Autopilots, Tiller Pilots

Brands in this category

Raymarine - The Marine Specialists. With over 30 years of experience in the development and manufacturing of electronics for pleasure boats, expecially of marine navigation systems and autopilots, Raymarine produces innovative technologies combined with elegant designs.
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Garmin was founded in 1989, and is among the world's leading companies in the development of mobile navigation technology for the automotive, aviation, marine, outdoor and sports sectors. In the marine sector, Garmin has developed into one of the leading suppliers of navigation devices on the water with its own cartography.
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Simrad Yachting is one of the largest marine electronics companies. The brand's name comes from Robertson, Simonsen Radio and Shipmate. Their story began after the second world war - when the first VHF radios were produced, today the product range has extended autopilots and chart plotters. The fastest racing boats in the world are equipped with Simrad products.
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About 75 years ago Simonsen Radio was founded, which paved the way for the creation of Navico. Willy Simonsen from Norway first started with the distribution of echo sounding equipment and eventually decided to join forces with several partners under the name Simrad Yachting. Some time later, in the early 2000s, the merger of Lowrance Electronics and Simrad Yachting resulted in the current name Navico. Since then, nothing has stood in the way of the manufacturers of multimedia and network electronics in the marine sector, allowing them to expand into unrivalled territories.
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B&G is one of the world's most popular brands amongst the world's best skippers. For over 50 years, B&G has developed technical solutions designed to make skippers enjoy their activities on the water even more by maximising maritime safety and improving visibility at sea.
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TOP offers, limited quantities in Autopilots, Tiller Pilots

An autopilot allows your ship to be steered automatically by means of a manual course to steer. From different data sources, the autopilot adapts the response of the rudder to follow the course to steer and corrects if necessary. Here we answer frequently asked questions about the functionality, selection, installation and components of an autopilot.   Learn more about Autopilots, Tiller Pilots...
Autopilots, Tiller Pilots

Autopilots and tiller pilots

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- What does an autopilot do? -

An autopilot is an automatic steering device for boats. In other words, it steers the boat for you. From different data sources, the steering system / course computer calculates the course and intervenes if necessary. Most pilots work via compass or GPS. Additionally, you can use external NMEA2000 data sources such as wind sensors to give the pilot a wind angle to steer. Whether you are going on a long trip, racing or looking for a suitable autopilot for a relaxed afternoon cruise, we offer you the right autopilot for every application. Through the knowledge of our experts and our comprehensive product range, you will quickly find the right autopilot for your boat or the right spare part. 

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Which autopilots are out there and what should be considered when choosing?

The following types of autopilot are generally available:
Tiller pilots
Wheel pilots
Inboard autopilots

How to choose the right autopilot:

Each autopilot type has its own advantages and disadvantages. When choosing an autopilot, it is important that you base your calculations on realistic data from your boat. Does your boat really have a displacement of 11 tons or is it more like 13 tons when fully loaded? Often the actual displacement of a fully loaded boat is a good 20% above the stated displacement. Whether your boat is heavy or light at the rudder also plays a role. This information is extremely important when selecting an autopilot system, because it won't help if you go for a cheaper option and the autopilot's drive mechanism cannot move the rudder blade from light to hard in a reasonable time or stops after some time due to overload. However, be careful not to go for one that is too big, as this would be a disadvantage in terms of price, weight and consumption. You should therefore choose an autopilot drive suitable for your boat and with the right capacity.

Using cockpit pilots

If you intend to use your autopilot only during good weather and in light swells then you can safely go for a Raymarine ST series tiller pilot, Simrad TP series tiller pilot or Raymarine wheel pilot. Please note that these autopilots do not have powerful drives due to their design and are therefore not very efficient in heavy waves and rough seas. Choose your autopilot according to the displacement of your boat when it is fully loaded and allow for some margin.

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Using inboard autopilots

If, on the other hand, you do not want to forego your autopilot even in bad weather conditions, or if you want to kit out your boat for a long journey or a round the world trip, then we strongly recommend the installation of an inboard autopilot. The drives of these autopilots are designed for continuous operation and are usually much more powerful. For example, hydraulic linear drives provide a maximum thrust of up to 1.2 tons and easily keep boats with a displacement of up to 35 tons on course. Depending on the existing steering system, hydraulic, electromechanical or for chain steering systems, so-called rotary drives or geared motors are available.

Choosing the right autopilot drive and course computer depends on the existing steering system, the actual displacement of your boat and whether your boat is heavy or light at the rudder, for example long keel boats, which are usually heavy to steer. For hydraulic steering systems, you may be able to continue to use the existing hydraulic pump, you only need the appropriate course computer and accessories. Which course computer you need depends on the amperage (A) of your existing pump or drive. If you need a new hydraulic pump, choose one according to the volume of the existing hydraulic cylinder and then choose the course computer appropriate to the hydraulic pump. Make sure that the whole hydraulic system is proportioned correctly in accordance with the rudder pressure.


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What types of drive are available for autopilots?

Hydraulic drives

The rudder is moved by means of a hydraulic pump and a hydraulic ram. The size of the hydraulic pump depends on the volume of the hydraulic cylinder. Special continuous-operation pumps are available for large ram types up to about 1200ccm. Information about the volume of the hydraulic cylinder can be found in the manual or on the ram itself. The size of the hydraulic pump determines which course computer to choose. Make sure that the course computer is able to operate the hydraulic pump.


Hydraulic linear drives

Hydraulic linear drives are designed for use on larger, mechanically steered ships and can easily guide a ship with a displacement of up to 35 tons. Since hydraulic linear drives require a lot of power, a course computer with a high switching power is required in most cases. Make sure that the course computer is able to operate the hydraulic pump.

