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Author Topic:   A motor survey
whaletail posted 02-09-2002 01:19 AM ET (US)   Profile for whaletail   Send Email to whaletail  
O.K. I know how you "old salts" hate repeat subjects but, this might be interesting. Lets hear some motor horror stories - like waiting in suspended annimation for parts to come in. Or an instant breakdown right after coming out of the shop.
Who's had the best luck with their motor? What brand is it?
I guess I'd like to figure out who makes the most reliable motor these days, and backs it up with good service and parts ON HAND.
I can say that from what I've heard, Suzuki is already out of the running.
Bigshot posted 02-09-2002 08:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
See that is why I hate surveys or forums for that matter. I am on my second Zuki, my bud is on his 4th. NEVER had a breakdown on any so far or in the past. My 1st Zuki was a 1981 and yes parts were hard to come by because the closest dealer was 80 miles away but that was 20 years ago. The best engine I ever had was a 1972 Mrc 4hp. Ran like a clock and was punished like a red headed step child. My worst 2 engines were a 50hp Merc and a 115hp Merc so......
Dave Murray posted 02-09-2002 09:08 AM ET (US)     Profile for Dave Murray  Send Email to Dave Murray     
I'v owned two 150 hp Yamahas on the same 78 20' outrage hull- the first, a 1985 model ran for nine years with no problems- then along came a 1994 SW model for which the cost had doubled from 5k to 10k. This engine was full of problems from the git go- really wore me down to the point of thinking about just dumping it and taking a big loss- after about twenty trips to the dealer- often losing use of the boat for weeks at a time, the engine seemed to run ok last summer- I agree with Bigshot that engine surveys are subjective, but I'd sure listen to other boaters experiences/opinions.
jimh posted 02-09-2002 10:11 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Here's my story:

My newly purchased used Yamaha 1987 twin 70-HP engines need minor service. The Tachometer on the PORT engine does not work. This is related to the battery charging system in the engine.

Because I have worked with electronics since I was 8-years old, have a thorough understanding of how charging systems work, and happen to have two identical motors, one with the problem and one without, I am completely certain I have diagnosed the problem and what needs to be repaired. I need a new coil assembly under the flywheel. Remove flywheel, replace coil. Replace flywheel. No engine timing will be disturbed.

I happen to live in the state with more registered boats than any other (Michigan), and I live in the most populous area (near Detroit). I begin a search for a Yamaha outboard service facility.

The Yamaha website lists about 20 dealers that handle their products in this area. I begin to call them. About half of them are really just jet ski dealers or motorcycle dealers, they don't even sell outboards.

Of the remain half that actually do sell outboards, most of these are little pontoon boat or fishing boat places, and they just sell Yamaha outboards, they don't do any service.

The list is soon down to about three dealers. Of these, one tells me he just dropped Yamaha, no longer sells them and sold all his part inventory. He recommends the guy he sold all this stuff to, a new shop just getting started. They are about 50 miles from me.

The next servicing dealer is an on-water marine dealer. He sells Yamahas, but mainly big 200-HP ones on the transoms of 25-30 center consoles. He is a Pursuit and Grady White dealer (used to be a Whaler dealer but lost that line to the local SeaRay seller). His next service opening is in four weeks. The shop rate is $85/hour.

Finally I find another dealer, a big volume off-water boat and outboard dealer about 45 miles away. He sells and services Yamaha, Mercury, and OMC engines. He can look at the boat tomorrow, can fix it in a day or two, and the shop rate is only $60/hour.

I haul the boat up to him, and explain I know exactly what is wrong. He quotes me one hour of labor and the part ($75), for an estimate of $135. Boat should be ready in a week or less. "It only takes a couple of days to get the parts from Yamaha," he says.

Great, the problem should be fixed in no time.

I call him back in a couple of days and he confirms my diagnosis, I need a new "lighting coil", just as I thought.

This is a curious name for this part. I have done some research and noticed that the manufacturer has given the various coils in the under-flywheel assembly some strange names. The coil they call the "charging coil" does not charge the battery, it is the exciter coil for the high voltage ignition. The coil that actually charges the battery is called the "lighting coil". Chaulk that up to translation from Japanese.

I have explicitly mentioned this confusion to the service guy at the Yamaha dealer, telling him I am sure I need a "lighting" coil.

I give him the go-ahead to make the repairs for the estimated price. He tells me the boat will be ready in a few days after he gets the part.

I check back in a week. Part has not come in.

I check back in a few more days. Part came in, but turns out the mechanic ordered the wrong part. They will have to re-order. They probably ordered the "charging coil."

Check back a week later--they have had the boat for about two and a half weeks. Still no part.

