Introduced in 2006, the Dodge Charger now has 22% of the police vehicle market. However, it wasn’t until late-2008 that factory tech training was available specific to the police package components and systems.
The police Charger tech training does not have a prerequisite. And the training is completely modular and can be tailored to any audience. As such, the first day of the course can be geared to general fleet admin and the second day to the hands-on techs.
The Charger is a complex patrol sedan, and it would benefit general fleet admin to have a basic understanding of the car and its various systems. For the techs, knowledge of the Dodge systems is not at all necessary, but a working knowledge of Ford or Chevy scan tools will be very helpful.
The pilot class for the police Charger tech training was conducted with the North Carolina Highway Patrol in Raleigh. This makes sense. The NCHP has the nation’s largest fleet of police Chargers. It has about 650 in service now and will have almost 1,000 Chargers on the street by the end of 2009.
The NCHP helped to fix the police Charger’s early front brake problems. The NCHP helped to mold the police Charger tech training. The NCHP has helped make the police Charger as good as it is.
The Charger tech training begins with an overall familiarization of the Charger sedan. The course may start with the dreaded “classroom” stuff, but the course must be conducted in a maintenance facility. Don’t be surprised if tables are set up in one of the shop’s service bays. In no time at all, the techs will be pulling tires and wheels off of the Charger up on a lift. In fact, one of the requirements to conduct this class is that police Chargers be available to work on. And that means both the 2006-2007 version and the 2008-2009 version if your fleet runs both.
The first part of training in any new area is to learn the terms. For example, it is not a Powertrain Control Module (PCM). Instead, it is an NGC, Next Generation (engine) Controller. The 2006 Charger uses an NGC3, while 2007 and newer Chargers use an NGC4. Every tech needs to know what is going on with the NGC. Then the class does a walk-around and a walk-under both generations of Charger, and a bit of wrench turning. Then, the techs will go back to the classroom and access Chrysler’s TechCONNECT via the Internet.
As you surf through all of the service Web sites and drop-downs, keep in mind you are looking for the LX. You may see LE, or LX/LE. LE does not mean law enforcement. Instead, it means Chrysler 300C (HEMI) intended for the international market. LX means Dodge Charger, Dodge Magnum and all domestic versions of the Chrysler 300. Then after a bit of cyberspace, the techs will grab scan tools and plug into law enforcement’s most advanced police vehicle.
The hands-on and classroom tech training starts with the basic maintenance that any fleet can do: maintaining fluids and understanding which fluids are critical and not. The Charger is a little sensitive to the make and weight of some fluids and extremely sensitive to other fluids. The Charger is not a Ford CVPI and not a Chevy Impala, and it should not be given the same fluids! Even the maintenance intervals are different. The Most Critical
The most critical of these fluids is the Mopar ATF Plus 4 automatic transmission fluid. The oil change interval for the trans fluid on the police Charger is 60,000 miles. You do not need to flush the trans during the ATF oil change. Just drain it. Yes, you will still have fluid in the torque converter. That is just not an issue. You can disconnect the return line and overfill the trans to flush the oil in the torque converter, but it is not necessary.
What about aftermarket fluids? You don’t have to buy the trans fluid from Chrysler, but the fluid does have to be approved for “MS9602.” You cannot use either Mercon or Dexron ATF in the Charger’s 5-speed automatic.
And there is no such thing as “universal” ATF. Mercon (Ford) is the stickiest of all the ATF fluids. Dexron (GM) is the slickest of all the ATF fluids. No one (universal) oil can be both sticky and slick at the same time. For the record, Mopar ATF Plus 4 is midway between the Ford and GM fluids.
Read the fine print on the label. Unless it says MS9602, it is not the right fluid. Some labels indicate the fluid “should work” in Chrysler products but without the MS9602 tag, the label will also say “not Chrysler approved.”
If you use Dexron fluid in the Charger, you will probably get clutch chatter in hotter climates. The Charger’s trans has not experienced any recurring clutches, bands or bearings issues in three years of police service. Keep that flawless service record by using the correct ATF.
