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ContinuousWave: Post-Classic Whalers
Mercury says lightning cause of Verado electrical failure
|Author||Topic: Mercury says lightning cause of Verado electrical failure|
posted 08-17-2006 11:24 PM ET (US)
Ok...2006 Boston Whaler 270 Outrage delivered new to me in April 2006. It has run fine for 80 hours since new with the 2006 225HP twin Verados.
Anyway, it is kept in the water in a COVERED wet slip marina with boats on both sides. I tried to start it three weekends ago and the engine audible alarms that normally last only three seconds upon turning the keys to the "On" position did not shut off. The smartcraft display LCD did turn on, but would not give any engine data (RPM's, oil pressure,etc). The engine trim controls all worked, etc. I tried resetting all the alarms, smartcraft, fuses, etc.
Anyway, Marinemax came down to test the cause for the persistant warning alarm, and they could not figure it out. They had a local Mercury rep come down and connect his diagnostic laptop to the Verado engine rigging and after thorough diagnostics, he couldn't figure out why three ECM modules had fried. In the end, he gave up and said, "The boat must have been hit by lightning," and that was all he could do. The service manager at MarineMax said that Mercury would not cover any service under warranty because they figured it wasn't an engine malfunction!
Now I find it hard to believe that this is all they can come up with. The boat is in a COVERED slip and there is absolutely no signs of any lighting strikes. No other damage on the boat (burns, discoloration) etc, and all the other electronics are fine (GPS, Radar, sounder, lights, etc.) All the surrounding boats in the covered slips are fine. I think that they can't figure it out and are making an excuse to get out of a repair. They want me to have my insurance pay for it.
I paid top dollar to buy a premium Boston Whaler and a premium Mercury engine system, and after three months of ownership they are leaving me high and dry and blaming some "unknown lighting strike." My salesman says it is B.S. and will lean on the service department to do they right thing and fix it under warranty. How can they prove that the failure was lightning?
Any suggestions on who to call or talk to for help?
posted 08-18-2006 06:32 AM ET (US)
Sorry to hear your misery.
I would call BW as well.
I would get the address of the merc rep and send a letter stating potential legal action.
I would be [angry] but remain calm and rational.
posted 08-18-2006 06:34 AM ET (US)
Sorry to mention that work with the service department; they will be your best allies.
posted 08-18-2006 08:39 AM ET (US)
Sorry to hear about your problems. I hope you are able to have it fixed quickly, so you can enjoy the rest of the summer. Pardon me if I find your experience fascinating from a technological standpoint.
Were the other boats nearby not affected in anyway? Were any of those nearby boats twin engines? Did you have the battery isolator switch off?
Lightning Strikes are not my area of specialty in Electrical Engineering, but if I were trying to make that story work, here is what I think happened. The lightening struck the water nearby, and part of the dissipating energy traveled a path through the power heads of both motors via both the lower units. This theory would need to have both motor's skeggs in the water. A single engine would not be as vulnerable. In order for electric current to flow, and cause damage, there needs to be a path where a potential difference exists (i.e. voltage difference) When lightning strikes the surface an electric field gradient is created. In simple terms, the exact location of the lightening strike is instananeously at much different voltage then normal "earth ground" As you travel out radialy from this point the voltage drops off, eventually returning to "earth" ground levels at some distance away from the strike. Over a short period of time this potential difference dissipates, and the entire surface returns to nominal "earth" ground potential. The gradient (i.e. how fast the voltage drops off) of the field is determined by the properties of the surface. Even between a short distance of a couple of feet, the gradient can be quite high. For example, if one were out standing in a field and lightening strikes nearby, what can potentialy harm one is the voltage difference on the surface of the ground between one's two feet, if not properly insulated. So one can stand on one leg during a storm, and can probably be relatively safe from all but a direct strike, since there is no current path that leads through the heart. Yes, it is hard to believe, but thousands of volts of differential can exist between the five inches between someones two feet (assuming a normal standing posture). It's that difference in potential between two points on the body (with the dissipation path through the heart) that causes the injury. If one is standing on one foot, and the entire body rises in potential a few thousand volts, no big deal. No current flows through the heart. This type of potential difference happens with static electricity all the time. Along the gradient there are concentric "rings" of near equal potential (i.e. circular rings of equal potential). Thus, if one is standing just right relative to the strike, the potential difference may be minimal). Lightening strikes in cow pastures have demonstrated this pattern effect of how orientation to the strike of the cows four legs is very important in survival. One could propose that essentially the same thing may have happened with your Verados. With the two skegs representing the feet of a hypothetical person. If the battery switch was off, then the case for why other sensitive electronics that are tied to the power bus were unharmed is easy to make.
This theory then requires knowledge of what would happen if one took a couple thousand volt source (with instantaneously near infinite power for a very short duration) and connected it between the skegs of your motors. There is a nice hefty ground strap up by the batteries, that are tying the two motors statically at the same potential. Instantaneously, however, I could see the chassis of both motors being at significantly different potentials with respect to normal earth ground, and also with respect to each other. Would have to think about this some more to see how that would directly lead to damage of the ECMs.
posted 08-18-2006 09:10 AM ET (US)
The theory of a ground gradient (or perhaps more properly a water gradient) between the two motors as a result of the separation of their gear cases in the water is hard to accept. The chassis of the motors and their gear cases are all bonded together by the battery negative terminals--or at least they should be. The impedance between the two gear cases should be very, very low, on the order of less than a tenth of an ohm. It is rather difficult to develop a voltage gradient across an impedance that low.
posted 08-18-2006 11:38 AM ET (US)
In the case of an electrical strike...wouldn't there be some evident damage to other electrical gear on the boat such as gps, sounders, plotters, etc?
Any other boats nearby suffer any damage?
posted 08-18-2006 12:29 PM ET (US)
Since it's lightning, file an insurance claim now. They'll determine if you have a valid claim, as Mercury would indicate. Then you don't have to use the web as your public opinion advocate against BW and Mercury.