Mechanical linear drives

Mechanical linear drives are the most commonly used drives on sailing yachts. This is because they deliver high thrust of up to 20 tonnes in a relatively compact design. By mounting below deck, these drives move the rudder directly from the tiller arm or rudder quadrant. It is important that the installation of the mechanical linear drives is carried out professionally. It is essential that the drive is firmly fixed to the hull of the vessel, and there is often a need to reinforcce or adapt the location where the ram base is fixed, because otherwise the drive will break away from its fixings at high thrust.

Mechanical linear drives are available in different sizes. Make sure that the course computer is able to operate the hydraulic pump.


Mechanical Rotary Drives

Rotary drives, are used on motor and sailing boats with cable or push rod control and a displacement of up to 20 tons. With this steering system the rudder is moved by a chain and a gear wheel. It may be necessary to adapt the on-board control system to integrate the rotory drive.

Rotary drives are available in different sizes. Make sure that the course computer is able to operate the motor.


Outboard with cable steering

This type of drive provides automatic steering for outboard engines with Morse 290, 304411 and Teleflex SSC52 cable steering. Installing the drive is usually quick and easy, the steering control cable is routed through the drive and the drive is mounted directly behind the steering wheel.



It is possible to install a course computer appropriately dimensioned for your Z-drive. The course computer is connected directly to the Z-drive. Make sure that the drive and the course computer are compatible. In this respect, there are differences depending on the manufacturer of the Z-drive. Please contact us or the manufacturer before purchase.


What does an autopilot system comprise?

An autopilot system basically consists of a drive unit or ram, a compass, a rudder feedabck, a course computer and a control unit. On tiller pilots like the Raymarine ST series and Simrad TP series, all these components are built into one housing. For inboard pilots, all these components are installed individually.

The course computer and the compass sensor are the central system of the autopilot. Modern heading sensors are much more than a simple direction indicator. In addition to the current course, ship movements in all directions are measured and used to optimally calculate the necessary rudder movement. Be sure to follow the installation instructions in the compass sensor manual and select the installation location accordingly. While with older compass sensors it was possible to hear a rattling sound when moving the sensor quickly, modern sensors no longer contain moving parts, but work with solid-state technology.

In addition, an autopilot control unit is usually included in the autopilot system for inboard autopilots. Some systems allow you to integrate a wireless handheld remote control or a chart plotter or multifunction device. A rudder position sensor, so-called "feedback", or rudder reference unit, is not required for all autopilot systems and is therefore not included as standard with all manufacturers.

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How can the autopilot be calibrated and is a rudder position sensor necessary?

Modern autopilot systems no longer require calibration by default. In order to determine deviation and steering response, the autopilot sensor measures all relevant data while the vessel is in motion and virtually calibrates itself. Once you are satisfied with the autopilot's steering response, some autopilot systems allow you to disable automatic calibration of the autopilot system.

Modern autopilots are able to determine the position of the rudder by manually calibrating the rudder position once. However, the position of the rudder can be determined much faster and more accurately with the aid of a rudder angle sensor, and some display devices can only show the current rudder position in conjunction with appropriate rudder angle sensors.

How do you operate an autopilot?

An autopilot is usually operated using a special autopilot control panel, although in most cases tiller pilots are operated using the buttons on the tiller pilots themselves.

A special autopilot display, usually found on inboard pilots, allows you to set and correct course to steer, make adjustments, and turn the autopilot on or off. Modern autopilots can also be controlled with a compatible chart plotter or multifunction display. It is possible to send waypoints and routes via a chart plotter to the autopilot or to correct the course. This means that the autopilot control unit can be fully replaced by a compatible chart plotter. However, we strongly recommend that you continue to use your own autopilot control panel mounted at the helm station, as this display gives you constant and above all quick access to the autopilot functions. If, for example, you need to disengage the autopilot quickly in a dangerous situation, or set it to standby in order to operate the rudder yourself, you will first have to tediously activate the standby function on the chartplotter, whereas there is an extra standby button on the autopilot control unit, which can be pressed quickly in an emergency.

Autopilots can also be operated via a radio remote control. Operation is largely limited to course corrections and switching to standby mode, but important data such as current speed, depth or course can also be displayed on some models.

What general steering modes are there?

Autopilots generally have the following steering modes:
Compass steering
Waypoint steering
Wind sensor steering

There are additional steering types depending on the manufacturer, that can be used for catching fish or special steering for motor boats.

Compass steering

As the name suggests, the autopilot follows a fixed course using compass steering. This mode is the most common way to use an autopilot and it is a reliable way to steer, especially for long distance trips. The boat is set to the desired heading and this is maintained by the autopilot through permanent course corrections.

Waypoint steering

When steering to a waypoint or route, the autopilot maintains the course needed to reach the set destination, the waypoint, or a route comprised of several legs from one waypoint to another. In this case, you will have to acknolwedge the arrival at a waypoint to give the new leg instruction to the pilot. This means that the autopilot constantly adjusts its course to the current destination.

Wind sensor steering

This type of steering requires an external wind sensor which is able to supply data to the autopilot. With this method, it is a wind angle that is set to steer with. The pilot keeps that wind angle constant, whatever the wind direction. The boat keeps the same wind angle, following the wind. This is a useful mode for ocean racing when wind conditions are stable.

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Aleksandrs K. on 05.07.2022

Delivered quickly! some did not hold air. The seller immediately sent new ones!

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Shawn L. on 04.07.2022

Very easy to deal with and very quick and efficient with supply.

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Phil W. on 04.07.2022

As Ordered, no complaints.