The Charger’s trans filter should be changed when the fluid is changed. Since the 1962 TorqueFlite, Chrysler has recommended changing the trans filter when the trans fluid is changed. In this one case, buy the OEM filter. The OEM filter uses a sandwich-style, dual plane filter. Most aftermarket filters are single plane.
And, no, Dodge did not forget to put a trans fluid dip stick in your Charger. You need to check the fluid so infrequently that you use a scan tool to “read” a dipstick tool to check fluid level. No kidding.
HOAT Engine Coolant
The next most critical fluid in the police Charger is the engine coolant. The Charger uses HOAT (hybrid organic acid technology) antifreeze, period. Do not mix antifreeze! Do not put green, or any other color, where orange goes!
For passenger cars, three very different kinds of antifreeze exist. None of them can be mixed. You cannot even mix antifreeze of the same color because you cannot trust the color of the fluid to tell you what antifreeze is used in the car!
The Charger uses HOAT (hybrid organic acid technology) coolant. From Chrysler, the coolant color is orange. Ford has used HOAT since 2003, but its version is dyed yellow. Since 1996, General Motors has used OAT (organic acid technology) coolant, called Dex-Cool. This is usually dyed orange but can also be dyed red, green, pink or blue. The HOAT orange in the police Charger is different from the OAT orange in the police Impala. HOAT in the Chrysler products is orange. OAT is typically orange. HOAT and OAT (Dex-Cool) must not be mixed. You see the problem.
Both of these extended life coolants (HOAT and OAT) replace IAT (inorganic acid technology). IAT is the original green antifreeze. Since you cannot use fluid color to tell HOAT from OAT, or in some cases OAT from IAT, you have to actually read the label. The HOAT you have on hand for the Ford CVPI will work in the Charger. The OAT (Dex-Cool) you have on hand for the police Impala will cause problems if you use it to top off the police Charger.
No Universal Antifreeze
While some suppliers market a “universal” antifreeze, this simply cannot possibly exist. The fluid either contains silicates to meet HOAT specs, or it does not contain silicates to meet OAT specs. And if it contains phosphates to meet IAT specs, it cannot meet either HOAT or OAT specs.
The bad news is you simply must not mix HOAT and OAT. When you do mix these two, add heat from the engine, and put them under pressure in the cooling system, the result is sludge. The good news is that the coolant in the Charger will protect the aluminum water pump and the aluminum radiator and heater core for five years or 100K miles. That is the warranty with the Charger’s HOAT antifreeze-coolant. For most police fleets, that means zero maintenance in this area.
Engine Oil and DTCs
The 5.7L V-8 is especially sensitive to the correct weight of engine oil. The simple change from 5W-20 weight oil to 5W-30 weight oil will slow the activation and deactivation of the components in the Multiple Displacement System (cylinder deactivation). In fact, the use of 5W-30 oil in the 5.7L engine may affect the MDS enough to throw a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) on the instrument panel.
While Chrysler is hyper-sensitive about the exact trans fluid and filter used in the Charger’s 5-speed auto, it is much more flexible about the engine oil, as long as the right weight is used. You are free to use any engine oil that is labeled API Service SM. The “M” in “SM” is the performance level and it increases alphabetically. SM replaced SL in 2004. Do not use any lower performance oil in the Charger. On the other hand, you may use any SM service grade, 5W-20 oil in the Charger’s 5.7L V-8. You may use any SM service grade, 10W-30 oil in the Charger’s 3.5L V-6.
For 2008, Chrysler vehicles come with on-board engine oil change interval software. Similar to GM’s system, you don’t need to change the oil until the OIL CHG REQD light is illuminated. However, the maximum oil change interval for both the 3.5L V-6 and the 5.7L V-8 in police service is 6,000 miles, no matter if the oil change light comes on or not.
Can a synthetic oil be used in the Charger? Yes. Can synthetic oil be used to extend the oil change interval? No. Synthetic oil may or may not have the necessary package added to the base stock to work in the Charger for longer periods of time or mileage. If you are told differently, get it in writing. The additive package needed by the Charger’s police engines are fully consumed long before the synthetic oil base stock is degraded.
P/S and Brake Fluid, Axle Lube
Remember the old days when we would cheat and use transmission fluid in the power steering system rather than power steering fluid? The proper fluid for the Charger’s power steering system is...ATF Plus 4 trans fluid. No kidding.