Assorted lawyers have tried this before on various sites.
posted 08-18-2006 12:43 PM ET (US)
"Since it's lightning, file an insurance claim now. They'll determine if you have a valid claim, as Mercury would indicate. Then you don't have to use the web as your public opinion advocate against BW and Mercury.
Assorted lawyers have tried this before on various sites."
With usually good results, Merc is in denial with probably an incorrect diagnosis sounds like the tech is still suffering from Opti delusions.
|Casco Bay Outrage||
posted 08-18-2006 01:01 PM ET (US)
You should check with the nearest NOAA location and ask/plead for lightning strike information for your area for the time frame in question.
Most of the radar sites now capture/incorporate strike information.
This will provide proof for you/insurance/Mercury.
posted 08-18-2006 01:14 PM ET (US)
posted 08-18-2006 03:10 PM ET (US)
I just called Mercury Consumer Affairs Dept (thanks glen e!) and they will have the service tech call me. She documented my call, but said that the tech will discuss the issue with me when he calls me. She did say that she doesn' t think it'll be covered because "the electrical components are not supposed to fail."
I need to correct the failed parts now that I have more info:
--- all the above need to be replaced to the tune of $7000 for parts and $2300 labor.
Again, no other electrical components have failed and there is no physical damage anywhere on the boat.
I'll call my insurance company and my consumer affairs lawyer this afternoon. I am waiting to hear from the Mercury Technical Account Manager when he calls. Yeah I have insurance and I can pay the $2500 deductible, but I think Mercury needs to prove more than just a guess that lightning caused the problems so that I won't have any out of pocket expense.
posted 08-18-2006 07:28 PM ET (US)
Isn't warranty meant [to] work something like this:
The manufacturer will cover all repairs at their expense during the warranty period unless the manufacturer can prove otherwise, that the problem is not due to faulty manufacture/workmanship.
They should have to prove without any doubt that lightning was the cause before there is any hint of your warranty being void.
To me it sounds like your Verado's are guilty until proven innocent.
posted 08-19-2006 12:02 AM ET (US)
Don't let a corporate entity wear you down till you walk away from the fight, they may hope that you do just that.
If the gloves end up coming off, sue, and require them to PROVE their diagnosis.
posted 08-19-2006 01:25 AM ET (US)
Keep us posted on the outcome.
Also, it is often better to conduct these negotiations in private until all avenues have been explored. A public denunciation can cause more harm than good in most instances.
posted 08-19-2006 10:12 AM ET (US)
Jim, I appreciate your viewpoint that the path through the motors is a relatively low impedance path from a static analysis perspective. That it is a lower impedance path than say the surface of the water, is a reason the energy wants to take a "shortcut" between both motors, as opposed to bypassing the motors. Instantaneously, I believe one could show that there is enough inductance and capacitance in what we'll call the two skeg and ECM "circuit" that the current does not dissipate before there is a "voltage spike" seen in parts of the attached circuitry. I admit it is a relatively complex analysis, with which I do not have enough data or time to prove out at this point. These lightening pulses are typically on the order of tens to 100s of microseconds in duration. But the transients on the edges are very fast. It is the timing of the edge tranisients, along with a complex modeling of the circuit including the small value inductance and capacitance which would be ignored in a static analysis and regular usage. The whole area of lightening strike analysis is something that is a specialty area, and is something I am generally not asked to render a technical opinion on in my line of work. But in simple terms, Jim is claiming that the motor strap will equalize the potential of the two motor skegs, and I am saying "The lightening tried to establish a differential between those two points, instantaneously it did, and then yes current flowed through the motors (and ground strap) to equalize it." The ground strap does not create an element of "safety" from lightening.
posted 08-19-2006 02:52 PM ET (US)
Thanks for all the replies and support:
I spoke to the Florida West Coast Mercury Verado rep and he stands by his explanation which is that all he can assume is that a lightning strike must have caused the issue. Even though all the other electronics are fine and there is no other damage to the boat, he says that this is the only thing he can think of that can do so much damage when the boat has been standing still since the last time it was used. I plan on calling Mercury Consumer Affairs again on Monday to see if I can discuss this with someone in the corporate office because he wasn't going to budge on his opinion that it was an out of warranty repair. I agree wholeheartedly with most of the others posters in the group that Mercury can not base their case on speculation alone; they must prove without a doubt that it is due to lighting or I believe it is a warranty repair. "Speculation should not nullify a warranty."
Anyway, I did call my insurance company to explain the situation and they will be out early next week to survey the repair. They definitely will cover any damage due to lightning, if that is the case. If they do send the surveyor out and he does not think it is due to lightning, then it will be interesting to see what Mercury says. I can pay the deductible, if need be, but I don't want a claim on my insurance, obviously, because it may raise my rates.
Again, the Verados do run fine, but the System view is not giving me any info -- the screen is on and cycles through the menus, but there is no numerical data seen (RPM's, oil pressure, etc.) The annoying alarm still persists, however, when the engine keys are both on the "On" position (regardless whether the engines are running or not.) I haven't dared try running the boat without any engine data on the LCD screens, and I have no idea what further damage can be done to the ECM, DTS modules, etc , if I do try to test the engines -- I'll leave that to the mechanic.
Imagine it were lightning...I fear that my electrical system would be doomed or haunted by electrical phenomena for the rest of it's life! I do not want any longstanding issues to come out of this. Also, what if Mercury did stand by their ground and I had to fix it out of pocket...what would their response be if it failed again a second time down the road? Would they say lightning struck my boat a second time? They would probably blame the fact that it once struck by lightning, and never cover any repairs down the road, but now I may be speculating.
Anyway, we'll see next week what Mercury says when I call them. I have not contacted any attorney and really don't want to at this point. It is not my intention to publicly bash Mercury either; I just want to be treated fairly. This is my second Whaler and the first one had an '02 200HP Optimax that ran flawlessly despite the Optimax history. This is my first experience with warranty issues, however, and all I want is Mercury to thoroughly review all the evidence.
