If you’ve ever set sail in a pontoon boat, you’ve probably noticed it often pulls to the right. This can make steering difficult and dangerous, especially for beginners. So why does this happen, and how can you fix it?
A pontoon pulling to the right can be due to uneven weight distribution, drag on one side, an out-of-balance propeller, a damaged rudder, or incorrectly adjusted trim tabs. Easy fixes include distributing the weight, rebalancing the propeller, replacing the rudder, and adjusting the trim tabs.
This article will describe the causes of pontoon boats pulling to the right and what you can do to correct it. Whether you’re just hitting the open water for the first time or have been dealing with this issue for a while, read on for practical solutions to the problem.
Why Your Pontoon Is Pulling to the Right
Pontoons are popular boats because they’re spacious, versatile, and relatively easy to operate. However, one common problem with pontoons is that they sometimes pull to the right. To fix the problem, you must first identify the cause.
There are several reasons why your pontoon might be pulling to the right. The most common causes are:
Your Pontoon Is Not Weighted Evenly
A pontoon needs to be evenly weighted for proper performance. If the boat is not balanced, it will pull to the side with less weight. This can result from unevenly distributed passengers or cargo or by a motor that’s not mounted squarely.
Besides making it difficult to steer, uneven weight distribution can also cause your pontoon to ride lower in the water on one side. This makes the boat less stable and susceptible to capsizing in rough conditions.
Your Pontoon Has Too Much Drag On One Side
Another common reason for a pontoon pulling to the right is too much drag on one side of the boat. As this study points out, drag is the force that disrupts a marine vessel’s speed. When the drag comes from a certain direction, it can change the boat’s course.
The following are some of the factors that can cause this drag:
- Waves: If you’re sailing in choppy water, waves can create drag on one side of the pontoon, causing it to pull to the right.
- Wind: Strong winds can also cause drag as they push against the side of the boat.
- A damaged propeller: A dirty or damaged propeller can create too much drag on one side of the pontoon.
Your Pontoon’s Propeller Is Out of Balance
The propeller is a critical boat component that converts the engine’s power into forward motion. If it’s not balanced, the pontoon may pull to the right due to the extra drag on one side.
If your propeller is out of balance, it could be due to several factors, including:
- A bent or damaged blade: If one of the blades is bent or damaged, it will create more drag on one side of the propeller.
- Worn bearings: The propeller may wobble and create more drag on one side if the bearings are worn out.
- Worn seals: Worn seals can also cause the propeller to wobble and create more drag.
Your Pontoon’s Rudder Is Bent or Damaged
The rudder is a flat piece of metal or wood mounted at the back of the pontoon. Its primary function is to steer the boat. If this part is bent or damaged, the pontoon may pull to the right when sailing.
Another common sign that your rudder is bent or damaged is if the boat starts to turn in circles. This is called “yawing.”
The common causes of rudder damage include:
- Fishing lines: A fish caught on a line can wrap around the rudder and damage it.
- Running into objects: If you run into a dock or another object, the impact can damage the rudder.
- Ice: When ice builds up on the rudder, it can bend or break it.
Your Pontoon’s Trim Tabs Are Incorrectly Adjusted
Trim tabs are small pieces of metal or wood located on the back of the boat, near the rudder. They’re used to adjust the boat’s trim or angle in the water. A correct angle ensures the boat rides level in the water and creates less drag.
Properly adjusted trim tabs are crucial for ensuring even weight distribution, improving fuel economy and handling, and preventing porpoising.
If the trim tabs are not adjusted correctly, it can cause the pontoon to pull to the right. The tab on the side with too much drag will raise the boat’s nose, while the tab on the side with less drag will try to lower it.
Your Pontoon’s Engine Mount Is Crooked
The engine mount is a bracket that secures the engine to the boat. If this part is crooked, it can cause the pontoon to pull to one side. This is because the engine will be offset from the boat’s centerline, causing uneven weight distribution.
