Basic Guide to Trim Tabs – Pros and Cons

What on earth at trim tabs and what do they have to do with boats and other water vessels? What do they do, where are they from, what difference do they make? They make all the difference; they improve efficiency, performance, and safety.

Trim tabs improve the efficiency of your ride. They increase the speed of your boat, reduce pounding, correct listing, eliminate squatting, improve visibility, reduce fuel consumption and more. Your boat will squat without the proper equipment. Squatting is when the boat nose turns up and settles at the stern. When the boat does it, it creates a small mountain of water that gives a generally limited visibility and causes the boat to list side to side. Depending on where your passengers are, your boat may tilt with the uneven weight distribution. It creates a comfortable ride passengers don’t need to worry about ‘rocking the boat’. Saving on fuel is easy, by maintaining plane at a lower RPM the boat is able to achieve maximum distance which adds fuel economy and range traveled, with as much as 30% gain in fuel efficiency.

Trim tabs are typically composed of two adjustable stainless steel plains that are mounted on the transom of the boat, where the motor is attached. Like the elevators of an airplane which lift up and down depending on direction and lift, trim tabs create upward pressure. This upward pressure raises the stern and reduces water resistance against the hull. Trim tabs are mounted on both sides of the boat and operate independently, great for helping when the boat lists to one side or the other.

Buying and installing undersized trim tabs is a mistake many make. Tabs that are too small to deflect the water will create insufficient lift. The larger the trim tabs, the better adapted to lifting with the least amount of drag. Buy the largest trim tab possible for your water vessel for the best performance. Choosing what size is easy; choose a trim tab that is an inch for every foot of your boat. If your boat is 24’, you should choose 24’ span trim tab.

Hydraulic Trim Tabs vs Electric Trim Tabs

Bennett and Lenco are the leading manufacturers of trim tabs, Bennett specializing in hydraulic tabs and Lenco in electric tabs. But which kind of tab should you select for your boating needs? Here is a simplified list of pros and cons to help you determine which is right for you.

Pros and Cons
Hydraulic Trim Tabs:

Pros:

  • Some individual components are inexpensive to replace
  • Five year warranty
  • Established technology
  • The inner components rarely see sea corrosion

Cons:

  • More difficult and time consuming to install
  • The system is installed on one side of the boat, with a long tube to one trim tab and a short one to the other, causing tabs that are not synchronized.
  • Older technology
  • Older boats with hydraulic trim tabs have more documented maintenance problems.
  • While replacement parts are cheap, labor is not.
  • Not as quick and responsive as electric tabs.
  • Are not exempt from sea corrosion
  • Leaks oil easily

Electric Trim Tabs:
Pros:

  • Constantly developing technology
  • Implements newer technology
  • Synchronized tab system
  • Quicker and more responsive than hydraulic tabs
  • Easy to update from hydraulic system with a retrofit kit
  • Easier installation, less expensive labor costs
  • Electronic components are tightly sealed

Cons:

  • Expensive to replace
  • Three year warranty
  • Electric system in a water environment
  • Are not exempt from sea corrosion
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