Brake fluid should be completely purged completely out during the brake bleeding process when pads are changed. Yes, that means the brake fluid will be changed every 10K to 15K miles on the police Charger. By its very nature, brake fluid absorbs moisture. This causes internal corrosion of the brake components. It also results in a spongy brake pedal, or outright brake failure, as the fluid is heated and the moisture turns to vapor.
Finally, brake fluid, like all the other fluids in the vehicle, breaks down from both heat and wear. Don’t top off the master cylinder when you bleed the brakes after a pad change. Replace all of it. Either DOT 3 or DOT 4 is okay.
Gears and bearings in the rear axle reach temperatures of 300 deg F. Standard petroleum-based gear lube starts to break down after 225 deg F. You must use 75W-140 synthetic axle lube in the police Charger. That is handy since you probably have some on hand for the Ford CVPI.
Beyond the Two-day Basic Course
The two-day (or three-day) police Charger tech training is a familiarization course. You learn the beginning basics about the scan tools. You learn where the most important modules are. You learn how to navigate the awesome TechCONNECT Web pages. You learn some of Dodge’s maintenance lingo and acronyms.
You get a glimpse into upfitting by removing the front fascia and accessing the Police Taxi Interface module in the center console. You get a walk around and walk under the police Charger with maintenance tips all along the way. And you learn the proper fluids and parts for everything on the maintenance schedule, including the PM intervals.
That is probably enough for the police department that will only change the fluids, rotate the tires and replace the brake pads and rotors. This course is enough for the tech in the department that will take all other concerns to the dealership for repair.
Chrysler recommends four other, no-charge, one-day or two-day tech training courses that are a bit more specialized. By far the most important is the Body Electrical course. If you don’t have scan tools or know how to use them you can’t do much. In fact, Body Electrical is so important for fleet maintenance that most of the pilot course conducted with the NCHP involved some aspect of Body Electrical.
The Body Electrical course has a prerequisite of proficiency with some make of scan tool and also the familiarization with Chrysler’s StarSCAN, StarMOBILE or WiTECH that comes in the Basic Course.
Next in importance is the one-day Upfitting Course. Some of this is covered in the basic tech training class. A great deal of it is covered in the online Upfitter’s Manuals. But nothing beats hands-on learning, especially when using trim tools to access the Police Taxi Interface Module and get to those pesky 10mm nuts that hold the front fascia on.
To access the Upfitter’s Guide, go to www.fleet.chrysler.com, click on Fleet Vehicles, then click on Police Vehicles. That page has the link to the 2006-2007 Upfitter’s Guide and the 2008 Upfitter’s Guide. The 2009 Charger is identical, in terms of upfitting, to the 2008 Charger and uses the same guide.
After the Body Electrical and the Upfitter’s factory courses, next down on the priority is the one-day ABS Brake System course, which also includes Electronic Stability Program (ESP). Neither Ford nor Chevy police sedans use electronic stability control, making this safety feature unique to the Charger and a distinct advantage for the Charger. Of course, every time the brake pads are changed (every 12K to 18K miles) some aspect of ABS and ESP is involved.
The last of the truly relevant no-charge factory courses for the police Charger tech is the two-day Engine Management course. The whole rest of the automotive world uses mass air flow to control the air to fuel ratio. Chrysler uses speed density, and it is a lot different in terms of basic powertrain diagnostics.
Chrysler also offers separate, no-charge, factory training for the complete service and repair on the 3.5L SOHC V-6 and 5.7L HEMI V-8 police engines and the NAG 1 police 5-speed automatic transmission.
The no-charge, factory tech training is available at two dozen Chrysler regional training centers across the U.S. This same police-specific training will also be available in house at the police and sheriffs departments running larger fleets of Chargers. For more information, contact George Bomanski, regional fleet service manager at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are scheduling these two-day classes about six month in advance. Since the training is definitely hands on, the class size is limited to 12 techs.
At the completion of the two-day Police Charger Tech Training, your techs will go from “Don’t know nothin’ ’bout no Dodge.” to “Gimme that WiTECH and let me at it.”
Ed Sanow is the editorial director of Police Fleet Manager magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.