Frequently Asked Questions


Q: Do I need to have SMART TABS professionally installed?

A:  SMART TABS require no electric or hydraulic connections, and can be installed in less than an hour using common tools. A professional installer could easily install SMART TABS in 30 minutes or less. The process does not require technical or engineering expertise. Also, an installation video can be viewed on our website at

Q: What is the optimal position for tab mounting?

A: It is preferable when possibleto mount the outside edge of the tabs to the inside of the chines. The inside edge of each tab must be at least 10”from the center line of the boat (for instance, the location of the drain plug.)

Q: Your instructions say to install the tabs so the outside edge of the trim plate is 5” from the edge of the transom. What if this is not possible?

A: This is suggested as the optimal mounting location, but we realize that some transoms preclude this configuration. The further outboard you can mount the tabs the more benefit you will have for port to starboard control. However, location may be dependent on transom design. Most importantly, make sure the inside edge of the trim plate is at least 10” from the center of the transom (example: drain plug).

Q: What is the minimum distance from the bottom of the transom to the mounting location for the upper bracket?

A:SX10512 – Requires 7.5” from bottom of the boat.
SX9510 – Requires 10.5” from bottom of the boat.

Q: My boat has a Hydrofoil. Should I remove it once the tabs are installed?

A: Yes, ALWAYS remove the hydrofoil! Using both will provide too much stern lift at cruising speeds,causing the bow to plow into the water. A bow-down attitude can create other issues such as loss of top speed and a list to port.

Q: I have tie-down straps on the back of my boat. Do I need to move the tie-down hooks to install SMART TABS? Or do I need to order smaller tabs?

A: In many cases moving the attachment location of the tie down straps and the trailer is easy.  First, determine the mounting location of the trim tabs; then, review your options. Sometimes criss-crossing (X) the straps is all that is required.

Q: What is the minimum transom size for installing tabs?

A: There is no minimum, as long as the tabs will fit and can be positioned 10” from the center line of the boat.

Q: What do the five-hole lift pressure settings mean?

A: The five adjustments on the trim tabs allow adjustments from lowest pressure (#1) to highest pressure (#5). Pressure increases with each hole moving away from the transom. The higher the pressure the more lift you get at the stern, and vice versa.

Q: Why do you recommend placing the actuator in hole #3?

A: We recommend placing the actuator in hole #3 to begin with, then assess your boat’s performance and make adjustments if required. Hole #3 is the mean – it measures closest to the actuator pressure rating. For example, SX9510-60 adjusted to hole #3 will provide 60 lbs of pressure.

Q: What is the pressure variation between settings on the trim tabs?

A: It depends on the actuator pressure. For instance, the 20 lb actuator ranges between 18-24 lbs, approximately a 6 lb variance. The 40 lb actuator ranges between 37-49 lbs, approximately a 12 lb variance. In summary: the higher the pressure rating, the wider the range. These adjustments allow for fine-tuning the system.

Q: When should I adjust for list?

A: SMART TABS should only be adjusted if list is constant and noticeable at normal cruising speeds. SMART TABS automatically compensate for list caused by temporary conditions such as load imbalance, prop torque, or too much negative motor trim (bow down).

Q: Which tab should I adjust for list? Should pressure increase or decrease?

A: Compensate for list by increasing the lift pressure(move the actuator further away from the transom, to a higher number on the plate) on the same side to which the boat is listing.

Q: Are SMART TABS a manual system?

A: No. SMART TABS are an activesystem. They self-adjust to accommodate boating conditions (weight distribution in boat, water conditions, speed, etc.) Helm-controlled tabs are actually more manual. SMART TABS can be adjusted or tuned to the specific needs of the boat. Once they are adjusted they work automatically.

Q: Will tabs decrease fuel efficiency at low speeds?

A: SMART TABS have a nominal effect on fuel efficiency at speeds under 10 mph. The benefit is that low-speed wander is reduced because the tabs stay deployed (down) to keep the boat tracking straight, by creating resistance to wandering on both sides.

Some trim tab manufacturers claim that keeping tabs up at low speed increases fuel economy. This is counter-intuitive and is not an issue at 5 mph.

Q: What is the advantage of Trim Tabs over a Hydrofoil?

Trim Tabsprovide additional stern lift at slow speeds to reduce bow rise, provide a more level ride at pre-planing speed (10 to 16 MPH), and minimize low speed wander. At planing speed trim tabs regulate boat attitude, eliminate porpoising and improve ride and handling. During acceleration trim tabs are deployed down about 25 degrees to increase stern lift, and once on plane the tabs retract to a level attitude. SMART TABS are an active and automatic system.  Traditional helm-controlled tabs are operated by the pilot while underway.

