15 Most-Common Problems With Pontoon Boats (With Examples)

In Boatingby Shelby Sullivan

Pontoon boats are boats that have a large flat deck that relies on pontoons to float. The pontoons are large tubes that allow a lot of buoyancy.

Pontoon boats can be ideal for casual recreation that includes lounge areas, stand up bars, sun pads, and even tables.

Pontoon boats, like all other boats and even all other vehicles, can indeed come with their share of problems.

In this article, we will go over the most common problems people experience with pontoon boats.

4 Typical Engine Problems On Pontoons

Like all other motorized vehicles, you can begin to experience engine problems with a pontoon boat as well. These engine problems can vary in cause and severity.

1. Overheating Engine

One problem that can arise with your engine is that it can overheat. This problem is one that is often not taken care of right away and initially ignore.

This is not good. If ignored for too long your overheated engine can break down completely. If this happens while you are out on the water it can be incredibly inconvenient and expensive.

You will want to make sure you keep your eye on the temperature gauge and make sure that it remains at safe levels.

If you notice any increase in temperature you should check for blockage near the engine or replenish the water in the cooling loop.

You should keep a soft wire or rod to help snake the intake clogs in case there is a blockage.

You could also be experiencing a drive belt breaking. You will likely not hear this over the engine noise, but you will know if the engine is overheating or if your voltage meter shows that the alternator isn’t charging.

Without this belt, you won’t have an alternator or a water pump.

To avoid this issue, you will want to tighten and inspect the belt. It is always safe to have a spare on board in case of an emergency.

2. Smoke Emitting From The Exhaust

When smoke is emitting from the exhaust, or from anywhere, it is likely to cause panic for even the most experienced boater. But this does not necessarily mean engine failure.

Smoke from the exhaust could be caused by contaminated fuel, a failure with the fuel injector, or incorrect oil levels which can be either too high or too low.

3. Engine Sputtering or Losing Power

If your boat feels like it is slowing down, and you know you are not running out of gas, you could be wondering what is going on.

Often engine sputtering or losing power could be a filter problem or fouled plugs.

To fix this, you should replace the in-line fuel filter. If you did not bring a spare, you should remove the existing filter and clear it of any debris and drain it of any water.

When you get back, you should replace the filter.

You also should not leave your tank to sit close to empty for long periods of time. This can cause water or condensation in the gas.

If you need to winterize your boat, you can get a fuel stabilizer, but make sure to use it properly.

You could also be looking at failing spark plugs.

The best thing you can do is to have both a back-up filter and spare spark plugs on board at all time.

4. Engine Goes Dead or Won’t Start

If your engine goes dead it will hopefully be something as simple as running out of fuel or someone having bumped the kill switch.

If this is not the issue you could be looking at electrical failure. This could include a blown fuse or a breaker that has been tripped. You could also have corrosion or a loose connection.

It can be very frustrating when you try to start your vessel and you cannot get it to run. This can also be an electrical issue. This could include a break in the ignition circuit or even a battery issue.

Just like other vehicles, you could also have a battery issue that Is preventing your pontoon from starting. This could be a dead battery or even a corroded battery.

If this is not the issue you will still want to make sure the battery is properly secured and hooked up.

To prevent these issues, you will want to inspect, clean, or replace the necessary wiring. You will also want to make sure your battery is in proper working order and are not too old.

3 Equipment Related Failures

The engine is not the only thing on a pontoon that can go wrong. Pontoon boats, like all boats, are complex vehicles with many components and parts. If even one of these things goes wrong, it can cause issues for you and your vessel.

1. The Boat is Vibrating

If you notice your boat beginning to vibrate you could have an issue. This is especially true if it gets worse the faster you go.

The most likely cause of this vibration is that something has gone wrong with the prop. There could be a couple of possible issues with the prop that can cause a vibration of the vessel.

Possible prop issues can include:

  • A nick or gouge in the blade can cause an imbalance which can cause vibrations.
  • A towrope or fishing line can get stuck and snarl the shaft, which can also cause vibrating.
  • A direct impact on the prop could misshape the metal of the prop, or even remove some of the metal on the prop causing it to be ineffective.

Impact on the prop is less likely on a pontoon but is not impossible. One good way to reduce the possibility of an impact on the prop is to raise the motor when in shallower water.

If you get an issue with your prop, it is often not an option to change or replace the damaged prop while you are still out on the water.

The best thing that you can do is to go slow and head back to shore as soon as you are able to. You should drive on a damaged prop as little as possible.

A problem with the prop and vibrations can ruin other components of the motor and overall damage the integrity of the rest of your vessel.

You can bring a spare prop and the tools to make the switch if the possibility exists. You will need gloves to protect your hands from the blades and the specific wrench needed.

2. The Boat Won’t Shift

If you find that you cannot shift your boat out of idle speed, then your shifter might not be engaging your transmission.

Most boats have mechanical, cable shifts. A problem with these mechanical shifters could be a broken or stuck linkage.

The first thing you will want to look at is the great box to make sure the cable hasn’t become detached.

You could also have a transmission failure. If it is a transmission failure you will be unlikely to fix this while out on the water.

The most likely cause of transmission failure is a lack of fluid or oil, so you will want to make sure those levels are topped off and changed as prescribed. You can also make sure to have extra fluid or oil on board in case you need it.

3. The Boat Won’t Steer

If you attempt to steer your vessel and you find that it just won’t work, you could have an issue with your hydraulic fluid.

Your hydraulic fluid could just below and needed to be refilled, or you could have a leak. If you notice the fluid is low, you should top it off and see if you notice any fluid leaking out of the console or the fitting near the motor.

