Spring is a great time for newbie and veteran performance boaters alike to get familiar with their craft. For starters, you should review your owners manuals — really, you should — and review the key components of your new boat.
Performance boats vary widely in propulsion and size. Outboards come in 20, 25 and 30-inch drive shaft lengths to accommodate a variety of applications. Mercury (and other brand) outboards are fitted with a standard gearcase for most applications. Hulls that can take advantage of the high power-to-weight ratio of a 300R may benefit from its wide range of gearcase options. Similarly, Mercury Racing offers a variety of sterndrives for differing power capacities and hull types.
Mechanical control: performance outboards such as the 60 EFI Formula Race, 250R and selected 300R models are rigged with a shift cable, throttle cable and fuel line. Sterndrives, such as our 600 SCi throttle and shift is accomplished with cables, but steering is hydraulic.
Application Specific: Selected 300R models feature a heavy-duty swivel/clamp bracket and trim cylinder to endure the rigors of extended use in rough seas. The trim cylinder is actuated via a remotely mounted pump. A majority of today’s outboards feature trim systems mounted within the swivel clamp bracket assembly. Verado outboards come equipped with integral power trim and steering. 250R and 300R outboards come standard with mechanical steering.
Two steering system types are available: Full Feedback and No Feedback. With Full Feedback, steering loads from an outboard or sterndrive are continually transmitted to the steering wheel. This is the preferred system used by tunnel boat drivers for “feel” of their craft while driving at the limit. One disadvantage: steering forces increase as engine or drive height or trim is increased. The steering wheel must be secured at all times to maintain control.
Mercury Racing sterndrive packages are equipped with power steering. The system requires actuation of external hydraulic steering cylinders. Our Integrated Transom System (ITS) provides external power steering for Bravo One XR, Bravo One XR Sport Master and Bravo Three XR drive engine packages. Power trim and steering cylinders are integrated in the M-series transom plate that comes standard with all engine packages featuring M6and M8 sterndrives.
Performance boats with two or more outboards or sterndrives are rigged with both external power steering cylinders and tie bars. These components work together to minimize steering backlash and enhance drive stability.
The units tied together (outboards or sterndrives) should be adjusted parallel to each other, at rest, where play in the steering can be adjusted to zero. Always be sure to have a qualified professional check to ensure your outboards or sterndrives and all related components are mounted securely.
It’s boat show season – the perfect time of year to check out the latest performance boats and Mercury Racing propulsion. For those of you who are about to purchase your first performance hull, congratulations!
With Winter in full swing, now is the time to review the basics of high-performance boat operation to ensure you and your passengers have safe experiences out on the water. We include a Guide to Hi-Performance Boat Operation with every engine we ship. We encourage new and current owners to review the book and then take in-boat driving lessons from your local high-performance dealer or boat builder.
Our operation guide is packed with general performance boating information, including propellers, hull types and overall boat performance. Let’s first review the various performance-boat hull configurations.
The traditional vee-bottom is the most common hull design. It offers good speed and a softer ride, especially in rough water. The softness of the ride depends on the angle of the “V” (called deadrise), radius of the keel line and the use of strakes.
If your boating is mostly in larger bodies of water such as the Great Lakes or open seas, you may want to consider a boat with this hull type.
The most recent change in this design over the past decade has been the incorporation of strategically placed notches or steps in the hull. The steps create air bubbles, raising the hull off the water on a drag-reducing cushion.
Some vee-bottom hulls feature a small flat area toward the rear of the keel called a pad. Similar to steps, the pad reduces the wetted surface area the hull runs on, increasing top speed with minimal effect on the ride quality. Mercury Racing offers a full array of outboardand sterndrivepropulsion options for the vee-bottom boater.
Outboard tunnel boats are the fastest-turning race vehicles on earth. The sharp, 90-degree transfer where the tunnel sides meet the bottom of the sponsons helps the boat settle in the water as it enters a turn.
The submerged sponsons make the boat turn as if it were on rails. It is common for drivers to experience 4.5 to 5Gs as they enter a turn at 120 mph and come out at 90+ mph. Obviously, only experienced racers should consider this type of hull.
