9 Reasons Your Pontoon Boat Won’t Start (+ What To Do)

So you’re looking forward to a day on the lake, and you’re neck deep in preparations. But as you go through your pre-departure checklist, you’re stopped in your tracks. Your pontoon boat won’t start!

There’s a sickly moment of unpleasant surprise as thoughts run through your head about replacements, warranties, and perhaps even a boat that’s damaged beyond repair.

Before you let panic get the best of you, think for a minute. What could have caused it? There are lots of reasons why your pontoon boat might choke, and most of them are easier to resolve than you might think.

Here's 9 Possible Reasons Why Your Pontoon Boat Isn’t Starting

The initial worry of hearing the sound of your pontoon boat failing to start can be more than frightening. But don’t sweat it - a lot of times, the problem can be much simpler (and much cheaper to resolve) than the horrible things you might have in mind.

1. No Gas in the Tank

Sounds funny, but it sure does happen! If you’re not the kind of person with your eye always on the fuel gauge, then it’s possible you just dried out the fuel from the tank the last time you went out on the water. Or maybe your boat is coming from a long period of storage, and you emptied out the tank before putting it there.

The Solution:

Buy fuel from the marina you're at. Or, if you're not willing to pay those exorbitant prices, take a gas caddy to your local gas station and fill it up.

2. Problem with the Fuel Lines

The fuel lines allow gas to run through from the tank to the engine. If they’re bent, broken, or otherwise obstructed, then your boat won’t introduce any gas into the chamber, nothing will combust, and it won’t start.

The Solution:

Check all of your fuel lines and make sure nothing is bent or broke. If it's a clog, compressed air might do the trick.

3. Foreign Contaminants in the Fuel System

It’s imperative that nothing mixes in with your fuel. Water and other debris can restrict your fuel’s compression capacity, causing it not to burn. So in the end, your boat might refuse to start, and it might even cause damage to your system entirely.

The Solution:

Clean out the gas tank and lines. Drain the tank, isolate the lines so nothing gets into the engine, take out and replace fuel filters and wash the tank. You can even use isopropyl alcohol to get rid of any goo that might have built up over time.

4. Blocked Filter

The fuel filter’s job is to prevent contaminants and dirt from making it was from the tank and fuel system to the engine. Over time, the thing can sift loads of dirt causing it to clog. When this happens, fuel flow to your engine becomes restricted.

The Solution:

Clean your fuel filter regularly. If it's a little too old and worn for cleaning, make sure you find a replacement for it.

5. A Loose Fuel Connector

As time wears on, it’s possible that your fuel connector might become loose. This is common with an outboard motor. When this happens, you might not be introducing any fuel into your engine since the connector isn’t feeding into it. You can usually tell by the smell of fuel or by a visible leak.

The Solution:

Tighten that baby up. Although it might be tempting to seal it off with some sort of adhesive paste, it's always just better to tighten the connection since you might have to make replacements later on.

6. A Dead Battery

If your pontoon is an electric start type, then a dead battery should be the first thing you look into. Pontoon boat batteries only have a certain number of years under their belt, after which they won’t charge as efficiently as they used to. You’ll know if its a battery problem if the boat just clicks when you try to start.

The Solution:

If none of your lights or electronics come alive when you stick in the key, and the boat refuses to even make that starting sound, then it might be a battery issue. In this case, a replacement would be your only solution.

7. Busted Main Fuse

The main fuse on your boat your main power source to your electronics. If it’s busted, then you might not be able to get your boat to start. Fortunately, they’re pretty easy to replace, and they don’t cost a lot.

The Solution:

Find the main fuse which should be located in the boat's wiring harness, contained in a red holder. You should be able to buy a replacement fuse from your local hardware shop or boating supply store for about the price of pocket change.

8. Dirty, Broken Spark Plugs

The spark plugs essentially light the fire. Without them, your fuel won’t combust. And when the fuel doesn’t combust, well then your boat won’t start. Over time, spark plugs can become dirty, dampening their performance. They can also get broken, which may call for a replacement.

The Solution:

Spark plugs are pretty cheap and they might even be available at your local marina. Whether they're dirty or busted, it's always better to just buy replacements if they're not working properly.

9. Disconnected Kill Switch

The purpose of the kill switch is to turn off the engine once the safety lanyard is taken out of place. This safety lanyard is worn by the operator, and cranks the kill switch in case you’re tossed overboard. It’s a nifty little feature that makes sure your boat will stop moving in the rare instance that you’re tossed over the rails.

The Solution:

If the safety lanyard or kill switch is disconnected, then your boat will be configured not to start. Put back the lanyard and disengage the kill switch and try to start it again.

How to Start a Pontoon Boat

If you’re new to boating and you’re not sure how to even start your pontoon, follow these simple steps:

  • Insert the safety lanyard
  • Slip your key into the ignition
  • Check the motor to make sure it's submerged
  • Turn the key as you would with your car

Your boat should start without a hitch, especially if it doesn’t have any of the problems listed above.

Get This Pontoon Party Started

If your pontoon boat won’t start, there’s going to be a reasonable explanation for it. So make sure you check all its parts and perform any necessary cleaning, repairs, and replacements before you set out on the lake.