Mercury power steering - SOLVED

scottkp

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So this is now the 4th time I have lost power steering on our boat in less than 12 months. This is the first Mercury outboard I have owned, am I doing something wrong where I am losing my steering on what I would consider a monthly basis (Ohio boating - 5 months of boating)? Seems like every time we take the kids tubing I loose the steering. Not sure if the pump can keep up with the turning, the reservoir isn’t big enough, no idea…guessing it is air in the lines but this shouldn’t be, right?
 

TomS

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The Mercury power steering pump requires a certain minimum level of voltage. So, if it's too low it will shut itself off. I'd look there first, or at least monitor the voltage at the pump. The pump is connected to the Mercury harness. When you charge the battery, does the power steering come back?
 

scottkp

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The power at the helm was reading 14.6 volts. It was late in the day yesterday when it happened, the kids were exhausted and smoke was coming out of my ears since this has happened so many times so I am going to try to figure this out today. I love my Mercury set up but my gosh I have had some real struggles with everything Mercury on this boat. Power steering, tilt/trim motor, head gasket seal and alternator all replaced within the last year.
 

Vikingstaff

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I have not heard of someone having so many problems like this. How frustrating and infuriating it must be. Has the dealer looked at this particular issue? You absolutely should not be having it at all, but perhaps is something that should be handed off to a certified tech at this point…?
 

Baja 252

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I agree with Vikingstaff. Sorry for your issues. The only issue I've had on my Mercury is the recall on the top crank seal leaking. When the steering goes out can you still drive it, just very hard to turn?
 

scottkp

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I agree with Vikingstaff. Sorry for your issues. The only issue I've had on my Mercury is the recall on the top crank seal leaking. When the steering goes out can you still drive it, just very hard to turn

I’ve had it in the shop a couple times now. Yea when the steering goes out I can still drive it. You just really have to muscle it if you want to turn at all.

So I was out this afternoon and switched to battery 2 and it worked flawlessly. The strange thing is one other time I had steering issues it was corrected by switching to battery 2. Now to make it weirder, I have an on board battery charger. Battery 1 was fully charged and battery 2 was at 75%. About the only thing I know about electrical was a C in electrical circuits back in college, so we’ll not much…I didn’t bleed the lines or do anything different today and it ran fine for about the 30 minutes the boat was on. I hate saying it but I lost sleep over this silly issue last night thinking the boat isn’t going to be running well for our family vacation to Maryland. Fingers crossed at this point but I will definitely be contacting Bennington tomorrow, they have been great working the other issues out so if nothing else it is another point of documentation.
 

Vikingstaff

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I’ve had it in the shop a couple times now. Yea when the steering goes out I can still drive it. You just really have to muscle it if you want to turn at all.

So I was out this afternoon and switched to battery 2 and it worked flawlessly. The strange thing is one other time I had steering issues it was corrected by switching to battery 2. Now to make it weirder, I have an on board battery charger. Battery 1 was fully charged and battery 2 was at 75%. About the only thing I know about electrical was a C in electrical circuits back in college, so we’ll not much…I didn’t bleed the lines or do anything different today and it ran fine for about the 30 minutes the boat was on. I hate saying it but I lost sleep over this silly issue last night thinking the boat isn’t going to be running well for our family vacation to Maryland. Fingers crossed at this point but I will definitely be contacting Bennington tomorrow, they have been great working the other issues out so if nothing else it is another point of documentation.
If battery 1 is charged up, but switching to battery 2 takes care of the issue, then I have to wonder if a battery 1 connection is loose? Maybe some fluctuation in power from that battery knocks out the power assist with the Mercury system?

Total shot in the dark with that conjecture as I am very confident I know less about electricity than you. Just wasn’t part of my history/humanities curricula in college. LOL
 

TomS

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Sorry to hear about all the problems you've had. I have twin 2019 Merc 200's and so far so good. I would still check the voltage right at the pump or the harness. As Jeff said, a loose ground cable would do it. Your helm could see 14.6v (because of the alternator output), but the pump may not have a solid ground and/or +12v connection. If the pump is still making noise when it stops working, it could be a failing pump or hydraulic problem rather than electrical.
 

