Pontoon Boat Weight Distribution (Balance & Safe Loading Capacity)

pontoon boat weight distribution

You might feel like your pontoon boat is nothing but pure, limitless power. Certainly, all pontoon boats are built to meet stringent standards. But that doesn’t mean you can burden your boat with as much weight as you want and still experience its optimal performance.

A pontoon boat is built differently from other types of boats, and will require careful weight distribution and loading to ensure proper and safe performance. So before you set out on your next trip, you might want to consider the specifics of pontoon boat weight distribution.

What is Pontoon Boat Weight Distribution?

Unlike how much a pontoon boat weighs or the weight capacity which pertains to how much a pontoon boat can carry, weight distribution refers to how weight on board is distributed across the deck. Naturally, if everything is localized in a single spot, then that part of the boat will have the tendency to dip lower into the water. This can be a problem especially with waves crashing against your boat.

As a specific part of the deck sinks closer to the surface of the water, waves can overcome the rails and swamp the deck. However, a pontoon boat doesn’t have a V-shaped hull. So it’s less likely to teeter into the water the same way that other boats would.

Most pontoon boat owners have found that they can have between three and four people on one side of their boat without having to worry too much about the vessel dipping down on that side. However any more than that might require that you move people around since their collective weight could take a toll on performance.

How to Balance Your Weight Onboard

Ever notice your pontoon boat struggling to move through the water? Before you consider any damage to your engine or motor, you might first want to consider weight distribution. Here’s how to make sure that all the weight on board is properly spread out to prevent performance issues:

Keep People Evenly Spread

Your passengers will be the biggest contributors to weight on board. And because pontoon boat guests tend to flock together for fun and conversation, it’s pretty common to find them all nestled together on one side.

Again, it might not be too big of an issue if there’s only two or three people on board. But if more than four people group together on board, then their collective weight can mess up the balance. Tell passengers to split up if there’s more than four in a single cluster.

Set Your Chairs

There’s a lot more to pontoon boat seat placement than just aesthetics and space availability. When choosing the right place for your seats, see to it that you consider how it might affect weight distribution on board.

As a general rule it’s ideal that you keep seats closer to the stern of the boat since this helps reduce drag on the front of the tubes. This also gives the motor a little more oomph, so it can produce greater propulsive force as it sits deeper in the water.

Add a Third Tube

This one might seem like a bit of an expense, but it works. Adding a third tube can make it possible to keep your boat more balanced since it allows greater buoyant force to push up against the deck.

Similarly, you could also install a heavier, bigger motor to pull the back of the boat down. This allows a more ‘chin-up’ performance that’s helpful for streamlining performance and keeping your boat less susceptible to drag.

Common Pontoon Boat Weight Distribution Problems

weight balancing

What’s the worst that could happen? Well, there’s quite a lot that could go wrong if you don’t take the time to properly distribute the weight on your vessel. Here are some of the most common issues you can expect out of poor weight distribution:

Overworked Engine and Motor

With too much weight teetering your boat to one side or the other, your engine will try to compensate to help you move forward despite the ‘disability.’ This is especially true when there’s too much weight closer to the bow, causing the propeller to rise slightly upwards and thus have difficulty pushing your pontoon forward.

Damaged Rudder

Nothing takes quite as much of a hit for weight distribution issues as your rudder. This thing pretty much tells your boat to turn left or right. But when there’s too much weight on either side, the rudder tilts and is subject to stress as it moves along. This could loosen the hinge and make it a little more sensitive to movement than it should be.

Inefficient Fuel Consumption

Needless to say, your engine is going to glug up more fuel as it tries to force its way through the water with more weight than it should carry. If you notice that you’re starting to use more fuel than you usually do, it might be worth checking the weight on board.

Pontoon Boat Weight Distribution on a Trailer

You’d think that weight distribution issues are isolated to the water. But it can happen when your pontoon is on a trailer. The problem here can be lots of mechanical damage on the boat as well as the trailer itself, causing wear and tear, dents, and cosmetic issues, to name a few.

The best way to tell if your pontoon is weighing improperly on your trailer would be to check the tires. Extra wear on specific tires tells you exactly where the weight is localized. Here’s how you might be able to solve the problem.

  • Unhitch the trailer
  • Jack it up until the front and back are at the same height from the ground
  • Make a note of the height
  • Measure how many inches the suspension sags when hitches
  • Readjust the height of the trailer so that it's equal to the height of the unhitched trailer plus the inches of truck suspension sag

Another thing you can do is check the tongue weight. You can take your boat to a shop to measure this. If you find that your tongue weight percentage exceeds 15% of the total weight of your trailer and boat combined, then it might be necessary to move your boat towards the back of the trailer.

A Delicate Balancing Act

Yes, balancing pontoon boat weight distribution can be delicate balancing act. But there’s a lot to gain out of proper and safe loading. Make sure you’re practicing proper weight balancing techniques to keep your pontoon and your trailer damage free, and to optimize performance whenever you take it out for a spin.

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