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How to Properly Trim a Pontoon Boat in 5 Simple Steps

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

how to properly trim a pontoon boat

Getting a boat to run with optimum performance brings about many benefits, including better fuel efficiency and a smoother boating experience. For us to reach this point, it is important to know about engine trim and its proper use.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to properly trim a pontoon boat. We’ll go over situations for trimming up and down and how to get the most out of them.

Keep reading to learn more.

What You Need

  • Pontoon boat
  • Outboard engine or stern drive
  • A large and clear area for boating
  • Life jacket
  • Safety lanyard

How to Use Trim on a Pontoon Boat

Step 1: Attach the safety lanyard before starting


In boating, safety should always come first. Once you get into your seat, attach the safety lanyard before anything else. There is a reason to stress this point.

If you make a mistake with your adjustments, one possible outcome is a boat turning over due to a sudden downforce at the stern. Making sure that the safety lanyard is attached will allow you to have an emergency stop measure.

While this is important, especially when you’re still trying things out, it is also a good idea to keep this practice even when you have more experience under your belt. While you’re at it, make sure to also wear a life jacket.

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the controls


Before turning on the motor, it’s best to know how the controls work.

For trimming a pontoon boat, there are a few things you need to look at: the trim up and down buttons usually on the throttle control, and the trim gauge on the console which shows the boat’s current level.

Adjusting the trim involves raising or lowering the outboard motor trim position. The engine makes a different sound when it goes up or down, and the sound changes pitch when it reaches its limit in one direction.

It’s best to familiarize yourself with these sounds so you don’t have to keep looking back at the outboard when operating.

The bow will adjust along with your trimming up and down on the controls while running on the water.

Step 3: Use negative trim to get on plane faster

Planing a boat allows you to go faster because of how you end up almost gliding on the water, but it requires a certain amount of speed and power. This takes time and more clearance and space.

You can use trim on a boat to get on plane faster by making use of negative trim. This is done by lowering the bow to increase the hull’s contact with the water and let it roll more, allowing it to gain more speed sooner.

When the engine is trimmed way down, we call this negative trim because the propeller shaft is angled lower than the flat surface of the water. When the prop shaft is at the same angle to the water, it’s known as zero trim instead.

Once the boat is on plane, there will be some noticeable issues with the way it performs, and it is necessary to optimize performance at this point.

Step 4: Optimize performance by adjusting pontoon boat trim

When planing, the boat may be noticeably bumpy or bouncy. When the bow is constantly moving up and down, this is called porpoising and is the reason why planing boats are considered uncomfortable.

It can get to a point where the bow rises enough to obstruct your view.

Adjusting the pontoon deck trim can address this problem and improve performance. Adjust just a little at a time to avoid overcorrections. Be mindful of any changes as you make your adjustments.

You’ll know you’ve got the right setting if the boat’s performance significantly improves. The porpoising will stop, and the controls will feel lighter and more responsive, with the ride feeling smoother as well.

In this state, drag will be reduced, resulting in better fuel efficiency.

The waves produced by the boat should move towards the stern, which also eliminates splashing. This is due to the bow being raised and having the right amount of hull surface in contact with the water.

Step 5: Adjust trim depending on the situation


Squeezing out better performance is not the only reason for making use of boat motor trim. Here are a few other situations where it is important to trim up or down on boat.

  • Trim down in deep water

When adjusting the engine trim while the boat is in operation, be mindful of the sound you hear.

If the engine suddenly produces a louder sound, this means you may have over-trimmed, resulting in the motor intaking air instead of water. Trim down right away.

Taking in a lot of air is a problem for any outboard motor and can cause damage that is expensive to repair. In addition, the motor also depends on its water intake for cooling when performing at high outputs.

  • Trim up in shallow water

Another point to look out for is the risk of your outboard hitting the ground when boating in shallow water.

Trim up just enough to have enough clearance without disrupting water intake.

Additional Information


1. How does trim work on a boat?

Trim refers to the orientation of a boat on the water. If you refer to a boat trim diagram, it will be easier to understand by comparing the angle of the deck with the leveled surface of the water.

As the pontoon boat runs, the bow rises as the outboard engine pushes it forward. By controlling the orientation of the propeller shaft against the water, we can raise or lower the bow effectively, adjusting the trim as desired.

2. Is manual trim adjusted the same way?

This guide specifically refers only to the use of power trim. Manual trim cannot be adjusted freely but can still affect the boat. Applying the best setting will still improve performance.


Now you know all about pontoon boat trim, including how and when to use it. This is a tool that can make boating better and easier, so it’s a good idea to take the time to familiarize yourself with it.

If you know anyone asking how to properly trim a pontoon boat, please share this article with them as well. We’d also like to hear from you, so please leave your comments and suggestions below.

Remember to boat safely.

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