LaurencetheAdventurer

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Same Issue! This was our 4th weekend out with zero prior issues - 15 hours on the new Benny 26LX/Merc350. I started the engine, I noted a buzzing, which from prior postings was the power steering pump (confirmed popping my head under the helm), which it had not done before. A bit later it became very difficult to steer and I got a SIMRAD power fault error (picture attached). The power steering completely failed. I tried turning everything on and off, shut off the Accessory switch and Master Switch - no change. Problem persisted. Simrad said 14.3volts. We stopped for a float, started back up, problem disappeared for about a minute, then came back. I crawled under the dash, the Power Steering Fluid was just below the Min line, so topped it off - no change. Looked for a loose connection, none. Drove down the lake a bit with the issue and decided to head back to the dock, while running I switched from Battery 2 to 1, both the error message and power steering issue gone. Huh? I turned off the engine and poked around the battery compartment - nothing loose that I could find. Went to start the boat, battery 1 did not have enough juice, just a click. Ok, so started the boat on Battery 2, switched back to 1 while running, and still no issue, no matter what battery I ran the boat on (the slight buzzing persisted). Switching between batteries seemed to have solved the problem (2 to 1+2 to 1). So, will see if it happens again, will have the dealer look at during the 20 hour service. By end of day, Battery 1 was fully charged. Scottkp, keep me posted - I will do the same, hate worrying about upcoming trips - no issue to just cruise down the lake, but can't tow or ski without that power steering. Next trip out not until Labor Day Weekend.
 

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scottkp

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Same Issue! This was our 4th weekend out with zero prior issues - 15 hours on the new Benny 26LX/Merc350. I started the engine, I noted a buzzing, which from prior postings was the power steering pump (confirmed popping my head under the helm), which it had not done before. A bit later it became very difficult to steer and I got a SIMRAD power fault error (picture attached). The power steering completely failed. I tried turning everything on and off, shut off the Accessory switch and Master Switch - no change. Problem persisted. Simrad said 14.3volts. We stopped for a float, started back up, problem disappeared for about a minute, then came back. I crawled under the dash, the Power Steering Fluid was just below the Min line, so topped it off - no change. Looked for a loose connection, none. Drove down the lake a bit with the issue and decided to head back to the dock, while running I switched from Battery 2 to 1, both the error message and power steering issue gone. Huh? I turned off the engine and poked around the battery compartment - nothing loose that I could find. Went to start the boat, battery 1 did not have enough juice, just a click. Ok, so started the boat on Battery 2, switched back to 1 while running, and still no issue, no matter what battery I ran the boat on (the slight buzzing persisted). Switching between batteries seemed to have solved the problem (2 to 1+2 to 1). So, will see if it happens again, will have the dealer look at during the 20 hour service. By end of day, Battery 1 was fully charged. Scottkp, keep me posted - I will do the same, hate worrying about upcoming trips - no issue to just cruise down the lake, but can't tow or ski without that power steering. Next trip out not until Labor Day Weekend.

I certainly will!

The last time it happened was right before a trip to Douglas Lake in TN (40 hours ago) and the marina doing the repair said there was air in the lines which caused it to stop working. I think that could be a contributing factor but I am not buying that it was the root cause of intermittent power. One common thing between failures is, we were tubing. So was that putting extra strain on the electrical of the boat causing the pump to fault out? Perhaps, but I would certainly hope that the alternator/battery would be able to keep up with the draw of turning the boat while tubing.

I did put a volt meter on board so next time it happens I will be able to get voltage at the pump. It is very interesting that switching power seems to resolve the issue for you as well. I guess it is good to know that switching batteries "resets" the power steering but concerning! I do not want to end up like @Vikingstaff with an electrical fire onboard!!!

I plan on taking it back to the shop to get warranty issues fixed (including this) at the end of the season but I will definitely let you know if I can trouble shoot it this week on vacation.
 

CLDave

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My neighbor had this problem with his 450R Merc steering - switching to 1+2 on batteries fixed it.

Another thing to consider is the pump may be overheating - check to make sure the pump under the helm and has plenty of breathing room. Some models have insulation around the pump to minimize noise, but it holds in the heat.

My 350 Verado has had no problems with steering at all, but I've always kept my batteries on 1+2 when running (keeps them charged, and per my neighbor, safeguards against low volts). I switch to 1 or 2 when floating for extended periods - out on an island/etc., and then put back to 1+2 when it's time to go.

Keep us posted!
 

Economy Mike

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Bummer. I had some electrical issues and my dealer replaced the battery switch. Problem solved. He said he had seen a bunch of bad ones. While it may not be the cure for your boat's symptoms, it is easy for the dealer to test and replace.
 

scottkp

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My neighbor had this problem with his 450R Merc steering - switching to 1+2 on batteries fixed it.

