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Author Topic:   2003 Optimax Merc 90HP
Luke X posted 09-10-2003 10:41 AM ET (US)   Profile for Luke X   Send Email to Luke X  
I just purchased a new 2003 160 Dauntless with a 90 HP Mercury Optimax. Happy with the boat, but concerned with the performance of engine. Last weekend, after running the boat for a couple of hours, tied it up to friends dock for an hour or so, and after visit, it took me 15-20 minutes to start the boat. Very frustrating. What did I do wrong? Is this a common problem?

Also had a friend who visited last week in his 2002 180 Dauntless 115Merc, and he was unable to start the boat and had it towed. Never heard final outcome, but we tried everything to get the thing started but would not turn over.

Looking for any comments or sggestions.

lhg posted 09-10-2003 02:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
I am unable to go fishing today. Try some other time.
Jarhead posted 09-10-2003 05:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jarhead  Send Email to Jarhead     
I'm going fishing tomorrow but thought I'd try the lake in my Dauntless. :)
Perry posted 09-10-2003 07:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for Perry  Send Email to Perry     
Here is a suggestion, sell the Mercury and buy a asian 4 stroke :) Just kidding, how did it run after it finally started? Bad fuel? If it continues to have a hard time starting, I'd take it back to the dealer and have them take a look at it because it is under warranty.
TRAFFICLAWYER posted 09-10-2003 10:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for TRAFFICLAWYER    
Perry's got a great suggestion, buy a RELIABLE far east engine.
Dick posted 09-10-2003 10:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dick  Send Email to Dick     
Luke X

Take the rig to Fife Sea Ray/Boston Whaler. They can plug into the brain of the Opti and probably diagnose the problem.

Opti problems are very rare now that some of the earlier problems have been worked out.
We mounted a new 2003 175 today, it started on the first try and ran like a clock.

Problem diagnosis has changed, the newer motors need a computer plugged in to talk to just as your car/truck does.


lakeman posted 09-11-2003 07:11 AM ET (US)     Profile for lakeman  Send Email to lakeman     
According to my dealer, if the opti does not start, after the 3rd revolution, bring it to me. So far it has started every time on the 3 revolution.
Batteries are very important to the opti. If your battery is weak it will have starting problems and throw out weird codes on smart gauges. I know this from experience.
My dealer thinks the opti's now are great and will have fewer problems than the 4S. 4S are expensive to work on when there is a problem.

Clark Roberts posted 09-11-2003 07:42 AM ET (US)     Profile for Clark Roberts  Send Email to Clark Roberts     
Luke, starting drill on Opti...throttle in neutral, turn key to start; no mini-throttle, no nothing. If doesn't start check batt voltage (per above) if ok, then re-prime fuel system (has elec fuel booster pump) as follows: throttle in neutral/ignition on/pump throttle lever to fwd position (about 3/4) three times with successive motion like 1,2,3/ you will hear some muted clicking as fuel pump primes/ leave ignition on for a minute or so after priming/ignition off. If engine was not properly installed/prepped/set-up this could be the problem. Hey, I'm guessing here but I installed/prepped my own 135 Opti and never had a problem... Introduce yourself to that engine and it's details and features as it's not like any other two stroke... happy Whalin'... Clark .. Spruce Creek Navy
PS>above is per 135/225 Opti experience and may not apply to the new 3 cyl models???
Moe posted 09-11-2003 09:15 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
I've been working on engines since I was a kid, and get a real chuckle when I hear how "complex" and "expensive" 4-strokes are to maintain and repair, especially when it concerns belt-driven overhead cam engines. And especially when they aren't buried in the bowels of an automobile.

These days, it doesn't matter how many cycles per power stroke, you need good (expensive) electronic test equipment, even for ignitions on carbed engines. An EFI system with good test equipment is even easier to work on with the right tools. Parts and tools may be more expensive, but labor time is down. Direct injection is just as expensive and complex, perhaps even more so. I'd rather leave the one on my diesel to someone with the tools and training to work on it.

I see four-strokes and DFI two-strokes as about the same when it comes to price, performance, emissions, economy, and maintenance. More a matter of personal preference.

lhg posted 09-11-2003 03:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
None of you guys have recognized this as a fishing expedition?
Jarhead posted 09-11-2003 06:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jarhead  Send Email to Jarhead     

None of you guys?

