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Author Topic:   Converting to ICON Controls
jimh posted 02-07-2012 09:41 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
If you have an E-TEC engine and are interested in converting to ICON electronic remote throttle and shift controls, you may find my new REFERENCE article on this topic to be of interest. Please see

ICON Controls for E-TEC

Re-fitting electronic engine remote controls to an existing engine
http://continuouswave.com/whaler/reference/ICONcontrols.html

which describes and illustrates the steps I took to convert my E-TEC engine to ICON remote controls from conventional remote controls. I will monitor this thread to answer any questions that may arise.

jimh posted 02-11-2012 10:29 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
New images have been added that show the details of the ignition key start-stop panel wiring, the underside of the ICON throttle and shift controls, and the wiring at the transom.
L H G posted 07-29-2013 05:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for L H G    
Jim - Just read your article. I had no idea so much was involved. I am curious as to what a conversion like that costs. 3K?
jimh posted 07-29-2013 09:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Information about the manufacturer suggested retail price of ICON rigging components and kits is mentioned in the article. The prices are available in literature from Evinrude. Prices associated with outboard engines are like seats on an airplane flight, and no two sell at the same price. Accordingly, I don't know what the cost will be for any particular buyer to get a E-TEC with ICON controls. As you also know, the dealers set prices for the engines and accessories, and every dealer sells them at their own prices. The best way to determine the cost to get ICON controls for an E-TEC engine is to get a quote from an authorized Evinrude dealer.

The sales incentives usually have time limits. Since I am not in the market for an engine at this time, I have no idea what incentives are available. However, Evinrude has in the past made some very attractive rigging credits, I think up to $5,000, as sales incentives on new E-TEC engines. I am sure, that if buying an E-TEC during a sales promotion period like that, the cost of the electronic remote controls would be essentially zero. (One might say that there still is a cost, as the incentives sometimes provide for other options in buying other accessories besides the electronic controls.)

There is really very little involved in the installation of ICON electronic remote controls. Most of the work on my boat was in removing the old engine cables, both mechanical and electrical, the old mechanically-linked controls, and the old ignition switch and its wiring. New cut-outs in the helm had to made to accommodate the new top-mount controls and a new ignition key switch panel. I think the ICON rigging of a new boat will be much faster and easier than using conventional rigging for the throttle and shift. (I thought I made that clear in my article.) There was also a bit of extra work done in my installation to make some plywood sub-panels (and to give them a nice glossy finish) on which I could install a few extra components for the electronic gauges under the helm area.

(Note: the NMEA-2000 gauges are also branded under the ICON name, but they are completely separate from the electronic remote throttle and shift controls. You can use ICON controls with and without ICON gauges, and vice versa. Some of the components you see in my article about ICON remote controls are actually part of the ICON gauge system. This may make the ICON controls appear to be a bit more complicated than they really are.)

In the case of twin engine boats, using electronic throttle and shift controls like ICON are a huge advantage in rigging. They would cut the time and labor in rigging twin engines to just a small fraction of the time and labor needed for conventional mechanically linked controls. And for boats with dual stations, the electronic controls are even more advantageous. The rigging time would be cut even more drastically.

I am not sure how you came to the conclusion that there "was so much involved." The ICON system is very straight-forward to install. Perhaps it is my familiarity with electronics in general, with data networks, and having 40-years of hand-on experience with electronic devices, their installation, and configuration that causes me to see the installation as really very uncomplicated. In comparison, all the mechanical linkages of tradition systems look to me like big kludges. Fussing around with linkages, adjusting offsets, tensions, hold downs, and the like seems more complicated to me than running one cable and connecting it at each end.

I don't really see the installation has having been a big deal. Since it was a re-fit, there were some problems to work out with mounting components at the helm in order to work around existing holes in the console. If installing on a new boat those problems would not exist.

Since my engine had to re-fit with the Electronic Servo Module (ESM), a bit of re-work was needed on the engine itself, but if buying a new engine, it will come from the factory with the ICON electronic rigging already installed on the engine.

