Spring Pontoon Maintenance
Many latitude-challenged boaters will be launching our pontoon boats this month after what may have been several months on the trailer. If you performed a textbook winterizing job last autumn you have less to fear from the spring “break-out” ride than had you merely backed the rig into a corner of the yard after the final trip last season and ignored it ever since. On the other hand, just because your boat, motor and trailer were put away with TLC and have been idle over the winter doesn’t mean that nothing has worn, broken, seized or been damaged over the off-season.
The fool’s way to learn what parts of your rig might have deteriorated over the winter is to simply hitch up the boat and go; areas that need attention will start popping up right away. For example, if your trailer’s wheel bearings allow you to head down the road without seizing for lack of lube, local law enforcement personnel will be happy to pull you over to point out any problems your trailer’s wiring might have experienced over the off-season.
If you failed to check trailer tires’ air pressure in your driveway with a gauge, a quick glance in the rear view mirror as you drive down the road will show any obvious “list” to the rig. The angle of the list will tell you which tires need more PSI. So will a blowout.
At the launch ramp, you’ll know if your rollers have seized if you have to back half the tow vehicle into the water to float the family pontoon boat off the trailer. Once launched, a turn of the ignition key will let you know the state of your starting battery. If the engine turns over but doesn’t start, you’ll know right away to the check the spark plugs. If the boat starts and runs for a while, then sputters and dies halfway down the lake, it’s a cue to check your fuel for water or debris.
When it comes time to turn the boat, and the wheel doesn’t – turn, that is – it’s a Red Flag that you may need to lube the cables and/or bleed the hydraulic lines or replace them altogether.
Sooner or later watercraft officers will be happy to let you know if your boat’s registration needs updating, and will be happy to point out any safety gear that’s not up to snuff.
Of course, there’s an easier, less expensive and much less dangerous way to learn what might have “gone south” aboard your rig over the off season. That is taking the time to give your pontoon boat, motor and trailer a good pre-launch inspection before it ever leaves the driveway.
Here are a few of the things you can do to up the odds that this season’s “break out” voyage doesn’t result in a breakdown:
-Check the tires’ condition and air pressure and inflate to the recommended PSI
-Inspect the wheel bearings for grease and top-off as needed
-Clean each electrical connection with contact cleaner and test the wiring harness by hooking it up to the tow vehicle
-Install new spark plugs
-Check the fuel filter and replace if needed
-Drain a bit of lower unit fluid, check it for water and top it off
-Inspect the prop for dings and signs of lower unit fluid seepage
-Hook up the starting battery to a charger and bring it to full power
-Start the motor in the driveway or at the storage facility, using water muffs or by placing the lower unit in a container to allow the water pump to circulate and cool the engine
-Give the pontoon logs a visual inspection for cracks, holes, dents or other flaws
-Drain a cup of fuel into a clear container and check it for water or debris; add fuel treatment to the tank and replace the fuel filter if needed
-Test the steering and lubricate, bleed or replace cables or lines as needed
-Inspect the safety kit and replace dated flares
-Check your boat’s registration and make sure it is current
Perform the above on your rig and you’ll have much better chance of everything running right for the first trip of the season. No foolin’.