Was I being to subtle? :)

Perry posted 09-11-2003 07:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for Perry  Send Email to Perry     
Excuse me while I remove this hook from my mouth.
Clark Roberts posted 09-11-2003 08:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for Clark Roberts  Send Email to Clark Roberts     
Shame on me, can't believe I fell for it!
Barney posted 09-11-2003 08:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for Barney  Send Email to Barney     
Ok, help a dummy out. Besides the outboard/boat combinations what other clues? Jim
jimh posted 09-11-2003 09:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Foremost among the clues is the poster's recent registration and this article being his first post. Apparently it has become sport to create random users and post articles that denigrate engines made by Mercury, particularly the Optimax models.

Another mistake is the mention of a 2003 160 Dauntless with an Optimax engine. This combination was not offered in 2003, nor is it available in 2004. I don't think that the 90-HP variant of the smaller Optimax engine has even shown up at dealers, yet; it was just introduced quite recently.

It is also rather incongruous that someone who has just purchased an expensive new boat would, upon having some trouble with it, seek advice from an internet forum.

If you just paid $40,000 for a boat and the engine does not start, would you get on line and ask people to speculate what is wrong? No, you take the boat to the dealer and tell him to make it right.

The coincidental misfortune of another friend with his Mercury engine seems hard to attribute to randomness.

Barney posted 09-11-2003 09:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for Barney  Send Email to Barney     
Thanks Jim
Peter posted 09-12-2003 07:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
All of what Jimh said plus "LUKE X" equals a misspelling of LAKE X, Mercury's "secret" testing lake.
lhg posted 09-12-2003 03:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
I've been trying to figure out which brand of engine would be most threatened by introduction of a Mercury Optimax 90. This person would most likely be involved with that brand in some capacity. Mostly industry insiders know about Lake X. Very good, Peter! I missed that.

Jarhead, didn't mean to slight you!

Peter posted 09-12-2003 03:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
Larry, I don't think that Lake X has been an insider thing for some time. Mercury had it plastered all over their 1999 catalog.
Jarhead posted 09-12-2003 07:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jarhead  Send Email to Jarhead     

Just haven fun with it.. :) :)

Luke X posted 09-12-2003 08:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for Luke X  Send Email to Luke X     
Appreciate some of the advice, and I think it is very comical on some of yours perceived conspiracy theory. Some of you need to take a break from your computers, and I need to become more familiar with my boat. You are right it is not a Optimax, rather a "ELPTO" 90HP Saltwater edition, and also my first name is Luke and last name starts with a X. I came to this forum because it was recommended from a friend, and the dealership I purchased the boat from was not helpful and acted as if they never heard of this type of a problem. Just a bit concerning when I experience a minor problem with a new engine, and also in the same week a friend has his towed for a similar reason. Never had a problem with my previous brand for 5+ years, and I might be just over-reacting. Besides that I love my boat.

Thanks for the ones with helpful advice.

newt posted 09-12-2003 11:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for newt  Send Email to newt     
This is Hilarious. I almost shat myself laughing so hard. For a good chuckle, go back and re-read all the conspiricy theory well thought out - truly some fine investigative journalism. And all for naught.

Luke, did you remember to squeeze the primer bulb a few times before starting the engine? Maybe the gas tank vent was closed? Are you using the right starting proceedure?

Hang around. Give us more details so the boys can straighen you out.

jimh posted 09-13-2003 11:21 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Welcome to Luke X,

Getting good advice depends on giving good information. There is a big difference between an Optimax-90 HP on a 2003 boat and a Classic 90-HP 2-stroke on the same boat. One scenario is a fanciful invention of a troll; the other is a common boat and motor combination.

The classic Mercury 90-HP engine is generally regarded as an excellent engine, a very strong performer, and representative of the ultimate evolution of classic 2-stroke outboards using carburetors. These are very simple engines in comparison to the much more complex designs offered in hope of compliance with new emission regulations. They have been proven to run well and have few problems, and they have been made and sold for years and years.

