Princecraft Starfish DLX SC Review#4: The hour meter

July 23, 2012

“Rod, you don’t need instruments,” Dave Brown assured me when I asked if the instrument cluster was included with the motor.  Apparently they go with the boat, and this one was a stripper.  “The ECU in the engine records its hours.  Bring it by and I’ll put a gauge on it to determine oil change intervals.”  And so I went.

But then the tanks of fuel went by and I found myself wondering intensely when the first service interval was.  So I stopped by the dock and Dave had no time to scope the engine.  Further delays and I bought oil and filter and changed from the 10W30 break-in oil to Mercury’s 25W40 synthetic blend by myself.

For a variety of reasons, mostly unrelated to the health of the engine, I wanted an hour meter.   Nobody seems to sell a true revolution-counter apart from as part of a large instrument cluster.  The ignition-on hour meter, on the other hand, is widely available.  While such a counter is ridiculous on a tractor as the same person who stalls the thing likely leaves the key on, running on several hundred hours before the battery dies, this might not happen with an outboard motor.  Perhaps an ignition-timer is all I need.

The inexpensive impedance meter sensor wraps around a spark plug wire and gives a reading.  But it has a little gadgetty digital readout and looks like a cheap, well, gadget.  I wanted something I could display with pride on my instrument panel.

Princess Auto had an hour meter in the trailer section for a little less than the sale price of an axle.  Bravely I fitted a 2” Forsner bit into my best cordless drill, then perforated an empty anti-freeze container with a series of neat, round holes until I became proficient enough to try the same process on the vinyl dash of my new Princecraft.  The drilling went fine.  Sardonic comments about the makeup of the Princecraft’s dash are inappropriate at this time*.

Charlie found a pair of wire clusters behind the control unit, tucked into the valence.  I felt around with a multi-meter until I located a pair of wires which gave me 12v only when the ignition switch was on.  He hooked the gauge up with all of the best crimp-on connectors he could find in his tool boxes.

The little light began to flash with the ignition switch, but the hour meter would not move.  Ooops!

Many variations produced no success.  It wasn’t until I moved the boat into the shop, removed all of the neat connectors and jury-rigged a power source that I established there was nothing wrong with the meter.  My neutral was intermittent.  So I ran a new neutral back to the battery, twisted and taped things back together, and the gauge began to work properly.

Everything will be fine unless Dave decides he needs to hook up his computer.  I think I took one of its wires to feed the hour meter.  I’ll trip over that fence when we come to it.

The first revelation the hour meter provided was that I had greatly overestimated how many hours I was putting on the motor.  Some fishing trips on Newboro Lake use only .1 hour of engine time, though most run about .3 hours.  It’s not a huge area, and a typical 12 or 13 mile round trip doesn’t take all that long.

So far with an elapsed time of 5 hours I have used up a couple of jerry cans of regular gas (I haven’t learned how to measure mileage yet, but I’ll eventually figure a way and bore you with the details) and added several 2 lb packs of crappie fillets to the freezer hoard, as well as a few meals of largemouth fillets, as well.  Generally I keep fish every third time out, but I’m likely bringing home food more often this early in the season to justify the expensive fishing equipment this year.

BTW:  the one trip out with the GPS showed a top speed of 50 km for the boat with empty live well and one operator.  That’s a hair under 30 mph, and well within the insurance industry’s cut-off for speedboats.  At insurance time, be prepared to provide a driving and accident history of each potential driver for any vessel capable of more than 32 mph.

* Said dash has withstood several hits from astonished crappies flying through the air, and was as good as new today after a shot from the pressure washer.  The textured vinyl flooring, on the other hand, is hard to clean without the services of said pressure washer.  Over the course of two rain-free weeks the floor had become so encrusted with grime from fish and weeds that I hauled the boat home for a facelift.  It worked.
Needless to say, the fishing has been good this July.

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One Response to “Princecraft Starfish DLX SC Review#4: The hour meter”

  1. Tony Says:

    You’ll need to get a trim meter next, and then maybe a GPS\fishfinder, a tach and a speedo.


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