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Author Topic:   Two-stroke or Four-stoke: 170 MONTAUK
jasonw posted 04-29-2004 11:06 PM ET (US)   Profile for jasonw   Send Email to jasonw  
I've been reading articles for the past hour about the performance of the 2 or 4 stroke on the new 17 whaler. Bottom line witch is the best motor to buy 90 hp 2 or 4 stroke for the new 17 montauk.
jimh posted 04-30-2004 01:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Bottom line? The least expensive. The 90-HP Mercury classic 2-stroke, a fine engine that has been in production for many years and has a reputation as a very strong performer, more like a "100."
jasonw posted 04-30-2004 08:02 AM ET (US)     Profile for jasonw  Send Email to jasonw     
Thanks Jim, that's the way I was leaning.
Moe posted 04-30-2004 08:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
There are actually three choices now. Dirty carbed two-stroke, clean DFI two-stroke, and clean carbed four-stroke.

I would buy one of the clean alternatives.

Bigshot posted 04-30-2004 02:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
Depends on what the dealer charges you. I would lean towards the 4stroke because I have one and will only run them in the future. Some dealers charge a moderate fee to upgrade, some rip you off.
Bigshot posted 04-30-2004 02:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
To nuy them new the 90 Optimax is $1700 more than a carbed 90. The 4 stroke is $2k. Being the 4 stroke is still a carb and costs more than the opti, I would go with the opti. You will get it back in gas savings and resale.
MantyMonty posted 04-30-2004 05:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for MantyMonty  Send Email to MantyMonty     
Jasonw: Depends if you want to put a kicker on the transom in the future. If so, you should probably go with the "quicker and dirtier" 2 stroker as I chose to do. If you go the 4 stroke route, then choose to go with a four stroke kicker, the max transom weight will be exceeded and you will be a genuine tail dragger. Some feel you don't need a kicker for trolling with a 4 stroke, but then again you have no back-up. Boat-US can be considered a back-up in certain areas, but on Lake Michigan in my area that is not an option. Just a couple of other things to consider. Have a nice weekend!
jimh posted 05-02-2004 11:16 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Of course, if you look at more than "the bottom line", the alternative engines are also very attractive choices. It may be that a boat with a low-Emission (low-E) engine will, several years in the future, have a higher re-sale value than a boat without a low-E engine. This is hard to predict.

If the cost to upgrade is not a hurdle, you can also enjoy some of the better "run characteristics" of the low-E engines. Certainly they will produce better fuel economy. You should figure about a 40-percent reduction in gasoline consumption with either of the low-E engines.

That savings will be offset somewhat by the higher cost of the oil required in the Optimax, although it uses less oil than the traditional two-stroke. Perhaps the oil costs will be about the same.

The four-stroke choice will require regular lubricating oil sump changes, and this can be a nuisance if you are using the boat very frequently. In a commercial fishing guide fleet situation, we saw the operator changing the oil on his four-stroke outboard about every two weeks. Of course, they were in very heavy service. Your pattern of usage might not be so severe, and perhaps you will only change the oil on a seasonal basis.

The low-E engines, particularly the four-stroke, may have better run characteristics at extended low speed. The absence of smoke in the exhaust will also be a benefit, although I personally do not find that my outboard engine experience is ruined by a whiff of classic two-stroke exhaust. Smell, a primal sense, invokes many memories which are pleasant, and the two-stroke outboard exhaust smell is no exception.

The choice of the Optimax engine also enables use of SmartCraft digital guages. This may be a bonus if you are someone who enjoys technology and gadgets. Getting readings on 20 or more engine parameters may be something to add to your boating enjoyment.

The low-E engines may have other "run characteristics" that perhaps are improvements over the classic engine. They may be smoother, quieter, and have more consistent throttle response.

It really is a difficult decision. There are many factors. I have been considering re-powering and have been giving a great deal of thought to this question. The low-E path is attractive, but it costs more. The engines are more complex, and will probably need more expensive maintenance and repair than the classic engine. After much research and a number of on-the-water tests, I am very impressed with the Optimax engine. However, it is expensive.

This problem does not seem to have a natural convergence to a single solution. At some point, you have to pick from among the three choices, but I do not believe there is a clear winner at the moment.

In about a year's time this problem will be made much simpler because the high-E choice will be removed, and the factory rigged four-stroke choice may also disappear on this model. For those who wait, the problem will be simplified. At the moment, it is a conundrum!

Barney posted 05-02-2004 12:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for Barney  Send Email to Barney     
Well written jimh. Have you been hinted to that the only future option may be the Optimax? That would make it simple and also drive the cost to customer down maybe? Jim
jimh posted 05-02-2004 04:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
If you take the cowling off a Mercury 90-HP four-stroke outboard and look at the mechanical and electrical components, you'll see that many of them have names on them like "Hitachi" or say "MADE IN JAPAN". This is because that engine is actually a Yamaha engine, or at least some sort of joint-partnership engine. Relations between Mercury and Yamaha seem to be cooling off, so it would not surprise me if the 90-HP four-stroke was dropped. I think it is about the only 4-stroke in the Mercury line at the moment that is not made by them.

