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Author Topic:   Communicating with an E-TEC Outboard Engine
jimh posted 04-27-2015 09:20 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
The Evinrude E-TEC outboard engine has an engine management module (EMM) with a diagnostic port. The EMM can communicate over the diagnostic port using serial data communication and a proprietary data protocol. The communication link uses RS-232 standards and the communication protocol is implemented by the Evinrude Diagnostics software package.

The data link is implemented in RS-232 protocols, and the host device executing the diagnostic software must have a good, high-speed no-data-loss serial communication port. Since most personal computers do not have such a device, the serial port is usually implemented using a USB port and a USB-to-RS232 hardware adaptor. There is a significant history of problems related to the use of various USB-to-RS-232 hardware devices due to poor design of the hardware or poor design of the device driver software used, and it is highly recommended to pick the USB-to-RS-232 hardware device carefully. The application software from Evinrude contains details of devices that are known to work well.

The Evinrude Diagnostics software package only runs on certain operating systems, mostly Windows XP and derivative vesions. The Evinrude Diagnostics software package is sold by Evinrude dealers. There are various other methods of distribution of this software, but I don't think they are legitimate or authorized.

The version of the Evinrude Diagnostics software is frequently changed in order to keep pace with improvements and feature changes in the E-TEC engines, and, accordingly, you need to have a version of the software that is appropriate to a particular E-TEC engine. Generally the latest versions of the software remain backward compatible with all older engines, but older versions of the software may not work well with the newest engines.

The diagnostic port on the E-TEC has an unusual connector, so typically a special cable is required to interface to the EMM from the RS-232 adaptor, which typically will use a DB9 male connector.

In summary, to communicate with the Evinrude E-TEC you need:

--the Evinrude Diagnostics software package;

--a host computer to execute the software;

--a serial communication port on the host computer that can communicate via RS-232;

--(since most personal computers no longer have serial ports) a
USB-to-RS-232 hardware adaptor;

--appropriate driver software for the USB adaptor that works with the application software; and

--a specialized cable to carry the serial data between the host serial port and the EMM due to the unusual connectors employed.

About six years ago I worked out the details of the RS-232 to EMM cable and published my findings in an illustrated article showing how to construct the cable, should anyone want to make their own cable. See

The Evinrude Diagnostics software is intended to be used by trained technicians, and it has the ability to change many settings in the engine. The most basic use of the software is to obtain a ENGINE HISTORY REPORT from the E-TEC. To see the sort of data contained in an ENGINE HISTORY REPORT, see

jimh posted 04-27-2015 10:12 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Regarding the choice of a USB-to-RS232 adaptor, I can offer my own experience. I have used a KEYSPAN USA19HS with good results. I chose the KEYSPAN USA19HS because it is supplied with good driver software for several operating systems. In the HELP section of the Evinrude Diagnostics software there are extensive notes about various makes and models of USB-to-RS232 hardware devices that are known to work well, and I recommend following that advice.

Regarding obtaining the Evinrude Diagnostics software package, I recommend getting a legitimate copy from your authorized Evinrude dealer. I cannot offer any advice on alternate means of obtaining the software.

Regarding buying from vendors advertising on web auction sites the sale of a cable, USB adaptor, and software for very low prices, shipped from outside the USA: I can only suggest caution. There are many reports of failures of these bundled packages to actually work due to problems in the hardware communication layer due to poor hardware or poor driver software, or to work properly with current model E-TEC engines due to use of very out-of-date versions of the diagnostic software.

Regarding the host computer to be used, it is strongly recommended that a laptop computer be used and the computer be run from its own internal battery, not from 120-VAC mains power, when connected to the E-TEC. This minimizes the chances of any unusual power leaks causing harm to the E-TEC.

Regarding the cable to connect to the EMM, most authorized dealers sell these cables. If you are skilled at fabricating cables, it is not difficult to make your own.

Please note that the new, second generation, 74-degree, V6 E-TEC engines employ a significantly different type of hardware for data communication, and completely different devices are necessary for connection to them. For detailed information about the 74-degree V6 E-TEC engine diagnostic hardware and software, see post/ evinrude-diagnostic-6-software-and-hardware-7078363

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