I like to refer to catamarans (or cats as they are often called) as tunnel boats on steroids. The design principal is similar. The boat rides on two sponsons or hulls separated by a tunnel. Air entering the tunnel generates lift as speed increases. The wetted surfaces and hull drag are reduced, for enhanced speed and ride quality. This design is not for the novice operator.
The air entrapment hull is sensitive to engine trim, wind, and water conditions. In general, they produce a smoother and faster ride over a vee-bottom in calm to mild chop. The vee bottom is king in rough water.
In Hi-Performance Boat Operation – Part 2: Rigging Fit & Function, I will review the important things to consider when preparing your new Mercury Racing outboard – or sterndrive-powered boat for the upcoming season.
I’ve led many tours of Mercury Racing over the past 30 years. People are constantly amazed to see our skilled labor handcrafting outboards, sterndrives, propellers and accessories. Some of the more common questions asked are, “where does your labor comes from and how do they learn their skills?”
Our employees come with a strong skill set and work ethic in place. The only training needed are for things that may be specific to the job at hand. I attribute their strong work ethic to the Midwest culture. In Fond du Lac, it most likely also stems from the rich German ethnic mix and heavy farming influence. I truly believe farming brings with it an inherent mechanical aptitude that has been ingrained within Mercury since the late Carl Kiekhaefer founded the company in 1939.
The education and interests of today’s generation has changed. Millennials grow up using technology – aspiring to play video games and becoming “device” experts from an early age. They are used to instant gratification.
Industries such as ours are beginning to feel the pinch in finding skilled labor with a strong work ethic and passion to build and service the products we manufacture. Many say Millennials don’t want to get their hands dirty or have the desire to actually learn skills to build or repair products. I personally believe they are as interested and as capable as ever. We just need to provide them the education and tools they need to succeed.
Marty Signorelli – owner of Diamond Marine – a Mercury Racing dealer located in Ft. Lauderdale – made me aware of one school that is making a difference when it comes to filling the void in skilled labor. His nephew Michael attends Coral Shores High School in Key Largo, Florida. The school has a dedicated marine vocational program. Students who attend the 4-year program learn skills to service marine engines. Several current and former students work in marine work in marine shops or related businesses on the water. I spoke with instructor Chris Catlett regarding the program. Chris has been teaching for 13 years. He is a 20-year Coast Guard Veteran with over 30 years of marine experience. Eighty students are currently attending the program.
“Mercury Marine helped launch the Marine Service School program. We have 60 Mercury outboards made up of a mix of 2-stroke and 4-stroke models. The kids learn everything; from rebuilding powerheads and gearcases to diagnosing and repairing hydraulic and electrical systems. We are one of five marine mechanic trade schools in the nation which provide students an alternative to a formal four year college education,” said Chris.
For the past several years, Chris has taken the students to Key West for the annual Super Boat International Offshore World Championships. Twelve students got to work with race teams this year.
“The kids see the boats go past the school on their way down to Key West for the races. I feel it is important for them to see the engines in use – be it the recreational outboards they work on day in and day out or the exotic – high powered race motors they see competing in the extreme race environment. They get to see cutting edge technology in their own backyard, ” Chris said.
We encourage poker run and race promoters and participants to invite tech school students to their events. Get them involved. It lights a fire in the students for sure.
Michael Signorelli has mechanical aptitude built into his DNA. His uncle Marty and Joe are legendary in their ability to maximize the performance of our legacy 2.5 EFI 2-stroke competition outboards. His father Frank is a private boat captain. Michael started the Marine Service School program in 2015. His first project was rebuilding a 2-stroke 9.9 h.p. Mercury. His current project is a tear down and rebuild of a 75 h.p. OptiMax.
We are thankful for instructors such as Chris Catlett and the various vocational programs around the country. I am confident program graduates will provide tech support for Mercury and Mercury Racing products well into the future.
