I bet you thought I forgot about Mercury Monday, right? Just because it’s been a while since I’ve actually bothered to do one, and you may be one of those weirdos who doesn’t consider Wednesday Monday just because it’s “a different day” and “not Monday” or some other pseudoscientific crap like that. Well, you’re wrong! Because here’s an all-new Mercury Monday, and it’s a special one, because instead of focusing on a whole, entire Mercury, I want to just talk about one strange detail of the third-gen 2003-2004 Mercury Marauder: the oil pressure gauge. It’s strange because the consensus seems to be that this oil gauge is a dirty fake.
Go ahead and take a moment to wipe down your screen after what I assume was a powerful and loud spit-take. But yes, fake. The oil pressure gauge is a fake. Before we dig into what and why, allow me to refresh your memory about the Mercury Marauder, essentially a Crown Vic cop car all murdered-out with a 302 horsepower 4.6-liter V8 and some custom bumper skins and other trim.
The whole goal of the Marauder seems to be trying to look as menacing and as aggressive as possible, complete with some kinda embarrassing-in-hindsight quotes:
I especially like that the sentence they felt was important enough to put in bold type is the one that said “the taillights, turn signals, and back-up lights are smoked as dark as the DOT will allow.” Damn, Mercury! What a badass! Look at you, almost breaking the law, you’re so bad, making your important signaling lamps as dim as the law will allow! Holy shit! I bet a badass like you also drives right at the motherfucking limit of speed, right? If that sign says SPEED LIMIT 65, you know a Marauder driver is right there, not some candy-ass toodling along at 63 or 64!
That, plus “penetrating beams of light ‘let em know trouble’s comin'” and a “Debossed Marauder Name” on the rear fascia to let people know they’re “about to be blown away” (though if they’re seeing that on the rear, haven’t they already been blown away?) and exhaust pipes that emit an “authoritative note that demands respect” all add up to a formula that let Mercury really attract those younger buyers. How young? Well, the average Marauder buyer was a near-infantile 51 years old, barely past the half-century mark, compared to Grand Marquis buyers who were an ancient 69 (noice) years old! These crazy 50-something teens in their Mercury Marauders, with those dim taillights and authoritative exhaust!
Oh yeah! Plus look how much this beast would scare wimpy little Corollas and Saturns!
Oh damn! I bet you’d like to see something where the camera whips around a lot more though, right?
If that’s not enough for you, get this: the Marauder came with a black leather jacket. You know, like the Fonz, that fictional middle-aged guy who lived over the garage of that suburban family’s home on TV decades ago?
Man, were the early 2000s just crammed full of dangerous, cool 50ish men in leather jackets with zipper pulls featuring the Roman messenger god, making all kinds of trouble and giving late ’40s to early ’50s women their last real pregnancy scares? Maybe? I don’t really remember.
I need to focus here, though: see those two white-faced gauges there? That’s what I want to talk about. They must have been pretty important to the whole Marauder experience, because they get two separate callouts in the same Marauder brochure. Here’s the second one:
There they are again, number 14 this time, the Auto Meter™ gauges that will help you, apparently, take back the mean streets by keeping you informed about your oil pressure and alternator output. Here’s how the owner’s manual described the use of that oil pressure gauge:
Okay, so, help me out here. If the pointer drops below 4–60 psi or 6 psi, stop the engine as soon as possible. Sure, that’s basically fine, but why add the “or 6 psi,” because if you need to cut off the engine when the pointer drops below 40-60 psi, then why would you even need to mention turning off the engine at 6 psi which is, if my math is accurate, less than 40 psi already? That’s weird, right? Something feels off.