Several things can cause a crooked engine mount, including the following:
- Worn-out engine mounts: Over time, the engine mounts can wear out and become deformed. Consequently, the engine may not be mounted straight to the boat.
- Improper installation: If the engine mount is installed incorrectly, it can cause the engine to be crooked.
The Wind Is Pushing Your Boat to the Right
Weather conditions can significantly impact how your pontoon behaves on the water. If the wind is blowing from the left, it will push against the siding of the boat. As a result, the pontoon will be pushed to the right.
The wind can also create waves. Therefore, if the waves are big enough, they can cause the pontoon to tip to one side and pull to the right.
Your Pontoon’s Steering Cables and Connections Are Worn Out
The steering cables are responsible for connecting the steering wheel to the rudder. They’re made of metal and can become corroded over time. If the cables are corroded, they can break and cause the pontoon to lose steering.
Therefore, if the connectors between the cables and the rudder are corroded, the pontoon may not turn properly. As a result, the pontoon will pull to the right.
Ways To Fix a Pontoon Pulling to the Right
As I mentioned, a pontoon pulling to the right poses a severe safety hazard. Because of that, it’s crucial to fix the issue as soon as possible. The following are some easy ways to correct the problem:
1. Even Out the Weight Distribution
If your pontoon is not weighted evenly, you need to redistribute the weight so it’s balanced. To do this, follow these steps:
- Locate the heavy items and move them to the opposite side of the boat.
- Add weight to the lighter side of the boat. You can add sandbags, water jugs, or lead weights.
- Check to make sure the items are evenly distributed.
This video provides additional tips on distributing weight evenly on your boat:
2. Rebalance the Propeller
If the propeller is out of balance, you must rebalance it to ensure the boat rides evenly in the water. To do this, follow these steps:
- Shut off the engine and remove the propeller.
- Check to see if one blade of the propeller is heavier or bigger than the other.
- If it is, use a file to even out the blades.
- Put the propeller back on and start the engine.
- Check the boat’s movement in the water. If it’s still pulling to the right, repeat the steps until the propeller is balanced.
The following video may come in handy when rebalancing your boat’s propellers:
3. Straighten the Rudder
If your pontoon’s rudder is bent or damaged, you must repair or replace it as soon as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of further damage to the boat. To fix a bent rudder, follow these steps:
- Shut off the engine and remove the propeller. It’s essential to ensure the engine is shut off beforehand.
- Inspect the rudder for damage. If it’s bent, use a vise to straighten it. If you don’t have one, I recommend this YOST VISES LV-4 Home Vise from Amazon.com. It’s affordable, durable, and easy to use.
- Put the propeller back on and start the engine. It’s a good idea to also check the propeller for any damage before putting it back on.
- Check the boat’s movement in the water. If it’s still pulling to the right, repeat the steps until the rudder is fixed.
The following video may come in handy when fixing a bent rudder:
Note: If the rudder is extensively damaged, you may need to replace it.
4. Adjust the Trim Tabs
If the trim tabs are not adjusted correctly, you must adjust them so that the boat rides level in the water. To do this, follow these steps:
- Locate the trim tabs on the back of your boat. You’ll find the trim tabs on the back of the boat, near the rudder.
- Using a screwdriver or wrench, adjust the tab on the side with too much drag, ensuring it’s parallel with the tab on the side with less drag. Do this until the boat rides level in the water.
- Check to see if the pontoon is still pulling to the right. If it is, adjust the tabs until the problem is corrected.
This video describes how to adjust the trim tabs on a boat:
5. Realign the Engine Mount
If the engine mount is crooked, you must fix it to prevent the boat from pulling in one direction and other safety risks. To do this, follow these steps:
- Locate the engine mount on your boat.
- Using a wrench, loosen the bolts that secure the engine to the mount.
- Reposition the engine so it’s mounted squarely to the boat.
- Tighten the bolts to secure the engine in place.