Hydrofoilsadd additional planing surface to help the boat plane. However, the mounting location at the center line of the boat (on the cavitation flange) does nothing to improve port to starboard stability, as the lifting point is in the middle of the hull V shape.

Common issues with hydrofoils include:

  • A propensity toward making the boat list (typically to port).
  • Reduction in top speed as a result of excessive stern lift.
  • Depending on style, causing the boat to “hook” and lay over in turns.
  • Affect fuel consumption.
  • No adjustment to compensate for changing load or sea conditions.

Q: What is inside the actuator?

A: The actuator’s chamber is filled with nitrogen gas and hydraulic fluid. It technically behaves like a spring, but has no internal or external metal spring. By nature of design our actuators provide a dampened reaction to compression and extension, about 1.5 seconds, resulting in a smooth reaction to changes.

Q: What is the difference between the actuator and an automotive shock?

A:  A shock absorber does exactly that – it absorbs and dampens the vehicle’s spring action or bounce. The actuator functions like a spring, exerting pressure in onedirection when under a load. The similarity ends here. The actuator has no spring, and the dampening feature is built into the nitrogen gas chamber. It is most similar to a shock absorber and spring combination with the added feature that the load capacity is consistent through the complete stroke/compression. In other words, the resistance remains the same at full extension and full compression. The result is maximum lift at slow speed and ride control at high speed without excessive bow pressure.

Q: Why black nitrate over stainless steel actuators?

A:The life expectancy of black nitrate exceeds stainless steel by up to 28%. Our actuator is made of black nitrate treated with a rubberized coating for added protection. This combination holds up about 35% more in salt spray tests.

Q: What is the life expectancy of the actuators?

A: Life expectancy depends upon usage and exposure to the elements. The nitrogen gas is held in the actuator by rubber seals. Over time, the seals break down, and gas slowly escapes. Typically, this takes 3 to 5 years; the more the system is used, the longer they last. The actuator is protected by an air-tight, chemical- and UV-resistant EDPM rubber boot to increase longevity.

We recommend periodic inspection of the boot to ensure actuator integrity. Damage to the rubber boot allows water and debris to collect inside the boot and erode the actuator, leading to premature failure. Nauticus warrants rubber boot covers and gas actuators to the first retail purchaser for two years from the original date of SMART TABS purchase.

Q: What’s the advantage of one type of tab over the other (stainless vs. composite)?

A: Trim tab material is generally a matter of preference. Composite tabs are maintenance-free in fresh or salt water, whereas stainless tabs require zinc anodes to prevent corrosion in salt water. Stainless steel tabs can also be painted with bottom paint to prevent marine growth.

Stainless tabs are more adaptable to different transom designs and mounting locations. They may be necessary for some boats with angled or curved transoms to achieve the ideal 25 degree trim plate angle. The actuator mounting position is fixed with composite tabs; however, this application may work by substituting the bottom actuator end fitting. Instructions for certain applications can be found under the ‘Special Applications and Fitting’ section. If you have a unique transom design and are unsure about which option is best for your boat, contact Technical Support at 800-233-0194.

Q: Will the composite tabs crack or break down in water?

A:No. The material we use is nylon T6/6 mixed with impact-resistant rubber which actually absorbs water and becomes stronger.

Q: Will the stainless steel tabs cause corrosion on my boat?

A: Not if you follow the installation instructions. Stainless tab kits include a marine sealant in the form of foam strips with a pressure-sensitive backing to place between the hinge and the transom. This prevents corrosion that would normally occur with contact between two dissimilar metals (aluminum and stainless steel.)

Q: What are the actual tab measurements?

A: Trim plate size is designated by the numeric portion of our part number. For instance, the SX or SXPT 9510 Series are 9 ½ inches wide x 10 inches deep:  

  • Width is the horizontal measurement, from left to right
  • Depth is the measurement from the transom to the edge of the trim plate
  • Trim plate hinges are shorter than the trim plate width
  • SX Series (composite) trim plates taper about 1 ½ inches from the transom to the edge
  • ST Series (stainless) trim plates are straight, measuring equally at the transom and the edge

Q: What are the measurements of the hinges?

CH9510 8.5” x 2” SX Series (All models)
PH6150 6” x 1.5” open ST780, ST781
PH8150 8” x 1.5”open ST980
PH10155C 10” x 1.5”open ST1290, MT1080, MT1175

Q: I have a boat with a curved transom. Instructions for the SX series SMART TABS say I need a special end fitting. What do I need?

