Pontoon boats are really not that fuel hungry. With just a few gallons of fuel you can have hours and hours of fun out on the water.
But who wants to use unnecessary fuel and spend more money at the gas dock when you could be out on the lake fishing, or having fun with family and friends?
Here are my tips on how you can preserve gas and use less fuel on your pontoon boat. Read on for my 6 tips on pontoon boat fuel consumption and economy saving.
Tip 1: Maintain Your Pontoon Boats Engine
You can’t simply reduce your fuel consumption by 50% with the flip of a switch or by changing an engine part. If you really want to save fuel, then it should be viewed as an incremental process that will take time and the changing of a few ingrained boating habits.
The first aspect to consider is your pontoon boat’s engine.
Modern pontoon boats have been designed to have really robust and well-running engines, so it’s often quite easy to overlook the fact that you should maintain the engine regularly.
With pontoon boats from yesteryear it might be that you would only take a look at the engine once you start to experience ragged performance. A little niggle here and there would be a warning to you that you need to take a look at it and spend some time tuning.
However, modern pontoons will have computer-controlled engines that can accommodate for a lack of tune. But no matter how old the engine, if it’s out of tune then your fuel economy could be negatively impacted from between 10 and 30 percent.
That could add up to a considerable amount of money spent on gas you didn’t need to spend on.
Things to look for and maintain are following to help with fuel consumption.
- Mechanical fuel injectors
- Spark plug wires
- Oil changes
- Clean flame arrestors
Let’s get into those 4 aspects in a little bit more detail.
Service the Mechanical Fuel Injectors
If your mechanical fuel injectors have become dirty, then your fuel use is going to increase. They should be serviced every time you have a regular tune-up.
A worse scenario would be where you have a leaking injector that doesn’t completely shut-off the fuel flow. In cases such as this, you could get unburned gasoline washing off the lubrication from the cylinder walls or diluting the lube oil – the result is rapid bearing wear.
You could be in for a repair bill, as well as an increased fuel consumption. Not ideal.
Inspect Spark Plug Wires Regularly
Gasoline engines have spark plugs, and these should be inspected regularly. My advice is to do this when it’s dark, as this will let you see any tell-tale spark trails that are caused by leaking high voltage.
Marine water is notoriously tough on plug wires. Whilst a little crack in their brittle insulation may not cause any long-term problems in an automobile, the moist air around water can let high voltage current to leak away.
When you have a weaker spark in the plug, you will waste gas and fuel.
Make sure that you change your pontoon boat’s spark wires every three seasons or so as chances are they will be ripe for replacement at this point.
Change Your Oil Frequently
You can also save a little gas and fuel by changing engine oil more frequently. It’s even better if you can do a full oil change to a new synthetic oil. With fresh lubricant, the internal components will roll and slide with less energy-robbing friction.
Whilst the fuel that you save with an oil change might be small (perhaps just 1 or 2 percent), it will all add up in your overall fuel consumption and gas saving initiatives.
It will also help you to preserve the engine and not have to overhaul it at a large cost due to premature wear and tear.
Clean Your Fuel Arrestors
Flame arrestors are devices which let gas pass through but help to prevent flames getting in to stop the potential for fires or explosions. As a pontoon boat owner, you are legally required to ensure that your gasoline engine is equipped with flame arrestors as a safety precaution.
It’s your responsibility to make sure that they are kept clean as the don’t just trap backfires but will also filter out any grease or dirt from the air. If your flame arrestors do get dirty it will starve your engine of air and can lead to a decrease in fuel economy.
You should periodically remove the flame arrestor, take it ashore, and clean it.
The best way to do so is to use an aerosol spray brake cleaner (see prices on Amazon) as this will degrease the honeycomb in the arrestor.
Always make sure that you wear suitable eye and hand protection, and don’t let any naked flames (including cigarettes) go anywhere near the flame arrestor.
You could also take the arrestor to an auto shop as they will probably have a parts washer that will do an even better job. Make sure it’s completely clean before you put it back in to the engine.
Tip 2: Estimate How Much Fuel You Use
Generally speaking, a conventional four-stroke inboard gasoline engine will burn in gallons around 10 percent of the horsepower being developed.
You can see an example of what that means in a real-world scenario below.
Say you’re burning about 7.5 gallons an hour, with your engine making about 75 horsepower. This fuel and horsepower relationship applies to developed horsepower and not to the maximum output of the engine. Your pontoon boat might need those 75 horses to go to 20 miles per hour.
Your fuel burn will go up substantially for modest speed increases. If you then increase the speed to 30 miles per hour, then it might need the engine’s full 150-horsepower output and will burn at 15 gallons per hour.
In this hypothetical example, the additional 10 miles per hour represent a 50 percent increase in speed but it will have doubled the fuel consumption.
