Whether you enjoy lazily floating around catching rays or a peaceful sunset cruise, a pontoon boat may be your best companion for a relaxing summer at the lake. As we inch closer to the start of boating season, and the long-dreamt days of coasting around the lake are finally in sight, it’s time to start prepping your pontoon boat to ensure it’s ready for the water as soon as weather permits.

Not sure where to start? Let this article serve as a checklist of DIY repairs and maintenance to complete in the coming weeks to keep your pontoon in optimal shape for another season of fun in the sun.

Time to Inspect and Clean

A huge part of spring commissioning is cleaning, and while it may be the most dreaded chore for many, it’s critical to extend your boat’s life span.

You’ll want to start by clearing any debris and removing all furniture and accessories. Mold and mildew can easily grow under/around furniture, life vests and other stored items, so this is an important step not to skip. While clearing the boat, you should also inspect your anchors, ropes and fenders for any additional wear and tear.

Next, wash the boat down with soap and water, then use specific cleaners for different areas of the boat where various materials are used, such as aluminum, fiberglass or vinyl. When cleaning Isinglass or clear vinyl windows, be sure to use a soft mitt or chamois cloth to prevent scratching, and avoid using Windex, as it can cause discoloring.

While cleaning the exterior of the boat, take a moment to inspect the pontoons, props and the sacrificial anodes. Check the pontoons for  any dents, and keep in mind that while it is important to be cautious when doing certain repairs on your own, there is a common hot/cold method some people have used to get small dents out of pontoons. Moving onto the propellers, you’ll want to look for any dents or damage as this could detrimentally affect your boats performance. And lastly, when looking at the sacrificial anodes, be sure to replace your zincs if more than 60 percent of the material has corroded away.

Since you’re already checking the bottom of the boat, also assess if it needs a fresh coat of paint. While it’s not as necessary for freshwater boats, anti-fouling paint will protect against marine growth such as barnacles, zebra mussels and algae. 

Once the interior and exterior of the boat are clean, it’s time to polish your boat to restore its shine. Keep in mind to take caution when waxing fiberglass on the interior of the boat since it can cause slippery, hazardous conditions.

Deck/Carpet Care

Pontoon boats differ from deck boats in that a majority have carpet flooring, which endures wet conditions and often full sun exposure, thus requiring a bit of extra work to maintain season after season.

First, check for signs of sponginess, as it could be a sign of rot under the carpet. If this is the case, you may need to replace the carpet entirely as well as a portion of your deck.

If there is no sponginess, but the carpet has started to come up in the corners or edges, scrape the deck under the affected area to remove any old glue and liberally apply new, marine adhesive glue. Next, apply a significant amount of pressure, working from the inside out, to alleviate any bumps or bubbles.

Regardless if your carpet is in need of repair, it’s always a good idea to thoroughly clean it at the start of every season. Most carpets can be cleaned with soap and water, but double check the manual to confirm the composition of the carpet and which cleaners to avoid. You do not want to remove any inherent protectant that may be built into the carpet.

If you prefer to deep clean your carpet, you can use a pressure washer or commercial carpet cleaning machines but be careful to not damage the carpet or use harmful chemicals. Again, be sure to consult your boat’s user manual to ensure you do not strip away any essential chemicals from your carpet. Once the carpet has been cleaned, remove as much moisture as possible with a wet/dry vacuum and leave in the sun to dry.

Engine Maintenance

When all the cosmetic repairs have been completed, it’s time to inspect the engine.

As with other boat engines, be sure to apply ample amounts of grease to reduce wear and tear on the engine and keep things running smoothly. Be cautious to avoid greasing the belt and use belt dressing instead. Next, you’ll want to make sure water is properly running through the engine. If it’s not, shut the engine off immediately and check the water pump or outboard motors.

Now inspect the spark plugs for any signs of corrosion. While it’s not necessary to replace them every year, it is important to at least check them for signs of damage or wear and tear. When you do change them will vary depending on the quality of spark plugs you use as well as the hours you put on your engine.

Lastly, check to see if your oil needs to be refilled or replaced to ensure your engine will run properly.

Check Electronics

While this also applies to most boats, the very last step in prepping your pontoon for your first cruise around the lake is to inspect all electronics, including the radio and GPS system. Check all connections for damage and apply anti-corrosive to protect them throughout boating season.

Next, inspect all wiring for any damage and take this opportunity to clean up any loose wiring with zip ties, wire clips and/or flexible wire loom covers to keep them neat, tight and out of the way.

Making Waves, Catching Rays

Once all of these tasks have been checked off, your pontoon is ready for the season. Get ready to make waves and catch rays all season long!