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How to know what to look for in a Pontoon Boat?

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Admiral
Admiral

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Joined: Sep 12 2012
Location: Tennessee
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    Posted: Jan 29 2013 at 8:03am
Most of us here know what we want to find in a pontoon boat for a restoration project, but others may not know. So I'll be writing a general guide line for those interested in how to determine what would you need to look for in a pontoon boat.  This will take me some time to write up, but I'll get started and then edit it as I go.

Now this is geared to those who want a pontoon boat that they can either do very little to nothing to get it on the water or you can start with a fresh slate and redesign how you want it to be like you want it.

Right off the top of my head I can think of at least 3 major areas to look at for those want a boat that would be ready to go. The pontoons (either U shaped or Round), the motor (whether inboard or outboard) and the frame of the boat. Trailer is not part of the boat but should be a very important consideration if you're going to be hauling to/from your recreation area of consideration.

You want to check the pontoons for any water that may be present which would be an indication they are leaking and would need further investigation as to the extent of the leak. Lots of pontoons have drains in the aft section and if possible, remove the cap to check for water. Hearing air escape is normal. However if water drains out, how much comes out can be very telling. You can expect some condensation so the amount should be very small, but if more than a gallon comes out, be wary. Also check the circumference of the pontoon. You want to stay away from those of 19 inches, they are just too small unless you want to change them out. Some older pontoons have 21 to 23inches. If larger than 23 inches, you're in good shape for capacity (passengers, gear, etc).

The motor, whether it be inboard or outboard is another big ticket item. If you're not comfortable doing this type of work, take it to a mechanic for a check. Look it over very carefully beforehand. If possible take someone with you who is experienced with motors. Two strokes are generally not as clean but looks can be deceiving. Its not hard for someone to have a motor cleaned but it either doesn't run or has problems. See if it has new parts and listen to what the owner says about it and if he mentions new parts. Have them take you for a test run if possible. Running a motor on muffs doesn't truly test the motor but at least you'll know if it does run - rough or not. Look at the prop. Is it clean and free of nicks or bent blades? If not, that's an indication of trouble especially if the motor has been run for very long with a bent or otherwise damaged propeller. Final say, let the mechanic give you their opinion.

Frame will be the hardest part to determine structural integrity. Look for stress cracks around bolts where the frame is bolted to the pontoon logs or other framework. Does the supports running across the aft end look like they are sagging or otherwise bent? Could be trouble or too heavy of a motor on the transom pod. Older pontoons were not rated for big powerful motors of today. Some transom pods are only rated for 40hp. Structural support is critical. Take a tape measure and see how far apart the cross members are. 16 inch centers are pretty much standard, some have 12, some may have 24in centers.  If you're considering adding a bigger motor, make sure the motor pod can handle it, the boat is rated for it and you have sufficient structural support for the motor pod. Rebuilding your pontoon is an excellent time to add structural support and replace any frame supports that show signs of stress cracks.

Now a lot of you are asking now - what about the deck and carpet?  If you're wanting a boat that's ready to go, then that's important. Does the carpet look ratty or does it look good. Does the floor have any soft spots? Could be time for a new deck. If you walked around on it and it feels fine and you're satisfied with the way the carpet looks and everything else checks out on the pontoon boat, then you should be ready to go.

I'll add more to this as I have time so stay TOONED
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