One positive note: Marinemax said that would help absorb the cost of some of my insurance deductible to help defray any out of pocket expense. Perhaps this is the kind of treatment that one would expect from a premier dealership/premier boat line. Kudos to them if they come through with this to help me. I still don't want the claim on my insurance, though. They realize that I have plenty of future purchasing power, and know many people in my marina who have bought products from them, so I am sure they are throwing some business goodwill around to help protect their image. Still, it is nice to know that they are not throwing me completely under the bus!
posted 08-20-2006 09:40 PM ET (US)
If a 30,000 amp lightning bolt hit your boat, you would not have to look very hard to find the damage. Presumably, your boat did not have any sort of lightning protection system on it. A strike would likely have charred lots of fiberglass and/or blown sections out. I think the Verado Rep is flat wrong in his assessment but look forward to seeing how this works out for you. GOOD LUCK!
posted 08-20-2006 10:50 PM ET (US)
I have to say that this is a bunch of crap. I own a floorcovering business and the manufactures will try to place blame anywhere other then themselves. Mercury is trying to do the same.
Let me give a suggestion, get an attorney involved. Mercury would respond differently knowing that they will get sued if they do not cover the repairs under warranty. You may not win the full amount of of your lawsuit but you would win some money from Mercury. It will cost Mercury more money, bad publicity, and business then it is worth to go ahead with a law suit instead of making the repair under warranty.
Fisrt boat I owned had a Mercruiser "Mercury" and I had nothing but problems. Second boat Yamaha "no problems". Now On third with twin Yamahas and still never had a single problem with Yamaha.
posted 08-21-2006 07:32 AM ET (US)
Even though I said what I did above, I think this is going to get settled once the Consumer Affairs Division gets involved. Like BRP and the E-tec, It seems Merc has alot riding on these Verado's.
posted 08-21-2006 09:45 AM ET (US)
Merc's interim answer at this point:
"When the failed parts are removed by this gentleman's dealer, they should be sent to Mercury for analysis. Our Failure Analysis group is extremely talented and should be able to determine the cause of the problem. If the parts failed due to a lightening strike, he (or his insurance company) will be on the hook to cover the repairs. If it is discovered that all of these parts failed due to a defect in design or workmanship, Mercury will cover it."
posted 08-21-2006 01:19 PM ET (US)
If you send them the parts then you no longer have proof nor will you ever get them back. Let me get this straight Mercury will test the parts and decide if it was there problem are not.
If you sue, then Mercury has to hire an attorney and pay him probably around $2000.00 if case goes to court. You sue for not only the cost to fix the boat but also time not able to use your boat and so on. So I am guessing you could sue for maybe $20,000, but may only win say $5000.00. Mercury will not however want to take the chance of completely losing $20,000 + their attorney's fees. You could even win more. In the mean time you are creating all kinds of plubicity.
Trust me do not screw around, get an attroney involved and this will be settled in your favor alot sooner.
posted 08-21-2006 03:00 PM ET (US)
One possible indicator of a lighting strike nearby might be the boat's VHF marine radio. A radio has a probe (its antenna) which is intended to intercept electromagnetic radiation (radio waves) and to convey any voltages induced into the probe to a very sensitive amplifier (RF amplifier in radio).
Lightning strikes emit very strong electromagnetic radiation, as anyone who has listened to AM radio during a thunderstorm can attest.
If the radio were operating during a nearby lightning strike it would very likely have its RF amplifier damaged. Even if the radio were not operating, the antenna circuit of the radio could be damaged by the high voltage induced into the antenna from a close lightning strike.
The radio is also likely coupled into the vessel's power system and bonding system, as least as well as the engines, and if there were large voltage transients induced into the vessel's primary batttery voltage distribution or other wiring circuits, the radio could be damaged.
I would suggest you inspect the radio and antenna to see if there is any evidence of a really close lightning strike.
If lightning struck nearby, it makes sense to me that the vessel's radio would be at least as likely if not much more likely to have been damaged.
posted 08-21-2006 03:24 PM ET (US)
Should we routinely turn our VHF radio off during a storm if caught on the water?
posted 08-21-2006 05:01 PM ET (US)
stay steady on this blavid - all merc wants to do is inspect the items...not "get rid of the evidence" as few extrreme souls have written above. Please post your final resolution here, plenty of time to bring in Johnny Cochran later.....
posted 08-21-2006 10:15 PM ET (US)
As a Product Engineer for a Tier one Automotive OEM, I can assure you that it is not unusual at all for the OEM to need an opportunity to analyze their parts. That is the normal mode of operation and they will not be able to cover your loss without this kind of evaluation. They are not some fly-by-night newcomer to this business and are not trying to get "control of evidence". In fact, if they were to mysteriously "loose" the evidence it would not be in their favor in any way. It would make it impossible for them to prove anything in a court of law, much less that the parts were hit by lightning. Go ahead and send your parts for their evaluation. If the parts were fried by lightning, it will be pretty obvious when they open them up. If it's a TNF (Trouble Not Found), then your dealer will be on the hook. If they have a defect in their materials or process, they want to know about it and correct it. Their reputation depends upon it.
posted 08-21-2006 10:52 PM ET (US)
damn roy - that's not what the bashers want to hear! many here want to hire big legal dollars to fry merc........rediculous......
thanks for some sanity here....
posted 08-22-2006 12:34 AM ET (US)
By reading here, I have learned that is is standard operating procedure for BRP to require the whole E-tec engine be sent back to them when it's not working correctly or has blown up. Same thing, they want to find out what happened, and keep the bad press out of the dealership and off the web. So why not some fried Smartcraft electronics for Merc to look at? What's good for BRP is clearly not good for Mercury around here.
posted 08-22-2006 12:44 AM ET (US)
What, no good lawyer jokes here or is that an oximoron?
