Mercury as Good as OMC?

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Well-known member
Feb 24, 2023
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Cedar Lake, IN
Never owned a Merc, but looking to upgrade to something with a helm. Seems a lot of the boats I'm seeing have good size Mercs on them. Quite a few of them are said to have issues. One boat has a 90 and what I'm reading is not good. Another boat I'm thinking about has a 75. Is that a better motor? How many carbs does it have? I'm used to tinnies and 2 cyl motors. Not sure if want to buy something with a bunch of carbs.
Which is better, Ford, Chevy or Mopar ?? About the same argument on OB motors !! Biggest thing, is how was the motor taken care of? Maintenence? Abused? Many other things to consider besides what name is on it !! Been a boater for over 60 years, never had a serious issue with any of my motors but they were all well taken care of...
About the only bad thing I can say about Merc is their parts availability can be pretty lackluster on many motors.

Otherwise, there are good ones and bad ones from all manufacturers.
What year class? I am not fond of any Mercury motors before the late 80's. Old OMC motors were far more reliable, in my opinion. But in the 90's, Mercury really improved things.

For instance, the Merc 25 is a great motor. Tough and reliable and strong when maintained right.

In the late 90's, the 90 HP and the 75 hp are the same block, both with 3 cylinders and 3 carbs. Both are very good motors. The 115 of the same year class is a solid motor, 4 cylinders, but a little lackluster in performance. Not a lot of performance gain over the 90, at least not in the boats we put them on.

Later, in the 2000's, Mercury motors are better and better. Their 4-strokes are sweet and smooth, as long as you don't let them overheat or let ethanol water sit in them.

OMC motors have been really solid for many, many years. That's why you see so many from the 70's and 80's on the lakes regularly.

In the 2000's, OMC moved to the Ficht system, which was their downfall, as they released the motors in mass before fully testing. Lots of failures when they leaned out the 150/175 hp engines to meet upcoming EPA guidelines. But OMC was a stand-up company, and they FIXED every one of those motors. This lowered their stock values, and they were bought out by Bombardier.

The technology was good, once they got it dialed in. They renamed them Etec and they are good motors, IF maintained right. There is a huge controversy about them, with a LOT of haters, but if you got a good one, it was the best motor you ever had. But the stigma never went away, and Bombardier closed the doors on Johnson and Evinrude a few years ago.

I still run a lot of Johnson and Evinrude engines.
My 22 Offshore has a Ram 150 that is flawless.
My 20 pontoon has a 70 Johnson that is flawless
My 19 pontoon has a 40 Etec that is flawless
My 16 Princecraft has a 50 Johnson that is flawless, and
My current project, a Spectrum 16 Sport just got a 60 Johnson that is flawless... SO FAR.

The Mariner 16 had a flawless Merc 25
A pontoon I flipped had a great running Merc 35
Several other boats I flipped had Merc engines ranging from 5 to 200 HP and all ran great.

You have to mention the Yamahas and Hondas. They are arguably some of the best engines out there, with Suzuki and Tohatsu/Nissan getting up there too.

The reason I currently run all OMC motors is because they are easy to find, cheap and easy to work on, and very solid performers. For instance, I paid $700 for my 2001 Ram 150, $600 for the Etec, $300 for the Johnson 60, and so on. Most of them needed some cleanup and minor work, like a power pack or a coil, besides the typical water pump and carb cleaning.

A long post, but hopefully, it gives you some perspective. I'm sure others will disagree, but this is my take on them.
Thank you Thill. That was quite enlightening. You and I seem to be of the same school of thought. OMC just seems easier to deal with to me. No disrespect to Mercs which obviously have their fans. I'm just daunted by the idea of moving away from the motors I at least know a little about and jumping feet first into owning a 6 cylinder Merc with several carbs to contend with.

As for cars, the answer is definitely not Mopar. Dodge has always marched to their own drummer, trying to reinvent the wheel, and often falling short. They DID have some awesome engines, but in general the consensus is Chevy is best. How often do you see a Mopar in anything BUT a Mopar? Yet nearly every other old hotrod has a Chebby 350 in it. Arguably nobody has ever been able to build an equal to the SBC engine. The BBC offerings were no slouches either.

OK, sorry about getting off track. What about Force motors? Yes, I know their history and have read they are at least a decent motor, if not a superior one. Again I seem to be running into a lot of interesting boats with big Forces on them. What is life like with a Force? Can new parts be had? Or is it a pain in the keister to find them?
Force engines used to be Chrysler, and were bought out by Brunswick, I think. Or Genmar? Whoever owns Bayliner. They mass produced the engines and put them on a lot of their boats to make them cheaper than anyone else.

