Do Pontoon Boats Have Bilge Pumps?

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The bilge is the lowest compartment at the bottom of the hull, situated on each side of the keel.

As excess spillage water can collect here from the deck, it’s known as bilge water. The bilge water should be pumped out of the bilge area, or the craft may become unstable and even sink.

Most smaller boats don’t usually have a bilge pump. Instead, they’re fitted with drain plugs. Or some may be fitted with a different type of pump, that past owners have added.

In today’s guide, we’re going to take a closer look at the question “Do Pontoon Boats have bilge pumps?” Typically they don’t need bilge pumps, but some people keep extra pumps around for emergencies. Read on for more.


Do pontoon boats have bilge pumps?

Pontoon boats don’t get bilge water build-up because the floats raise the hull of the boat out of the water.

 There’s a lot of buoyancy in those huge aluminum tubes, lifting the craft. That’s not to say that they can’t get water in there ever. If the tubes get damaged, then water will leak into them.

 With an older pontoon boat, you can remove water in the chambers by using the drain plugs.

Improved welding techniques mean that newer models don’t have drain plugs in the floats.

 The float is divided into smaller chambers that are 100% watertight.

 In the unlikely event of damage, the water will only leak into the damaged chamber. 

It’s important to rectify this problem as soon as possible. It could affect the buoyancy and even cause damage if left unattended.  You will need to take the craft out of the water.

 Once you’ve identified the segment with water inside, you can drill a hole into it. This will allow the water to drain out by tipping the boat.

 Finally, you will need to weld the hole up again, making sure it’s watertight. Or more than likely, get a professional to do it for you.

Typically you don’t need a bilge pump on a pontoon boat, and most are not strictly outfitted with them.

What can go wrong with drain plugs?

Often steel plugs can become corroded as they’re situated in an area that’s wet all the time and is prone to rust. This can cause them to be irremovable and the best way to deal with this problem is to drill  them out.

  • Don’t try to force-twist the plug out, you could end up damaging the aluminum area around it. That will lead to a bigger and more expensive job.
  • Start with a smaller drill bit drill bit () in the middle of the metal plug.
  • Once you’re through, move on to a bigger drill bit. Drill at different angles until most of the metal plug is removed.
  • When the hole is larger, use a thin hack saw blade saw blade  to see off any remaining flakes of metal.
  • Finally, clean the threads where the plug fitted into the hole. Now you can order a new marine boat plug When the hole is larger, use a thin hack saw blade No products found. to see off any remaining flakes of metal, making sure you get the right size.

Is there a way to remove water out of a boat with no bilge pump?

It’s unlikely that you’ll collect pools of water within the body of your pontoon boat.

It depends on your usage, such as swimmers dripping water onto the floor when they climb back on board, or even taking on water when the back is down.

For this type of water spillage, you could carry a small manual pump .

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These are often used in kayaks and smaller vessels. They’re very lightweight and don’t need batteries or electricity. It’s a case of using the pump and the hose to pump out any accumulated water from the floor of the vessel.

Consider a self-priming water pressure diaphragm pump  instead of a manual pump.

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Its name makes it sound complicated, but it’s straightforward to use.

Of course, you need to follow the instructions to make sure it works . It can be fixed to the boat in a permanent place so you won’t lose it, as you might with a smaller manual pump. Because it works above the waterline, it’s capable of pumping out air to start with, followed by the water. They work automatically if water reaches a certain level, on an AC110v.

You don’t need to watch or control it.

What could cause a pontoon boat to sink?

Toons are pretty unsinkable, which is awesome! Even if you get in a hairy situation, you can more than likely hobble home.

 The most obvious danger is if the pontoons become flooded. There are precautions to take to keep your craft seaworthy.

Don’t overload. A general rule of thumb is to keep the outer waterline level to the middle of the pontoon tubes. Once you turn on that engine, if it drops below that line, you’re overloaded.

Still on the topic of load, as with any moving vehicle you need to distribute the weight evenly.

 That also includes all the furniture and people on board. Keep the weight to the middle and the stern. If the bow gets heavier it could ‘plow’ and then you’re in danger of taking water into the craft.

Check the tubes out regularly for water intake. Water leakage will cause damage in the long term, so catch it before it becomes a problem.

Don’t ride through choppy waves at full speed, if you’re on the ocean. A pontoon boat is NOT a speedboat. It can nosedive if you pretend otherwise.

Don’t have too powerful an engine for the size of the boat. Not even if you’re sea-bound. Check out the manufacturer’s recommendations on this one.


Pontoon boats are not designed for ocean sailing.

They’re meant to be leisure boats on rivers and lakes. If you are going to take them out on the open sea, then you’ll need to do your research to get your craft ocean ready, such as:

  • Buying a pontoon boat with thicker than normal tubes. The tubes are aluminum and you’re looking for around 0.9” thickness for ocean use. Plus, you want the bigger tubes of at least 25” diameter, or a pontoon boat with 3 tubes.
  • You might need to upgrade your engine. The seas can usually be more turbulent than lakes or rivers, so you’d want at least over a 150HP engine. Especially if you’re wanting to go tubing at faster speeds.
  • Make sure your craft has a protective coating against saltwater.
  • You might consider fixing ‘lifting strakes’ welded onto your floaters. By fixing these, your craft will glide better over the waves. It will increase the speed, give a smoother ride, as well as improve fuel efficiency.

One other factor to remember if you enjoy ocean waters, you’re more likely to take water into the body of your boat. Not into the floats though, unless they get damaged.

It might help if you learn the best techniques for riding the waves.

When the boat is lifted clear of them, there’s less chance of water intake. Pontoon boats are safe, so long as you take the time to maintain them to stay safe and use them sensibly.