Mercury Outboard Diagnostic Tools

by Will Charpentier
Mercury's CDS G3 system can keep your motor humming.

Mercury's CDS G3 system can keep your motor humming.

Once, a good ear was all the diagnostic tool for you needed for Mercury outboards. Then came Mercury's computerized Quicksilver Digital Diagnostic Terminal. You probably grumbled because now it suddenly took a technician in a dealership to read the extensible firmware interface trouble codes generated by your outboard. In 2010, though, a Mercury Service Bulletin announced that the arrival of Mercury's Computer Diagnostic System CDS G3 software that's now publicly available and brings diagnostic capability for your outboard to your personal computer.

What's In the Box

The Computer Diagnostic System CDS G3 kit includes a Smart Craft diagnostic interface that plugs into your computer. To connect the Smart Craft diagnostic interface to the outboard, the kit includes a CAN P/CAN adapter harness and a G3 engine harness adapter that includes a resistor. The kit also includes the Mercury Computer Diagnostic System CDS G3 software disc, used to install the software on your computer.

Look at All Those Wires

If your outboard’s powerhead has a junction box and that accepts the CAN P/CAN H adapter harness, you connect the the Smart Card diagnostic connector to your computer, after you load the software. You then connect CAN P/CAN H adapter harness to the Smart Card diagnostic connector. You then connect the CAN P/CAN H adapter to the junction box’s connector on your outboard’s powerhead. If your outboard lacks a junction box, you connect the CAN P/CAN H adapter harness to the G3 engine harness adapter and connect the G3 harness adapter to the G3 connector on your outboard’s powerhead. Either connections allows you to connect the computer to your boat's electronic junction box. The CDS G3 is designed to download the EFI error codes and provide diagnostic guidance regardless of the route used to access the information.

It's Nobody's Fault

The Smart Craft system detects errors about cylinder misfire, fuel pump output, idle air control, the horn output, ignition spark, issues with the Smart Start system, tachometer output, steering override, injector pulse and auto testing. When you connect the CDS G3 system to your boat’s Smart Craft system, your computer becomes a source of information as the CDS G3 system turns the EFI fault codes into a picture of your boat’s performance, as well as a guide to repairing the trouble your outboard is experiencing.

Setting Up Your Boat's Details

Not only does the system find your outboard’s problems through the EFI codes, it helps you configure your boat's systems. It lets you alter the electronic helm configuration, to make the boat's helm more responsive. You can use the CDS G3 system to set up the autopilot configuration, the automatic quartermaster and adjust the compass configuration, so you go in the right direction, based on the Smart Craft's GPS-based compass. Finally, can you adjust the joystick steering system's responsiveness, set the trim-and-tilt limits for your outboard and set the tachometer link.

Major Drawback

Mercury Marine intended the CDS G3 software for its dealers, not shade-tree outboard mechanics. Part of the registration procedure requires you to enter a dealer identification number and the main telephone number of the dealership. You have a 15-day, limited trial use available, but eventually you must register. In addition, the software must be re-registered every 45 days. However, several Mercury parts suppliers sell the software to the public and provide codes and information for the initial and subsequent registrations.

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

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