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Posted by on Jul 22, 2012 in Engines, Fuel, Powerboating, US |

Mercury 150 FourStroke: Hotcakes. And a Suzuki Ethanol Update

Mercury is working overtime to meet demand for the 150 FourStroke. Meanwhile, Suzuki isn't the only engine-maker to wrestle with ethanol percentages it can support. It doesn't help that the additive is often not mixed in very accurately.

Mercury Working Overtime to Fill 150 Orders

The Mercury 150 FourStroke is apparently going over like gangbusters with both retail customers and boat builders. (See my intro to that engine: Mercury 150 Outboard: Insert Catalyst Here?) At the Miami boat show in February, a Merc marketing manager told me that the company had under-forecast demand for the 150 and was unprepared for a flood of orders. Then about six weeks ago I happened to drive past the back of the Mercury manufacturing plant in Fond du Lac on a Saturday afternoon, and was surprised to see quite a few vehicles in the parking lot, since Merc is supposed on a four-day work week. I ran into another Merc manager the next day, and he told me the plant was running extra shifts to build the 150, and that is still the case. In fact, the plant was operating on the Fourth of July.

Out with the old, in with the new. Mercury's redesigned graphics work well on this 115 FourStroke.

Out with the old, in with the new. Mercury's redesigned graphics work well on this 115 FourStroke.

Mercury Tidbit:  FourStroke Restyling

Mercury outboards from 40 horsepower to 115 horsepower are getting a new graphics package, according to the company. The new styling is similar to the look that debuted on the new 150 FourStroke last fall. The “MERCURY” name on the cowl side loses its drop-shadow, and there’s a flourish of design below that logo. The sample image provided by Mercury shows how well the new graphics work on the 115 FourStroke, perhaps the most awkward looking motor in the Merc line thanks to a tall hood and a vast expanse of black on the previous design. The new graphics fill the space and make the motor seem more compact. Merc says the new graphics are already in production.

Suzuki's DF/115/140 engines have sensors to protect against damage from ethanol, but the company recommends against using more than a 10-percent blend (E10).

Suzuki's DF/115/140 engines have sensors to protect against damage from ethanol, but the company recommends against using more than a 10-percent blend (E10).

Suzuki Issues Ethanol Clarification

Suzuki has issued a clarification to a technical detail of its new DF115/140 motors I reported in my story “Suzuki Unveils New Outboard Models.”In that report I stated the new motors have the ability to run on fuel that is up to 20 percent ethanol (E20), which is what I was told at the Suzuki launch. However, David Greenwood of Suzuki has since contacted me to say that while the DF115/140 could run on E25, Suzuki still recommends using fuel that contains no more than 10 percent ethanol (E10). It’s true that the ECM programming and oxygen sensor on these motors will protect the powerhead from damage that could be caused by a higher percentage of ethanol. But the rest of your boat’s fuel system is not designed to tolerate that much ethanol, and you’d risk other issues with water attraction.

Here’s a little more background. Perhaps 10 years ago, when ethanol-blend fuels were beginning to appear on the market, Suzuki told me it conducted a fuel survey, collecting samples of E10-labeled gas from all over the country and testing each to measure its actual ethanol content. A surprisingly high number of those samples – I can’t remember the exact percentage – had more than 10 percent ethanol, some as high at 15 percent. The blending of gasoline and ethanol is done when the fuel is loaded in the delivery truck, and it is often not done with much precision. I think Suzuki, and probably other outboard builders, are tuning their computer controls to sense the higher oxygen content in fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol, and then protect the motor. “Flex fuel” autos work the same way. My advice is to never put ethanol-blend fuel in your marine engine if you can help it.

- Charles Plueddeman