The problem is that they undersized the motors, and also they sold them in mass to uneducated buyers in malls, at Sam's Club, Costco and so on, with NO previous boat knowledge. Many of them blew up because people didn't know to put oil in the gas, or they put 10W30 in them. Didn't know not to run them out of water, and other things that simple knowledge would have prevented.

So they got a really bad reputation really fast, but the motors were not so bad.

A few force engines were bad, the 70 HP in particular. I have NEVER seen one that didn't blow up. One carb feeding 3 cylinders, and the center cylinder ALWAYS goes. I suspect that they have it set rich, to cover 3 cylinders, and it washes the center one out.

Anyway, the 85, 90, 120 and 150 HP Force engines are pretty solid engines if not abused, and they are really easy to work on. I ran a 1991 Force 85 for years, thinking of it as a temporary motor, but it's still on that boat, sold to a friend, 15 years later. He said he was going to replace it, but he never did, because it just keeps running great.

I actually like those engines to use, but not for resale purposes! They are a big turn off to many buyers, almost the same as a Ficht engine.
I've heard good things about Force/Chrysler too. I'm mostly concerned about parts availability. Are common wear items easy to get or not?
I have had great luck with my Merc products. My Starcraft has a '95 25hp remote, my Sylvan has a '06 150hp Saltwater and a '06 6hp kicker. All motors have ran like clockwork with very little trouble. Take care of them and they will take care of you.
As long as parts are available is servicing and repairing any motor better than others? Seems like with OMC you have a lot of options and a fair amount of parts interchange. I'll bet parts are more available for OMCs than Force, right?
All comes down to how they were maintained, been a boat owner for over 60 yrs, there were years where we felt OMC were better and as time moved on OMC became less desirable and Merc's were the better motors. Have always been a two stroke fan so I can't speak for newer four strokes other than from friends experiences with them. If you can learn the history of any motor, you will have a better shot at getting a good one, without a solid history it becomes a crapshoot. I shop carefully and do thorough testing if the previous owner allows it, if they don't, I walk away and yes I have walked away from many!! When I sell, I have no problem allowing the potential buyer to thoroughly test things out, as long as I can be there. In most cases I have the tools at hand to do all the testing. In most all cases, the first buyer took it with them as I never hide anything. Good luck !!!
Well you guys talked me into it. Proud new owner of a 75 HP Merc. Been sitting for a little while, tries to start but just just coughs and spits. Hoping it doesn't have more than 2 carbs on it.... If not mistaken it's a 4 cyl.


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Can anybody tell me how to choke this thing? Has Quicksilver controls. Nothing on it says choke.
Can anybody tell me how to choke this thing? Has Quicksilver controls. Nothing on it says choke.
Should be a key push choke on that motor. Looks to be an early 80's? With the key turn to the "ignition on" position listen to the motor for a "click" when pushing the key. Those solenoids aren't very robust and seem to get weak just from sitting.
Thanks for the info. Pump the bulb first, right? I'm hoping to get it on the water yet this year, but here in Northern IN the clock is ticking!
Thanks for the info. Pump the bulb first, right? I'm hoping to get it on the water yet this year, but here in Northern IN the clock is ticking!

Yes sir, prime it up, crank with choke closed, release when it starts. If it wants to die give it a little more choke momentarily.

The impeller on those Mercs are tiny and hardly up to the job when they're new, best replace it soon. The impeller in a 6.5hp OMC is about twice as big as the one in that Merc.
I second that about Mercury impellers. They are not great. Swap it out, and make sure to lightly grease everything before reassembling.

You may want to buy the entire water pump kit, as they are subject to issues if the cup or baseplate have any grooving in them.

I hope it goes well for you.
Gotta say the guys on this site really know their stuff. Hopefully one day I'll join your ranks. Thanks again.

To be clear, I hold the ignition in while cranking or just hold it in briefly before cranking? I don't think the guy I bought it from even knew it had a choke.

PO told me he changed the water pump. Hopefully it's still good. I did turn it over a few times dry, it never caught and never held the key on for longer than 15 secs. That shouldn't really hurt it I'm thinking. Got some fresh gas, added marine oil for 40/1. Is that the correct mix? Added a double dose of SeaFoam. Now if can just figure out what to do with the earmuffs I'm cautiously optimistic it'll start. Cleaned out the tank and strained what came out. Everything was clean as a whistle. Smelled kinda funny though. Think he was using non marine 2 stroke oil in it.
That looks to be an 80's motor. Not the easiest to work on, but could be a good motor. I hope you didn't pay too much.

Hook up water, prime the fuel until the bulb is tight, then turn the key, and press the key in while turning. Hopefully, it will cough and then start. You may want to advance the throttle lever, if it has one, while doing this.

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