4 Reasons Why Your Pontoon Boat Leans to One Side (Explained)

Pontoon Boat ownership can be one of the most rewarding and exciting forms of recreation. However, when things go awry, and your pontoon boat starts leaning to one side, it can quickly become a serious safety concern. 

Reduce Sailboat Heeling Too Much
Reduce Sailboat Heeling Too Much

Here are the 4 most common reasons why your pontoon boat leans to one side: 

  1. Uneven weight distribution. 
  2. Wind force.
  3. Propeller torque.
  4. Waterlogging or damage to the pontoons.

Let’s take a deeper dive into these four reasons why your pontoon boat might be leaning to one side. I’ll explain how to diagnose and repair each of these issues to help correct your boat leaning or better prepare for potential problems in the future.

1. Pontoon Boat Leaning Due To Uneven Weight Distribution

When loading your pontoon boat, your boat’s load must be distributed evenly between the bow and stern. It’s also crucial to ensure the load is balanced between the port and starboard of the boat. Failure to do so will result in your boat leaning towards the heaviest side. 

You’ll also need to consider what you’re using your pontoon boat for. A boat for one or two people to go sightseeing out on the lake for a few hours compared to a boat of 15 people hoping to party on the lake for a weekend are going to have different load needs.

Before you get the boat into the water, verify that couches and other essential parts of the boat are laid out in a balanced configuration. This will help once you load up the boat with supplies. 

Keep in mind, however, unless you weigh out everything that’s coming aboard your pontoon boat, the only way to know for sure if your boat’s load is evenly distributed is to put the boat in the water. 

Pontoon Boats Leaning Due To Uneven Weight Distribution

Should you observe one side leaning once the boat is in the water, start by moving the heaviest items from the leaning side towards the center of the boat. This is the easiest way to rebalance your boat. 

If you’re having difficulty judging whether or not your boat is even, you can use a carpenter’s level to know for sure. You’ll need to be in still water, and you’ll want to take measurements in several different places to ensure accuracy. Or, some phones have apps installed (or that you can download) that you can check the level with. 

Also, keep in mind that your passengers might have different weights, as you might have small children and larger adults aboard. Moving your passengers around can be a way to even out your pontoon boat’s weight distribution as well. 

Failure to even out your pontoon boat’s load can result in serious safety issues. Too much lean on one side could result in your boat capsizing in extreme cases or even passengers falling overboard. And both of these issues could lead to serious injury to you and your passengers or damage to your pontoon boat. It’s best to address weight distribution before heading out from the dock. 

Finally, note that this issue can only be diagnosed if your pontoon boat is leaning while stationary. If your boat only leans when in motion, the other reasons in this article may be to blame. 

2. Wind Force Can Cause a Pontoon Boat to Lean

It might sound silly to include wind force as a reason why your pontoon boat might be leaning to one side, but it’s one of the most common, overlooked reasons you are experiencing a tilt on your boat. This is because great wind gusts can crop up unexpectedly on warm sunny days due to the lake breeze effect

If you’ve ever been near a lake on a warm sunny day and were surprised how chilly and windy it was once you got on the water, then you’ve experienced this effect. Land and water absorb and release heat at different rates, and when releasing heat, this temperature difference creates a gust that’s great for sailing but can cause some challenges if in a pontoon boat. 

Pontoon boats are designed with comfort in mind and will handle most wind gusts just fine. However, if you notice your boat is leaning a lot when turning into or facing away from the wind, this could be the culprit. 

While we can’t turn off the wind, we can adjust for it. Having a windsock on board can help you determine which way the wind is coming from and either steer away from it or be more cautious when heading into it. 

3. Improper Propeller Torque Can Make a Pontoon Boat Lean

Another common issue might be your outboard motor, especially if your pontoon boat is leaning to the right when moving through the water. This issue is generally more pronounced in brand new boats. 

Improper Propeller Torque Can Make a Pontoon Boat Lean

While every attempt is made to have the boat aligned from the factory, a simple adjustment to the trim tab is all you need to fix this lean. This adjustment is quick and easy, and your owner’s manual should include specific instructions for your boat on how to do this.  

4. Waterlogged or Damaged Pontoons Will Cause Boat To Lean

Finally, if you can’t attribute any of the reasons above as the cause of your pontoon boat leaning to one side, then it’s possible your boat has suffered damage to one of the pontoons themselves. This can be caused by many things, from improper storage to running up against rocks or even age. 

Regardless of the cause, a leak in a pontoon is hard to diagnose and can be costly to repair. One method frequently cited by pontooners is as follows:

  1. Pull your pontoon boat entirely out of the water and onto a trailer. 
  2. While it’s onshore, someone must stand near the pontoons to monitor for sloshing sounds. 
  3. Have the driver move forward and hit the brakes. 

This sudden start-stop should cause any water inside the pontoons to slosh around and be audible. Actually finding the leak and fixing it tends to be a bit more challenging, so if you’re not experienced in this matter, it’s best to find a professional to handle this for you.

Check out this video to learn about some of the most common problems with pontoon boats.

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