It has been several months since the original Ficht page was posted. During this time period I've gotten to experience about a dozen Fichts in actual use. Along with some first hand observations there is new information to pass along.
The biggest problem with the Ficht engine involves the spark plugs. The 2412 Premium Gold plugs just don't hold up under all conditions. Some owners have had the plugs perform flawlessly for 40 to 50 hours and others have had the plugs fail at 12 hours running time. A personal observation I've made is that the engines with early plug failure have been run a majority of the time at less than 2000 rpm. At the lower engine speeds the plugs do tend to run colder and are prone to carbon fouling. As well the engine would be operating in the stratified mode where the plugs are fired more often.
OMC has replaced the 2412s with an NGK platinum plug. Before the new plugs can be used the MAP program needs to be upgraded (click here for a quick explanation of MAP). I've seen the new NGKs in action and at low rpms they will get a dry powdery carbon coating. If you run those coated plugs at 4000 rpms for a couple of minutes they clean up and look almost new. The NGK plugs reportedly last 200 hours.
The down side to these plugs are the cost. At a dealership you'll pay $16.95 each. The plugs can be found at an automotive supply house that deals with NGK for just under $11 each (these plugs were originally made for Mazda).
The second major problem concerns the 175 Ficht. At around the 4000 to 5000 rpm range some of the engines developed an exhaust rattle. It is a very irritating sound, as if something has broken, but there is no actual damage involve. This was caused by the exhaust pulses from the engine pinging the exhaust tuner (a two stroke equivalent of an automotive header). It is akin to randomly tapping on a metal pipe, the sounds are very similar. The cure for the problem is provided via a MAP upgrade.
Some of the 175s also experienced a surging condition along with the exhaust rattle. I worked with one such 175 and my observation was that as the boat reacted to varying conditions (currents, waves, bow dips, etc.) the MAP program would try to correct for the drop in hull performance. The engine would power up a bit untill performance improved slightly and then settle back to original settings. The hull would then again react to conditions and the whole sequence repeated. The MAP upgrade has also handled this problem.
The fasteners securing the wiring to the regulator / rectifier was susceptible to vibrating loose. This resulted in burnt wiring. New hardware was made available to correct the situation.
I've heard a couple of reports of the oil lift pump failing. I've not seen this happen personally. OMC had made available an updated lift pump.
The above mentioned upgrades have been made available in an upgrade package. Currently it is available for the 175 Ficht and should be made available for the '98 150 Ficht in October of 1998. A kit to update the 1997 Ficht engine will be made available at a later date.
The other problems I've observed with the Fichts have been minor. I've seen one throttle position sensor go bad and one air temperature sensor fail. One engine developed a bad ground connection and it did become a headache to troubleshoot. The cause of this problem was due to rigging error.
From my observations the Fichts will demand a different set of considerations compared to a carb engine. One of the more notable differences is in propping. I don't have enough varied experience to say that this is true in every case (or most cases) but I have noted a difference in some applications. One example would be with a Kenner boat I was working with two weeks ago. It had a 175 Ficht turning a 21 pitch four blade wheel. At wide open throttle the engine was turning 4800 rpm, within it's operating range. Top end performance was unimpressive and the hole shot was a bit better than a row boat. The prop was replaced with a 19 pitch four blade, the rpms came up to 5100, top end performance was as expected and the hole shot made you grab on for dear life. The change was much more dramatic than expected. If this is going to be a characteristic of the Ficht I couldn't definitely say at this time. It is something to keep in mind when setting up a boat.
Another concern with the Ficht is the reports of a miss at the 1800 to 2400 rpm range. I have observed this with two engines, one of which was after the update was installed. One of the engines I ran in a test tank with a dyno attached as an artificial load and the "miss" wasn't present. This same boat in the water suffered from the concern. This would indicate that it isn't an inherent problem with the engine but is an "application specific" problem, i.e. depends on what the engine is asked to do. While running this boat in the local lake the throttle was set to 1800 rpm and left there. I made the following observations. First, the boat was dipping and rocking in reaction to the waves and currents. Second the MAP program was constantly changing, it appeared to be changing to compensate for the varying loads. The "miss", as best as I could determine, didn't synchronize with the boats performance (didn't cause it to slow up, stutter, etc.). It didn't synchronize with a loss of rpm (per computer readout). Although this occurs at the same time that the engine changes from stratified to homogeneous mode there appears to be no correlation between the two (click here for a pictorial description of the two modes).
The following is my opinion. I don't believe that what is being heard is an actual miss. I haven't observed anything, other than a sound, that would indicate it is an actual miss. One possibility is that much like the exhaust rattle it is a sound produced by the engine in reaction to the constantly changing MAP information.
Whether the above thought proves to be true or not, another change in thinking with the Ficht engine is that it isn't going to sound the same as a carbed engine. I believe this thought is going to come into play a lot more than most people may think. A computer controlled outboard is going to take some getting use to.
A LATE ADDITION TO THIS PAGE: A few days ago I talked to a tech rep from OMC and I asked him about the "miss" in the 1800 to 2400 rpm range. He did know what I was referring to and acknowledged that it is not a miss. He explained that in this rpm range, under certain load conditions and throttle setting combinations, the ECU goes into an acceleration mode. I did evidence this in the above mentioned Kenner / Ficht 175. While the engine was run at 1800 and the throttle left untouched (verified by the % of throttle reading from a lap top connected to the engine) the engine speed did increase better than 200 rpm over a couple of minutes time. Not an impressive acceleration by any means but it was something I didn't expect to happen.
During this acceleration mode and under high load conditions the fuel mixture is a bit rich and occasionally not all of the fuel charge lights off. The bit of unburnt fuel is passed into the exhaust chamber where it ignites and creates the sound of a miss.
Unless you have to run at that speed just advance the throttle and push through this range. Re-propping to a lower pitch may also help.
A SECOND ADDITION TO THIS PAGE: The update kits for the 150 Ficht have been out for a couple of weeks now and I've gotten several reports that the update has caused an engine RPM loss along with a loss of boat speed. The most consistent numbers I've gotten is a RPM loss of 250 to 400 and a speed loss of 3 MPH. Along with this loss I've heard that the engines run smoother and one owner reported a seemingly better low end power.
I've been told it is possible to install the update kit without installing the new MAP program (which means the NGK spark plugs cannot be used). Before this is done your dealer would need to call OMC Tech Services. If your engine runs fine and you have no problems with using the 2412 spark plugs then this option could be considered.
If you have been running a Ficht engine and have any observations supporting or contradicting any of the above feel free to send them to me. I'd appreciate hearing from you. You can reach me (Ken) at email@example.com.
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