2021 NMEA Awards: Autopilot: Garmin Reactor 40 w/SmartPump v2

The Reactor 40 comes as a complete kit that Garmin says can be installed by an experienced DIYer.

Garmin Marine’s Reactor 40 with SmartPump v2 is the company’s most responsive autopilot system. It has a solid-state 9-axis Attitude Heading Reference System that can be mounted in any orientation. Its minimal heading error, course deviation, rudder movement and power consumption convinced the judges in the National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA)’s 2021 Awards program to name the Reactor 40 the winner in the Autopilots category.

Complete Package

Garmin says the Reactor 40 requires minimal commissioning and calibration. The compact brushless SmartPump v2 fits most hydraulically steered boat applications. Patented Shadow Drive technology helps keep the boat on course. It can be packaged for sail or powerboats. Shadow Drive automatically disengages the autopilot if the helm is turned, giving a captain freedom to maneuver the boat. It automatically re-engages when the boat returns to a steady course.

The autopilot reacts to the sea to hold a boat on course. Even when the boat is pitching and rolling, the Reactor 40 is designed to hold its course. While all autopilots require commissioning and calibration, Garmin says it made the process as fast and easy as possible.


One highlight is that a captain can have full control of the Reactor 40 from a chartplotter display. When combined with a compatible Garmin networked plotter or multifunction display and BlueChart g2 Vision charts, an operator can enjoy optional features like Auto Guidance that automatically steers GPS paths. The system can also be set up with pre-programmed trolling and search procedures.

When it’s paired with a Garmin networked chartplotter the Reactor 40 can be controlled from the screen.

The SmartPump v2 puts an end to guessing which pump size will work in a given application. The pump works for most boats and is smaller sized with better performance, higher reliability and lower power consumption. It comes with color-coded connections that facilitate installation and is engineered from corrosion-resistant components including anodized aluminum and nickel-plated steel parts.

The Reactor 40 SmartPump v2 automatically adjusts the maximum flow rate from zero to 2.4 liters per minute. Its brushless motor provides increased reliability, longer pump life, reduced power consumption, quiet operation, a smaller package improved thermal performance and higher overall efficiency.

SmartPump v2 is an integrated unit consisting of a motor drive ciruit with the pump in a single assembly. It’s equipped with Intelligent Rudder Rate Technology (IRRT) , it slows the rudder rate when the vessel is at high speeds and it increases rudder rate when the vessel is at lower speeds to provide optimal performance and safety in all conditions. The drive eliminates the risk of rudder “hard over” that results from hardware or software failures.

An optional remote control lets the captain control the autopilot from anywhere on board a boat.

The Reactor 40 is operated using up to 3 GHC helm control units. GHC communicates with the autopilot via an NMEA 2000 network, so autopilot heading data can be shared with other devices. This lets MARPA and chart overlay when connected to a Garmin chartplotter. An optional handheld wireless remote control is available or the autopilot can be paired with a Qautix 3 or Quatix 5 marine multisport smartwatch. An owner can also add an optional Garmin GRF 10 rudder feedback sensor.

In The Box

The complete kit includes the Reactor 40 Course Computer Unit (CCU), power cable, interconnect cable, shadow drive, a buzzer, NMEA 2000 drop cable, power cable, T-connectors, male and female terminators and full documentation.