Check back--about three weeks have gone by--they have the part, but now they are really busy because it's late September and they are flooded with boats just hauled out and in need of winterization. They'll get to mine in a day or two.

Finally, I get a call. Got the coil installed on the PORT engine, but it needed a new rectifier, another $50 in parts. I am surprised because I had totally checked the rectifier and it was good. OK, it needs the rectifier, add $50 to the bill.

Also, now there is a problem with the STBD engine: the engine ran itself up with the trim solenoid stuck "on" and killed the battery. It needs a new solenoid.
This will be another $130 in parts and labor.

OK,OK, I tell them, just fix it because I have to use the boat this weekend. They promise it will be ready. Finally, I get the boat back after 27-days at the shop. It costs me $330 to pay the bill. That is more than double the initial estimate.

I haul the boat back to my house, where I work on it furiously all day, installing some canvas and getting ready for a trip to Lake Michigan to go boating.

Just as we are almost ready to leave, I decide to check the engines to see what they did to them. I flip the battery switch to "ON".

The STBD engine immediately begins to run itself up, just like they said it had done before they fixed it for $130.

This is ridiculous! I shut off the battery switch and take the cowling off the engine.
In 30-seconds of checking with a multi-meter I diagnose that the problem is not the solenoid, it is the control switch on the cowling. It is mechanically stuck in the up position. A squirt of WD-40 and working the switch a few times fixes this problem.

Then I look at the wiring in the engine. When these guys installed the new solenoid they failed to re-install most of the molded rubber boots that cover the high-current connections. Jeez, my engine, which had been factory perfect, is now somewhat less.

OK, I am too anxious too boating to worry about it. We haul the boat 275 miles and go boating for a few days. Finally we have some fun with this new boat.

The PORT engine tachometer works fine, but after about three hours of running, the tachometer on the STBD engine quits!

It turns out it has the exact same problem the PORT engine had, a bad "lighting" coil.

This time I order the part from a Yamaha dealer. In about a week it arrives. I drive 90 miles roundtrip to pick it up. They also charge me shipping charges for it, about $8, but would not "ship" it directly to me.

This seems really an awful practice. I can only buy parts from my dealer at his counter, but then I have to pay the shipping charges to have it sent to him. Imagine if you went to your Chevy dealer and wanted a new tail light lens. The Chevy guy says, "I don't have one in stock, but I'll get you one in a few days." Do you expect to pay the shipping charges for GM to send it to the dealer? No way. Unheard of!

Back to story...

More research reveals that in order to remove the flywheel there is some special tooling needed. This tooling happens to be made by a little company located about five miles from me. They make specialized tools for engine repairs of all kinds. I call them up to price this tool. Yes, they make it, yes, the have it, but no, they cannot sell it to me unless I am an authorized Yamaha dealer. This tool is restricted.

Again, imagine the parallel situation in your car. You need to remove something on the engine to make a simple repair, but you need an odd shaped tool to do it. The tool is nothing more than some steel bent in a certain shape, it is made by a guy a few miles away from your house, yet GM or FORD prohibit the sale of it to anyone except their authorized dealers! How does that sound?

To make this story shorter, I built my own tool, but in the end I could not get the flywheel off. I was worried about buggering it so I gave up. (I needed an air-rachet impact wrench.)

Next I carry the part to my local Mercury repair shop with whom I have built a good relationship, and for one hour of his labor he installs the part for me in a couple of days. He also overhauls the water pumps in both lower units. He says he can work on them (probably because they are very similar to Mercury lower units).

My Mercury guy makes all the repairs, the engines run fine all next season.

The Yamaha engines are fine engines, but it scares me to think what options I would have if they ever needed some real mechanical repair around here.

KeysNole posted 02-09-2002 10:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for KeysNole  Send Email to KeysNole     
I have an old Suzuki 140. It was a top of the line v4 motor when I bought it...oil injected and pushes my bass boat to about 55 mph. I have had problems with it, but mostly to lack of use.

My current 175 Johnson Ocean Runner is a fine motor, and I'd buy Johnson/Evinrude with confidence again.

One of the 454 MerCruisers on my SeaRay blew after about 50 hours (piston pieces everywhere--not a good experience).

My Yamaha Pro50 has treated me well so far. Ordering parts for that was a pain, although I blame it more on my dealer than Yamaha.

People will debate which motor is better for the rest of time, but as far as I'm concerned, if my motor runs, it's the best motor on the water.