So, what exactly is engine knock? Well, put on your engineering hats for a moment, as we’re going to get a little technical here. Simply put, engine knock (aka “detonation”) is an undesirable phenomenon that occurs when a “left over” pocket of air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber ignites after the spark plug has already fired. When this happens, cylinder pressure jumps as high as 25 times that of normal combustion, and in doing so creates a sharp metallic noise audible to the human ear. This noise is referred to as “knock”, and left unchecked, it can lead to engine damage ranging from relatively mild to complete engine failure. The extent of engine damage that can occur from knock is highly dependent on the specific output of the engine (horsepower/cubic inches or liters) . . . the higher the specific output, the more extensive the knock damage may be. In addition, external factors influence an engine’s propensity to knock. For example, higher air and/or water temperatures make it harder to cool the engine, and therefore create an easier environment for knock to occur, while higher humidity helps reduce the chances for knock. By now you’re probably wondering “how can I protect my engine from the weather?”
The good news is using high quality fuel with an octane rating that complies with your engine’s requirement is your single best defense against engine knock. This is why certain Mercury Racing consumer outboards and sterndrives require a minimum of 91 octane (98 RON) pump fuel. The higher-octane fuel allows your Mercury Racing engine to safely produce maximum power while protecting against engine knock.
Octane, in fact, is a measure of gasoline’s antiknock performance. There are two test methods used to measure gasoline octane rating. One method results in the Research Octane Number (RON); the other produces the Motor Octane Number (MON). Octane ratings at the pump are typically determined by the following equation:
(RON + MON)/2; commonly written as (R + M)/2. This is called the antiknock index (AKI). In general, a higher-octane fuel, such as 91, provides greater protection against engine knock than a lower octane fuel, such as 87 or 89.
400R and Automatic Knock Protection
All Mercury Racing outboards and sterndrives require a certain minimum fuel octane to protect against knock while maximizing performance. The Verado 400R outboard takes it one step farther with an advanced computer controlled knock protection system. The 400R produces its advertised horsepower at 7,000 RPM on 91-octane (98 RON) pump fuel; however, the engine control unit will automatically adjust spark timing on individual cylinders should it start to detect engine knock. The amount of spark removed and subsequent power reduction is highly dependent on ambient conditions (water and air temperature, humidity) and other factors.
The great thing about the 400R’s knock protection system is it is designed to always give you as much power as possible under all conditions while still protecting the engine from knock damage. Running your 400Rs with the recommended 91 octane fuel will help ensure you always have the full 400 horsepower at your fingertips, but sometimes on the water, 89 octane or Rec 90 is the best you can find. Don’t sweat it . . . your 400Rs will run safely and reliably on this fuel as well, you just may not see the same top speed you will with the premium fuel. This knock protection system provides the ultimate flexibility by allowing you to maximize performance on 91 octane without having to compromise where you run your boat based on available fuel grades at the gas dock.
What About Other Race Product?
Currently the 400R is the only Mercury Racing engine with a built-in knock protection system. This means with other Mercury Racing outboards and sterndrives, it is absolutely necessary to comply with specified fuel requirements for each engine. Using a fuel with an octane number lower than an engine’s specified rating will likely result in engine failure, which is not covered by Mercury Racing’s limited warranty. While most fuel grades are readily available for boats that are trailered, it is important to understand what is sold at the gas docks for boats that are kept in the water or run for long distances.
Fortunately, all but three of Mercury Racing’s outboard and sterndrive products are designed to run on 87 or 89 octane (see chart below for octane requirements by engine model). Since most gas docks carry 89 or Rec 90, the vast majority of Racing product may be operated virtually anywhere. The consumer Race product which requires 91 octane includes the 300XS outboard and the QC4 1350 sterndrive. Finally, the dual cal 1350/1550 QC4 consumer model requires 91 octane in 1350 mode and 112 octane race fuel in 1550 mode. Typically race fuel (112+ octane) is not readily available and must be ordered in advance for speed runs or competition race activities. Recommended race fuels per the chart below are Sunoco Supreme 112 AKI or Sunoco 117 MON, VP C16 or equivalents.
Can’t I Just Add Octane Boost?
