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Update: Dodge Police Advisory Board

Written by PFM Staff

Chrysler Fleet had good news about the long delivery times last year for its police Chargers. To improve the production flow, the company moved the off-line, police-specific vehicle completion stages from the Windsor staging area to the main assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario. Delivery times are now under 80 days. It is also phasing in a new paint system that will both allow a wider variety of colors and lower the minimum quantity for special paint from 50 to just five units. Expect this change in March 2009.

For the 2009 model year, the police Charger has had some suspension upgrades. Introduced as a running change in 2008, the front suspension T-strut bushing is used in all 2009 models. This new bushing improved judder and is more durable. Other front suspension bushings, i.e., upper and lower control arms, have also been made softer for an improved ride. The steering has been tuned with a different amount of hydraulic assist for a better off-center feel. Finally, the front suspension geometry has been changed (reduced caster) for improved straight-line tracking.

For 2009, variable valve timing was added to the 5.7L HEMI® V-8, which increases horsepower and flattens the torque curve. The parameters for when the HEMI’s Multiple Displacement System (MDS), is operating have also been widened. The driver now may feel when the V-8 is cylinder deactivated to a V-4 and then reactivated to a V-8. The MDS will engage quicker and remain engaged longer.

However, Chrysler Fleet was quite clear that MDS might not be activated very often by the driving style of the typical patrol officer. Expect MDS to engage at “speeds over 45 mph with partial throttle.” Do not expect MDS to shut off cylinders and realistically improve fuel economy under any other driving situation. The MDS does not activate at idle or in Drive or Park. The combination of a lower final drive ratio, variable valve timing, and opened MDS parameters will lead to an expected 4% improvement in fuel economy.

Charger Brakes

Brake issues on the police Chargers are ancient history. The rapid pad wear on the 2006 and early 2007 police Chargers has been greatly improved. The noise concerns have been eliminated. Yet, even with these changes, the police Charger still turned in the best braking performance at the annual Michigan State Police tests…for the fourth year in a row.

The original police Charger pad was developed to give uncompromising brake performance. And, as expected, the pad wear was rapid. The fix is the pad developed for the Dodge Charger Daytona. As it turns out, the Charger Daytona pads don’t give up anything in real police use but produce much better pad life. Brake pad life has been extended by 30%.

The new part number for the police brake pads is #05142559AA. If you order the pads for the 2006-2007 cars, you will still get the 2008 pads. See TSB 05-001-07.

As a running change in mid-2009, the Charger will get a new rotor. The new rotor will be backward compatible with all 2006-2009 Chargers. The new rotor is visually identical to the old rotor; however, the manufacturing tolerances for allowable runout have been cut almost in half. These new rotors also have a new coating, which helps reduce runout due to coating bake temperature reduction.

These close tolerance, low runout rotors will reduce the field issue called brake judder. This occurs when the rotor comes into intermittent contact with the brake pads. Perhaps the caliper piston did not fully retract and still exerted slight pressure on the pad pressing it into the rotor. Or the caliper piston may have fully retracted, but the rotor had enough runout to still rub against the pad. In either case, the pad would wear a spot on the rotor and cause a slight pedal or steering wheel vibration during braking.

Chrysler has already introduced a new caliper designed to more positively retract away from the rotor. The low runout rotor is the last step in a fix that involved the entire front brake system. Again, these new front rotors are backward compatible, i.e., fully interchangeable with all years of police Chargers. The new, high-retraction caliper went into effect on all police Chargers built after September 2007, i.e., the start of the 2008 models, and can be used on the 2006-2007 Chargers. All of these brake changes involve only the front brakes. The rear brakes (pads, rotors, calipers) remain unchanged.

Continental Police Tires

A great deal of discussion took place concerning the OE tire on the Charger, the Continental ContiProContact. The first issue was a clarification on some misinformation being passed around in police fleet management circles. The Conti-Pro-Contact tire is NOT part of a class action lawsuit against Continental Tire. The offending tire is the Conti-Touring-Contact. The “Touring” was only available on one police-oriented vehicle, which was the special service package 2005 Dodge Magnum.

When Dodge’s police package was introduce on the 2006 vehicles, both the Dodge Charger and Dodge Magnum came from the factory with the superior ContiProContact. For a complete review of the excellent ContiProContact, see the July-August issue of Police Fleet Manager or check the online article archive at www.pfmmag.com.