Can't imagine how many consumers have been BS by corporations attempting to dodge the "We take full responsibility ball"!
posted 08-22-2006 12:45 AM ET (US)
Ii know there's no (i) in Oxymoron.
posted 08-22-2006 10:24 AM ET (US)
I am not bashing Mercury at all. The rep has allready come out and said it was not Mercury fault. Everybody just wait and see how long this will take to sort out and in the mean time blavid can not use his brand new boat. I am basically saying get this resolved and the fastest way would be to turn up the heat. It seams that most people here do not believe it was caused by lighting. So Mercury will get the parts to analyze the problem for future references but blavid should have his boat fixed or have a new one to borrow in the mean time.
What if your brand new car broke. The manufacturer says it is because of lighting "but you park it in a garage". So the rep says not their fault. After making tons of phone calls you finally get manufacturer to say they want to test the parts to figure out the problem. I am guissing it will take anywhere from a week or longer to figure out the problem much less fix it. Now remember car is kept in garage other then when you drive it. You know it is not lighting. So now you are without your car, while still making payments, and now having to find other transportation until the manufacturer figures out what the problem. I would not just sit around and wait.
Maybe, I feel this way because I have been sued over things that were not my companies fault. No I didn't loose but did it cost me anything? It sure did and if you ask any attorney no matter how strong their case is most will always try to settle because you never know what will happen in court.
So I am not saying sue Mercury, I am saying have an attorney get involved or write a letter to let them know you are not screwing around. You want your boat fixed as soon as possible without it being your expense don't you?
posted 08-22-2006 10:56 AM ET (US)
This whole thread is about whether the 270 Outrage owner has to pay a lousy insurance deductible of 2500, or not? What a waste of time, and who really cares, other than a political opportunity for the Merc haters around here? Glen e had it right, rave on. Or buy a lower deductible.
The advice to hire a lawyer is the worst advice one could get. Spend $250/hour on a hunch to save the insurance deductible? Talk about throwing good money after bad.
As for wasted time off the water, I seem to remember some other brand buyers with that problem, and it wasn't an Act of God..
posted 08-22-2006 12:12 PM ET (US)
If you think it it just about the deductable, you really don't understand insurance. After you file claims like that, you get DROPPED, or you se your rates go way up.
posted 08-22-2006 12:23 PM ET (US)
Hom many hours do you think it would take an attorney to write a letter to Mercury? A good lawyer could drum up adecent letter to Mercury stating that this needs to be resovelved quickly or legal action may be taken. It would probably take less the 15 minutes.
Deductable $2500. No big deal for you to pay. Hey Blavid, Blackmax has volinteered to pay your deductable.
The biggest reason insurance rates are rising is becuase they often are paying claims that they shouldn't. This is the insurance company's responsibility. I don't want my rates to rise becuase of Mercury not cover their products under warranty.
I beleive completely in Mercury and that they will do the right thing however sometimes you have to kick a horse in the ass to make it move.
posted 08-22-2006 12:27 PM ET (US)
This is not the insurance company's responsibility.
posted 08-22-2006 12:35 PM ET (US)
Insert melodramatic music.
Cue cheesy announcer:
"Will BlackMax show his hand as the alternate personality of a well-known member who is, in fact, in the insurance business?...
"...Will blavid make it out on the water again this season?...
"...Will lawyers be brought in, or will Mercury experts at their state-of-the-art engineering facilities discover the true cause of these problems....
Cut from cheesy announcer and crescendo melodramatic music.
....aannnddd...CUT! That's a wrap. Great job guys. See you tomorrow.
posted 08-22-2006 01:05 PM ET (US)
This is the rediculous statement I see here:
"I beleive completely in Mercury and that they will do the right thing however sometimes you have to kick a horse in the ass to make it move."
Why do we have to get a lowyer to write a letter? - the director of service engoneering is awating the parts from the dealership and has said he will turn this around within a week after receiveing the parts. All supporting documentation regarding their decision will go back to the dealer for the customers next move or the close out of the incident.
So what's a lawyer going to do besides charge the customer several hundred for a boiler plate letter?
why does this have to get ugly?
posted 08-22-2006 02:25 PM ET (US)
The Verado is per-se defective since Mercury does not install prop shields to fully enclose the prop and guard against accidental prop exposure, [whilst spinning of course].
posted 08-22-2006 03:12 PM ET (US)
I don't think that Mercury will purposely try and lose the parts, but nonetheless, write down all of the part and serial numbers before you send them back. Having worked for large companies, stuff gets lost ( or thrown away), communication between the warranty department and failure lab often doesn't occur (such as one telling the lab to retain all part after testing.
The Mercury tech "assuming" a lightning strike is poor customer service. He shouldn't be assuming anything. He should have said that cause isn't readily apparent and since it was sitting when damaged doesn't apper to a malfunction, BUT we can investigate further by sending the parts in to the failure lab to see if we can determine the actual cause of the failure. Dropping it after the first cursory inspection is poor service. A lot of these guys are mechanical types that won't be able to easily discern anything other than the most basic electrical problems. The lab will give you a more definitive answer.
IMHO any lightning strike that is substantial enough to ruin the computer and electrical parts will leave visible damage in the form of black scorch marks at the entrance spot. There may not be an exit mark because it probably would have exited under water (maybe over a wide area). Give your boat a thorough visual inspection. Is your covered slip made out of wood? Does it have a lightning rod? Wood is a very poor conductor and lightning could have jumped from your slip's roof (but it would have left a mark).