Well, it seems there is something off, and it’s referenced in a number of enthusiast forums about the Marauder: it’s not really an oil pressure gauge. So what is it? The consensus seems to be this, as stated by a user on the MercuryMarauder.net forum:
“The OEM oil pressure gauge is a fake. As King Fubar said, as long as you have more than ~6 lbs of pressure, the switch (it’s not a sender) closes and you get a “normal” reading on the gauge, which is around 60 lbs, IIRC. “
Essentially, the gauge is a more mechanical and visually interesting idiot light, as the oil pressure sender is not actually sending a stream of oil pressure data, but rather a simple on/off signal if the pressure is above the 6 psi minimum, which just sends the needle to the middle position, about 40-60 psi. But, it really could be anything above 6 psi. This bit of hand-waving does seem to have made some Marauder owners quite cross indeed:
I recommend insisting that these bull-s**t guages
be fixed. As far as I’m concerned my oil guage is broken. It does not tell me the OIL PRESSURE. What kind of oil pressure guage does not display the oil pressure. Complete horse-hockey!
Hey, hey, buddy, language! We don’t use salty talk like the horse-H word around here! I know you’re hurt and confused, but children read this site!
In fact, some people were so upset they reached out to the gauge supplier, Auto Meter, to find out the truth about the gauge. One owner shared the response they got from Auto Meter:
Thank you for your question. I understand you are disappointed to find a gauge that appears to be an Auto Meter gauge, yet functions as a typical original equipment (OE) piece.
Auto Meter Products built the Marauder’s gauges to Ford Motor Company’s specifications while borrowing from the look of our Ultra Lite instrument line – that’s why they function like an original equipment (OE) gauge, but look like Auto Meter’s Ultra Lite gauges. The gauge is not ballasted. Rather, as you indicated, it operates more like an “on/off” switch.
Although your idea of a conversion kit for your Marauder’s oil pressure gauge is logical and inventive, we will not be manufacturing a conversion kit for it. As it is built to Ford’s OE specifications, the gauge cannot accommodate such an adaptation.
We are not licensed to manufacture any look alike gauges, even on a “one off” basis, to match the stock Marauder instruments.
If you desire to completely replace your stock oil pressure gauge, I’d first check with your local Ford dealer regarding warranty issues. Additionally, removing OE senders/gauges will send error messages to the car’s CPU, causing flashing “service engine soon,” or other warning lights. This can be problematic and frustrating. Again, please consult your certified Ford dealer to discuss warranty issues before replacing any of your OE senders and/or instrumentation.
The optimum scenario is to complement your OE gauges with functioning Auto Meter product. Again, you are advised to contact your local Ford dealer to determine if you’ve adequate ports, clearance, etc… to tap into your vehicle’s engine. If you would like to receive an Auto Meter catalog, please reply to this email with your full name and mailing address. I’d be happy to send you one!
I hope I’ve answered your questions. Thank you again for your email and your continued support of Auto Meter Products.
So, it appears that Auto Meter themselves admit that it’s just an on/off indicator as opposed to an actual gauge. As for why an automaker would do this, my assumption would be why automakers do so many weird things: it saves some amount of money. There’s no question a simple on/off oil pressure switch is cheaper than an actual sender. But there’s an aspect to it I hadn’t considered, which our own Huibert Mees, an automotive engineer who once worked for Ford, explained to me:
I think you will find Ford is not the only one using gauges as glorified idiot lights. Most people do not understand that oil pressure varies naturally and would complain that the gauge was all over the place. Ford “fixed” it by making the gauge sit in one place until the pressure exceeded a level either low or high at which point the gauge would move.
[Editor’s Note: I worked on the cooling system of the Jeep Wrangler JL, and can tell you that I sat in on a meeting during which we decided how the gauge would behave based on coolant temperature. Yes, “decided,” because the gauge didn’t just go up when things got hot and drop when things got cool, it behaved in a way that reduced the chance of the customer being concerned — for example, it might stay in the “normal range” during a short spikes at, say, a red light at the top of a steep hill that someone towed a trailer up. Was the temperature higher than normal? Sure. But you wouldn’t know it based on the gauge. -DT].
I suppose this makes sense, but it’s really just disappointing in another, perhaps less expected way, and implicates the customers as well as the company. It does seem to be possible to add proper, functioning oil pressure gauges to your Marauder, and most of those forum links give instructions how to do that, since it seems many Marauder owners are just not going to put up with that kind of bullshit.
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