L H G posted 07-29-2013 11:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for L H G    
For my Mercury enginess, Mercury does not offer any re-fit options [for electronic controls] as far as I know. Teleflex does, and a re-fit is frightfully expensive. I looked into it for my Outrage 25 twin 200's, and almost passed out with the pricing, labor and materials!
jimh posted 07-30-2013 09:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The key to the Evinrude ICON control cost is the substantial credit you can get with a new E-TEC purchase when the rigging incentives or promotion is in effect.

The ICON control system consists of the following major components:

--the Electronic Servo Module or ESM on the engine

--the electronic remote throttle and shift single-lever control

--the ignition switch and safety lanyard panel

These three components come with attached cables that connect to a network. To make the network you use two network hubs, one at the helm, one at the transom. At the helm, the single-lever controls and the ignition key switch can usually be connected to the hub with their integral cables. At the engine, an extension cable is used to connect the engine to the hub. And a cable connects the two hubs. Thus we add:

--network 6-port hub (2)
--network hub-to-hub cable
--network to engine cable

There is also an electrical relay harness to create the 12-Volt power for accessories when the engine is ON. This connects to the helm network hub and to the engine starting battery:

--accessory relay harness

That's all there is to the ICON controls and their network. If you want to get NMEA-2000 data from the engine--which I did--you need to add the Gateway Module to the engine network. That is the final part:

--Gateway module for NMEA-2000

At the helm there will be five connections to the network hub:

--the cable to the transom hub
--the ignition key switch and safety lanyard panel
--the single-lever controls
--the accessory power relay harness
--the Gateway module

All of these components just plug together. The only individual wiring that has to be done is to connect the relay harness to the battery to get the 12-Volt power. And the Gateway module wants 12-Volt power, too.

The Teleflex system you mentioned is a bit different. I think it connects to the engine levers for throttle and shift using mechanical cable linkages that are several feet long, and the servo actuators are in an assembly that is mounted in the boat, close to the engine, in a separate enclosure. The conventional-type mechanical cables run from the servo enclosure to the engine, just like you already have rigged, although much shorter in length. Using that approach allows the Telex system to be universal in its application.

The ICON system is substantially different. Evinrude designed the Electronic Servo Module (ESM) assembly to fit right onto the V6 E-TEC and install under the cowling. Some very crafty design and engineering was used to achieve the fit of the ESM into the space available on the existing engines. That is what allows it to be re-fit onto engines that were not assembled at the factory for ICON controls. The only actual modification that has to be made to the engine to install the ESM, other than removing the existing throttle cams and other mechanical linkage components, is to make a small relief in a plastic cover. This plastic cover is just trimmed back an inch or so to make room for the ESM to fit.

There does seem to be some shared DNA in the single-level and dual-lever controls between the Teleflex and ICON. They even look very similar.

Fitting the Teleflex system onto existing outboards not designed for electronic controls does sound like it would be a bit expensive. I think there would be some trepidation on the part of the dealer that was going to install them, and they might tend to estimate the installation labor on the high side, since they are probably not likely to have done it before.

In my installation, I did all the labor related to the removal of the old controls and installation of the new ones. I know you have done a lot of your own rigging, so you know how much time you can spend on a project like this. Also, I wanted to be involved, because I wanted to be completely happy with where and how the new components at the helm were going to be installed. And, of course, it saved many hours of dealer labor.

The only dealer labor on my conversion was the installation of the ESM, which took less than an hour. Once the conversion is made, the engine management module is informed of the change via a diagnostic connection. When the EMM knows there are electronic controls, it then offers a calibration procedure. The servo motors are trained to move just the precise amount need to throw the gear case shift lever into forward and reverse from neutral. The calibration procedure takes perhaps ten minutes, at most. Looking back, I think I could have done that myself, too. But it would have taken me much longer than the factory certified, very experienced, and highly-skilled technician required for the change-over.

I know your Mercury outboard engines are in great shape, and they are wonderful engines--perhaps examples of the best of the Mercury 2.5-liter V6 block engines. And there is no rational reason to change to newer engines, as the cost would be tremendous and you'd never get it back in saved fuel costs. But the most expedient way for you to get electronic controls would be to re-power with engines that are designed for them, like the four-cylinder in-line VERADO. All boating decisions like this are really not justifiable on an economic basis. Sometimes you just have to get a bit crazy and do stuff.

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