Also, a lawyer will charge you about $200-300 to write a quick letter if necessary. A lawsuit isn't necessary (or financially beneficial for you), but if you don't get definitive results from the Mercury lab (after they finish testing), a letter from a lawyer will let them know you are serious and are not going away. It could get things moving, but only go that route if absolutely necessary..
posted 08-22-2006 03:17 PM ET (US)
"the director of service engoneering is awating the parts from the dealership and has said he will turn this around within a week after receiveing the parts. All supporting documentation regarding their decision will go back to the dealer for the customers next move or the close out of the incident. "
Problem with that procedure is even if the guy has impecable credibility, which he probably does, as the director of service engineering for Mercury he has a natural conflict of interest so his conclusion won't be believed in any case. Better to get the failed parts examined for a lightning hit by a mutually agreeable independent expert with both sides (Mercury and Insurance/Customer) agreeing to be bound by the finding -- no evidence of lightning hit, Mercury pays, evidence of lightning hit, Customer/Insurance pays. Basically this is an arbitration of the dispute which is where this thing would be headed in any case if Mercury self determines a lightning hit. Resolving this controversy using a simple arbitration procedure is an easy way to avoid turning this incident into a potential customer relations disaster. In the mean time, they ought to get this customer back on the water ASAP and worry about who pays for it later.
posted 08-22-2006 03:48 PM ET (US)
"he has a natural conflict of interest so his conclusion won't be believed in any case."
again one of the most rediculous statements I have ever heard.....
if he decides it's lignting and won't replace, the ins co will ask for a 3 rd party look and merc's documentation.
if he dedcdes it's not lightning - he will replace the parts no question asked....
what does his "conflict of interest" have to do with anyhting?
and can any one tell me of any compnay that has a ongoing failure invesitagtion, swap parts to get the cusotomer going again?...I have never heard of one....
posted 08-22-2006 05:49 PM ET (US)
You must not understand conflicts of interest. We have a dispute here. One side says a lightning strike effected the equipment, the other side says no. Thus the dispute is whether or not certain equipment has been effected by a lightning strike.
The person proposed to be the final ajudicator of the dispute is paid by the manufacturer, works for the manufacturer and thus his interests are aligned with the manufacturer. So no matter how nice and fair you might like to think he is going to be, the director of service engineering has a conflict of interest in adjudicating the dispute because his interest are aligned with one of the two parties.
If he says no, we are right back to the point that I previously proposed -- getting a third party independent to examine the evidence because that is what it will take to resolve the matter. Might as well just do that from the start and move on.
posted 08-22-2006 06:02 PM ET (US)
I don't know if I agree with you Peter.
here is a company with a storied history, and a whole heck of a lot riding on the success of this premium product.
Sound's familiar to BRP's situation with E-TEC.
BRP has been lauded here and elsewhere for their swift resolution to any problems with E-TEC motors, including quick powerhead replacement with very few questions asked.
One would assume that the factory technicians were back at the lab examining these powerheads to determine any problems, but that they also faced the same conflict of interest in deciding to replace powerheads - at significant cost to the company.
It is evident by these actions that senior management has empowered personnel to make some fairly expensive decisions in order to secure customer satisfaction.
Mercury is in a toe-to-toe competitive fight with BRP and Yamaha (a company which also seems to have pretty good customer service). My guess is that they (Mercury) will do right by this customer in finding out the truth of what happened and then responding appropriately...so I'm not so worried about them "screwing" anyone.
A week seems like a reasonable timeframe to determine the problem and find a solution.
This is a premium product with a premium price. Anyone who sells premium or luxury products knows that with the additional profit margins from such products come higher customer service costs. Give it some time.
In the meantime, this episode is looking like must see TV.
I'll be sure to stay tuned for the exciting conclusion!
posted 08-22-2006 06:05 PM ET (US)
"if he says no, we are right back to the point that I previously proposed -- getting a third party independent to examine the evidence because that is what it will take to resolve the matter. Might as well just do that from the start and move on."
He never said no!!! let's let merc/yam/brp do that ok?
so let me understand you liberal, non-real world way of thinking...before a mfr makes a decision based on their analysis, it should go stragiht to arbitration?
sorry... does not work that way - ask trafficlawyer or the other pros here about that....all state lemon laws (which don't apply to outboards) at least say the mfr always has last right to attempt the fix/analysis.....
posted 08-22-2006 07:25 PM ET (US)
This is a great thread for understanding what might be the best approach to resolve a disputed warranty claim.
I can speak from first hand experience that there is recourse to reach warranty disputes. Taking a calm approach and documenting everything (emphasis here) with discussion notes, names, times and dates is key.
1st, Discuss options with dealer, then the manufacturer. Do not threaten. Escalate to higher levels when needed (but not through the person you have been dealing with). I was lucky to have had several responses back to me done by voice mail, which later proved to be invaluable.
2nd, Arbitration. The arbitrator ruled against me, but the basis of the ruling didn't match the facts. In most cases arbitration is a service paid for by manufacturers (required by some state laws). I was disappointed but not horribly surprised.
I got a wealth of documentation from the arbitration process that I would never have been able to get on my own like internal emails, internal service documents, etc.
3rd, Attorney. Case filed in district court for breach of warranty. 2 hours before scheduled trial time the manufacturer proposes a settlement: 90% refund.
Attorney advises against as I had a clear cut case (and because my attorney pointed out altered documents submitted to the court by the manufacturer which could lead to criminal charges). Manufacturer then agrees to full refund, plus a little extra for inconvenience, and they have to pay all attorney fees.
Who lost? The manufacturer in so many ways. Financial was a part, but the permanent loss of me as a future customer and possibly everyone I tell (satisfied tells 3, dissatisfied tells 8!). There was a national recall 6 months later. To this day I can't understand why they took the tact they did cause they knew the recall was coming.
Did I win? Sort of.
Financially I came out slightly ahead, and resolving a wrong was gratifying. However, I now have 1 less choice to buy from in the future (unless in the future I believe they have changed to a customer focused company).
I'm watching them get crushed in the market place, plants are closing, many thousands of people are losing jobs. A real shame in my mind for poor policies enacted by middle level management, and higher level management who turned a blind eye.
The attorney got a nice chunck of change too.
posted 08-22-2006 07:31 PM ET (US)
I had the some dealings with Mercury Customer Service in mid-July of this year. My 4 year old 2002 Opti 225 (755 hrs) suffered a compressor bearing failure just prior to making the dock after an off shore fishing trip. Sea tow provided the half a mile tow back to the dock.
