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I recently had some contact with one of the people that knew me from my early days as the freshly minted department fleet manager. I was the “pioneer” for the department at that time. A few of the people that followed me still keep in touch, occasionally asking for some sage advice from “the old guy.”
One of them recently contacted me concerning some issues with their Dodge Chargers. They make their purchase decisions based upon the results of the Michigan State Police tests, along with some bidding which is required by their state laws.
They had gotten twelve 2008 Chargers equipped with the police packages and the 5.7 litre Hemi engine last year. To date, no problems have sprung up, other than the normal strum and drang associated with any police car that is used in a pool. That means that in some cases they might operate five full days, 24 hours a day, with little or no shut-down. Since Dodge changed the brake pads, the disc brakes are superb, linear, and powerful. Premature wear had initially been an issue with some departments.
For 2009, they bought over 100 new units. All were supposed to be equipped with the police package and the 5.7 litre Hemi® V-8. An issue arose when the state bid outlet telephoned them reporting that there would be up to a 75 or more day delay in obtaining all the Chargers, as bid. They did, however, have some V-6 engined packages that were immediately available, and if accepted, would then fulfill the entire order of the 100 or so units.
The County Sheriff elected to accept 17 new 2009 Dodge Charger Police Packages from the state bid pool that were V-6 engined. They are all black in color and the only difference with the marked units is that they are decaled, easier to sell off or trade in by decal removal. (You can almost see the tail end of one of the marked units at the end of the line).
The fleet manager dutifully had all the police gear installed, and assigned the V-6 cars to the suburbs and small city settings within the county. Deputies had no issue with the V-6 cars. They are as fast as the former Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (with the 3.55 axle ratio) cars that the Charger replaced. The Chargers proved to be an asset because the gasoline mileage increased from an average of 11.5 to around 15.7 mpg (according to his figures). When you are spending thousands for fuel, that is substantial.
For a time, all the routine maintenance had been handled through the contracted fleet maintenance unit operated by a local contractor. He followed the factory specifications for whatever needed to be done with oil changes, filters, wipers, tires, brake pads, hoses and other replaceable items.
Then the county garage manager began to make noises that contracting for routine things, especially for items like oil changes, would be more cost effective (cheaper) than paying out for them. It was then decided to go ahead and start sending the Sheriff’s fleet units, the Ford CVPI and the Chargers, to the county garage instead of paying the contractor.
The Ford 4.6 litre V-8 and the Hemi® both operate with 5W-20 weight engine oil. The Dodge Fleet Zone manager personally contacts each maintenance person or chief to explain that because of the Multiple Displacement System, which shuts down cylinders when not needed, it is critical to have the 5W-20 oil with the 5.7 liter Dodge V-8. According to my friend, the fleet contractor was absolutely scrupulous in making certain that the cars received that weight of oil, as well as ensuring that is was the much better synthetic type.
Shortly after the county garage began oil changes in the V-6 Chargers, a disconcerting noise started coming from the engines. Most had accumulated about 400 miles or so after the oil changes. A loud and disturbing valve clack, clack, clack, clack could be heard from the V-6 engines. My friend immediately got on the phone to Chrysler Fleet. Say what you will, but, the Zone Manager, in person, flew out to inspect the units. That, my friends show a very serious interest in keeping the fleet business! It didn’t take him long to diagnosis the problems.
It seems that the owner’s manual is not so specific about the engine oil weight in the Dodge 3.5 litre V-6 engine [note: this engine was later replaced by the Pentastar V6]. As a result, the Dodge Chargers so equipped got an oil change from the county garage, with 15W-30 bulk oil, which the county also uses for its trucks! Hey, oil is oil, right?
Even a brand new mechanic could figure out what the noise was. The hydraulic valve lifters were not working in the Chargers. An expensive fix, with lost time, and costly downtime for the units. Chrysler Fleet, rightly, maintained that the engines were correct when sold, although they would assist if the lifters failed completely, but only if they failed.
The Chrysler Zone people advised my fleet manager friend to send the units back to the area contractor and get the oil in all the V-6 units changed to the recommended weight oil, which is 10W-30. The order went out straight away, and the entire 17 unit fleet went out of service immediately until they got the oil changed. It turns out as well that the contractor uses a blend for the 10W-30, which is combined regular oil and a synthetic from a well recognized refiner.
After the changing of the oil, all the V-6 equipped Chargers stopped making noises, most within 100 miles, some a bit longer. This was several weeks ago, and it does appear that the issue is over with. Reportedly, the deputies are satisfied with the V-6 units.
The importance of the story is in the correct, factory recommended items, especially the oil. Chrysler fleet is sending out an emphatic message concerning the V-6 engine oil weight as critical for engine longevity, performance, and maintenance.
You could do no less for your engine, no matter what you drive. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, and use, if you can, good synthetic oils. They might cost a bit more, but, they last longer, and are far more issue tolerant than regular oil.
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