Are Pontoon Boat Pontoons Pressurized?


Pressurized pontoons on trailer

Pontoon boats are a one-of-kind type of watercraft. Being both practical and luxurious a pontoon boat is a great way to take to calm shallow waters. But are those pontoons that the boat sits on pressurized and do you need to check that they stay that way?

Not all pontoon boats have pressurized pontoons. Some pontoons are pressurized merely to help strengthen their inner walls and to check for leaks. Pressurizing a pontoon does not make it, or the pontoon boat, more buoyant. Undamaged pontoons work just well without any air in them.

Why some pontoons are pressurized

Most pontoon tubes that are pressurized are pressurized to about 3 – 6 psi. However, not all all tubes are pressurized. Why is this?

Well , the reasons for adding air to a pontoon are probably not what you think they are.

Pontoon boat tubes are filled with air for two reasons:

  1. To strengthen the inner walls of the pontoon tube.
  2. To check for leaks.

In most cases pontoon tubes are only filled with air to check them for leaks. Pressurizing the logs on a pontoon boat does not in any way affect the buoyancy of the boat.

To know if your pontoon boat has pressurized pontoon tubes simply visit the manufacturer’s website or call a local authorized dealer. They will likely tell you that it doesn’t matter if they are pressurized or not … because … it doesn’t really matter, unless of course they have a leak.

Why adding more pressure to the tubes is a bad idea

Some newbies to pontoon boats think that if they add more pressurize to the boat’s pontoons it will give the boat more buoyancy. This is not the case.

Increasing the pressure in the tube does not increase its volume and so no more water is displaced by the pontoon thus having zero affect on its buoyancy.

I have read, in some forums, new pontoon boat owners asking if they can increase the psi in their logs to 5 or 10 psi so they can increase the buoyancy of their boat. Luckily, these forums are filled with very knowledgeable pontoon boat owners who put the “newbie” on the correct course of action quickly.

Filling a pontoon boat tube with more air than it is designed to handle will, at best damage the tube and, at worst injury someone.  However, there may be times when you want to add back air that has escaped from the tube.

Re-pressurizing the pontoon tubes

There may be occasions when you want to re-pressurize your tubes if air has escaped in order to either strengthen the inner walls of the tube (not entirely necessary) or to check the pontoon for leaks (a good idea).

Although it is not not entirely necessary to add air to a pontoon, as having no air in the tube will have no effect on the boat’s performance in the slightest, it is a fast and efficient way to check the pontoon tube for leaks.

As I’ve stated, you will rarely need to re-pressurize a pontoon but if you do, be must very careful when you do it.

If you ever intend to re-pressurize the tubes on your pontoon boat be sure to get a gauge before attempting it. It is also wise to seek expert technical advice on the exact psi of your specific pontoons.

Many pontoon boat owners will not exceed 3 psi when they are re-pressurizing their tubes, while others say that pressurizing above 2 psi is a bad idea. So, by far the best course of action is to find out what the exact psi is for your specific boat’s tubes.

Why do you need to be careful when adding air to a pontoon?

Well, although a pontoon will probably not explode if you put too much air into it, it will get damaged. Too much air in the tube will mean the internal pressure will split the pontoon at a seam not only letting the air out but letting water in. You may not be aware that this has happened as it may not happen until you are out on the water.

Keeping the pressure very low is also a good idea because heat can affect the pressure levels. In the summer months when its hot, the heat could cause the air to expand further and thus increase the pressure even more.  This is more of a problem when the boat is out of the water though since water will keep the pontoons cool.

However, there have been instances of quite serious accidents occurring due to a pontoon tube being over pressurized. It is all too easy for the pressure inside the pontoon to force the end cap off the tube launching it like a small missile. If this were to hit someone close by, serious injury, or even death, could be the result.

So always be careful when pressurizing a pontoon and always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on psi.

Remember you are only doing this to check for leaks, adding more pressure will not add more buoyancy!

So, before you attempt to re-pressurize the tubes be sure you are using a gauge. You can easily damage the tubes and have a hefty repair bill, or replacement bill, by simply failing to follow this simple piece of advice. A cheap psi gauge could save you thousands of dollars on pontoon tube replacements.

For this reason most pontoon boat owners will not take a chance on adding air to their boat’s pontoons at all.

What happens if air comes out of the tube when checking for water

Every now and then you will probably want to check your tubes for water.

Water in the tubes can lead to buoyancy problems and even nosediving or sinking in worst case scenarios. Although most pontoon boat owners never need to check their pontoon tubes there may be an instance where you feel your pontoon boat is sitting too low in the water and thus want to check the logs for water-intake.

So what do you do if you remove the value and air comes out of the pontoon? Do you need to re-pressurize the tube?

Yes, if you want to but you don’t have to. You can leave it alone.

When air escapes from the tube when you open a value it is actually a very good sign. It means the pontoon has no leaks and is still airtight. Simply replace the value and use a gauge to replace the correct amount of air if you want to recheck for leaks at a later date.

Some pontoon boat owners check their tubes regularly not just for water but to make sure air escapes when they open the value. If no air escapes, on a pressurized pontoon, then there is almost certainly a leak somewhere. But, remember, not all pontoons are pressurized so just because no air comes out when you open a value on your boat’s pontoon that doesn’t mean the tube is damaged. You can also add a small amount of air to see if there are leaks.

Many modern pontoon boats have tubes that are chambered so that if a pontoon develops a problem and starts to take on water it will only effect that chambered part of the tube and not the entire log.

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