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Author Topic:   Interpretation of Warning Lights
bbrunner posted 11-02-2003 08:26 PM ET (US)   Profile for bbrunner   Send Email to bbrunner  
I just bought a 1999 CONQUEST and I'm a newer boat owner. I had the boat out today, trying to get some time on it, and I was driving around when the console started beeping. I immediately lowered the throttle and looked at the console. The lower light of the 4-light guage was flashing. It looks like a piston (there's 4 lights total: oil, temp, *forget*, and the piston one). I turned the engine off and let it sit for a minute (my heart was in my stomach, of course). I shifted to neutral, it started up and it didn't happen again. We rode for about 30 more minutes. The boat is powered by a 1999 Mercury Blue Water 225-HP engine.

I have no idea what this light meant; does anyone have any idea? I have looked on Mercury's site and I don't have the owner's manual for the engine ( I have every other one though: radio, trim tabs, GPS, trailer, etc. - funny how the important one is missing!).

I will continue looking- any advice is really appreciated!

dauntlass 18 posted 11-02-2003 08:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for dauntlass 18  Send Email to dauntlass 18     
On my Optimax the light gauge is called a four function gauge.The piston icon on my gauge is the check engine light and will go on if you are having a cooling system problem. Also. the owner's manual says the the icon will light up if you are having a problem with a sensor, injector, ignition coil or warning horn. Mine went on once when when there was grass fouling the water pick up holes. You should get a owner's manual--it has lots of information you will find most helpful.
hugehugo posted 11-02-2003 09:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for hugehugo  Send Email to hugehugo     
I had an Optimax that did a similar thing. The only real way to determine what is being "coded" is to have the dealer [connect a diagnostic tool].
Clark Roberts posted 11-03-2003 07:44 AM ET (US)     Profile for Clark Roberts  Send Email to Clark Roberts     
The light you forgot has an icon of a fuel pump and lights up when a sensor in the "under cowling" fuel filter detects water. This is a "water in gas" alarm and you should immediately stop, remove, and empty this filter. Best to make a dry run (no pun intended) and practice taking this filter off and re-installing. It usually requires a small filter wrench but can be removed with a strap and screwdriver etc. First step is to disconnect the sensor from bottom center of filter. Happy Whalin'... Clark.. Spruce Creek Navy
PS> Suggest you get an owner's manual and familiarize with engine..
bbrunner posted 11-03-2003 01:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for bbrunner  Send Email to bbrunner     
Thanks for the information. I am ordering a engine manual from the dealer and plan on taking many more trips on the small lake near the house. Any other advice is greatly appreciated.
bsmotril posted 11-03-2003 01:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for bsmotril  Send Email to bsmotril     
A couple of things that will make that light come on are:

--A throttle position sensor fault. You can fake this one by starting the engine with the throttle not closed in the idle position. IE, if you use the gearshift over-ride to start the boat at a high idle setting like you do with a carb'd motor when cold, you'll get this fault.

--The other thing that will trigger it is low batter voltage, less than 10.8v (I think).

bbrunner posted 11-03-2003 02:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for bbrunner  Send Email to bbrunner     
BillS- you put together that site about the 23 Conquest, right?

That was very helpful and answered many questions that the dealer did not know. They don't sell too many whalers here in Cincy, so they don't always know too much.

prxmid posted 11-04-2003 08:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for prxmid  Send Email to prxmid     
This has happened to me every year with the Optimax, light and buzzer go on, shut off engine , restart-no problem. It has always been the Throttle Position Indicator
bsmotril posted 11-05-2003 12:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for bsmotril  Send Email to bsmotril     
i get the same fault starting the boat after it has not been run in a month or so. It goes away on its' own. I don't know if the sensor is a butterfly/rheostat type, or a hot wire current sensing type. If the former, it could be oxidation on the windings that get's rubbed off after a few throttle cycles.
bbrunner posted 11-05-2003 12:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for bbrunner  Send Email to bbrunner     
I'll be taking it out again this weekend, so we'll see if I have the same troubles. thanks for all the info.