So, no, nothing concrete, but just a hunch.

jasonw posted 05-02-2004 07:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for jasonw  Send Email to jasonw     
Well I bought my new whaler on Friday. Im having several options installed ( bimini, covers, swim platform, fishing package, and 27 gallon tank ) so it won't be ready until next Friday. I did go with the 2 stoke so I'm curious to see how well it runs. Did they shorten the console on the new whaler. My hands barely touch the steering wheel when standing up. I recall my past whalers not being so low.
Maximus posted 05-02-2004 10:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for Maximus  Send Email to Maximus     
Two strokes have much more low end torque...the kind that makes you hold on for dear life during a hard acceleration. The 170 Montauk with the 4stroke takes it's time to get up on plane. Top end performance is roughly identical.

Two reasons for going with the 4stroke: noise and smoke.

erik selis posted 05-03-2004 05:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for erik selis  Send Email to erik selis     

Congrats with your new boat. Did you buy the 90-hp 2-stroke Optimax or the Classic 90-hp 2-stroke?

I have the classic 2-stroke. She is an awesome performer and I would rate it more like 100-hp than 90. I must admit that the 90-hp 4-stroke engine creates less smoke that mine and less vibrations at idle. The sound level however can be debated IMO. Cruising around at roughly 4000 rpm's you can still easily have a conversation with your fishing buddy without having to shout. At WOT this is no longer the case of course, but who cares. At WOT all you need to shout is "hold on".
There is one minor issue with my Classic 90-hp 2-stroke Mercury though. It's a difficult engine to start (cold start). Once she's warmed up a bit there's no problem at all. My Mercury mechanic showed me a trick to keep her running when cold. I've learned to live with it and absolutely love my engine now.

The 90-hp 2-stroke Optimax was not yet available at the time I bought My 170 Montauk. I think I would surely go that direction if I were to upgrade.

The console on the new 170 Montauk is indeed shorter than the previous Montauk models. I think everyone here that owns the 170 Montauk will agree that it's a bit too short for comfort while standing. I am looking at ways to make both the console and the RPS higher in a professional manner. After that I will be having a custom-made fuel tank placed under the RPS that doesn't stick out of the back.


jasonw posted 05-03-2004 09:08 AM ET (US)     Profile for jasonw  Send Email to jasonw     

Do you think a tilt steering wheel would add height to the steering wheel. I don't know why they would have lowered the console, it is more confortable when sitting to drive.

The only 2 stroke available to me was the classic. What problems do you have starting the classic when cold. Have you heard of other people with the same problem or do you think this is islolated. Is this something merc is aware of and can fix.

How do you like the ride.


jimh posted 05-03-2004 09:44 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I think the horsepower ratings of the older classic Mercury 2-stroke engines were generally done with an eye to being on the low side of the actual horsepower, so that it is quite believable that the rated 90-HP of that engine is below its actual power output. In fact, I was told as much by a Mercury representative. And this is the historical trend, as Mercury always liked to have their engines seem faster than the competitor's engine of equal horsepower rating.

However, this practice has been modified when it comes to the low-Emission (low-E) engines of today. Apparently there is a tie-in between emissions and horsepower, so that it becomes more important to rate the engine more accurately, or even perhaps a bit on the high side of its actual. This is conjecture on my part, but I would imagine the situation is like this:

For a particular engine that actually produces 97-HP, in the past it could be rated as either a "90" or a "100". The historical practice at some manufacturers would have been to call it a "90" and surprise the customer with how powerful it was. If a competitor made an engine what actually had 85-HP and was rated as a "90", then in side-by-side comparisons the engines would differ by 12-HP, although both rated as a "90". This would lead to favorable comparisons for the engine rated conservatively.

In today's markettplace, an engine must produce emission which are below a certain threshold, else they cannot be sold. The threshold for emission contained in the engine's exhaust is based on its rated horsepower! The implication of this is significant.

Using our example above, an engine that produced 97-HP actual, but rated as a "100" would be require to meet an emission output based on the "100" rating. The level of emissions allowed for a "100" is going to be higher than for a "90". Therefore, if the engine were conservatively rated as a "90", its level of allowed emissions would be lower, and thus it would have to be actually running more cleanly than the minimum specified level in order to pass the emission threshold as a "90" rated engine. As a "100" rated engine it can pass a higher threshold.