As previously mentioned, most marinas today are carrying Rec 90; a cross between 91 and 89 octane pump fuel. In other areas, the highest available fuel rating is often 89 but sometimes 87-octane. This is a huge gamble if your engine requires 91-octane fuel and is not equipped with knock control, one that often leads to serious engine damage.
As a result, it comes as no surprise that many of our customers turn to aftermarket products (fuel additives) promising to raise the octane in their boats to acceptable levels which comply with our specified fuel requirements. Internet forums are full of discussion threads arguing whether these products actually work. Here at Mercury Racing, we are frequently asked for our opinions on these additives. To date, we have not been able to validate the effectiveness of any aftermarket octane boosting products on any Mercury Racing product. Thus, we do not recommend or support using them as a substitute for using the specified minimum octane fuels our products require.
Many of these products advertise that they boost the octane by a certain percentage or factor when mixed with the fuel at a certain ratio. It is unclear how much of the product is truly required to boost the fuel octane in the tank by a full point. Higher volume fuel tanks found on most powerboats or center consoles would likely require a substantial amount of octane booster, and even at that, there is risk the final octane in the tank may still not be enough to meet the specified requirement. This is a major risk to take with your high dollar investment, and one that would not be covered by Mercury Racing’s limited warranty.
Our advice? Don’t risk it. Top off your tanks with the correct fuel grade specified for your Mercury Racing engines prior to your day on the water. Plan your route to ensure you have access to your required fuel when needed. Your engines will thank you with top performance and unwavering reliability.
We spend a lot of time validating our products. This is because we are responsible for entire propulsion systems – not just independent components. Everything (engines, transmissions, drives and propellers) must work together and be tolerant of each other. This includes oils and lubes. They are the system’s lifeblood.
We validate our engines using specific oil types and weights. Same goes for the drives and lubes. Over the years, our two-stroke outboards have evolved from carbs to electronic fuel injection to OptiMax low-emissions direct fuel injected technology. Similarly, our higher horsepower sterndrives have evolved from traditional 2-valve, push rod engines to a quad cam, four valve engine of our own design. Oil and lube requirements have evolved along with the products. Read more
Our high performance QC4v (1100/1350) sterndrive engine packages have been a stellar success. Both models are game changers and have lived up to the promise: Faster. Stronger. Farther. Longer. But as stout and trouble free as they’ve been, even these Torque Monsters will need attention eventually.
Racing’s all-new Factory Fresh QC4v program features a complete engine inspection and refresh by the skilled craftsmen who built them originally. Unique to the QC4v refresh program is the option to purchase either a new long block assembly or a certified refreshed core long block. The long-block core exchange program reduces the amount of time an engine is in for service. Engines receive a complete dynamometer run prior to being sealed and released as Certified Factory Fresh. Refreshed QC4v engines enjoy a limited warranty on all refresh parts purchased by a customer – including the long block assembly. The refresh warranty is the same as Mercury Racing’s one year Parts and Accessories Warranty. Factory Fresh QC4v warranties can be transferred to a new owner if the boat is sold.
The refresh process begins with an inspection of the condition of the engine long-block. This determines the core-exchange value. Once the core value is assessed, the rest of the engine is inspected to determine what is needed. A refreshed long-block is a solid foundation from which our craftsmen work their magic. Every aspect of the upper engine – from fasteners to critical components (fuel, electrical systems and closed cooling systems) – are inspected and updated as needed. The refresh process includes rebuilding of the sea pump, replacing all belts, exhaust gaskets, seals, hoses, spark plugs, fuel filters, oil & oil filter, and other miscellaneous hardware.