It is not an unavoidable or habitual problem to have difficulty starting an outboard engine. To initiate internal combustion you need just three components:


When these are present, combustion is practically certain.

It is unlikely that in your situation your engine was deprived of air; you would suffer ill-effects yourself had that been the case.

It is also unlikely that the engine was not sparking, but restored itself spontaneously after 20 minutes of cranking. It could be a case of plugs being fouled, and raw gasoline acting as a solvent and cleaning them, but I think that is unlikely. If the engine has an electrical problem in its ignition and spark system, these don't tend to self-cure.

It is very likely that your engine had trouble starting because it was not getting fuel. This is, unfortunately, a rather common problem. Even engines whose components are otherwise in perfect tune will not start or run without fuel.

Perhaps you did not properly prime the fuel system. Did you squeeze the primer bulb to firm? An engine will often eventually pull fuel from the tank via its fuel pump, but this can, as you may have observed, take a long time. The fuel pump on a classic outboard motor is just a simple diaphragm pump, and it is not designed to self-prime quickly. You pump the fuel up to the pump with the primer bulb, and it takes over from there.

Was the tank vent open? The fuel tank must be vented else as fuel is extracted a partial vacuum will build in the tank and frustrate efforts to deliver fuel to the engine. Typically there is a vent in the cap of small outboard fuel tanks. Your Boston Whaler 160-DAUNTLESS has an internal tank with a vent. It is not unusual for the vent fitting to attract critters like wasps. A few mud deposits from a wasp will clog the vent and lead to problems. When filling the tank, a clogged vent often reveals itself; the filling process will be difficult and may have splash backs of gasoline. When I fuel the boat (on the trailer) I often put my finger on the vent to confirm that I can feel air being expelled from the tank as fuel is added.

Was the fuel line properly connected to the engine? The Mercury bayonet fuel fitting has proven itself to be an excellent design after 50-years of field use. It seldom is a problem. If not securely seated in place, it could allow air to leak into the fuel lines. The engine will not run on air alone, thus this could be a source of starting problems. Check that the bayonet connector is firmly seated and locked.

Are all the connections between the fuel tank and the engine air tight? It is typical to have several fittings, hose barbs, and a filter in the fuel line. Check these for proper assembly and tight fit. Check hose clamps on the fuel lines. Check the lines themselves, although this is unlikely on a new boat. Most of these connections were made by either the dealer or the manufacturer, not Mercury, so it is hard to blame Mercury for their engine not starting because of a problem with pool installation of the fuel line and filters.

Did you tilt the engine up prior to starting? The carburetors' float bowls may have been emptied of fuel by the attraction of gravity pulling the fuel out of them and draining it into the bowels of the engine cowling and lower unit. Again, proper priming will get fuel back into the float bowls where it can be drawn into the carburetor and into the engine.

Is the external fuel filter tightly spun onto the fuel manifold fitting? Any sign of leaks?

All of the components mentioned above are external to the engine and are not part of the engine itself. Yet all are critical to getting the engine started and running. Before you take the cowling off to poke at a new Mercury 90-HP engine, look to all these external components first.

Another area of concern is the fuel itself. Since you mention a companion also having difficulties, this may be a sign of poor quality fuel. Did you source this fuel on the water or on the highway? It is not unheard of that fuel from marina tanks contains water and other contaminants that will prevent engine operation or make it run poorly.

Perhaps the dealer added extra oil to the fuel to create an oil-rich fuel for breaking in the new engine. Check with them. Perhaps you added oil to the fuel, unaware of the self-oiling of the 90-HP engine from its under-cowling oil resevoir. That is not an impossible mistake for a new owner to make--don't take offense.

And, of course, the primal question: Did you have gasoline in the tank? Fuel tank gauges can stick and send a false indication of tank level.

It is also very likely that the procedure you followed to start the engine may not have been in compliance with the recommended procedure. Did you advance the idle throttle as recommend? Did you apply any CHOKE? I would recommend a thorough reading of the owner's manual with special emphasis on the procedure for starting. I am not kidding, but every engine has its own way of starting. There is also a difference in starting a warm engine versus a cold engine. When you get things properly set, an engine will start on the first few cranks. If you have insufficient throttle, not enough or too much CHOKE, you can be cranking for a while.

