Don't Fear The Trim Tab Button...It's Here To Help

August 7, 2013

There’s probably no more misunderstood accessory on your boat than the trim tab. New boaters, especially, are reluctant to start flipping switches they don’t completely recognize for fear of some imagined catastrophic result. Or, they the press the button, nothing appears to happen, and the switch is ignored from that point forward.

You see trim tabs are one of those features on a boat that you never really knew you needed. That is until you climbed aboard your buddy’s boat and felt the instantly smoother ride, the crisp handling and the near elimination of bow rise when the trim tabs were properly engaged. Wow, what a difference!

So, fear the switch no longer. Here are some tips for using trim tabs to help improve your ride. And, if you’re already a trim tab master, you may want to share this to help the uninitiated.

What Are The Benefits of Trim Tabs?

Trim tabs allow you to adjust the ride of your boat, independent of the motor’s outdrive. This means they effectively help keep the bow down, permitting you to have superior on-plane performance at slower speeds. They can also provide much greater visibility for the captain by keeping the bow down at reduced speeds. Ride comfort is also improved because of the ability to adjust both forward and aft as well as side to side to handle any water condition.

How Do Trim Tabs Work?

Trim tabs are installed low and wide on the transom, next to the hull bottom (planing surface). They work by altering the path of water passing under them while the boat is underway. When adjusted downward, they provide lift, thereby raising the stern and lowering the bow. Remember that the faster the boat speed, the greater the effect of trim tab adjustment. In other words, you need more adjustment at slower speeds to get your desired result. One thing trim tabs can’t do very well, however, is help to keep the bow up, which can be needed when there’s a big, following sea.

How Do I Operate My Trim Tabs?

Generally you’ll have a pair of rocker- or toggle-style switches mounted within easy reach of the helm. When making adjustments while underway, use short “bursts” of just a second or two. By keeping the adjustments short, you will have time to feel what affect it had on your boat’s ride. There will be a delay after you make the correction, so give it a few seconds to see how it feels. The switches can be operated independently so you can apply more trim to one side than the other. This can really be a big help in confused seas. You work the switches the same way a pilot guides an airplane. Push forward/up to ease the bow down, and push backward/down to get the bow up.

A Word About Power Trim

Even if your boat has a button called “power trim,” don’t mistake that for trim tabs. Power trim refers to the remote adjustments you can make on your outdrive to provide fore and aft trim adjustments (bow up or bow down). Trim tabs can help correct side-to-side adjustments (heeling or leaning) and are more efficient at encouraging your bow to trim down, such as when taking off before you reach plane. The best bet is to use both power trim and trim tabs to dial in your maximum performance for your given conditions.