prm1177 posted 11-05-2003 01:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for prm1177  Send Email to prm1177     
I second bsmotril's findings. My Optimax 135 will set off the check engine light if I over-ride the throttle to raise engine idle at start. When I shift it back to neutral, the warning goes off. A restart clears the fault. That's the one item to remember with engine management systems. If you get a warning light, shut down the engine, wait a moment and restart. If the fault reappears, it's for real and shut down immediately. If it doesn't, it was probably a false reading.
bbrunner posted 12-12-2003 04:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for bbrunner  Send Email to bbrunner     
I finally took the boat in to the dealer this week to have them look into this engine light coming on. I spoke with the tech who was asking about its behavior. He told me that:

If the light came on and the noise beeped (not a solid sound) that there was something wrong with the throttle position sensor.

If the light came on and the temperature light also came on, the engine was overheating.

If just the piston light came on it could be a few things, one of them being an overheating situation.

It turns out that there was a dent in the prop and some fishing line that caused the seals in the lower unit to be broken and allow oil to leak out and water to get in. Its hard to believe that some fishing line could cause this much damage. I guess the insurance will cover part of this.

I guess it pays to take it in because it could be something major. The light had come on 2 more times after the initial time we saw it, 3 times total. Since we were planning on taking it to Florida, I wanted to get it checked out.

Swellmonster posted 12-13-2003 10:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for Swellmonster  Send Email to Swellmonster     
What part of Florida?
hugehugo posted 12-14-2003 09:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for hugehugo  Send Email to hugehugo     

I had a 1999 Optimax with lots of warnings lights. After a dozen or so repairs I gave up and repowered. Granted, I am a bet less patient that most. Living in Michigan, to lose a weekend is to lose 10% of the season. I have since learned that there are a number of people who have had issues with the early Optimax. You've got a great boat and I am sure you will figure a way though the warnings.

Good luck

kglinz posted 12-14-2003 10:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for kglinz  Send Email to kglinz     
I don't have my Opti manuals any longer, but if you are saying that low oil in the lower unit caused a warning light to come on I don't think so. Any experts out there.
jimh posted 12-15-2003 08:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Doesn't the owner's manual provided by the engine maker describe the various warning alerts?

It seems odd you have to talk with a mechanic to learn the secret of how to decipher the engine warning alerts and their meaning. Typically this information is included by the engine maker in the documentation given to the owner.

Perhaps it is like the "CHECK ENGINE" light on the dashboard of many cars--you have to go to the dealer to have a code reader attached to a diagnostic port on the engine to find out the cause

bbrunner posted 12-15-2003 11:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for bbrunner  Send Email to bbrunner     
We were looking at going to Palm Beach Shores. It looks like we'll postpone till the summer (August) and try to make across to the bahamas. We'll see what happens.

I just got the shop manual for the engine. There are lights that are more specific, but this warning that I was hearing was a more general one. Maybe they didn't think that low oil in the lower unit happened enough to warrant a sensor or warning light.

It shows some good lessons: Check your prop for fishing line regularly and make sure the gear oil is full. That is something that i knew, but I thought since I just bought it, it was in good shape.

The mechanic did say there was no catastrophic failure, but that I had blued one bearing that should be replaced. He is also recommending replacing the water pump while its apart.

He also mentioned that some of the computers were bad in that engine. Not many, but if I continued to get more warning signals, to look into that.

I hope the engine turns out OK. Not a good way to start with the boat, but hopefully it will turn out ok.

dauntlass 18 posted 12-16-2003 07:42 AM ET (US)     Profile for dauntlass 18  Send Email to dauntlass 18     
I have the factory shop manual for the 200&225 Optimax DFI engines and can find no sensors listed in the manual that would cause the warning light or buzzer to sound if the lower wnit was low on gear lube or had water in the case.
bbrunner posted 12-16-2003 09:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for bbrunner  Send Email to bbrunner     
I looked in mine last night also and didn't find anything about that.

He also said that there weren't any codes registered as to why it went off in the computer. I'll have to talk to him more when I go to pick it up and find out exactly what's happening.

