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Author Topic:   Smartcraft Gps Speedo Reads Zero
rsess1 posted 05-25-2008 10:05 PM ET (US)   Profile for rsess1   Send Email to rsess1  
The SmartCraft system speedometer is reading zero since launch this spring. I have a Livorsi mushroom antenna receiver that has operated for three years without problem. All the other functions on the digital readout are OK and it doesn't have any sensor malfunctions. How do I test the antenna output? Any other suggestions.
jimh posted 05-25-2008 10:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The Livorsi GPS receiver (GPSr) probably has a NMEA-0183 output. The SmartCraft system has an NMEA-0183 input for such a device. Everything else with SmartCraft if proprietary. So you are in luck, you may be able to do a little trouble shooting with this problem without running into a stone wall of proprietary protocols.

What I would do: I'd take my Apple Power Book Pro and my Keyspan USB Serial Port interface to the boat. I would connect the NMEA-0183 output from the Livorsi GPSr to the serial data input on the Keyspan. Then I would fire up my GPS Utility program, open the Keyspan serial port, and read the data from the Livorsi to see what it has to say for itself. In other words, attach some device to the GPSr NMEA-0183 output to see what is going on. Many chart plotters have features built into them which provide this function.

Livorsi is not exactly a well-known name in GPS receivers, and one guess--a shot in the dark but one well aimed--is perhaps the receiver has become confused by introduction of some satellites with different Course Acquisition pseudo-random noise numbers (PRN numbers). In the fall of 2007 the Global Positioning System reintroduced some PRN numbers that had not been used in a while and also added a few new ones, and there was a report of many GPSr devices becoming nonfunctional as a result.

Another possible cause is the GPSr has lost its approximate position and time, and thus has lost the ephemeris for satellites in view. Without a hint about its location and time, a GPSr may take a long time to achieve satellite acquisition. I recently revived an old GARMIN 300 unit which had been powered off for several years. It took many hours for the device to acquire and track three satellites. This may be happening in the Livorsi. Again, Livorsi is not really a GPSr manufacturer, and they probably just have stuffed someone else's receiver into that mushroom and marked up the price $200.

Another possible cause is the Livorsi GPSr just broke down.

A GPSr with NMEA-0183 output costs about $35 these days, so it won't be a big loss to replace it.

I just bought a SiRF 20-channel parallel GPSr with USB interface for $35. This thing is amazing. It acquires satellites and locks in a position in less than a minute from a cold start.

seabob4 posted 05-25-2008 11:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for seabob4  Send Email to seabob4     
The first step of Smartcraft/DTS troubleshooting: Unplug all your connectors, allow to dry, then plug back in. Mercury STRICTLY forbids the use of dielectric grease when assembling the harnesses/connectors, yet water/condensation finds it's way in there, and wreaks havoc. Give it a whirl. High tech? No. Effective? Yes.
jimh posted 05-27-2008 11:29 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Earlier this year the GPS system activated a satellite using psuedo random noise number 32 (PRN32). This has caused problems in some GPS receivers which used a non-standard technique to handling the PRN numbers, i.e., receivers which only were able to handle PRN numbers in the range of 0 to 31.

If the GPSr in your Livorsi unit is affected by this, it could explain the problem you are now seeing.


rsess1 posted 05-27-2008 12:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for rsess1  Send Email to rsess1     
Update. Livorsi technical support suggested I return my antenna receiver to them for repair or replacement. They did not offer any explanation at this point. Said it was a one day turnaround. Ill do it this weekend. Thanks Jim
Chuck Tribolet posted 05-27-2008 08:53 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Firmware reload to fix THEIR firmware problem with PRN32.

But kudos to them for fixing it gratis. Bugs happen.


rsess1 posted 05-27-2008 10:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for rsess1  Send Email to rsess1     
They haven't said gratis yet. But I'm hoping. Thanks for the info. How would the firmware reload be done.
jimh posted 05-28-2008 04:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Electronic devices with re-programable memory often can gives themselves an update if you can communicate with the device and upload new software to it.

It is just speculation that your problem is related to PRN 32 and that Livorsi is going to upload new firmware. Let us know what problem Livorsi finds and what remedy they applied.

jimh posted 05-28-2008 12:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I appreciate Bob's advice about how to trouble shoot a problem with SmartCraft, but I believe his advice reflects part of the problem with the whole concept of SmartCraft: it is a closed proprietary system. When someone tells me that the way you begin trouble shooting a system like SmartCraft is to disconnect everything and then plug it all back together, what I learn from that is there is no useful information available to the repair technician which could be employed to make some sort of informed investigation of the malfunction and then correct it.