The allegation is that the “Touring” tire experienced less than 30,000 miles in tread wear. The class action applied to tires purchased new from a tire retailer or to tires that came OE on new vehicles between January 2003 and July 2008. The deadline to submit a claim must be completed before September 2010. Significant documentation is required. Limitations exist. Check out www.tiresettlement.com.

Again, this class action has nothing to do with any of Dodge’s police package vehicles, nothing to do with the police Charger, and in fact, nothing to do with Chrysler Corp. This is strictly an action against Continental Tire involving a retail (non-police) tire. The proposed settlement is a prorated payment based on the miles driven before replacement and on the tire size.

Other vehicles in your fleet, the non-police package admin vehicles, may have come from the factory with this “Touring” tire. The difference is easy to remember. The Conti “Touring” tire is for the general motorists. The Conti “Pro” tire is for the professionals in law enforcement.

Bid Price and Availability

The second tire issue involved the national pricing and availability of police package ContiProContact tires. This is a bit confusing and has been a bit frustrating for fleet managers, but the story goes like this: Continental Tire offered a national police tire program, i.e., a fixed, nationwide bid price, on the Charger police tires a few years ago. Chrysler Corp. and its dealers were not involved. That national contract expired and was supposed to be renewed, this time with availability through MoPar, Chrysler’s parts network. Somehow, somewhere, this ball was dropped.

As recently as September 2008, this disconnect was not discovered. Chrysler (Dodge) dealers knew nothing about a national contract for a good reason. It did not exist in the MoPar network. For its part, Continental Tire was satisfied that with more than 3,000 tire dealer supply points, everything was OK, as well.

It was not well. These 3,000 supply points were divided into three types. The “dealer tire” (Chrysler supporting distributors) do not honor the Conti national pricing program. The “participating Chrysler dealers” do not honor the Conti national pricing program. Only the “independent tire dealers” who were a part of the Continental distribution system honored the Conti national program.

At the very core of this problem is the widespread failure to understand that police departments will simply not pay “general market pricing” for replacement tires when that retail price is $200 a tire. Even before Goodyear and Firestone entered the market with a Charger police tire, fleet managers put other tires on their Chargers. To be sure, these “other tires were not V-speed rated, but they fit, they were available and they were under $100 a tire. Pretty much everyone outside Chrysler Fleet misunderstood “available for sale” with “national fleet bid pricing.”

All of that has been resolved. All of it has been clarified. National fleet pricing for Charger and Magnum police vehicles exists once again. The program price is $112 per tire. And 482 tires dealers across the nation will honor this price. Go to www.fleet.chrysler.com and click on “Fleet Vehicles” and then on “Police Vehicles” and then on “Charger Police.” At the bottom of that Web page is a section on “Replacement Tires” and a hyperlink to Conti’s Government Supply Point Tire Dealers.

Police departments may purchase the ContiProContact and other tires at fleet bid prices from these dealers. Or Conti can ship the tires directly to the police department. Or Conti can ship the tires to Chrysler and Dodge dealerships. The contract price is good through May 2009. Expect it to be renewed again. Again, as with the original program, this is a Continental Tire fleet pricing program and is not something Chrysler and Dodge dealerships are doing. Call Continental Tire (Kim Davis) at (704) 583-8168 with any questions or concerns, or go to www.conti-na.com.

Tread Wear in Police Use

The third tire issue involved tread wear with the ContiProContact. Chrysler Fleet expects 15,000 to 20,000 miles on the “Pro” in urban police scenarios. On the other hand, some departments are reporting just 8,000 to 12,000 miles. The “Pro” passed Chrysler Corp.’s durability and performance test for a police tire, of course. On the other hand, Conti specifically excludes police use from any tread wear warranty.

Tires are a compromise of many factors. Tires with less wet traction and less dry traction may indeed offer more tread wear. You give up the tire performance, in fact, the overall police vehicle performance, to gain tire mileage. Keep these performance factors in mind as other replacement tires are being evaluated.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol, with the nation’s largest Charger fleet, is currently conducting a long-term test of the Goodyear Eagle RS-A. Expect a review of both the tire performance and tread wear in an upcoming issue. The test involves two troopers, one who typically gets 6,000 miles on a set of ContiProContact tires and one who typically gets 15,000 miles on these OE tires. The early results for the Eagle RS-A indicate about a 25% improvement in tread life the same overall tire performance as the ContiProContact.