Additional parts may be replaced due to corrosion or other factors. These may include exhaust manifolds and turbocharger assemblies. If any of these conditions exist, the customer is informed and provided an estimate of related charges. Read more
Mercury Racing has received numerous questions on ethanol fuel in older engines. Here is an article from BoatUS, written with input from Mercury engineers (republished with permission), that covers many of the ethanol issues:
A Shotgun Marriage? Ethanol and Old Outboard Boat Engines
ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 28, 2012 — Ever since E10 gasoline (gas containing 10% ethanol) became widely available several years ago, the nation’s largest recreational boat owners group, BoatUS, has received hundreds of calls and emails complaining about boat engine problems. The majority of complaints concern older outboard motors, those made before about 1990. BoatUS’ Seaworthy magazine asked Mercury Marine’s Ed Alyanak and Frank Kelley, who between them have over 60 years of experience, to find out what’s made these decades-old outboards more susceptible to ethanol’s well-known problems and what owners can do. Read more
Old Mercury Racing engines never die. They just get recycled. I was going through my photo archives and stumbled upon this special project from a few years ago.
A customer paid to have a cosmetic refresh, but no mechanical work!!??? An odd request, until I discovered why: The only fuel it would see from now on would be through a glass table top — and go down different tubes. I suspect we over engineered the product for this application.
The rest of this room is pretty amazing, too, but I don’t have permission to show it. (I might not be invited back. Then, how would I fuel my tubes?)
Vicki, your comment prompted me to add another photo. This is an adapter I designed to fit my ceiling fan with a WWII target drone UAV propeller. The beautiful wooden prop was made for Kiekhaefer Aeromarine Motors engines my dad sold to Uncle Sam during that Great War. I found several new ones, still in the original boxes, while cleaning out a storage room. This one now swings quietly over my couch — unlike its predecessors, which roared over gunners’ heads.
OK. Chuck sent an interesting photo from his dad’s office — a gimbal ring (wait for it…lamp!) Now, this is fun!
There are “tuners” out there that offer supercharger kits for Mercury Racing 525 EFI engines (and others). Some of these kits reportedly boost horsepower and torque as much as 50 percent. They reprogram our engine controller to override its logic and limits. Yes, there is more power to be had – for a time. We program our ECUs to keep engines within their physical limits and offer good power with reasonable reliability and durability.
One tuner just offered a “price reduction.” Their claim is to make power upgrades more affordable. Beware of the sales pitch, “Step right up! It’s on sale!” Alarm bells should be ringing in your head when you hear those words. If you’re tempted by that offer (and your warranty has expired), please proceed with your eyes wide open because just the opposite is the likely result. Here’s why “affordable” may prove very expensive. Read more
Sometimes education comes unexpectedly. When special designs or capabilities come together in a unique new way, surprises can occur. This just happened: In preparation for the Miami International Boat Show, MTI was testing one of its 48 Race/Pleasure catamarans powered with Mercury Racing’s 1350s and M8 drives.
Dry sump. I’ve written before about the purpose of dry sumping – efficiency. Here we have a 48 MTI with two dry sump M8 sterndrives. Plus two dry sump, quad cam, four valve engines making 1350 hp each. Between engines and drives, dry sump transmissions. Big power; big expectations!
As people sometimes do, the owner tried propellers from another manufacturer. Whang! Blade gone. We warned that these engines produce big fat monster torque (BFMT); we learned this lesson the hard way, too; we designed a special prop series just to handle it. However, this was not the education – just its preamble. Read more
Is your propulsion system in good shape and ready for another season? Now is the time to check over your equipment. If your engines have reached a maximum of 150 hours, now is the time for a refresh to insure a hassle-free 2011 boating season.
We introduced the Factory Fresh engine refresh program in 2006 as a service for owners of our big block sterndrive engines (850 SCi, 1025 SCi, 1075 SCi and 1200 SCi). We’ve learned how our customers from around the world use the product, how various applications relate to engine wear and the affects maintenance (or lack of) has on engine life. More importantly, we have built valuable relationships with our consumers, OEM boat builders and dealers.
Those of you that have read our posts on the new 1350 sterndrive engine have probably noticed Fred Kiekhaefer’s references to T.E.A.M., an acronym for Mercury Racing’s Total Engine Application Management program.
We introduced the T.E.A.M. process in 2004 with the launch of our 1075 SCi sterndrive package. It requires training boat builder or dealership staff on the installation of new Mercury Racing propulsion. T.E.A.M. approves both components and processes for quality and compatibility with our propulsion systems. Read more