A: If your boat has a curved transom, contact Technical Support at 800-233-0194 for assistance before installing SMART TABS SX. Boats with curved transoms and SX Series tabs may require en eyelet-style end fitting, part number EF-PS-140, at the actuator bottom. (SX tabs come with a clevis-style end fitting, part number EF9510-2, at the bottom.) The reason is that the curvature of the transom makes the actuator almost vertical, causing the tab to “bind up” against the bottom end fitting – in other words, the tabs won’t lift properly, and the EF9510-2 end fitting can break. The EF-PS-140 allows the actuator to swivel and accommodate this application. If you have already purchased your SMART TABS SX, contact us and we will supply the end fittings at no charge.

Stainless steel SMART TABS (ST Series) require no modification.

Q: My boat has a curved transom and I bought it with SMART TABS SX tabs already installed. When I order replacement actuators, how do I know if I need special end fittings?

A: If your existing actuators have a clevis (C-shaped) end fitting at both ends, this is a standard configuration. If the top end fitting is clevis and the bottom is an eyelet (teardrop shape with a hole in the middle), this is a custom configuration:

When ordering actuators, specify the brand of boat you have or that it has a curved transom, and we will supply the actuator(s) with the following end fittings:

(1)  EFC9510-2 – Clevis Style End Fitting w/Cap (top/transom bracket)
(1)  EF-PS-140 – Eyelet Style End Fitting (bottom/plate)

If you’ve already received a replacement actuator with the standard configuration, please call Customer Service and request one (1) EF-PS-140 for each actuator. We will send these free of charge.

Q: Can tabs be used on an 8’ dinghy?

A: Yes, as long as it has at least a 6hp motor and a wooden transom or something solid upon which to mount it. We recommend either SX9510-20 (composite) or ST780-20 (stainless steel).

Q: Can Smart Tabs be mounted to a boat with an angled transom (also called a ‘reverse’ transom)?

A: Yes. Many older-style fishing boats have this type of transom. Nauticus Mobster Tabs (MT1175 series) are angled to accommodate this application.

Q: Smart Tabs are only rated for boats with up to a 350hp motor. My boat has more horsepower. Can I use them?

A:  Yes, as long as the top speed of the boat does not exceed 65 MPH.

Q: My boat is stern heavy. Should I get tabs with a higher pressure rating to keep the bow down?

A: No. All boats are stern heavy. SMART TABS adjust automatically according to overall boat weight. The five-hole adjustment built into each trim plate can be customized to produce more stern lift if needed. To do this, increase the lift pressure by moving the actuators away from the transom to a higher number on the plates.

Q: Can I install tabs on a pontoon boat?

A: SMART TABS are unsuitable for pontoon boats. Mounting requires a straight, solid surface area.

Q: How do I maintain my SMART TABS?

The only maintenance required is periodic inspection and replacement of the actuators.

We recommend periodically checking the boot casing for cracks or leaks to ensure actuator integrity. If your actuators require replacement, it is not necessary to remove the whole assembly and the entire process can be completed in minutes. This simply involves removal of the bolt attaching the actuator to the trim plate and unscrewing the actuator, then screwing the new actuator on and replacing the bolt. The existing bolt is easily removed by tapping the bolt with a hammer at the threaded end.

Actuators do wear out over time, similar to shocks on a car. They are a replaceable wear item covered by a two year warranty from the date of original SMART TABS purchase. Actuators can last up to five years.

The only other maintenance required depends upon the trim tab material chosen. Our stainless steel SMART TABS, the ST series, require the use of sacrificial zinc anodes in salt water applications to prevent corrosion. Our composite SMART TABS, the SX series, are maintenance-free in both fresh and salt water.

All SMART TABS components are sold separately and available on our website at www.nauticusinc.comunder the ‘Purchase Trim Tabs & Parts’ tab.  Zinc anodes are available at any marine supply store.

Q: What size zinc anodes do I need for the ST Series (stainless steel) tabs? Where can I get them?

A: For smaller SMART TABS, use anodes up to 1 ½” in diameter. For larger SMART TABS, use anodes 2 ¾” in diameter. These can be purchased at any marine supply store. The plates have a pre-drilled indentation in which to place the anodes.

Q: Can Smart Tabs be painted? What kind of paint should I use?

A:Yes, stainless steel tabs can be painted with the same bottom paint used for the hull. We recommend painting stainless tabs and using zinc anodes for salt water applications. Painting the tabs when used in fresh water is optional. Composite tabs do not require paint.

Q: I need replacement actuators and your website/literature says the actuator measures 10 inches long. Mine is shorter. What should I order?

