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2023 Dodge Challenger Hellcat tune turns into a $36,000 repair bill

Bynewsmagzines

May 15, 2023
2023 Dodge Challenger Hellcat tune turns into a $36,000 repair bill

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A year ago we spoke to three professional tuners, one specialist for each of The Big Three, about how to properly tune your car. While the details differed about how to structure a long-term tuning program depending on brand, a unifying theme appeared across all three interviews, especially applicable to Mopar products: Properly tuning a car costs proper money. As this cautionary tale related by Carscoops shows, fixing a broken tune also costs proper money.

The story began with the owner of a 2023 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Widebody Jailbreak, Brennon Vinet, posting on the Dodge Challenger Owner’s Club page on Facebook. Vinet claimed his Hellcat engine lost compression after around 800 miles of driving and needed a new engine and transmission. He said he’d never driven over 100 miles per hour, never abused the car, never had anything done to the engine, saying the only modification was the popular mid-muffler delete, which removes a set of mufflers in the middle of the exhaust piping.  

His Facebook posts show Dodge denied the warranty claim, the automaker “alleging that [Vinet] altered the ECM.” He somehow got the situation escalated far enough up the chain that he said he spoke to brand CEO Tim Kuniskis and VP Steve Stander, neither one of whom reversed Dodge’s position on the claim. The refusals left Vinet with a bill for $36,000 if he wanted his car fixed.

Vinet sent Carscoops paperwork about the issue, one item showing the loss of compression in cylinder seven. Regrettably, a breakdown of that $36,000 bill wasn’t included. Instead, the paperwork also appeared to show the warranty was being denied “due to emissions tampering.” When Carscoops first reached out to Dodge with questions, the automaker confirmed emissions tampering as the issue. When the outlet reached out again to verify if the mid-muffler delete caused the emissions problem, Dodge was responded that it wasn’t the mufflers, but that “a Stellantis Calibration Engineer ran Powertrain Control Module (PCM) diagnostics and confirmed that the vehicle’s PCM [powertrain control module] was tampered with and contained non-factory software.”

Flash Dodge’s stock PCM with unauthorized software or swap out the PCM for a non-authorized unit, and boom, the car’s warranty is vaporized. This has been a big subject on Dodge forums for years, owners wondering about the ins and outs of the P1400 code that shows on a scan report signifying an altered PCM. The entire alarm reads, “P1400-AFTERMARKET CALIBRATION DETECTED/WARRANTY COVERAGE CONFIRMATION REQUIRED.” Once it shows, it cannot be erased; a tuner said the code gets stored in the car’s Body Control Module; a forum poster wrote that Dodge updated its software in 2018 for the code to be written to the BCM.

As for Vinet, it appears he’s gone quiet. On the Challenger Talk boards, a poster wrote, “I’m in the same [Facebook] group and once all this crap hit the fan, he deleted all the photos of his car from his FB profile and deleted any mention of it.”

We’ve read posts by at least one tuner saying it offers flashed PCMs that don’t trigger a P1400. That could be true. It would seem safer, though, to follow the advice of many other forum posters who suggest that if you insist on keeping your warranty, don’t mod your car beyond a cold-air intake and cat-back exhaust. Now that automakers are de facto software companies, they’re only going to get better at figuring out who did what to a PCM.

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