In your case, the selling dealer should be willing and able to help you diagnose this starting problem (and at no charge I would think). Talk with him or his senior outboard engine mechanic, or haul the boat over to them on the trailer and get a demonstration.

If it does turn out to be a problem in the Mercury engine, you should be well covered by warranty.

Please respond to some of the questions I have asked and let everyone know if any of these were applicable in your situation.


prj posted 09-15-2003 08:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for prj  Send Email to prj     
Bravo! Bravo!

on both effort and content.

We might consider using this same response
to any outboard query
lacking either pertinent info or accuracy.

lhg posted 09-15-2003 12:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
In addition to JimH's fine recommendations on how to start an outboard 2-stroke, I also recommend the following for this poster, as I re-read though his 2 posts:

1. He should recall his purchase conversations with the Boston Whaler dealership as to the kind of engine his new $25000 purchase would come with. Since he has been a boat owner for 5+ years, he must have some idea of what an outboard engine really is. Obviously the Dealer said he was getting a hot new Optimax engine?

2. He should look at his Bill of Sale to see what engine was listed. It must have said "Optimax" according to the title of this thread?

3. He should look at the actual engine that was bolted on to the boat. I assume there was an "Optimax" decal on it to make him think he had an Optimax? Must be, or a thread like this would never have been started.

4. The Mercury warranty registration card should be reviewed to be certain it said "90 Optimax". I guess it did, for the Owner to be so mistaken as to make this "Optimax" post.

5. The Selling Dealer must have given him some operating instructions on the priciples of DFI engines, and the special "Optimax" oil that he was required to buy and use?
Most dealerships would emphasize, that for this premium priced engine, he would be getting no blue smoke, etc. I wonder what Luke thought when he saw all the blue smoke from his new clean burning "Optimax". Maybe his real question should have been "why does my brand new Mercury Optimax smoke so much?"

6. Since when are Boston Whaler Dealerships so uncooperating & "Not helpful" that a brand new Whaler owner has to come here with his "Optimax" problems? I'm sure if the Dealer was called about the "Optimax" not starting, the Dealer would have set him straight. Maybe the delaership didn't want to admit that they scammed him into thinking he got an Optimax?

7. How many weeks did he run his boat around, all the while thinking he had a blue smoke belching "Optimax", before it really broke down?

As for the touchy-feely sympathy game, and backpeddling, I'm not buying it. The whole thread began as a fraud and still is. Or Luke needs to go back to 5th grade to learn how to read his purchase papers, and the engine owners manual that came with the boat.

He also needs to take a break from his computer, to give us a break from this nonesense.

Barney posted 09-15-2003 07:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for Barney  Send Email to Barney     
Not to give away other secrets, but I also wonder about the Mercury 115 on the friends 2002 18' Dauntless. No match there either. I don't think any 115 on that boat was available or desired. Jim
jimh posted 09-17-2003 09:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I don't know if LUKE X is a legitimate user or a troll.

I do know that if I paid several thousand dollars extra to get an Optimax engine instead of a classic 2-stroke engine with carburetors, I would probably have noticed its absence when the boat was delivered.

Most guys who buy a new boat will hound the dealer for a $10 cushion that the salesman said he'd "throw in the deal." Getting the wrong motor is a bit hard to believe.

Now it could be that Luke X just committed an error in semantics, and thought that the word "optimax" was applicable to all new Mercury brand engines.

I guess we will have to be patient and wait. If Luke X returns to comment, as I invited him to do in my response above, then we will know he is legitimate.

KDW posted 09-18-2003 05:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for KDW  Send Email to KDW     
Come on guys, anything to do with Whalers should be fun and interesting. Let's don't get too caught up in judging someone's intentions without having 100% of the facts. The potential is too great for alienating someone who may have real needs for assistance.

If Luke X is who he says he is, then he's just come to a very respectable website for help from some of the most whaler-knowledgeable (new word!) people I've ever known, and gotten hammered and possibly humiliated for bringing up a problem and asking for assistance. I don't think any of us would want that to happen to us or others.

Sorry, just couldn't keep my fingers shut.


Hey Newt!!

You taught me another new word: "shat". I've never heard that one before, but can now add it to my profanity arsenal.

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