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Long term Hellcat: Brutal break-in

by Patrick Rall on

The day when I picked up my 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat was exciting, but I didn’t leave the dealership with a cloud of tire smoke d Id a high speed blast down the road, because of the strict guidelines of the official break-in process.

Although the plant runs every single Hellcat Hemi for 40 minutes (or more) under hard throttle certify the output and test the build quality, the engineers who were responsible for creating one of Mopar’s great muscle cars have put together a break-in process which they believe will allow for the best results going forward.

While some other Hellcat owners online scoffed at the suggestion that the break-in process was necessary, I have spent enough time talking to the folks who engineered the supercharged Challenger to take their input seriously. This break-in process isn’t necessarily for the engine internals alone; gentle early miles allow the transmission,  differential, and the other moving parts to break in as well.

With that in mind, I picked up my 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat with the expectations of hundreds of “easy miles” as the rest of the drivetrain components broke in.

The Break-In Process Detailed
The break-in process for the 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat has four phases, 0-100 miles, 101-300 miles, 301-500 miles and 501-1,500 miles, with progressively more fun being unlocked at each step of the process.

The 0-100 mile phase is the hardest, as when I first got the keys to my 707 horsepower Challenger, there really isn’t much which I was permitted to do while following the official break-in process.

The 0-100 Guidelines are:
– Do not allow the engine to idle for an extended period of time
– Press the accelerator pedal slowly, and not more than halfway, to avoid rapid acceleration
– Avoid aggressive braking
– Drive with the engine speed less than 3,500rpm
– Maintain vehicle speed below 55 miles per hour

So, for the greatest results down the road, the engineers want no idling, no big revs, no hard braking, and no speeds over 55 miles per hour, so the drive home was restricted to back roads and gentle acceleration. Once home, I waited late at night, at which point I drove back and forth on a desolate road near my house at about 50 mph (nowhere near 707 horsepower) until I hit 101 miles…at which phase 2 begins.

The 101-300 Guidelines are:
– Press the accelerator pedal slowly and not more than halfway to avoid rapid acceleration in lower (1-3) gears
– Avoid aggressive braking
– Drive with the engine speed less than 5,000 rpm
– Maintain vehicle speeds below 70 miles per hour

I still couldn’t use more than half of the throttle on acceleration and I still wasn’t getting into the real power when staying below 5,000 rpm, but I could get into the throttle in the higher gears (though still under 70 miles per hour). This allowed me to take the local highways.

During this phase of the break-in period, I made a couple of long, low RPM highway drives, which allowed me to get through the 101-300 mile range fairly gently while getting to enjoy a little more of the available power. This part wasn’t as tough as the first hundred miles, but it was still tough to control myself with 707 horsepower on tap.

Fortunately, I was able to follow the instructions of my Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat break-in procedure phase 2 until I hit 301 miles – at which the third phase of the process began.

The 301-500 Guidelines are:
– Exercise the full engine RPM range, shifting manually at higher RPMs when possible
– Do not perform sustained operation with the accelerator at wide open throttle
– Maintain vehicle speeds below 85 miles per hour

This third phase offered me the first time to really let me Hellcat Challenger stretch its legs; I was finally able to hit wide open throttle, if only for short stints. That first time that I really opened her up, the realization of owning the baddest muscle car in America began to hit me as I experienced the monster power of my own Hellcat Challenger. However, I still took it relatively easy until I hit 501 miles – at which point I entered the final phase of the Hellcat break-process.

At this point, the Launch Control feature is unlocked, signaling the beginning of a lifetime of amazing 0-60 romps with my 707 horsepower Dodge Challenger.

It took my wife and me six days to get to 501 miles with our 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.

501-1,500
The final break-in phase is the least restrictive, as the Dodge engineers simply ask that I do not participate in any track days, sport driving schools or “similar activities” until I hit 1,500 miles. That might cramp the style of some Hellcat owners, but I’m happy to enjoy my supercharged Mopar muscle car to the fullest of its on-road capabilities until my gorgeous Go Mango Hellcat Challenger hits 1,500 miles – at which point I hope to get some stock quarter mile times.

The break-in process of the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat requires an incredible amount of patience and personal restraint, which is tough for someone who has spent lots of time in test cars which were already broken in. Unlike my test cars, which were ready to exercise all 707 horses, I had to drive my Hellcat Challenger gently for the first 500 miles and 6 days, but in order to get the most longevity from my new Mopar muscle car, a week of easy cruising is really a small price to pay.

Not to mention, once that “501” pops up on the gauge cluster and I was free to let my Hellcat Challenger out of the cage for the first time, it was one of the most memorable moments of my automotive life. I will never forget the first time that I put the hammer down and let my factory supercharged Dodge show me what she’s got.

Finally, in addition to the gentle driving manners, I checked the engine oil in my Hellcat Challenger every morning and I’m happy to report that it didn’t use a drop during those 500 break-in miles and the oil is nice and clean – signifying a good start to my life with the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.

Next up – having a professional put a proper shine to my Go Mango paint, along with adding a high tech layer of paint protection to keep it shining for years to come. Stay tuned!

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.

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