Wiring Your Pontoon Boat

Even though the Pontoon boat doesn’t have endless yards of conductor common to other types of boats, the manner in which it is wired is still critical.

Wiring on any aluminum vessel is critical, especially in saltwater environments. Even small amounts of stray current can destroy the pontoons in a very short time. Great care must be taken in the wiring process to make sure that no conductor is grounded to the vessel, either on purpose or accidentally.

A grounded conductor can hole your pontoon in a matter of days. Under extreme conditions, it can do so even sooner. A battery cable laid in the bottom of a Jon boat by an unwary owner can develop a hole and sink the boat overnight. It won’t be a small hole either.

Unless you are an electrician or have considerable knowledge in the field, you should engage in a bit of study before you tackle your own wiring. Familiarize yourself with wire sizes, current carrying capabilities, and length of wire runs, which the conductor is capable of handling.

You will need to know the symbols for solenoids, circuit breakers, fuses, switches, and the many electrical parts that are routinely used in the wiring of a pontoon. You should be able to read a simple wiring diagram and to add or subtract from an existing one if you make changes.

If you add to the wiring or change a circuit on the pontoon, you should make and keep a proper record of your work. Be sure that you provide a copy of this record to any mechanic who may be employed to work on the pontoon in the future.

If you are going to approach the wiring on your pontoon, you must pay close attention to polarity and color coding of any circuit that you splice, change, or simply disconnect. The ends of disconnected conductors should be protected.

Marine wire conductors have tinned strands. This means that all strands are coated with solder. Thus the conductors are easily soldered at joints or terminal ends. Use soldered joints and heat shrink tubing for all connections that you make on the pontoon boat. Do the same when wiring an engine harness.

The accessories that you encounter on the pontoon boat will be served by a two-wire system. There will be a color-coded positive conductor and a negative conductor. The two-wire system for the appliances is what distinguishes the pontoon boat wiring from the single wire engine grounded system used for the engine wiring.

The pontoon boat is often used for fishing and may be equipped with a trolling motor. Trolling motors use considerable amperage and 12-volt current likes a heavy conductor. If you add a wire for a trolling motor, be sure to measure the runs and employ entirely adequate wire diameter for the job.

It’s best to use number 6 or even number 4 conductor if the runs are very long. The heavier the conductor, the longer the troller will run and the more power it will deliver.

Trolling motors are not the only accessory that pulls substantial amounts of current on a pontoon boat. The freshwater pumping system uses considerable current. Any pump for a washdown system also uses significant amounts of current. If either of these pumps fails too often, small diameter conductor may have to be replaced with a larger wire.

An electric anchor windlass can pull more current than any other accessory on the vessel. You do not often find this item on a pontoon boat, but from time to time you see a real beast of an anchor windlass reposing the bow of a pontoon boat. When the anchor is deep in the mud, the windlass can really load a 12-volt battery bank.

Much more frequently than the anchor windlass is the problem with an aftermarket lighting system for night-lights. Perch fisherman often fit a pontoon with an array of lights strung out down both sides. This may not seem like a problem, but it surely can be. One light is of little concern, but those numbers add up, and eventually, you have the potential to overload circuits, overheat conductors, and of course, run down your batteries. Too many lights can quickly leave you marooned with a dead battery.

Wiring is fun, and it can be very rewarding if you are careful with the job. You must decide for yourself whether you wish to do the job on your own or have it done professionally.

Good luck!