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Author Topic:   Mercury SmartCraft Interpretation of Error Messages
bojunk posted 10-07-2008 11:14 AM ET (US)   Profile for bojunk   Send Email to bojunk  
Does anyone know what an alarm [message of "CAN ERR" on a Mercury SmartCraft instrument] means?
Chuck Tribolet posted 10-07-2008 08:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
This is probably more appropriate in Small Boat Electrical.

How about some specifics about your motor and the instrumentation
that's attached to it?

I think SmartCraft uses the CAN bus. I'd be checking
wiring first.


seabob4 posted 10-07-2008 09:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for seabob4  Send Email to seabob4     
You've got CAN1 and CAN2 in the DTS system. CAN1 is engine communication, which runs on the 2-wire, Blue/White network. Unplug and re-plug all your CAN1 connectors back in. CAN2 is your shift and throttle (DTS), Brown/Yellow. Rarely have a problem with this circuit.

Your 14-pin DTS harness could also be a culprit. Unplug and re-plug back in at both ends.

I know this doesn't sound like much of a guide, but more often than not, it works.

jimh posted 10-08-2008 12:32 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Most outboard motor manufacturers provide an owner's manual which gives full explanation of the the alarm signals which can occur with their outboard motors. You should check the owner's manual of your outboard motor or for the SmartCraft instrument to determine the meaning of the alarm signal "CAN ERR". The owner's manual should also provide a suggestion of what action to take when the alarm occurs and provide possible remedies.

As mention, the "CAN" most likely refers to the CAN BUS used for data communications between the devices in the network. Mercury uses a proprietary network architecture, but it is believed to include many elements of the standard CAN BUS. CAN BUS is an acronym for Controller Area Network bus.

There is a good article in Wikipedia on CAN BUS

My guess is that "ERR" is an abbreviation for "error."

The alarm is signaling that an error has occurred on the CAN BUS.

In the Mercury network architecture the engine is the master controller on the CAN BUS. Mercury generally uses three discretely wired CAN BUS networks in their installations. They reserve one network for only data related to engine propulsion commands, such as throttle and shift. Data about instrumentation is sent on a subordinate set of wires.

Because of the proprietary nature of the network, little is available to help in troubleshooting, and, as crazy as it sounds, Bob's advice to unplug and re-plug a few connectors is probably about the extent of field repair, even for dealers.

jimh posted 10-08-2008 12:34 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Moved to SMALL BOAT ELECTRICAL from another discussion area.
jimh posted 10-08-2008 12:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
It would be helpful if you gave us information about which one of the many Mercury SmartCraft devices you are using. There are now quite a few available. The owner's manuals for the various devices are available on-line at smartcraftataglance/technical_information/documentation.php

jimh posted 10-08-2008 12:39 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Also, please be sure to give us the exact wording of the error message. It saves a lot of time if you can just search for the exact wording of the error message in a manual of 50-pages or more.
seabob4 posted 10-08-2008 09:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for seabob4  Send Email to seabob4     
Read my post! Don't try and think you are the one who will answer ALL questions! You know, in this respect, I've "been there, done that". His issue is with CAN1. BTW, pin positions F and G in the Connectors. Make sure they are not "pushed".
jimh posted 10-09-2008 11:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Bob--I did read your post. What surprises me is that for a system called "SmartCraft" its error messages are not very smart. Why doesn't the error message say "CAN1 BUS ERROR" if that it the actual problem, as you have identified it? Also, if the problem were in the CAN2 BUS, what would the error message be then? How do you tell which bus is causing the problem from an error message of "CAN ERR"?

I searched all the Mercury literature that an owner would be likely to have available, but I could not find "CAN ERR" mentioned in them. I don't understand why an alarm system would give an error message to the operator for which there is no documentation available that the operator could look up the message and interpret it. If you get an alarm message, it ought to be comprehensible, or, at the least, you ought to be able to look it up in some reference material to discover the meaning. You shouldn't have to consult the advice of internet experts to understand an alarm signal.

I know you have first-hand experience in trouble shooting these systems, but in the main your repair advice is always to disconnect and re-connect various connectors in the system. I don't argue that your advice may provide a remedy, but I find it is somewhat incongruous that the way to repair the "SmartCraft" is really not particularly smart: you wiggle the connectors until it starts working again.

seabob4 posted 10-09-2008 10:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for seabob4  Send Email to seabob4     
You are correct in that unplugging a connector and plugging it back in is not the best way to diagnose a problem. Unfortunately, this is most often the case. Can we, as an OEM, get a better plan-of-attack to diagnoses from Merc? Resoundingly NO! And it pisses the field guys off as much as ourselves! Don't blame the Merc field engineers, nor the production engineers at "whatever" boat company. Blame Brunswick.

We just built a Donzi 23 ZF with twin 150 Optis and Smartcraft gauges. On initial cal, the boat only saw 1 engine. Put the laptop on the starboard motor, rebooted, and the Smartcomms never saw the starboard motor. Disconnected EVERYTHING (advice from Merc), and I was finally able to get the starboard motor to be recognized.

I know this is not what you want to hear, but it's the truth!

seabob4 posted 10-10-2008 01:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for seabob4  Send Email to seabob4     
BTW, I reread your last reply, and saw your comment about wiggling the connectors. Believe it or not, when you go into the toolbox on Smartcomms, there is a selection called "Wiggle Test" and it guides you through the "wiggling" process!

Smartcraft? Kind of an oxymoron?

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