Here's another question for this topic: How many hours do you expect out of an outboard before you start losing a lot of power? The mechanic was saying 3000-4000 hours. This engine has 175.

bbrunner posted 12-17-2003 02:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for bbrunner  Send Email to bbrunner     
I just got done reading that huge post around Jurisproodenz's issues with the 2001 Optimax. I am hoping that I have not purchased a lemon and am going to get the service history from the dealer. Any thoughts on the 1999's? I understand a vocal minority can give an engine a bad name, but I am curious if people are really experiencing a lot of problems.
bbrunner posted 12-18-2003 02:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for bbrunner  Send Email to bbrunner     
I visited the dealer today and he said that there were no sensor warnings in the computer, recent or historical. He said that the only thing that would cause a warning without a sensor being triggered is an overrev condition. This sounds unrelated to the lack of oil in the lower gear case, but a good coincidence.

Other questions- The mechanic says to use 89 octane gas because of the combustion temperature, where the manual says to run 92 octane. Any experiences with that (remember I have a 99 225 optimax)?

He also said that the engines were made to run WOT and that I should do that often, at least everytime I take it out and that running at lower speeds causes a carbon problem that will eat up the cylinders (he showed me a carboned cylinder that had blown). Is it a good idea to run it all out for extended periods of time.

jimh posted 12-19-2003 08:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
How many reports of flawless operation does it take to cancel one report of problems? Apparently with some products, it only takes one report of a problem to create universal distrust, and even hundreds of reports of flawless operation cannot erase the single blemish.

In the case of the Ficht engines, which have earned an almost global and universal opinion of being completely useless, at the very worst point only one in five engines had problems.

My opinion is that the Optimax engine has probably been involved in some failures, including the one you make reference to above, but there are many other reports of flawless operation and no problems from users of these engines. You can apply your own weight to each type of report.

Advice from mechanics to "blow out the carbon" has probably been given since the invention of the internal combustion engine. Some engines are more prone to low-speed carbon build up than others and they may benefit more from being run at higher speeds periodically. This situation is by no means unique to the Optimax.

My preference would be to use fuel with the octane recommended by the manufacturer, but in most cases using a fuel with higher octane than recommended would probably not be detrimental.

In general, operation at lean fuel/air mixtures causes higher cylinder temperatures. Avoiding situations where the engine is running lean is important. Using higher octane fuel suppresses the tendency for pre-ignition. Pre-ignition will also lead to higher cylinder temperatures.

I do not see how using lower octane fuel will tend to lead to lower cylinder temperatures, but I would be very open to further explanations of that process.

Clark Roberts posted 12-19-2003 08:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for Clark Roberts  Send Email to Clark Roberts     
Good points, Jim! I have logged hundreds of hours on a 2000 135 OptiMax with no major problems (did run very warm at idle but designed that way for emission reductions) and there are no sensors in the lower unit. Recommendation from Mercury is for min of 87 octain and that's all that's needed as the engine control module (ECM)continually adjust timing to suit ambient conditions and fuel quality. There is a "knock sensor" that will retard timing if poor quality fuel is encountered and if water gets to the engine's fuel filter an alarm will announce that condition. The ideal gauge for me would be a combination Tach, cyl head temp, cooling water press meter for a 2S and add oil press to that if a 4S. But then I'm a gauge "junkie"!!!! A "Check Engine" light with no further info is a teaser. Warning lights should be specific... on a car/truck you can pull over most times and a dealer is usually nearby or you can walk... on a boat it's somewhat different, can't remember the last time I swam for help! Happy Whalin'.. Clark.. Spruce Creek Navy
bbrunner posted 12-19-2003 01:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for bbrunner  Send Email to bbrunner     
In one of the threads, I also read someone saying how there are so many Optimax's on the market because of their problems. When I did a search there were the same number of Yamahas and Merc's for sale in the same horsepower range (about 25). I figured one bad story could give a bad rap. In the case of Juris's case it sounded like more of a case of the manufacturer not standing behind their product when they do sell a lemon- which occassionally happens to all manufacturer, and a poor service marina.

