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Long term Hellcat: burnouts, lighting and other Demon gadgetry

by Patrick Rall on

Before getting my 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, I spent the better part of three years helping out with Hellcat owners’ groups, and found out that one commonly discussed product is the Hellcat BurnBox from Z Automotive. This simple gadget plugs into your car’s OBDII port under the dash, adding line lock, an engine-off cooling mode, and the ability to make your exterior lights flash in unique patterns. It has become a popular item in the Hellcat community.

I have often seen people post videos of their Hellcat Challengers with the unique lightshows, while others have talked about the advantages of line lock and the engine-off cooling mode when at the track. After asking some questions of those talking about the product,  Z Automotive reached out to me and offered me a chance to test the BurnBox on my own Mopar muscle car.

First, let’s talk about the functional features of the BurnBox – the line lock system and the Cooldown mode, each of which are similar to standard features of the 2018 Challenger SRT Demon. Both of these modes are most useful for owners who spend time at the track. I’ve not spent any time with my car at the track thus far, but I tested both features in a safe setting away from public roads.

The Cooldown mode is similar to the Demon’s after-run chiller system and it works to reduce coolant temperatures when the car is not running. The Hellcat Challenger has a high tech cooling system with one loop which cools the engine via the “normal” cooling system while the other loop specifically cools the intercooler system of the Hellcat Hemi. The problem with all cooling systems is that when you turn the car off, the coolant also stops circulating, leaving all of that heat bottled up in the engine. When you start your car for the next run, much of that heat will still be there. So as you head back to the track the cooling system is already fighting an uphill battle.

On the other hand, the Cooldown mode of the Z Automotive BurnBox keeps the intercooler loop coolant moving and the cooling fan running when the engine is off. As a result, the engine is cooler when you head up to the starting line for your next run. By plugging in the BurnBox and going through the menu on the driver information screen between the gauges with the buttons on the steering wheel, you can select cooling fans on only, or cooling fans and intercooler pump on, at two different speeds. Once activated, it serves the same purpose as bags of ice piled on top of the engine and  cooling fans propped under the hood – specifically focusing its cooling efforts on the Hellcat’s dedicated intercooler system.

The downfall with running the intercooler pump and cooling fans with the engine off is that you risk killing your battery. But the BurnBox monitors your battery voltage and should it get below a certain point, the system will automatically shut off leaving enough juice to start the car.

Next, the BurnBox was named for its ability to help Hellcat owners do burnouts, as this little electrical gadget adds line lock to the car without any mechanical changes. As is the case with the new Demon, the line lock system locks the front brakes via the ABS solenoids, allowing you to do burnouts without abusing the rear brakes.

Hellcat owners who wonder why line lock is necessary in a car which so easily spins the tires should keep in mind that when doing a “brake stand” burnout, the rear brakes are being overpowered by the engine. That means that the rear brakes are being worked very hard as you smoke the tires. This causes accelerated brake wear and in extreme cases, I have seen rear brakes catch fire during a burnout.

As is the case with the Cooldown mode, the line lock operates via commands in the gauge cluster and the steering wheel buttons. After engaging the line lock system, you start the burnout while holding down one of the steering wheel buttons. When you lift the button, the front brakes release and your burnout ends. The operation of this mode is similar to the function on the Demon, right down to how you trigger the system to release when the burnout is over.

Also, while my Hellcat Challenger has the 8-speed automatic transmission, I have spoken to several owners whose Hellcat Challenger has the 6-speed manual transmission and according to them, the BurnBox line lock system is a must for doing burnouts on the track (or on Woodward Avenue during the Dream Cruise, in the case one of very powerful Sublime Challenger).

Finally, we come to the simplest feature of the BurnBox – the light show feature. It allows you to have your headlights, taillights and parking lights flash in a handful of programmed patterns. Driving with flashing headlights is illegal in most jurisdictions, with legislation prohibiting most mimicry of emergency vehicles while in motion. But in case the Hellcat Hemi doesn’t draw enough attention at your local cruise, having your exterior lights flash in preset patterns while parked can draw even more people to the 707hp Mopar muscle car.

The video below shows my favorite pattern, which gives the Hellcat a sort of undercover police look. (I repeat: special lighting effects like this might get you pulled over, so you shouldn’t use the light show on public roads … but they’re a hit at car shows.)

If you do lots of burnouts with your Hellcat Challenger or Charger and you want to preserve your rear brakes, or if you spend lots of time at the track and you want to get engine temps down between runs – the Z Automotive BurnBox is the best option on the market today. Also, while the lightshow feature doesn’t improve performance, it is another cool little feature which allows you to showcase your Mopar muscle car at the local hangout.

The BurnBox for the Hellcat has an MSRP of $229 and, to our knowledge, is the only easy route to easier burnouts and cooler engine temps, shy of going out and buying a 2018 Demon.

Also, if you don’t have a Hellcat car, Z Automotive also makes a BurnBox for the other trimlines of the Challenger and Charger, as well as a unit for the Ram trucks.

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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