View Single Post
Old 10-07-2019, 02:56 PM   #17
City: Saint Augustine, FL
Country: USA
Vessel Name: Lisa's Island
Vessel Model: Bayliner 4588
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 12
Mathers/ZF Controls

Sorry to hear about your control problems, I wanted to clarify any misconceptions about marine electronic engine controls. There are over 100,000+ vessels with the MicroCommanders worldwide (including Navy vessels and Coast Guard Vessels), commercial ships, pleasure craft and others. The MicroCommander is USCG approved, ABS Classed Approved and hold many other marine certifications. These are very reliable controls when installed and maintained properly. These controls have been on the market since 1987 and we have some of those first generation controls still operating in the field today.

The problem you describe could be caused by a couple of different issues. The first is a worn control head, these units are a wearable item and depending on the usage and weather exposure will need to be replaced when they start showing symptoms. The second cause of this problem could be your battery voltage. These units require 12 volts or better to operate properly, if you have low voltage going to them (such as bad batteries, corroded wiring, etc) then that will effect the operation of these units. We require a APS (auto power selector) to be installed with these systems which take battery voltage from two different battery banks and provides constant power to your controls. I have found a lot of installations that did not include these into the system which can be a problem.

The processor (MicroCommander Box in engine room) is the brains of the system, it sends a 5 volt signal up to the control heads which is controlled by a potentiometer in the levers. This pot is a 5k unit that basically cuts the voltage in half and returns it to the MicroCommander, telling it that you want neutral. As you push the handle forward you increase the signal down to the processor telling it you want ahead, continuing to move the lever increases the signal more which then increases the throttle. The same thing happens when you go astern (except voltage decreases) which tells processor to command reverse and throttle as requested.

If your battery voltage drops below the 12 volts then the power going to the control heads could vary as well causing vessel to shift astern, this is why we require a APS to be installed on all systems.

I have seen numerous postings about MMC (now ZF) MicroCommander Problems on Mainships and some other vessels so I thought I would clarify the most common problem I find with the installation of these controls. My company is Control Masters Marine Systems and we are the top US distributor of ZF Mathers Engine Controls. I have been installing and servicing these controls for over 35 years so my back ground is very extensive. I also have these controls on my 50ft motor yacht and they were installed in 2000 operating with no problems.

Also to note that even mechanical, pneumatic and hydraulic control systems can and will fail at some point with depending on use and age.

I posted on this forum (see below) a year or two ago about the problems with MicroCommanders on the Luhrs Mainships and have pasted that below.


I installed the first MicroCommanders for Luhrs Mainship at their plant in St. Augustine. These were installed using a 10 amp breaker for each MicroCommander, to power up the MicroCommander you turned on the breaker (simple and safe). When Mainship began installing these units themselves they installed an ignition relay (if your controls power up when you turn on your key or activate the ignition circuit then you have a relay). This relay is the number one issue I have seen and corrected on the Mainships as the relay can fail causing the power to the processors to be lost.

What I do and recommend to all Mainship owners with electronic controls is to rewire the MicroCommanders to 10 amp breakers and eliminate the ignition relay, this will solve about 90% of the control problems on the Mainships.

The other thing to keep in mind is the control head (lever you push to shift and throttle) is a wearable item and over time may need to be replaced. Under normal conditions they will last 15 years or more. Those exposed to the weather may not last as long as it all depends how they were installed.

I have also noted where some believe the MicroCommanders may be causing their engines to shut down. That cannot happen with the MicroCommander as the main things these controls do is provide a neutral safety interlock if you try to start in gear, shift the transmission, increase or decrease throttle, and provide auto synchronization on twin engine vessels. They do not control engine shut down and even if you turned off the power to the controls the engines will keep running.
Raffy is offline   Reply With Quote