If you're new to boating, you may wonder what trim tabs are. But even many of those who have been boating a while wonder if they even need trim tabs, especially if they have small boats. We'll take a quick look here at not only what boat trim tabs are but why your boat may need them, regardless of size.
Boat Trim Tabs
Boat trim tabs are a great feature to add to most power boats because the benefits include better performance, a more comfortable ride, and safety. More specifically:
- Better Performance - Trim tabs give faster acceleration out of the hole, quickly getting the boat up on a plane and keeping it there even at slower speeds. This eliminates squatting, the engine doesn't have to work as hard, and less fuel is used.
- Comfortable Ride - Almost nothing is worse for passengers than to nearly be pitched over the transom because the boat refuses to get up on a plane (see above); or once up, rolls like a log in the water with a lumberjack perched atop it. While proper weight distribution is the best way to prevent listing, it still happens quite often even under the best conditions. Boat trim tabs can help stop this.
- Safety - Being at risk of getting pitched over the transom or tossed over the side (see above) not only makes for a miserable ride but is highly unsafe. Other safety issues are reduced visibility when the bow is stuck in the air, and the ridiculously large wake the boat leaves behind. All of these safety problems can be solved with trim tabs.
Most trim tabs are two stainless steel plates mounted at the transom and are controlled by a hydraulic power unit. The tabs can move up and down when activated by the driver--when down, the water force creates upward lift on the stern which reduces hull resistance. This way, the driver won't have to make the passengers scuttle forward like crabs and cling to the seats, gunwale, and each other for dear life as the boat jerks forward and struggles to heave itself out of the hole.
But that's not all. Trim tabs are mounted on both sides of the stern and can be used independently. The driver controls port or starboard trim by deflecting one side more than the other to correct for port or starboard lists.
An important reminder is that proper weight distribution is of utmost importance. This should always be the first step--then if the boat still lists, tabs can be used to correct it. This should always be done very slowly however, and a little at a time, waiting a bit after each adjustment to give the vessel time to respond, as improper use of side tabs can be dangerous.
All boats respond differently, and trim tabs differ, so always refer to your owner's manual. And if you've never used boat trim tabs before, don't use a boatload of passengers as guinea pigs while you learn, especially if you tend to be a bit of a daredevil. You could lose friends that way (not to be a drag, but even perhaps literally).
But Do I Need Trim Tabs?
Some boaters think that only larger boats need trim tabs, but the performance of many small boats would be much improved if they had them. For instance, if your boat insists on the two extremes of either ambling along at trolling speed or the speed of light, you could probably use trim tabs.
Any small boat that you have to run so fast, it burns a lot of extra fuel just to stay on a plane, could do with trim tabs. Heck, even a dinghy that must be run at top speed to stay up and even, could use them. Or, if every time you hit the gas your boat sticks its nose in the air like a royal forced to walk by a peasant, you likely need trim tabs.
Trim Tab Kits
Trim tab kits are available that do not require any power, as they are preset before launching and the actuator uses an internal spring to move the tab. Smart Tabs manufactures trim tab kits that need no power packs or electricity to operate. Some of these trim tab kits are stainless steel, others are made of a composite material and come in black or white.
Bennett Marine makes self-leveling trim tabs (SLT) especially for smaller boats like skiffs and runabouts. For something a bit larger, alternate options are hydraulic driven actuators. Trim tabs are manufactured in a wide variety of different styles and sizes for the many different vessel types.
In fact, Bennet Marine is one of the leading manufacturers of trim tab kits, parts, and accessories, along with Lenco Marine. Bennett manufactures the non-powered trim tab kit, a hydraulic trim tab kit, and even a Lenco-to-Bennet conversion kit. Lenco offers only electric trim tab kits, which are popular with boaters who prefer electric trim tabs.
Trim Motors and Pumps
Trim tab motors and pumps are not the same as tilt / trim motors and pumps. They do however perform a similar function, but the major difference is that trim tabs pumps provide hydraulic power to the trim tab cylinders attached to the trim tabs. Tilt / trim motors and pumps supply hydraulic power to raise and lower the outdrive or outboard engine. Adjusting the trim of the drive unit does not produce the same results as trim tabs.
Trim Tab Parts
Whether you choose Bennet trim tabs, Lenco trim tabs, Smart Tabs, or anything else, parts do eventually wear out, even under the best conditions. Trim tab components are generally robust in construction and provide many hours of trouble-free service but like all mechanical systems, sometimes a part must be replaced. Along with the all the trim tab kits you need for that quick hole shot and fuel saving, great ride, we have plenty of tilt and trim parts here at Go2marine.