I had an extended warranty on the motor that expired on June 30th. That was a real kick in the pants. The Mercury dealer I use suggested that I contact Mercury to see what they could do if anything. To my surprise they asked me to have the dealer FedEx the compressor to them for analysis. I paid for an overnight delivery and the dealer wrote a letter covering the overall condition of the engine along with the maintenance records. Three days later I was contacted by Mercury. They told me they would cover the cost of the new compressor and the install fees saying that the compressor should not have failed. The stated that the bearings that failed had a manufacturing defective. I also received a check from Mercury last Friday covering the cost of the FedEx ride.
To say the least I was estactic and most impressed with how the matter was handled. You can bet that they have my respect and gratitude. Now to the ongoing story.
I have to agree Mercury would be out of their minds to try and cover something up in regards to the Verado. They learned their lesson from the early Opti problems and how they handled the unhappy Opti owner's. I own another Whaler with a Verado 250 on the back and all I can say is Mercury is very sensitive when it comes to issues with this line. Glen E has been on the tip of the sword when it comes to problems with any Verado. He definitely has the ear of Mercury and the Verado Design Team. He's been an advocate for every Verado owner and I'm sure he's passed all the particulars along to the Merc people in regards to this story.
Give Mercury a week before you hire Doc Holiday.
My 2 cents.
posted 08-22-2006 09:22 PM ET (US)
Let us just step back a moment from the fray which has developed here between various factions who think this particular manufacturer will "do the right thing" (as Spike Lee had his main character Mookie do in his novel of the same name) and those who have expressed some doubt about that, and instead I would like to redirect attention to what I believe is a particular weakness with all of these modern engines: they have very expensive and very highly integrated computer controllers.
Whatever happened to this particular modern engine, it appears it needs a replacement of its "brain" (to use a metaphor that even the old salts can understand). And these components are very, very expensive. If your modern engine--Verado or E-TEC or otherwise--needs to have the engine management module (EMM) or the engine control unit (ECU) replaced, the cost will be in the thousands of dollars.
I just replaced the "brains" of my old classic two-stroke, and that old-fashioned ignition module cost only about $230. These newer engines have everything wrapped up into one module, and it costs at least ten times more. Having to replace a $230 module once every ten or fifteen years is a tolerable expense, but tossing $2,500 (just the insurance deductible of a much higher repair expense--$9,300) to repair an engine only a few months old is very hard to swallow.
Even if there is absolutely no manufacturing defect in this engine and the entire problem was caused by a close-by lighting strike, $9,300 to repair the problem is a huge cost. This is damage that was caused by something unseen and unnoticed. If you own an engine like this you need good insurance in case something like this happens.
Again, if this were my engine, I'd let the process work itself out a bit more in private before I began hanging out all the details for the world to read and comment on. The more parties to a dispute, the harder the resolution will be.
posted 08-22-2006 09:37 PM ET (US)
Glenn says "so let me understand you liberal, non-real world way of thinking...before a mfr makes a decision based on their analysis, it should go stragiht to arbitration? "
It would appear from the original posts that there has already been a decision based on whatever analysis made to deny the warranty claim. For example, the original author posts "spoke to the Florida West Coast Mercury Verado rep and he stands by his explanation which is that all he can assume is that a lightning strike must have caused the issue. I plan on calling Mercury Consumer Affairs again on Monday to see if I can discuss this with someone in the corporate office because he wasn't going to budge on his opinion that it was an out of warranty repair."
Since the warranty claim has apparently been denied at some level by the manufacturer's representative already, we have the makings of a breach of warranty dispute. Who wins? Don't know yet, depends on the facts yet to be determined. Unless its a clear cut case of consumer abuse or AOG with clearly visible damage (an indirect lightning strike is not such), I'm inclined to say that a manufacturer never wins these disputes.
The original poster should engage his insurance company which will undoubtedly do their investigation. I'm sure that manufacturer would want to be present at such an investigation to make sure that there is no tampering just as much as the insurance company would want to be present if the manufacturer were conducting its investigation to ensure no tampering. Not saying anybody is untrustworthy here but that is just a way to do it so its all above board without question. I further say they might as well split the difference and just get a qualified independent investigator that has no ties to either party involved and go with that investigator's findings, which ever way they fall. You can call it whatever name you like but its basically arbitration of the denial of warranty coverage dispute.
posted 08-22-2006 10:08 PM ET (US)
nice try peter but the dealer asked for a ruling by the manufacuturer and that's what's he's getting- we'll get an answer on this soon....you really hope merc screws him, huh? you are a piece of work....settle down...
posted 08-23-2006 06:48 AM ET (US)
As much as you like to think so Glen, you are way off base and way out of line. You could insert any manufacturer's name in this set of facts and my answer would be the same. Has nothing to do with Mercury or the Verado so I think you can take a rest from playing defense.
But let me ask you this question: How many "No, its not covered by warranty" does this guy have to hear from the company reps? I've already counted three. One from the dealer, one from the regional rep and one from consumer affairs. If I were in his shoes, after the second one, I would have had the insurance company on the case doing the investigating and let the manufacturer take their chances with the insurance company.
posted 08-23-2006 10:14 AM ET (US)
Has anybody done any investigating for other possible causes?
You have dead ECMs on both engines, right? So something
MMMM, has anybody confirmed that thes are the same ECMs that
posted 08-31-2006 11:06 PM ET (US)
I have no idea why your engine fried, but I can tell you that more than a few people have threatened to sue various manufacturers only to find that the threat of litigation effectively ended any hope of reaching a quick solution. As soon as a manufacturer has reason to believe that the issue is headed for court, he no longer has any motivation to give away anything that may be used against him at trial.
You will get much farther being reasonable and non-confrontational. The real objective is a solution that's satisfactory to both parties. If you can't reach a solution, don't threaten to sue, just do it.
Threatening to sue is like arguing with a cop - it never improves the situation.
It is, however, your boat. Good luck.
posted 08-31-2006 11:21 PM ET (US)
So has Mercury decided to do? It has been since 08-17-2006 since you started this thread. That is over 13 days. I orginally suggested having an attorney write a letter stating that this problem resolved right away. Alot of people hear think that would not be the thing to do. Can you fill us in on what is going on?
posted 09-01-2006 12:46 PM ET (US)
The difference is, the E-TEC motors were quickly replaced by the manufacturer under warranty.
