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Author Topic:   Optimax-One more time
prxmid posted 11-10-2001 10:01 AM ET (US)   Profile for prxmid   Send Email to prxmid  
I don't want to rehash old ground, just summarize what I've gleaned from this site (which is great btw). I recently purchased a 99 Outrage 18 with 150 Optimax DFI. Used it for a month and just had it hauled. Great fun, no problems (except for TPI Indicator)

Reading the site regarding Mercury Engines, I come away with the following: The 99-00 200/225 Optimax should be avoided like the Taliban.

I thought my 150 was safe until I got the impression that DFI was destined for trouble and obsolesence.

My marine insurer here in Annapolis stated that hands down Yamaha and Mercury were the best engines, then I stumbled on to this site. Does the above summarize the majority opinion?

Jurisproodenz posted 11-10-2001 03:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jurisproodenz  Send Email to Jurisproodenz     
Well, yes. That would about sum it up, at least as it applies to me. Except, I think that I'd rather have the Taliban hanging on my transom -- I could always go shark fishing.

Now the question is trolling with some turban teasers, or a spot of chumming? No, wait, I've got live bait!!!

John from Madison CT posted 11-10-2001 04:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for John from Madison CT  Send Email to John from Madison CT     
Juris,

We haven't heard much from you. What's up with the twin beasts on the back of your Whaler?

Anything new from Merc?

John

jimh posted 11-10-2001 05:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Two new data points on the Opti-Max situation:

--First, it has been mentioned elsewhere (not in these FORUMs) that battery voltage can be very important to proper operation of these engines, particularly at low speed. Because of all the additional electrically operated mechanics in the engine--fuel pumps, air pumps, injector punps--as well as additional electronics (ECM Module), the Opti-Max engine needs about 20 amperes of electrical current to run.

This is in stark contrast to the older style outboard that can generate its own electricity with a crude flywheel/magneto arrangement and only needs a few milliamperes to generate the spark.

Because of the 20-A load, an Opti-Max will not stop running off the battery until the engine speed gets up to about 800-1000 RPM. Below that speed range the engine is drawing current from the battery, not sending current to it. Charging does not overcome the 20-A load until higher crankcase speeds are reached.

Because of this, it is possible that Opti-Max engines being run off weak batteries may be operating with low supply voltages, which may cause operating problems. These engines are not going to run correctly if they are running at extended periods of low speed and are operating with marginal batteries.

A second data point: I have not seen this yet myself, but it was mentioned to me that the publication Powerboat Reports (a "Consumer's Report" style magazine) recently tested a variety of engines and named the Opti-Max as the best outboard. Anyone with more details on this is encouraged to contribute them.

bigz posted 11-11-2001 07:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for bigz    
Power Boat Reports aside from saying the 150 Opti was the loudest by far, it did rack up better mileage and top end figures than either the Ficht 150 or Honda 130. They used the data from a Johnson carb 2 stroke in addition to the Ficht and Honda for comparison purposes.

All in all I'd say in most cases of evaluation it was splitting hairs -- though on the mileage (as Clark Roberts has mentioned numerous times about his 135 Opti)was significantly better -- they drew a relation with their test boat, concluding they could achieve about an additional 80 nautical miles with the Opti over the other DFI units in the 17 to 22 knot speed range.

They have no data yet on the durability issue. They continue to test for 5 months before issuing a report on this aspect.

My personal comment, since the tested 150 2002 is not changed significantly from 2001 model, it should be noted that in the field as the case with the 135 both have proved to be a very reliable engines ---

JimH, the Ficht engines are very sensitive to battery voltage for similar reasons you outlined for the Optimax. I have mentioned before that to facilitate having a "good" battery OMC from the beginning recommended a dedicated starter which is charged off the standard charging circuit and an auxiliary for use as the "house" battery which is charged off an isolated regulated charging terminal on the engine. This configuration using a ground from the engine to starter and then to the house with a installed switch between the positive terminals of the two batteries will then allow a parallel connection if needed for the starter. Note once the engine has started the switch should not be left in the parallel state (simple terms you jumped the starter).

jimh posted 11-11-2001 09:16 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
It just occured to me that there could be additional electrical loads on the battery (besides the engine itself) which might come into play when running at extended low speeds as when fishg/trolling.

There could be electrical drains from circulating water pumps in bait wells, sump pumps working to keep bilges dry, and elaborate electronics like color SONAR fish finders and GPS receivers.

I believe that the Opti-Max has a feature (that may be only on the Smart Gauge option) which allows the engine crankcase speed to be tightly controlled at speeds that are below the normal "idle" to provide for slow trolling. It would not be hard to imagine that the net battery load during operation like this would be a drain not a charge, and that the battery voltage could begin to drop.

andygere posted 11-11-2001 03:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
It would seem that the low RPM, low amperage problem could easily be fixed by redesigning the alternator, or even more simply, changing pulley sizes to allow sufficient output at low RPMs. It amazes me that the engineers could have missed this detail, however it's even more amazing that a fix for it was not immediately developed. I used to worry about the reliability of my old '79 Johnson, but it has never let me down. I suppose the cost of feeding the old gas hog has returns in terms of total low cost of ownership. Sometimes simpler is better.
blackdog posted 11-12-2001 05:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for blackdog  Send Email to blackdog     
Jimh,
I believe the Early Ficht engines had the same voltage / low voltage problems and addressed this issue with a redesign in 2000, 2001 models. If you take a look on boatsetup.com, Evinrude Forum they make a lot of references to voltage readings. Sounds like Mercury is working out the kinks as Ficht did for DFI.

Blackdog

bmacauto posted 11-18-2001 10:05 AM ET (US)     Profile for bmacauto  Send Email to bmacauto     
I was under the impression that a Altinator output the same amps (i believe it's 60 on the optimax) regardless of the rpm's. Just a thought, any truth to this?
Brian
jimh posted 11-19-2001 01:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
An alternator does not create electrical energy ("amps"), it simply converts mechanical energy to electrical energy. To get output (electrical energy) you have to have input (mechanical energy).

I don't know of any circumstances where an alternator can produce more power output than is being supplied as power input.

Once an alternator is being driven fast enough, electrical regulators limit the output power so as not to produce excessive current or voltage. Until the rotational speed is reached where the regulator kicks in, the output of the alternator is proportional to its rotational speed and increases with increasing speed.

Most alternators are indirectly driven from the engine crankshaft and are operated by belts and pulleys. The diameter ratios of the pulleys are chosen (generally) to operate the alternator at a geared-up or faster speed than the crankshaft, thus allowing the alternator to reach decent output at lower engine speeds.

A "60-Amp" alternator implies that it produces 60 Amps of current at about 14 Volts. This is 840 Watts of energy. One horsepower is about 750 Watts of energy. Even with losses in the bearings and pulleys, we can still run the alternator full-blast with just a couple of horsepower, but we do have to get it spinning fast enough.

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