Another thing to consider is the pump may be overheating - check to make sure the pump under the helm and has plenty of breathing room. Some models have insulation around the pump to minimize noise, but it holds in the heat.

My 350 Verado has had no problems with steering at all, but I've always kept my batteries on 1+2 when running (keeps them charged, and per my neighbor, safeguards against low volts). I switch to 1 or 2 when floating for extended periods - out on an island/etc., and then put back to 1+2 when it's time to go.

Keep us posted!

This brings up another interesting convo around which battery to run off of - 1,2 or 1 & 2. I spoke to my dealer and he said never run off of 1 & 2 because there are no isolators in the dual battery set up from Bennington. I ran my previous boat on 1&2 for the life of it and never had any problems - switching to a single battery when at the sand bar.

So just curious for those that have a dual battery set up; What battery position do you run off of? Was there a recommendation from the dealer or rational behind why or why not to run on both?
 

CLDave

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This brings up another interesting convo around which battery to run off of - 1,2 or 1 & 2. I spoke to my dealer and he said never run off of 1 & 2 because there are no isolators in the dual battery set up from Bennington. I ran my previous boat on 1&2 for the life of it and never had any problems - switching to a single battery when at the sand bar.

So just curious for those that have a dual battery set up; What battery position do you run off of? Was there a recommendation from the dealer or rational behind why or why not to run on both?

Your dealer's advice seems counter-intuitive... no idea what he means by isolator. I've always run/charged at 1+2 and never had a problem.
 

TomS

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If there is no automatic charging relay, the only way to charge both while running is 1+2. You just have to remember to switch it back to 1 or 2 AFTER the engine is off, so that one battery does not discharge the other if they are not at equal voltage/charge at the time.
 

scottkp

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So I reached back out to my dealer to further understand their logic behind not running on 1+2. The explanation that I received (**this is a translation from the dealer and not my own thoughts on this topic**) was that you can damage your batteries by overcharging them. With an isolator, it monitors the amount of voltage going to each battery and isolates the battery(s) that need charged. Without an isolator between the alternator and the batteries it is going to charge the batteries regardless of the state/condition of the battery.

Maybe I just like to have fun when I am out on the boat, but if I do not loose power steering if I am operating in 1+2 that seems to be the way to go regardless what the dealer is saying as they also didn't appear to be very confident in their answers.

I would also rather replace my batteries more frequently than the harassment I get from my friends & family for spending so much money on a boat to not have power steering work reliably and cut off the water sports for the kids - assuming that the only damage to the boat would be overcharging the batteries.
 

scottkp

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@LaurencetheAdventurer After a week long vacation and more issues including loss of power to the motor I finally figured out the issue! I hope this saves you and others a lot of stress and headaches.

In short - the boat was wired improperly and the correct electrical components were not used! We received the wrong distribution panel which included the incorrect battery switch, they left off the battery isolator, and the power steering pump was not wired to the distribution panel (wired directly to a battery). After we figured this out, it totally makes sense and I can't believe I didn't see the issue the very first time we were having issues, but than again neither did the dealer 3 times.

Our hypothesis was confirmed by Bennington that we did in fact have our boat improperly wired. Just glad we have a temporary fix in place until it can be properly corrected by the dealer.

PS Mitch over at Bennington is the man for helping us figure this out!

Battery Compartment.GIF
 

LaurencetheAdventurer

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@LaurencetheAdventurer After a week long vacation and more issues including loss of power to the motor I finally figured out the issue! I hope this saves you and others a lot of stress and headaches.

In short - the boat was wired improperly and the correct electrical components were not used! We received the wrong distribution panel which included the incorrect battery switch, they left off the battery isolator, and the power steering pump was not wired to the distribution panel (wired directly to a battery). After we figured this out, it totally makes sense and I can't believe I didn't see the issue the very first time we were having issues, but than again neither did the dealer 3 times.

Our hypothesis was confirmed by Bennington that we did in fact have our boat improperly wired. Just glad we have a temporary fix in place until it can be properly corrected by the dealer.

PS Mitch over at Bennington is the man for helping us figure this out!

View attachment 30982
Headed out Friday to visit my Benny, I have some inspecting to complete - THANK YOU for the follow up and detailed info, very much appreciated. Will keep you posted.
 
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