Although it has been noted that the cost of the repair parts will be $7,000, however that is retail pricing. Surely the actual cost from the manufacturer will be considerably less.
To me, this is not a Verado engine problem, it's a customer service problem. A consumer spends more than $125,000 for a new premium boat equipped with the top-of-the line engines. The boat and motors are produced by manufacturers owned by the same parent company and both are under warranty. After 80 hours of use, there is an electronic problem with the engines, the cause of which can not be determined with certainty. Repairs will require replacement parts and labor at a retail cost of $9300. There is no indication that the motors have been abused, or any of the manufacturer's operating instructions have not been followed, however the service branch of the motor manufacturing company denies the warranty claim on an assumption that the damage was caused by lightning.
Why on earth would they do this?
Instead of making the repairs under warranty and making this high value customer whole, they decide to fight it out and tell the customer cover the repairs made at his own expense. Regardless of the actual cause of the failure, from a business standpoint this position is insane.
Anecdote: My wife's VW Jetta began having failures of various minor sensors, the cause of which could not be explained by the dealership. They made the repairs, and I paid for them because these parts were outside of the warranty coverage. [Note: One of the major reasons for buying this car was the 10 year/100,000 mile engine and powertrain warranty.] I was annoyed by having to pay for these repairs, but the cost was not that high so I chalked it up to bad luck. A few weeks later the car started having some real problems. We immediately took it into the dealer, and a failed turbocharger is the diagnosis. "No problem" I say to myself, glad that I purchased a car with such a good warranty. My good mood is shattered when the service manager tells me that it's not covered under the warranty. I'm floored, but I politely disagree, citing the coverage stated in my warranty documentation. He is steadfast, so I make a phone call to Volkswagon of America. Within a few seconds of calling them, the customer service rep had the dealer on the line, and reminded him that this work was indeed covered under warranty. I was satisfied, the dealer got paid for his work by the parent company and the car has been running great ever since. I am a happy customer, and would consider buying another Volkswagon based on my overall good experience with the car, but more importantly with the company that made it. I hope that blavid's story ends like this one did...
posted 09-02-2006 08:10 PM ET (US)
Does your boat have shore power and/or one of the other boats in the immediate area?
Stray voltage from a ungrounded system passing through from another boats shore power through your lower units to ground.
posted 09-08-2006 10:34 PM ET (US)
Just out of curiosity, are both battery and or isolator switch wire connections secure? I have seen automotive components fry because of a loose connection in the charging to battery connections allowing voltages to skyrocket and take out anything in it's path.
Best of luck to you. It sure is a beat!
posted 09-09-2006 12:30 PM ET (US)
More technical thoughts.
I service certain kinds of commercial electronic equipment with particularly sensitive lightning damage scenarios.
You have to understand that there are two effects from lightning. (1) Direct - this is where something actually gets "fried" by high-voltage AND high-current electricity. This is the most obvious to see because things (and people) will be physically damaged - does not seem to be the case here.
And (2) Indirect, caused by EMI and static electricity buildup. The most harmful to solid state electronics is static electricity (that's why they ship the stuff in special bags, and have you ground your wrist while working on them). Small amounts of static (fairly high voltage but infinitessimal current flow) can destroy many kinds of chips.
In fact most of the stories of computers and other things being taken out by lightning are actually taken out by static electricity - surge protectors and other power line filters are useless against this kind of attack, since static buildup in the vicinity of a lightning strike can enters the systems in question in many diabolical ways, and can be VERY random.
The best way to attract a static discharge is to have an "antenna" on the device in question. This can take the form of a long wire or other external conductor. In the systems I work on, the boards tend to be very far from one another, and the cables that connect them are perfect "antennas" for picking up static. (Shielding does not necessary help).
In a boat, any electronic modules that are connected to something a distance away (a smartgauge controller in the engine hooked to displays in the console) will be prone to a static attack.
(Actual radio antennas are such obvious points of entry that most VHF units have special circuitry and devices like transorbs to trap and discharge static).
And I've seen plenty of cases where an identical set of circuits 2 inches away from a damaged circuit were unharmed.
So while I'm not saying the original diagnosis is correct, it is certainly very possible, IMHO.
posted 09-10-2006 08:23 AM ET (US)
Here we are nearing a month since the original post. A post which has polarized some on both sides of a manufacturer debate and keeps us all in suspense. What is the final analysis?
1. The engines have long since been repaired and blavid has been out enjoying the end of summer?
2. Mercury lost the parts to avoid replacing them?
3. Mercury is stalling on an answer?
Inquring minds want to know...
posted 09-10-2006 08:41 AM ET (US)
Results to be out soon, just taking awhile.
posted 09-11-2006 07:46 AM ET (US)
Given the situation, you are a patient man indeed and my hat is off to you. Fingers are crossed on your behalf.
posted 09-11-2006 09:44 PM ET (US)
I too think blavid is very patient. Alot of people disagreed with me when I said to have an attorney send a letter stating that this propblem needed to be resolved quickly. However I knew this would take a while to get resolved and it has almost been a month. I wonder what blavid's monthly boat payment, storage payment, and how much his boat depreciates a month. Along with how much time he has probably spent trying to get this resolved.
Despite what alot of people here say I think it would have been cheaper to get an attorney to write a simple letter.
posted 09-12-2006 09:46 AM ET (US)
Bigjohn and KS:
What are you each assuming blavid means by his last comment?
Do you know that he doesn't have a new boat with 3 new Verados
posted 09-12-2006 08:20 PM ET (US)
I had my first boat hit by lightning while at the dock, it entered at the anchor light. This I know, as it was observed by my son during a storm. The boat was an older model without the modern electronics, but every fuse and diode was blown. I could not find any physical damage at the light or the motor/hull.
posted 09-24-2006 11:05 PM ET (US)
Whats the scoop? Just curios to find out what is going on.
posted 10-11-2006 07:27 AM ET (US)
Perhaps a factory response is still forthcoming....