- Check to see if the pontoon is still pulling to the right. If it is, adjust the engine mount until the problem is corrected.
If your engine is also misaligned, you can adjust it using an alignment tool. In that case, the following video may come in handy:
6. Clean or Replace the Steering Cables and Connectors
If the steering cables and connectors are corroded, you must clean or replace them. To do this, follow these steps:
- Locate the steering cables and connectors on your boat.
- Using a wire brush, clean the corrosion off the cables and connectors.
- If the cables and connectors are damaged, replace them.
Tips for Keeping Your Pontoon on Track
Now that you know how to fix pontoon pulling to the right, it’s essential to take preventative steps to keep it from happening again. Here are six tips for keeping your boat on track:
Stick to Your Maintenance Schedule
To keep your pontoon running smoothly, it’s crucial to stick to a maintenance schedule. This will help prevent problems like pontoons pulling to the right.
Here are a few things you should do regularly:
- Check the engine mounts and make sure they’re tight.
- Inspect the steering cables and connectors for corrosion.
- Clean the bottom of the boat to remove any build-up of dirt or debris.
Use Quality Replacement Parts
When it comes time to replace parts on your pontoon, ensure you’re using quality replacement parts. This will help prevent issues like pontoon pulling to the right and will ensure your boat runs smoothly for years to come.
Here are a few guidelines to follow when purchasing replacement parts:
- Check the warranty to see how long the component is covered.
- Read online reviews to get an idea of the quality of the part.
- Make sure the part is compatible with your pontoon model.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
It’s always good to check the weather forecast before heading out on your pontoon. This will help you avoid bad weather conditions that make pontoon pulling more likely.
For example, if there’s a strong wind forecast, it’s best to stay at the dock. Strong winds can cause your pontoon to pull in one direction and make it difficult to steer.
Monitor Your Boat’s Weight Capacity
It’s important not to overload your pontoon, as this can lead to problems like pontoons pulling to the right. Ensure you’re aware of your boat’s weight capacity and don’t overload it with passengers or cargo.
Note: The more weight you put on one side of the boat, the more likely it will pull in that direction. Therefore, it’s best to keep the weight evenly distributed.
Stay Away From Sandbars and Shoals
If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s always best to stay away from sandbars and shoals. These areas can cause your pontoon to get stuck, causing it to move towards the right.
If you must go near a sandbar or shoal, use extreme caution and go slowly. This will help reduce the risk of getting stuck or damaging your boat.
Avoid Making Sharp Turns
Another way to prevent pontoon pulling is to avoid making sharp turns. This can cause the pontoon to veer off course and pull to one side. If you need to make a sharp turn, do it slowly and carefully.
Also, avoid making sudden stops, as this can cause the pontoon to pull to one side. If you need to stop quickly, make sure you do it in a straight line.
Have Your Pontoon Professionally Inspected
Finally, it’s always good to have your pontoon professionally inspected regularly. This will help identify any potential problems causing the boat to pull to the right.
A professional inspection can also help prevent severe problems from developing and save you money in the long run.
When having your pontoon inspected, be sure to have the following checked:
- The engine mounts. Check for wear and tear, and make sure they’re tightened.
- The steering cables and connectors. Inspect for corrosion and make sure they’re in good condition.
- The bottom of the boat. Clean off any build-up of dirt or debris.
- The propeller. Inspect for damage and make sure it’s properly aligned.
- The electrical system. Check for corrosion and damage to the wiring.
Pontoon pulling to the right is a common problem that boat owners face. If you don’t address this issue, you may encounter severe difficulties while steering the boat. To solve this problem, follow these tips:
- Rid the boat’s bottom of any build-up of dirt or debris.
- Use quality parts when replacing old ones.
- Check the weather forecast before heading out on the water.
- Don’t overload your boat.
- Avoid sandbars and shoals.
- Make sharp turns slowly and carefully.
- Have your pontoon professionally inspected regularly.