Tips for Using Trim Tabs

Five tips to help you get the most out of your trim tabs.

As a young outboard technician, I worked with an old salt who swore that “a good hull design doesn’t need trim tabs.” It was the only time he steered me wrong. Adding trim tabs can make a good hull perform even better, giving the skipper more control as well as the ability to create dramatic changes to ride attitude. Here are some trim tab tips you can use.

1. Squat Not
If the boat is overloaded aft (for example, with a heavy load of fuel and gear), both tabs can be dropped, thereby leveling the fore-aft ride. "Tabbing down" also helps the boat plane at slower speeds for better steering control.

2. List Less
To correct a "list" (leaning to one side), lower one tab while raising the other. This technique is great to compensate when the crew wants to sit together on one side of the boat, when running in a crosswind, or to compensate for prop torque.

3. Bye-Bye, Bumpy
In rough water, the tabs can be lowered to force the bow down so the hull rides flatter with more wetted surface. The increased surface contact smooths out the ride, although at the expense of fuel economy (more wetted hull surface equals more drag).

4. Quick Shot
Use trim tabs when pulling skiers; by dropping the tabs down, the driver can lift the stern and lower the bow to plane more quickly. Helping a boat jump on plane faster and in shorter distance is also beneficial for anglers fishing in shallow water.

5. Eco Trim
Using trim tabs in concert with engine and drive trim enables fine-tuning the boat's ride for the best fuel economy in varied conditions. Set your speed. Then adjust the trim while watching the tach. When rpm drops without lowering speed, you've nailed it.

Heads Up!
Remember that tabs can only lower the bow and raise the stern. To raise the bow, use engine or drive trim.