The Xtreme Power Assist (XPA) by Dometic promises an affordable and easy-to-install solution for a more enjoyable driving experience.
Dometic Product Manager Dave Wolfe is based in Limerick, USA . Dave has over 30 years’ experience in the marine industry and has spent those 30 years with Dometic working across engineering, new product development and product management areas. We spoke with Dave about the Dometic Xtreme Power Assist, a product designed to transform your current mechanical steering system into a car-like driving experience. With a plug-and-play system that can be installed within an afternoon and without any technical expertise required, we were curious to learn more.
Can you tell us a bit about who the XPA is for and the compatibility requirements for integration?
“All 90-200 HP outboard engines will benefit from the product. The XPA system is compatible with a large portion of popular boats including centre consoles, runabouts, RIBS, tinnies and pontoons.
High steering wheel effort can be experienced in pontoon and v-bottom boats and larger props on the 4-stroke outboards tend to create higher torque loads, requiring more effort to turn the steering wheel. The XPA will reduce these loads to a fingertip, car-like steering effort, consistent to port and starboard, and eliminate prop torque effort.”
How does the system differ from “electric helm” systems?
“The XPA adds power steering to a mechanical system. It interfaces with all Dometic mechanical systems and is fully self-contained meaning that no other modules or electronics are needed. No CANBUS network or hydraulics systems are required. The XPA will mount to any 90-200HP outboard engine and uses the existing mechanical steering. Unlike other systems, no unusual load is placed on the mechanical cables.”
From a user’s perspective, what is the steering experience like with XPA over an existing Mechanical System?
“The driver will experience automotive like steering. The Xtreme Power Assist provides true power steering. This system eliminates the normal prop torque effects and provides consistent effort to port and starboard. The steering effort is light no matter the speed of the vessel.”
From a technical view, how does the XPA measure up against a hydraulic system from an installation perspective?
“XPA installation is quite straightforward and can generally be done in an hour or so. The product can be installed by a boat owner with hand tools and basic mechanical skills. The installation does not require bleeding of hydraulic systems or programming electrical components. The unit is bolted to the front of the engine and the existing cable is then attached to the XPA, the link arm from the engine is reused. Basic electrical connections to the battery, key and status light are then installed then you’re ready to go. Remember, the hydraulic system is still a manual steering system, the XPA provides power steering, so the effort is much lighter.”
The product promises reduced steering effort, simple installation and a built-in failsafe system, can you explain how the product works?
“A typical mechanical steering system uses a helm unit with internal gears that drives a steering cable. Turning the steering wheel moves the cable in a linear motion to push and pull the outboard engine allowing the boat to turn. This is a very reliable method to steer a boat. The helm is powered by the captain, so bigger horsepower engines and large props or large boats require more effort to steer. Till the XPA the power steering options were limited to SeaStar Power Assist added to a hydraulic system or Optimus electric steering. These require a complete system. The XPA is simply added to the boats current mechanical system, there is no need to remove or replace the current helm and cable. The XPA is bolted to the outboard engine, the output end of the steering cable is connected to the XPA. The engines link arm is connected to the XPA. Wiring is limited to simple battery, ignition and warning light connections. The installation is complete. The boat will now steering with light effort with the electric power steering. The built in back up feature of the mechanical steering means you will retain steering even if the electric connection is lost.”
In your opinion, what is the most unique feature of the XPA system?
“The lack of steering effort required. The XPA will transform a boat from traditional manual steering to modern power steering like your car. It’s perfect for new boats with mechanical steering and the ideal upgrade for customers with older boats looking for improved steering. They can quickly upgrade to power steering by adding this unit and no other changes are required.”