How to Identify a Mercury Marine Engine

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With their trademark thin black silhouette, Mercury Marine outboards have been cruising the waterways since 1940. Mercury outboards can be visually identified by shape and decal style. Obtain further identification via the identification plate serial number, which, in older models, must be cross-referenced with a Mercury listing to find engine specifics, including year of manufacture. In March of 2001, Mercury changed its serial numbering system, which included a year designation within the number. Current Mercury models use a program-year system, which does not identify the exact year, but a model year series.

    Identify the Mercury visually. With the exception of the Mariner line, Mercury outboards are normally black with the trademark thin silhouette when viewing the engine from the front or rear (forward or aft). According to Mercury Marine's "Outboard Decal Identification Guide," Mercury decals have changed through the years and a general year identification can be made from them. As decals may wear or be replaced, further identification is necessary.

    Locate the ID tag on the right, or starboard, side of the engine. The tag is near the engine mount near the transom. The tag identifies the serial number and it must be referenced to a chart similar to one found on Marine Engine (see Resources). This step is for older models prior to 2001.

    Decode the Mercury serial number for post-1991 engines. The serial number, found on the tag in the same location, follows a different system. Sample code 1-175XLV23DD, translates as a Mercury 175 horsepower XL Verado and the first "D" represents 2005, as it is the fourth year of using this system, starting with "A" for 2002.

    Decode the current Mercury serial number. According to Mercury Marine, as of 2010, Mercury switched to a "model year" system and no longer identifies the year of manufacture. The serial number will change when an upgrade or new model year designation is issued. The second to last digit in the serial number now designates "model year" and not year of manufacture.


    • If problems arise, the Mercury Parts Express system can identify the outboard while performing a parts search using the engine serial number.


About the Author

A native of New Haven, Conn., Floyd Drake III began writing in 1984. His work has appeared in the "New Haven Register," Medford's "Mail-Tribune" and the "Ashland Daily Tidings." Drake studied journalism at Southern Connecticut State University. After working as a reporter in Oregon, he is now based back home in New Haven.

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