Garmin Reactor 40, autopilot running change


Late last fall, Garmin started replacing the Reactor autopilot CCU (course computer unit) that is the “brains” in their various AP kits with the Reactor 40. It was what’s called a “running change” as opposed to a whole new product, and thus did not merit a press release.

Running changes usually just mean slight improvements and/or bug fixes, but the confidential dealer memo that went out about the Reactor 40 does note a new feature. It’s completely optional because the Reactor has its own 9-axis AHRS, but the 40 now also supports “third-party heading sensors or GPS compasses via the NMEA 2000 network” (pending a software update “coming soon”).

Garmin recently sent out another dealer memo announcing seven new Reactor 40 corepacks that do not include the GHC 20 control head, and are thus intended for boats that only want to use the AP control available on Garmin MFDs. They are not yet listed on Garmin’s autopilot page, but that situation will no doubt change soon.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

7 Responses

  1. Charles Williamson says:

    In 2016 we had the Reactor w/smart pump, which I believe included shadow drive, installed in our Albin 43 sundeck trawler.
    Would you suggest that I consider updating to the Reactor 40?

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hi Charles, If your Reactor autopilot is working well, I doubt an update is called for. What’s probably the case here is that a few installs have had issues and the Reactor 40 fixes them. I also suspect that few boats see a steering improvement from using a third party Heading device, but that’s pure conjecture on my part.

  3. Quitsa Quitsa says:

    I have a Garmin Reactor with Smartpump that was installed about a year ago. Its performance has been a pleasant surprise. It is as good as the Simrad and Furuno pilots I had previously and tracks straight even in harsh conditions. The one issue it has is that the magnetic compass heading simply won’t stay properly corrected. It is not a big problem. The displayed heading is off by 5-10 degrees or so. Steering to a waypoint works fine although the course is off when compared to what the GPS says.

    I wonder if the new CCU is related to that problem. Garmin did not really have any ideas and it is a lot of trouble to take it out to swap so I have been living with it.

  4. 4kMike says:

    Hi All! I have a Reactor with class A linear motor in my 42 ft steel sail boat. It was working almost well last summer. Only problem was that the magnetic compass makes boat to turn slightly when listing under sail. That was a bit annoying, so I changed the CCU to the model 40. Waiting eagerly the software update to get the double GPS heading unit to steer the boat.
    The new software v. 2.10 is much more unstable too: pitching makes it crazy… and can’t rely it at all.

  5. Dave says:

    My reactor 40 has quit working twice now ,had to replace actuator, and now agin after only a couple trips out ,what gives ?

  6. Cameron says:

    I’ve got the reactor 20 on my Ocean 55. I’ve had tons of issues with it, but finally after posting frustration on Yachtforums, somebody reached out with configuration advice that really helped. Garmin support continuously had me turn setting up, which made the boat twitchy causing roll that made the pilot overreact horribly.

    The pilot now works pretty well, but not up to the performance of the Raymarine evolution or old Simrad in past boats. It doesn’t twitch causing roll as much, but it doesn’t hold a course tightly when it gets a bit rough out. This season, it would let the boat veer almost 45 degrees before correcting making it useless.

    I also have the compass heading issue. I have to reset north almost every trip.

    I would love to use gps for compass, but really want to be able to adjust the responsiveness depending on sea state. Will the new 40 do that?

    I’m ready to jump to a Raymarine Evolution pilot over the winter just to end this battle!

  7. Fico Galeote says:

    Hi Ben,
    I am thinking of buying a Garmin pilot for my 37ft sailboat (Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 37), the current pilot is not working properly Raymarine st6002, I have read that the Raymarine force unit can still be used, this and that it uses NMEA200 and SeatalkNG doesn’t appeal to me very much. But I have not seen many sailboats with Garmin pilots and I do not know if they will perform as well as the B&G or Raymarine ones.

    Can you advise me on this?

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