This thread is going on 2-months old and it has been a month since the originator's last update - I am beginning to get skeptical. The internet is a powerful tool and the manufacturers know this. Place me in the camp of people who choose not to believe these types of reports given the sketchy follow-up. Perhaps I'm wrong but what a great way to generate negative feedback on a brand. Go to enough boating forums and you see this on Optimax, E-TEC, and now Verado.
posted 10-22-2006 10:49 PM ET (US)
To all of those who have been patiently awaiting a follow-up on the Mercury Verado vs. lightning situation, here it is:
The reason that I did [not] frequently update this posting was because I took some advice of other members as not to air out my dirty laundry and not go so public until further investigations were completed. I realize that I did this a little too late, but I decided that it was in my best interest to halt any further updates on my situation until my insurance company, Mercury Marine, and my dealership had reviewed my case a little further. Maybe I was a little too premature in posting my unfortunate situation so soon after it happened, but all I originally wanted was some friendly advice on how to proceed further. I had no idea that the internet post would get so heated so quickly! I did not hire a lawyer, but let the insurance company, my dealership, and the Verado engineer research the incident further.
To make a long story short, after careful and deliberate investigation by all parties, I discovered that there definitely was a huge lightning storm a few days prior to me finding the engines/DTS knocked out of commission. I was away on vacation when the storms hit the marina and did not realize that this had occurred a few days prior. Four other boats at the end of my covered wet slip dock had sustained electrical damage to their boats, too, and none were a direct lightning strike. Battery chargers, generators, and electrical systems were fried on their boats. A sailboat in an adjacent dock did sustain a direct hit to the mast and had to be towed away. My dockmaster was able to confirm all of this as the other boat owners who had similar damage as me came to him to discuss their situations.
I do apologize for the delay in this update; I had been awaiting final lab analysis of the damaged electronics from the suppliers of the Mercury electronics that were damaged--namely Motorola and Mercury themselves (ECM chips and SmartCraft LCD screen)--before I posted any further, and I did not want to stir up the pot until I received more information. I did not want to interfere with my insurance company's research or compromise any of the information gathering.
They have finished their analyses and have all documented that there is distinct evidence of an outside external power surge that caused failure of the parts in question. This in combination with the evidence that other boats in my marina suffered similar losses does cast evidence that it is not mechanical failure on Mercury's part. I am actually glad that it is not truly a faulty engine piece as I would be wary that it would happen again. Chalk it up to bad luck with the lightning strike, but hopefully lightning won't strike twice. My insurance company has covered all repairs in question, and my dealer also chipped in with the repair by covering my deductible.
Before I go on, I also want to clear any potential misconceptions:
1) I never did intend to bash Mercury publicly. I just wanted a fair investigation by their customer service/warranty department. In all fairness, the Verado engineer should have taken a different approach with me and sent all the parts to the lab from the start instead of just taking his original stance of a "non-warranty" repair (even though he ended up being right in the end.) Only after my insurance company leaned on him did he say that this was the correct approach to take. From this standpoint, I am disappointed in how Mercury handled my situation.
2) I do still enjoy the new Verado engine system, and I am impressed with its quality and performance. However, I do wonder why this system was affected by the power surge instead of some other lower end electronics on the boat (i.e sounder/VHF). Maybe Mercury will look into better lightning protection?
3) I never wanted to insinuate that this was just an issue with money and my deductible (even though it is a high deductible, and I am glad that my dealership has reimbursed me for my deductible for me so there was no out of pocket expense on my end). Being 36 years old and already having the abililty to buy a second brand new Whaler, I can fortunately absorb most financial stresses without too much strain on my budget. I just don't enjoy an unfair treatment or not receiving any warranty benefits that I may have been entitled to. My dealership stepped up to the plate to relieve any undue financial dings on my end, and I suppose that this is the kind of white-glove treatment that one would expect from a premier boat line/dealership, so I give them kudos for their contribution. I do have to suffer from an insurance claim, however, so I do not know where my rates will go, or maybe I will be dropped? I need to keep my fingers crossed on this one.
I actually have been out on the water for the past few weeks since they replaced all the parts and the engines work just like before. They did need some calibrating on the SmartCraft gauges, but all seems to be in working order. My port supercharger waste gate had to be replaced, however, because in one outing it failed to perform and I could not go above 3,900 to 4,000-RPM on that engine. My dealer replaced that quickly and did not think this was related to the lightning.
I am keeping my fingers crossed that all this is behind me; I do not want to experience any other electrical gremlins from the lightning/power surge.
Thanks for all the help and support since the original post and for your patience in this matter!
posted 10-23-2006 12:16 AM ET (US)
Blavid - I am happy to see your professional manner in handling this situation worked out for you, as well it should. It would also indicate, perhaps, why you have been successful financially in your business career.
As for some of the rest of you who posted here, You're Welcome (for being the first to post the correct advice on how to proceed with this situation).
One more idea ventured: the insurance won't be cancelled or premium raised because of this "Act of God" type of unusual claim. Incidentally, your Whaler/Mercury dealership must be a first class operation to pick up that deductible, something which they did not have to do for any reason.
posted 10-23-2006 08:13 AM ET (US)
Glad to hear everything worked out well. Since I was beginning to doubt you, I'll be the first to "eat crow" on this. My best to you and the boat.
posted 10-23-2006 11:54 AM ET (US)
Lighting is wierd stuff. It goes where IT wants to, and that's
quite unpredictable. There's not a lot you can do when
there's a nearby strike.
posted 10-24-2006 09:26 AM ET (US)
The crucial piece of missing evidence in the initial presentation was the knowledge of a confirmed lighting event which had damaged several nearby boats. Just the opposite impression was presented. And recall that even the salesman at the selling dealership was skeptical of the explanation of his own maintenance department of lightning as the source of the problem.
Lacking that information, I think it was entirely reasonable to have a skeptical attitude about the initial explanation from the dealer maintenance man and Mercury. The notion of lightning damage seemed to be pulled out of thin air.
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