Mercury Outboard problems again (reply from Mercury)

June 8, 2012 in Blogs, Equipment

Veleda IV

Boot Key Harbor,
Marathon, FL

January 11, 2012

Mercury Marine
Customer Service
PO Box 1939
Fond Du Lac, WI

Re: Mercury 9.9 outboard engine
Serial # 0R 319144

Dear Sirs:

I wish to register in the strongest terms possible my unhappiness, frustration and contempt for your product, the above engine purchased just over a year ago. Since then I have spent almost $1000.00 in repairs (over 1/3rd the value of the new engine) and the unit is still giving me problems. I would appreciate returning the engine for a refund as I have no faith in this product, and would not wish a replacement. I am at the point of trading this engine in for any other brand that would be more reliable, and preferably a two stroke engine.

There are many issues that have not been satisfactorily addressed. I am sure the service personnel have done their best, but the problem is with the engine itself, a poor product. The issues are as follows:

1/ Engine cowling

2/ Gearshift

3/ Carburetor problems

4/ Ongoing starting problems

5/ Engine vibration

1/ The engine cowling is too light and fragile. The start cord frequently seizes and when I pull it, it is torn out of my hand. Once when that happened last summer the plastic handle fractured the side of the cowling, putting a one inch hole in the side of it. I have this taped up. The gasket around the base of the cowling has come loose and does not allow the cowling to be properly seated, causing the rear clamp to come loose, thus causing great difficulty when I try to raise the motor when in shallow water, or after use as recommended in your manual. This was brought to the attention of Town Creek Marina, Beaufort, NC, in October, but no action was taken. At the Marine Service Center, a Mercury dealership in Murrells Inlet, SC, it was brought to their attention in November, and a replacement cowling was, I believe, ordered at that time. It is now the second week of January and the cowling has just  arrived today in South Carolina, causing us to have to wait here another few days for it to arrive before we can head to Mexico.

2/ The gearshift does not go into neutral easily. Many times I have thought the engine was in neutral when it was still in slow ahead, creating a dangerous situation when coming alongside my sailboat. I or my crew could easily be thrown overboard when trying to tie up, as the dinghy surges ahead. This was mentioned at Town Creek Marina, and at the Murrells Inlet dealership where they attempted to adjust it. However, I am having problems with it again.

3/ The starting problem was addressed by the Marine Service Center dealership which replaced the carburetor; however, they did not cover it under warranty as there was corrosion in the original carburetor from some alleged source such as ethanol-containing gas or water (unless the corrosion was a defect in the coating on the inside of the carburetor). I find it hard to accept that water got into the system as there have been less than three tanks of gas used. It has a new tank purchased with the engine in September 2010. It was put away for the winter and started up this past spring by a Mercury mechanic at Baddeck Marine in Nova Scotia. He had difficulty getting it started this spring. It had less than 10 hours on it at that time.The air breather valve has regularly been closed at the end of each use. When the gas tank was checked by Town Creek Marina there was no water in it. I was advised by the mechanic at the Marine Service Center to put a cover over the gas cap to reduce any moisture getting in, even if the valve has been closed, and to use a gas treatment to counter the effects of ethanol in the gas. These precautions we have taken since then. However, how inadequate is your technology that it is so sensitive and the carburetor so poorly designed as to corrode inside, flaking debris into the system? As the carburetor is sealed, it cannot be cleaned or repaired by the owner/operator. It is ridiculous that an engine just a year old, with less than 50 hours running time, should have to have the carburetor replaced. However, I have heard that carburetor replacement is a common problem. On the VHF cruisers’ net here in Boot Key Harbor, several sailors were very disgruntled with Mercury, with one owner saying he has already had four carburetor replacements on his 2008 engine.

4/ Engine starting is still a major problem! Especially if the engine is warm or has been used earlier in the day, if it does not start on the first pull or two, it is very difficult to start, needing to be pulled 10 or 20 times to get it going! I frequently have to use the “Throttle Only” button in order to start it. This is a ridiculous situation for a new motor. The spark plugs were replaced in October.

5/ The engine still runs very roughly, vibrating the steering handle to the extent it is painful to hold it on a longer trip. I periodically use a steering extension handle, but cannot release it even in neutral as it flogs violently due to the engine vibration.

My wife and I are living on our sailboat, and have been for 13 years. We need a reliable outboard engine on our dinghy as we are often in out of the way places, far from civilization and at anchor. The dinghy is essential for our safety and well being. Your engine is not up to the task and I regret my purchase of it.

Any communication is best through E-mail at

Yours truly,
Aubrey Millard

C.C.  Baddeck Marine, Mackley Equipment Ltd.,
Town Creek Marina, Marine Service Center

The reply received is pasted below.

Dear Mr. Millard:

Thank you for your email regarding your Mercury 9.9 horsepower Fourstroke engine, serial number 0R319144.  We appreciate this opportunity to respond to your questions.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience or frustration you have experienced due to the repair of your Mercury engine.  Mercury Marine is dedicated to manufacturing quality products that are durable and reliable.  Ad a world leader in the manufacture of marine propulsion units, we realize that a great deal of our success is built upon customer satisfaction of our products and, to promote this, we back our products with a factory warranty.  Our records indicate that your engine was purchased on September 22, 2010 with a three-year factory warranty that will expire on September 22, 2013.  The factory warranty for your engine covers defects in material or workmanship.  An authorized Mercury dealer will need to inspect your engine for any possible warranty consideration.

Our service department has been in contact with Marine Service Center, 8994 Highway 17 Bypass, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, and they have advised that water was found in the carburetor and caused it to corrode.  Unfortunately, as the failure of the carburetor was not caused by a defect in material or workmanship, this repair was not covered by the factory warranty.  

While we do not recommend using fuel which contains ethanol because of the adverse effects it may have on the fuel system, it is acceptable to use fuel containing no more than 10% ethanol in  your engine.  We recommend, when using fuel containing ethanol, to increase your inspection of the fuel system for leaks or abnormalities.

With ethanol blended fuels, we further recommend the use of our Fuel Care System package, which includes three products for the treatment and care of your engine’s fuel system.  Our Mercury Quickcare helps to prevent fuel from varnishing and is recommended with each fresh tank of fuel; Quickleen helps prevent carbon build up and is recommended as needed or with every fill up; and Quickstor helps to stabilize fuel and is recommended before long term storage.  

If you are experiencing any issues with your engine, we encourage you to contact an authorized Mercury dealer for assistance as it is difficult to diagnose engine issues in an email format.  Each of our authorized Mercury dealers has access to a dedicated team of technical service agents, should your Mercury dealer require diagnostic assistance.  

At this time, we respectfully decline to participate in a refund for the engine.  

Thank you, Mr. Millard, for allowing us this opportunity to share our point of view.  We hope to receive you understanding regarding our warranty limitations.  


Mercury Outboard Customer Assistance

Ref.# 2012-5013

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My follow up:

June 8, 2012

I have since put two filters on the fuel line, one in line and a transom mounted Racor water separator. These seem to work. However the other elements are still difficult such as the gear shift not going into neutral. The motor is not as powerful as the two stroke and will not get a small 9 foot rib up on a plane with only two of us in it. I plan to put fins on the lower engine to try to get up on a plane more easily.

I still think the engine is too sensitive to the demands for an outboard on an open runabout. I am looking to trade it in on a Yamaha or Suzuki engine or a 15 horsepower two stroke engine. The only reason we got the Mercury is that was what was available when we needed to replace the damaged one.