If you want to save on gas, pull back on the throttle!
Handy Hint: Here’s more information on how much gas a pontoon boat will use.
Tip 3: Find Your Pontoon Boat’s “Sweet Spot”
Every pontoon boat has a “sweet spot” which gives you the best speed at the least fuel burn. If you can find that sweet spot you can save on fuel and gas.
Finding your own sweet spot is not as hard as you might think, as long as you can monitor fuel flow in real-time.
With the latest pontoon boat engines, you will have a built-in fuel management system that constantly monitors fuel consumption.
If you have an older generation pontoon boat which doesn’t come with fuel management then it is possible to fit a fuel-flow meter that serves the same purpose.
They are relatively simple to install, but you will need to exercise caution due when working on gasoline systems. Fuel can run into the bilge, and fuel leaks can be very dangerous if any sparks develop during the install.
Once you have a working fuel-flow meter, run a series of tests at various combinations of trim tabs, engine trim, and engine RPM. Record the details of each test run so you can compare.
What you will probably find is that fuel flow increases rapidly until the boat comes out of the hole, but it will go down at the point you hit the sweet spot. Fuel consumption will increase rapidly as your speed is pushed over that sweet spot.
A final word; the sweet spot for fuel economy on your pontoon boat will vary depending on the water conditions, weight of the boat, humidity, and atmospheric pressure. It’s a good idea to record date from each trip you take over a season as this will give you a better idea on what’s best and let you compare gas usage each time.
Tip 4: Tune Your Propeller
You’ve got a well-tuned and well-oiled engine, you have an idea on your pontoon boat’s sweet spot, and you have an idea on how much fuel you are using on each trip.
But there is still something else you can do to save on fuel, and that relates to the propeller.
Just by upgrading your standard prop to a top-shelf one can lead to very surprising fuel economy results. But you don’t have to spend lots of money on a super high-quality propeller to save on gas consumption.
It might be that you get great results simply by having your stock propellers tuned for a better performance.
Over time, your propeller might have become damaged if it’s nicked something or struck an object in the water or when being trailered. It’s common that the blades can be knocked out of pitch.
In general terms, pontoon boats can pick up a full mile an hour more speed after having their propellers restored to the factory balance and pitch.
By having a propeller tune-up, you could get extra speed, and a slight reduction in fuel consumption.
Tip 5: Address Drag and Weight Issues
Does your pontoon boat have a dirty bottom?
If yes, you could be spending more money on fuel than you need to.
Moving all of that water under your boat can be expensive, but more so if there is debris, algae, or barnacles reducing the friction that pulls water along with your boat.
After just a few weeks, algae growth can have a noticeable effect on the speed of your pontoon boat, which has the knock-on negative effect on fuel economy.
You need to make sure that your pontoon boat has a smooth bottom, so make sure that you regularly check and clean it.
Another thing to look for is your boat wake.
Is it bigger than usual?
As I’ve already said, moving water costs money on fuel.
If you wake looks bigger, then you’re spending more money on churning the lake than actually moving your pontoon boat.
You also need to think about any excess weight inside of your pontoon boat. Excess weight is a drain on fuel economy. Here are two things that you can do to help cut your gas bill:
- Pump the bilge before each trip
- Remove any clutter in the boat that you don’t need
Tip 6: Use Trim Tabs Correctly
When used correctly trim tabs can help get your pontoon boat on plane faster and then stay on the plane at lower speeds – and you will then benefit from fuel savings.
But be careful, because too much tabbing leads to an increased drag and more fuel being used.
Your goal here is to apply just enough tab to operate at the most efficient attitude, or angle of the bow to the water. It’s the same when you alter the angle of the lower unit of an outboard or I/O drive.
A zero-degree angle (or negative angle) of the pontoon boat to the water put the entire bottom of the boat in contact with the water. This increases wetted area and hence surface friction.
The majority of standard boat hulls run best at around a 4-degree upward trim by the bow. Deep-V shaped hulls usually need around 6 degrees. The amount needed varies a little with hull design, but the angle is critical for the best in fuel economy and consumption.
Please don’t confuse the trim angle of the outdrive or outboard with the trim of the boat. You may need 10 or more degrees of trim on the outdrive to run the pontoon boat at an attitude of 6 degrees to the water. There is an interrelation between the two, but the angles are separate entities.
The Last Word
Saving fuel and gas consumption on your pontoon boat can be easily achieved with these tips. Some will require slight changes to how you use your boat, and others require a little mechanical expertise. The most important aspect is to keep your pontoon boat well maintained and in good working order. By dong so you can significantly reduce your gas bills for each trip and season.
If you have any further tips on pontoon boat fuel consumption and economy then I would love to hear them. Get in touch with me and I will add them to this guide for other pontoon boat owners to try out.