brake wear, be sure you are using the latest pads and rotors. Car companies make changes to brakes all the time. They are looking for that illusive compromise between pad life and brake performance. Some of these are running changes, i.e., during a model year, not between model years. Just be sure you have the latest parts.

What about cryogenic rotors? Even among seasoned fleet managers of similar agencies, there is no consensus on this. Some find improvements with these rotors; some see no improvements at all over OE rotors. Run a test for yourself, but be sure it is a blind test. For the most valid results, it is critical that the officers with these rotors do not know this is a test!

One last brake tip: Don’t turn rotors to try to save them. Replace them with new ones. A rotor that has been turned is thinner and has less mass. This means the heat sink and heat transfer is changed—it heats up faster and is more likely to warp. You will just have to have the car back into the shop sooner.

You have service problems with your fleet, and the local dealer can’t seem to resolve them, either because they are unwilling or unable. Don’t argue with them. You probably know more about police cars than they do! Instead, contact the factory’s fleet service staff. Of the 39 service complaints serious enough to submit for discussion at the Expo, in 22 cases (more than half) the police department did not talk to any one at the dealer or the factory about the problem. One police department had more than 30 fuel pump failures but did not report them to anyone at the automaker.

Each carmaker has a fleet service staff and a national service manager. Their phone numbers and e-mail addresses can be found on each manufacturer’s fleet Web site. If you need more help, contact the factory’s regional and national fleet sales staff. They want to see the problem get fixed almost as much as you do. All their contact info is on the respective Web sites.

Ed Sanow is the editorial director of Police Fleet Manager magazine. He can be reached at esanow@hendonpub.com.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Nov/Dec 2009

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