Field Service Issues

George Bomanski, Chrysler Fleet Operation’s national service manager, covered the current field issues with Dodge police vehicles. While the fleet service organization has eight regional service managers, Bomanski, is the single point of contact for all police service issues. He may be reached at (407) 257-1532 or via e-mail at gmb5@chrysler.com.

The Police Vehicle Upfitter & Modification Manual for the 2009 Charger is available on the fleet Web site. This is unchanged from the 2008 manual. Heads up! The 2008-09 vehicles are different from the 2006-07 vehicles. The Upfitter’s Manual for the earlier Chargers should NOT be used for the later Chargers.

Some 5.7L Chargers are experiencing an intermittent idle undershoot at low rpm. At parking lot speeds, the engine may stumble. The solution is to reflash the engine controller to the latest software level. This revision for 2007 models was available in December 2007. The revision for 2006 models came out in June 2008.

One complaint against the police Charger was the delay in the trans shift between Drive and Reverse. This was an intentional feature intended to prevent damage to the drivetrain when shifting between gears. If the officer shifts and pushes on the throttle, the delay is even longer.

Beginning with police-only versions of the 2009 Charger, the trans controller has been calibrated for faster engagements. As a running change in mid-2009, the engine controller will be revised to result in quicker engine response after the trans engagement. A field service flash is being investigated for the 2006-2008 Chargers. If this is successful, the flash should be available sometime in the first quarter 2009.

At the launch of the 2009 police Charger, the engine motor mounts were upgraded for better durability. These are backward compatible with all police Chargers. Other service issues currently include an improved shifter cable detent to keep the cable locked into the Y-bracket. Sometimes it pops out, and the trans cannot be shifted out of Park. Refer to Chrysler’s Safety Recall H37 published November 2008 for repair instructions on all 2006-2009 models effected.

Police Specific Tech Training

In mid-2009, Dodge will offer service tech training specifically geared to the police package Charger. This no-charge tech training is modular to allow a variety of course content. The training will be available at Chrysler’s regional training centers and at the police departments with larger police Charger fleets. Those from departments with smaller Charger fleets may attend one of those two options. The pilot class was conducted with the North Carolina Highway Patrol, which runs the nation’s largest fleet of police Chargers.

The standard two-day course is hands-on intensive and will cover every aspect of the police Charger from the proper way to lift or jack the car to the starting and charging systems to the electrical repair procedures and power distribution systems. Other stand-alone courses that can be added to the standard course include Police Upfitting, V-6 SOHC engine, V-8 HEMI engine, NAG-1 5-speed Automatic, Body Electrical Systems, and ABS-ESP.

Quite literally, everyone upfitting or servicing a police Charger should attend this free, factory training. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, class sizes are limited to 12 techs. There is no pre-requisite for the class. For more information, contact George Bomanski.

Dodge Charger Police Future

The police Charger is definitely growing in popularity. In its first year, the 2006 Charger had 8% of the police market. That grew to 13% for 2007, in spite of significant delivery problems. So far for 2008, the Charger has roughly 22% of the police market. The future, of course, is very uncertain as all three domestic automakers are fighting hard for their survival. All three have closed factories, laid off white-collar workers and dropped or changed their plans for future vehicles.

The good news about potential future police models is the police community, especially police fleet managers, have the attention of Chrysler LLC. Proof of this is the wide variety of high-level engineers and managers, even a director and a vice president, who addressed the Police Advisory Board. Even during the discussion of future products, questions were asked at very high levels as to how potential sheet metal changes will affect police markings!

Two studies are under way for the police Charger. One is the Goodyear Eagle RS-A evaluation. The other is a real-world cost analysis of both the V-6 and the V-8 Charger in actual police use. These maintenance, repair, cost of operation studies will be run in PFM as soon as they are available. Police departments that have operating costs for the Charger are encouraged to contact Ed Sanow, editor of Police Fleet Manager, at esanow@hendonpub.com.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jan/Feb 2009

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