Thus, it seems that in the regulated marketplace of exhaust emission controls, the manufacturers have lost the ability to deliver more "free" horsepower than they once did. I expect that you will find a low-E engine that is rated as a "90" will probably not have more than 90-HP actual.

You could extend this speculation a bit if you look at which engines are two-Star rated and which engines are three-Star rated in their emissions.

jimh posted 05-03-2004 09:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
This is a good discussion of 2-stroke and 4-stroke, so let's not pollute it with discussion of console height and ride, two completely unrelated topics.


--Jim Hebert

erik selis posted 05-03-2004 10:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for erik selis  Send Email to erik selis     

I don't think a tilt steering wheel would add much height to the steering wheel although I have asked myself the same question before. I agree that sitting is more comfortable to drive when the water is calm. On rough days however, I prefer standing. I also prefer standing when it gets real busy on the water. This gives me a better overview.

The problems I have with cold starting is a problem that has been reported before. Here and also on other boating forums. Not only the 90-hp 2-stroke but also the 75-hp 2-stroke has this problem. Although not all of these engines seem to have it. If you have experienced trouble when cold starting, try this:
-make sure the primer is pumped hard
-make sure your throttle is out of gear and put into the second fixed forward position (not WOT of course)(the first position is in the middle = idle)
-push in the key (choke) and start (let go of the key immediately)
-the motor will tend to stall. But before it actually stalls try briefly pushing the top of the key (choke). The motor will then try to keep running. Do this every time the motor tends to stall. It may take you up to 5 or 6 "taps or bumps"of the key before she keeps running smoothly. Let her run with the throttle in this position for a while and then put her back into the middle (idle) position. She's now ready to go and you won't have any trouble starting her for the rest of the day.
I hope you understood what I meant here :)

The ride of the 170 Montauk is great!!! The trick is trimming. Try to keep the bow down in choppy water and when taking fast, sharp turns. The keel of the hull rounds off about halfway the boat. You will want to keep the V-entry into the waves to soften the ride.
With the fine motor you have chosen you will also feel how fast she is to get on plane. Amazing for such a heavy boat compared to the engine size.

Good luck,


erik selis posted 05-03-2004 10:02 AM ET (US)     Profile for erik selis  Send Email to erik selis     
I was typing as you posted your answer. Sorry about the ride info.


jasonw posted 05-03-2004 02:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for jasonw  Send Email to jasonw     

Thanks for all the good info. But I still have to question the way the merc is starting. When I receive my boat this week and if I have a problem starting this motor when it's cold I'm going to want the dealer to fix it. I know every engine has it's own personality and you have to play around with some of them but when buying brand new I expect it to start and run great. How did your dealer respond to this issue.


erik selis posted 05-03-2004 02:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for erik selis  Send Email to erik selis     

My motor has had this since the beginning. The dealer said it was because it was brand new and in time it would get better. After a few months I went to a local Mercury dealer (authorized) and had the mechanic have a look at it and make some adjustments. (this mechanic has a very good reputation here). He showed me the trick to keep the engine running. I must admit that in time it has become better. Still the motor has to be persuaded when she's cold.
As I said before, some of them have it and some don't. My friend has a 75-hp 2-stroke Mercury and it starts first time, every time. Then I read on some other forum that others also have the same problem starting that I have with both the 90 and the 75-hp. Others also confirmed the same starting procedure that I use.
I see your point though. I would think that it has to do with adjusting things. Next month I'm going to have a different mechanic have a look. Maybe he can get it right.
In any case, I'm not the only one having these cold start problems.
Let me know how yours starts when you get it. Have your dealer start it in your presence when she's still cold.


rbruce posted 05-10-2004 11:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for rbruce  Send Email to rbruce     

Is it possible that if you have a 2004 90 HP 2 stroke in the US they could ban the use of these motors in some waters in the future? In a different thread they called this "grandfather laws".

Laws in my country can't be retroactive. If you have a 2 stroke motor they couldn't ban you in the future from waters that allowed the use of this technology before.

My choice for the Montauk would be 2 stroke "classic" because it's leaner than the 4 stroke counterpart. I find the Optimax too complicated to maintain, however, they do their job nicely.

Is the boat pre-rigged with Mercury controls. If not I would consider the option of the e-Tec by Bombardier which I believe doesn't have any belts like the Optimax to pump air into the combustion chambers. To me 4 stroke adds too much difficulty to the upkeep and weight. Perhaps this will be ovecome by Verado motors by Mercury.

Donzi posted 05-20-2004 01:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for Donzi  Send Email to Donzi     
I will never go back to a two stroke motor after driving this four stroke 90HP Mercury I just bought (2003 Montauk). It is so quiet I can hardly hear the motor run at idle. In the past, I have had nothing but problems with two stroke motors (hard starting, smoking, etc). The Optimax 2 stroke is highly rated so I would be interested in hearing comments regarding that motor.

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