Steve Leone posted 02-09-2002 11:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for Steve Leone  Send Email to Steve Leone     
very funny storytellin` jim. i have worked on them all. even a lawson four stroke. i have come to the undaunted conclusion that outboards are like most anything else, sometimes you get a good one (any brand) and sometimes a real lemon. service is the same senario. as a mechanic i have seen that a job no matter how much money and time spent it is just destined to screw up. too many variables i suppose. on the other hand i believe that there are no "ghosts". there is a reasonable explanation, right? then tell me how that fly`s fuel saturated body got into the high speed jet??? or how a mud dabber wasp decided to bring up its brood in the water galleries of a 90hp johnson..... or a spider that crawled up through the water inlet and had a silk fest....maybe these were just kamakzi bugs. steve out.
kingfish posted 02-10-2002 08:20 AM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
Tour de force, jimh-

I had an '89 100 HP Merc on an '84 Montauk that really was a sweet combination (kept it in the family when I moved up to a '92 Outrage 22' and 225 HP evinrude; my sister bought the Montauk). The Merc was a strong reliable motor, and really was the first outboard of any size and technological advancement I had ever owned. During one of our family summer trips to our camp in the North Channel, I went to start the Merc one morning and it wouldn't even cough. Nothing. It had run perfectly up until the last time I had shut it off the night before; the good news was that it was at the dock, rather than anchored out fishing somewhere miles from nowhere.

I keep a fair amount of tools and some testing equipment up there and I had sent to Mercury for a shop and repair manual when I purchased the Montauk, so with out too much difficulty or time I was able through various checks and tests to deduce that the (place the name of the part here; I can't think of it. I want to say rectifier, but that wasn't it - it was a commonly referenced electronic part right under the flywheel) had failed.

Put everything back together and towed the Montauk into Boyle Marine in Little Current, where Pat Boyle had his mechanic stop what he was doing and confirm my diagnosis. He agreed it was the (_____) but they didn't have one in stock so they express ordered one from Toronto or North Bay or somewhere and told me to come back the day after next, and I could leave the Montauk there.

Came back into town (7 miles) two days later, they had the part, they let me borrow a flywheel puller, I replaced the (_____), put the Merc back together, and the motor has run like a top ever since. My hat is still tipped to Pat for his interest and service. I got a lot of fishing and cruising in before that trip was over that I would not have without his help.

We lived on a fairly big inland lake while
I was growing up, and when I was about 12 Dad gave me the use of about a 12 or 14 foot fiberglass "bathtub" made by Thunderbird with a 5 1/2 HP Chris-Craft outboard on it. Man, I was mobile and I was *somebody*. I was in that boat every spare minute, racing (probably at 8 or 10 mph) around the island, going to the "Bay Store" for pop or an ice cream bar, or messing around with my buddies and their boats. I was in heaven.

But - the Thunderbird hadn't been built to the best specs in all regards, and the transom was so thick that the Chris's mounting bracket would just barely slide over it and it had no wood or metal mounting plate. The consequence was that it was hard to keep the motor clamped on tight, and eventually the clamp pads started wearing grooves in the transom. Most of the areas near home where I raced around were fairly shallow, which was a good thing, because every now and then when I'd be taking a corner at the Le Mans track in my mind, the old Chris, running wide open, would fly up off the transom and plop into the drink. Right to the bottom, of course where I guess it ran until it ran out of oxygen.

The drill was to paddle home and get one of my buddies or wait for Dad to get home and we'd go out to where I'd lost the motor, and if it was shallow enough I'd hand the motor up to whoever was in the boat and we'd paddle back home. If it was deeper (over my head) I'd take my mask and fins and a rope and we'd pull it up from the bottom. We'd get back to the dock, take the sediment bowl off, unscrew the gas cap, pull the plugs, shake all excess liquid out of the motor and just let it sit and dry out for a couple of days. After that, with some horsing around running clean gas/oil miture through it with the plugs out and what not, we'd get it running again.

That must have been a hell of a motor; I must have done that 5 or 6 different times, and eventually, we'd always get it running again.

That motor had a magneto that might not have had enough punch to stun a horse, but it did have enough to knock a 12 year old kid right into the lake if he held a damp spark plug wire close to the plug checking to see if he could see if it had any spark...but that's another story...


Dave Murray posted 02-10-2002 09:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for Dave Murray  Send Email to Dave Murray     
Great story Kingfish- thanks for sharing!!!
kingfish posted 02-10-2002 06:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for kingfish  Send Email to kingfish     
You're welcome, Dave - my Dad would still think about me coming to understand a magneto thirty years later (he was the one pulling the starter rope; I was the one testing for spark), and just crack up, right out of the blue. To the day he died, I never knew for sure if he had set me up or not...

And the Mercury part was a stator (I think).

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