Now, for a lot of boaters and fishermen, going around and unplugging everything and plugging it back together may represent the limit of their electronic diagnostic and repair ability, but I don't think we should be limited to that sort of simplistic and uninformed level of repair. We ought to be able to connect our lap top computer to the network and tap into what is going on. In the case of this system, the NMEA-0183 input allows one to investigate the system up to that point. You can easily get and use devices which will monitor NMEA-0183 data. But after that, with SmartCraft, you are reduced to blindly going around and unplugging and plugging in connectors. If that fixes most problems, then that's fine, but of course you have to wonder why the system uses such low reliability connectors that they need a lot of unplugging and plugging to maintain their connections.

On vessel systems which use NMEA-2000 networks there are devices available which can be connected to the network and give information about what is going on. There probably are devices like this for SmartCraft, but I suspect they are available only to authorized Mercury dealers or through gray market channels.

seabob4 posted 05-28-2008 08:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for seabob4  Send Email to seabob4     
It is unfortunate, but true. Even Mercury's field engineers AND their OEM Customer Service people tell you the same thing. Check Voltage, Check "clean Power", check all J-boxes, check ECM plugs, check 14-pin DTS harness, yeah, it sucks! I've had my field guy, been with Mercury 35 years plus, smart as a whip, pull apart the 32-pin connector that plugs into the bottom of the ECM, and check voltage and resistance on every pin, specs that, as an engineer at a major boat builder, we don't have! This is the nature of this crappy system! And it's not even NMEA 2000!

Glad I got that off my chest. Try a triple Verado, dual station issue. That's A LOT of fun!

jimh posted 05-28-2008 09:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
When you add the DTS layer on top of SmartCraft you now have THREE serial data digital network buses which are involved in the operation and control of the engine and its instrumentation. DTS is a nice feature, and so is SmartCraft, but the notion that the average boater, or the average outboard motor technician who has been working on mainly classic two-cycle outboards for the past 25-years, will now be able to diagnose and repair a digital communication system involving three tiers of network layers is a bit of a stretch. Bob's comments that the factory's own field engineers can't perform any meaningful trouble shooting on this technology is a confirmation of the gap between the field service force's level of understanding and the technology of DTS and SmartCraft.
seabob4 posted 05-29-2008 07:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for seabob4  Send Email to seabob4     
You know, I have spent countless hour with John Litjens from Merc, he of the Litjens brothers who have worked for Merc forever, while he had his meter out probing every pin while at the same time on the phone with the designers of the system telling him what to do. It has been a very exasperating experience at times, especially when I'm the engineer in charge of the boat and it's being shipped tomorrow!

This system is VERY sensitive to 2 very important things. The first is proper electrical connections. That is the reason for the "unplug-plug back in" exercise. But even more importantly is Voltage level. Verados and DTS are extremely sensitive to low voltages, voltage readings that wouldn't make you think twice on other outboards. Always make sure you have fully charged batteries and also 800 minimum cranking amps.

Great motors, HATE their system. Give me a Suzuki!

jimh posted 05-29-2008 08:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The problem (of the technology of the product exceeding the field service technician's ability to repair) is not limited to Mercury outboards. Yesterday I was browsing through the NEWARK ELECTRONICS catalogue which had just been received. I thought about how ten years ago we used to order hundred of dollars of components from Newark every month in order to maintain and repair the electronic equipment in our plant. We loved Newark because they gave us best column pricing due to an affiliation we have with General Electric, who was a huge customer for them. Anything we could get from Newark, we got from Newark because it was the best price for us. Now, ten years later, we never order anything from Newark. Why? It's because there is nothing in our current generation of electronic devices that we can repair with parts we can get from Newark. Our engineering shop used to have five or six well equipped benches with test gear and technicians who could diagnose and repair to a component level, and we could get the components from Newark. No longer. We are down to one bench set up and one technician, and the rest of the engineers and technicians are basically shipping and receiving clerks who pack up modules to send them back for repair and plug in new modules to replace them. Or we install software updates.

One of the biggest maintenance problems now for us is the electric fan. Modern electronics are very compact and generate a lot of heat in small volume enclosures, so fans are needed to exhaust the heat. We replace a lot of fans. That's electronic maintenance in 2008. And I am talking about a group of guys who 20 years ago designed and built the entire plant, and often designed and fabricated all sorts of custom electronics to perform certain functions that we could not get from an off the shelf item.

Modern electronics are great as long as they work, and when they don't work they are usually too complex to be repaired in the field.

seabob4 posted 05-29-2008 09:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for seabob4  Send Email to seabob4     
I suppose that's the price we pay...
rsess1 posted 05-30-2008 09:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for rsess1  Send Email to rsess1     
This just in. Replaced antenna receiver with brand new Livorsi unit that my mechanic had in stock to test. Still reads zero. He's sending back Smartcraft System Speedo and Antenna Receiver to Livorsi for repair,as suggested by their tech. With Smartcraft it took about 30 seconds to remove Speedo because of plug in. Would be much longer with conventional guage I would think. Keep you posted.
jimh posted 05-31-2008 08:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Thanks for the update. Livorsi is one of a very small number of vendors that make SmartCraft compatible devices, so they should be able to diagnose the problem for you.

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