A: All of our actuators are 10 inches long. If the shaft is corroded it will compress and get stuck, which could shorten the length. We do supply 7 ½ inch actuators for certain applications. These are special-order items available only from Nauticus. If you’re unsure which size actuator you need, call Technical Support at 800-233-0194.

Q: How can I retract the tabs for beaching / shallow water / rack storage?

A: The PR500 trim plate retractor kit will retract the tabs and keep them from hanging down below the transom.

Q: If I get the PR500 Trim Plate Retractor Kit after I’ve installed SMART TABS, do I have to drill new holes?

A: Yes. However, the PR500 bracket will mostly cover up the existing holes, so they’ll barely be noticeable. Follow these instructions:

For SX series SMART TABS, the bracket orientation will be vertical instead of horizontal:

  1. Remove existing transom bracket (part #TB9510-1)
  2. Fill holes with marine sealant (we recommend 3M 5200)
  3. Attach actuator to trim plate and PR500 lever
  4. Place PR500 lever in the ‘down’ position and place bracket on the transom
  5. Mark and drill new holes to attach new transom bracket
  6. Complete installation using screws provided with the PR500 kit

For ST series SMART TABS:

  1. Remove existing transom bracket (part #TB1007)
  2. Fill holes with marine sealant (we recommend 3M 5200)
  3. Attach actuator to trim plate and PR500 lever
  4. Place lever in the ‘down’ position
  5. Measure 25 degree plate angle using template provided with SMART TABS kit
  6. Mark and drill new holes to attach transom bracket
  7. Complete installation using screws provided with the PR500 kit

Q: Can I use the PR500 as trolling brakes?

A: No. The PR500 is specifically for retracting (pulling up) the trim plates. Our ProTroller SMART TABS system (PT / SXPT Series) is designed to function as both trim tabs and trolling brakes, and include a custom trim plate design to accommodate the deployed tab position.

Q: Can I retract (pull up) my ProTroller SMART TABS beyond 25 degrees?

A: No. The PR500 Plate Retractor Kit is designed for this application. ProTroller SMART TABS and the PR500 perform opposite functions and are not interchangeable.

Q: What is the difference between the PR500 Plate Retractor Kit and ProTroller SMART TABS?

A: Both the PR500 Plate Retractor Kit and ProTroller SMART TABS include a transom bracket, lever, and hardware to replace the standard SMART TABS or SMART TABS SX transom bracket assembly. However, ProTroller trim plates are customized, allowing the hinge to deploy the plates ‘down’ to function as trolling brakes. It is also important to note that the transom bracket position is different for each product.

Q: I already have SMART TABS installed on my boat. Can I convert them to ProTrollers?

A: No. You will need to replace them with a complete ProTroller SMART TABS kit.

Q. I have ProTroller SX Series SMART TABS. What do I need to know when ordering replacement parts?

A. The ProTroller SX uses a custom trim plate and actuator end fitting configuration. The actuator has a clevis end fitting (EFC9510) at the top and an eyelet end fitting (EF-PS-140) at the bottom. These items are not available for purchase on our website; however, the price is the same as replacement parts for any SX Series kit. Call Nauticus at 800-233-0194 to place your order.

Q: The tabs are spraying too much water on my motor. What is causing this?

A: There are several possible causes and resolutions for this issue:

  1. Actuator pressure is too strong and the tabs are staying deployed (down).

First, try adjusting the lift pressure to a lower setting (hole #2 or #1 on the trim plate). If this doesn’t correct the problem, actuators can be exchanged and easily replaced.

  1. Tabs are mounted too close to the motor.

Re-mount so that the inside edge of each plate is at least 10” from the center line of the boat. If your transom configuration will not accommodate this distance, call Technical Support at 800-233-0194 for recommendations.

  1. Tabs are mounted at too much of an angle (more than 30 degrees) preventing them from retracting completely.

Raise the transom bracket until the tabs reach the optimal 25 degree angle.

  1. There is a hydrofoil on the motor preventing the tabs from working properly.

Removethe hydrofoil.

Q: I noticed that my top speed decreased with the tabs. What should I do?

  1. To increase top speed, decrease the lift pressure, i.e. adjust actuators from hole #3 to hole #2 or #1. If pressure is too high, the stern lifts too much and pushes the bow down. Steering is also compromised. Also, make sure the prop is vertical (trimmed up). The top speed should increase about 5% with no porpoising.

Q: How do I keep the dual actuator tabs (ST1610) from pushing the bow down too much and decreasing time to plane?

A: They are creating too much lift. Decrease the lift pressure by moving one or both actuator(s) closer to the transom.