If this is the case, you might be able to tighten the fitting and help the issue.

If the drive is frozen, you could be facing a mechanical failure which could include a loose connection to the steering arm. This could involve any part of the steering system. The best way to find the problem is to trace the entire line until you find the issue.

The best prevention for this issue is to check the steering fluid level regularly and lubricate the mechanical systems. You can also bring extra hydraulic fluid on board. Don’t forget a funnel for the fluid.

2 Problems That Relates To The Pontoon Body

The mechanical parts of the pontoon are not your only possible issues. It is also possible to have problems with the body or other major parts of the pontoon.

1. Hull Issues

The hull of a pontoon can become worn down over time, get cracks, or fractures. If your pontoon boat has had a collision or has experienced a lot of wear, you could start to see issues with the hull.

You will want to make sure to if you see any cracks or fractures you take care of them immediately. These things can get worse over time and can soon become unmanageable.

You should also check the laminate underneath the surface to see if you can feel any cracks, bubbles, waves, wrinkles, or other inconsistencies.

You should also look at the point where the hull meets the deck, the flooring, or the furniture.

The better maintained these areas are, the less likely you are to have issues in the future.

2. Pontoon Tube Issues

Pontoon tubes can be damaged by the bottom of the lake or docks. If you hit something with the tube, especially the nose of the tube, you could crack it. This could cause it to start leaking.

Hitting something in shallow water could also bend or crack the tubes and also cause them to leak.

Setting your pontoon logs on the lake bottom during periods of low water can cause your pontoon logs to become “pitted” with corrosion. This is because the mud prevents dissolved oxygen in the water from being in contact with the aluminum. The aluminum of the tubes can then corrode without the oxidization protection.

Your pontoon tubes can also incur damage when you trailer your vessel. Hitting your trailer, or even rough road conditions can cause damage to these.

You will also want to make sure that your pontoon logs are positioned straightly.

If you are sailing in salt water, you will need to make sure you keep track of your pontoon tubes and whether or not the metals are being destroyed and corroded by the saltwater.

You will want to make sure you always inspect the tubes and complete the proper maintenance.

6 Biggest Disadvantages of Pontoon Boats

Even if a pontoon boat does not have any failures or mechanical issues, that doesn’t mean that a pontoon does not have any disadvantages over other vessel types.

1. Speed

One common issue with a pontoon boat is speed. Pontoon boats generally have a top speed of about 30 miles per hour. This does not make them ideal for any activity that involves a high level of speed.

Pontoon boats can get more expensive engines or even more than one to increase their speed but this can get highly expensive.

2. Rough Water Handling

Unlike traditional v-hulled boats, pontoon boats are not equipped properly for larger waves.

During storms or heavy rains, pontoon boats can be more dangerous because they dive into the wave and do not go through them like ordinary v-hulled boats.

When you plow into the waves, you can get a lot of water coming on to the deck.

On very extreme occasions this can even cause the boat to capsize.

You will want to make sure that you keep an even load on board and manage your weight distribution. You will also want to make sure all your passengers know the importance of the proper weight distribution and balance.

Also, be careful not to overload your boat. The additional weight can make it easier to swamp the boat or can make it harder to navigate on these rough waters.

If you cannot avoid the rough water, you should slow down and head towards shore.

3. Wider Wake

Wake shape is not something that most people concern themselves with, and will likely not be a factor for most pontoon owners.

However, the wake on a pontoon boat can be larger than that of a standard v-hulled boat. For this reason, you will need to be more careful when you are in a “no wake zone” than you would have to be in another type of vessel.

4. Handling

While steering a pontoon boat is not overly hard, it is slightly different than a traditional v-hull vessel.

Steering and accelerating work in the same way as a speed boat, or v-hull boat, but they are wider and can be heavier. This means that they have a wider turn radius.

Just know when you are operating a pontoon you need to leave yourself more room to turn than other vessels will need. Make sure you give other boats a wide enough distance so that your vessel and theirs can both travel safely.

You will also want to make sure that you take down the top of the pontoon in high winds. This can cause major handling issues for your vessel.

You should also never allow someone to tow you if your top is up.

5. Engine Noise

Because pontoon boats are not fast, people often overcompensate with large motors or even more than one motor. This can cause the journey to be loud.

Most boat engines are loud, but sometimes this can become too much.

Older motors are often louder than newer motors. Outboard motors are also louder than inboard motors. For some, this noise is too much and people will often purchase a sailboat to avoid the sound.

6. Possible Theft

Because a pontoon is so open without a lot of locked storage areas, and no cabin spaces, it is easy to leave all your expensive stuff out in the open for anyone to take.

Make sure you take anything of value off the boat when you are done with it and are walking away from your vessel for the day.

Pros of A Pontoon

Just because there are some cons of having a pontoon boat, doesn’t mean that it is all bad. There are also a lot of pros of having a pontoon boat.

Pontoon boats are great for fishing. They have a large deck space and you can even customize them with fishing gear.

They are also very easy to maintain.

As long as you keep up with the maintenance listed above you can reduce some major problems. It can also be cheaper to fix a pontoon boat’s issues and pontoons are easier to clean than traditional v-hull boats.

Pontoon boats can also be very safe and sturdy due to their multi-hull type design. This allows them to be flatter and more stable in the water.

One of the major advantages of a pontoon boat is that they are spacious and comfortable. You can fit more passengers on them and still have more room to walk around. You can grill on them, eat, sunbathe, and swim off them.

Overall, despite the possible disadvantages of a pontoon boat, they are good investments to have you could have plenty of family fun on one.