Last question: Is it bad to run at high RPMS for an extended period? The tech was saying that these engines can run up to 22000 RPMs, but they only allow 6000 because that won't hurt them and their made for that speed. I am used to cars- don't redline them unless you have to and don't do it for long.

If anyone is looking to repower, I saw 2 Merc 135 Optis on ebay for ~$14k. 1 year old. seemed like a good deal.

My marina also sold me the wrong service manual. It took me 3 visits and printing off the page from the internet to show the them that they had sold me the wrong one. Luckily its just the front desk people, the tech brought the right manual out right away. made me feel a little more confident that the guy doing the work knew which manual to refer to.

dauntlass 18 posted 12-19-2003 09:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for dauntlass 18  Send Email to dauntlass 18     
bbrunner,I have owned two Optimax engines with no problems.I would question someone saying the engine would turn 22,000rpm if the rev limiter or ecm allowed it to do so. The engine is not a chain saw.You will develope a ear for the sound of the engine when it is trimed out and running at its most efficent cruise throttle position.Play around with trim and throttle adj. you will see just changeing the trim will effect the hull angle and engine sound, also if useing GPS you can see speed changes.Try it.I would call Mercury if I were you with engine serial number and ask if there are any recalls due on your engine and what recalls have been done in the past.You need to use a dealer who has DFI knowledge.I would buy another Optimax if in the market for a motor.If it helps my Conquest is 21ft.and I run 2-3 at about 3400to 3600rpm app 30mph cruise speed.I use engine trim more than trim tab trim.Trim tabs really not needed on my boat.
jimh posted 12-20-2003 01:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
We now have a direct conflict regarding what the Mercury Marine Optimax owner's manual says is the recommended octane for the fuel to be used in an Optimax engine.

Clark Roberts cites the manual as saying the minimum recommended octane number is 87.

bbrunner states the manual says the recommended octane number is 92.

Making things more confusing, bbrunner cites a "tech" as recommended operating the engine with fuel having a lower octane number (87) than that recommended in the manual (92).

I find all this confusing.

I cannot imagine a technician recommending the engine be operated with fuel whose octane number is lower than the recommended octane number. This does not make sense. I do not have much faith in this recommendation. Could we please check this and verify that the factory authorized technician is recommending that the engine be operated with fuel of a lower octane number than the manufacturer has indicated is the minimum.

dauntlass 18 posted 12-20-2003 06:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for dauntlass 18  Send Email to dauntlass 18     
The"outboard operation,maintenance&warranty" manual which came with my 2000 model year 200hp Optimax states on page 37."Use a major brand of automotive gasoline with a minimum posted octane rateing of 87.It goes on to state mid-grade automotive fuel with fuel injector cleaner is preferred.It also states leaded fuel is not reccomended.I use automotive fuel regular grade, at some service stations it says 87 octane on the pump at a few it says 89.I buy most of my fuel at truck stop service stations and it is 87 octane.
bbrunner posted 12-22-2003 12:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for bbrunner  Send Email to bbrunner     
thanks dauntlass 18,

my reference to the manual recommending 92 octane was based on my reading the incorrect manual that the dealer sold me. Thanks for responding, i'll double check mine when I get it. The manual that I had was for 225 EFI and Carb engines.

I am getting the right manual after the new years and the boat show in Cincy, when they get back to work.

lhg posted 12-22-2003 12:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
Regarding Optimax problems, from what I have heard from two different Mercury dealers (who service my Mercs), here is a quick summary:

135 & 150's (2.5 liter block)

These have been excellent since their 1998 introduction, with only extremely isolated powerhead problems. 2002 & 2003 models are excellent, no failures.

200 & 225's (3.0 liter block)

More problems than the smaller block, but pretty good overall since introduction in 1998. Improvements have been continually made. One exception were SOME of the 2001 models, which evidently experienced a defective component production run, and gave the engine a bad name. Many of those engines suffered loss of the #6 cylinder. Almost all of those have eventually had new upgrades installed or new powerheads. 2002 and 2003 models are excellent, with no failures at all.

For the 2003 model year I remember Mercury saying the Optimax problems were fixed, period. I think this now applies to the Ficht and HPDI's also.

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