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Loading a jet ski on a trailer seems like an easy task but doing it wrong can damage the jet ski in several ways.

Just like launching, retrieving can also be stressful especially on a busy boat ramp. That’s why it’s important to learn and follow the right steps if you want to keep you and your jet ski safe.

If you want to learn how to retrieve a jet ski this post is for you. We at JetDrift, have collected the best tips and tricks on how to properly load a jet ski onto a trailer and avoid scratching the hull!

How to Load a Jet Ski on a Trailer

To load a jet ski onto the traileryou have to back up the trailer first into the water until the bunks are submerged. Then drive or move the jet ski by hand onto the trailer and winch it up until the bow reaches the bow stop. As a final step, secure the jet ski with the safety chain and drive off the ramp slowly.

Without further ado, let’s check these steps one-by-one!

1. Preparation

As they say preparation is better than cure, so you have to be prepared before loading your jet ski onto a trailer. Tie your jet ski to the dock securely, and head to your car.

First check the trailer, it should be properly attached to the car and the lights should be detached. Then check the bunks because they have to be completely clean and properly positioned. Don’t forget to flip the winch’s lever from the lock position.

When it comes to retrieving a jet ski, it’s imperative that you be careful and be aware of your surroundings. Boat ramps can be very busy, especially at weekends, which can lead to accidents on the ramp or around the dock. Be focused, and act slowly but firmly.

2. Backing Up the Trailer

Before you start your car, turn on the 4-wheel drive (if it has this feature) and back the trailer down the ramp. This can be tricky, and you may need some practice to avoid jackknifing. So, if you are a beginner you can make a good start with this guide on how to properly back up a jet ski trailer.

If the ramp is wide always use one side instead of hogging the center.

If your trailer features carpeted bunks, the best practice is to back the trailer up slowly until the bunks are completely submerged.  If only the ends of the bunks are sticking out of the water, it may be a good sign to stop the car. This generally happens when the water is just above the trailer’s fenders.

But again, it depends on many factors.

How far should the car stop from the water for the optimal position? Unfortunately, there is no exact answer to this question, as it depends on four factors. These are: the steepness of the ramp, the water depth, the length of your trailer, and the design of the trailer bunks (how high are they).

As a rule of thumb, the steeper the ramp, the sooner your jet ski is going to float off (and onto) the trailer.

If you retrieve a jet ski on a shallow ramp, for safety reasons it’s recommended that you stop your car before submerging the exhaust. As waves can still force water into your exhaust, it’s wise to leave the car’s engine running to prevent this.

Moreover, corrosive saltwater may damage many parts of the car, so it’s not recommended for you to submerge the rear into the water.

If you unload and load your jet ski regularly on a shallow ramp or you have a short trailer it could be a pain to pull the jet ski up on the bunks. In this case you can consider a trailer with rollers instead of regular carpeted bunks.

Also, avoid backing up the trailer too far into the water, as your jet ski may float out of the trailer while you are loading it, which could be a hassle especially if you are loading your jet ski alone.

What’s more, in the worst case, your car can get stuck on the slippery ramp, or the trailer can fall off at the end of the ramp if it’s too short!

Once you’ve stopped the car and put it in park, don’t forget the parking brake. Then, you can so start loading your jet ski onto the trailer.

3. Loading a Jet Ski onto the Trailer

If your trailer is in place, you have to move your jet ski onto the trailer.

How do you move a jet ski onto a trailer? Depending on how experienced you are you can pull the jet ski onto the trailer with a rope, or you can even drive it onto the trailer. If you are a beginner, it’s not recommended that you drive the jet ski directly onto the trailer as you can easily damage the ski if you do it wrong.

Moreover, never confuse power loading and driving the ski onto the trailer at a really low speed! What is power loading a jet ski?

Power loading a jet ski means using the throttle to “force” the jet ski hard onto the trailer when the bunks are not submerged enough. It’s highly recommended that you avoid power loading a jet ski, as it may end in an accident or cause damage. Additionally, it can damage the ramp itself, which is why power loading jet skis and boats is prohibited in many marinas and ramps.

Keep in mind that loading areas are generally no-wake zones, so you have to drive your jet ski slowly anyway.

If you decide to drive your jet ski onto the trailer, always be super careful and move the craft as slowly as possible. Use just a very little throttle to gain momentum to seat the jet ski on the bunks. Be careful not to overshoot the trailer, as it can cause damage to the jet ski and the trailer as well.

Once the jet ski is sitting on the bunks, shut off the engine immediately. Finally, you probably have to move the jet ski a little bit with the winch, so attach the winch strap to the bow eye and winch it up to the correct position. Before you do it, make sure that the bunks are wet to make them more slippery. (If the ramp is shallow, and you can’t submerge the bunks completely.)

How Should a Jet Ski Sit on a Trailer?

The jet ski should always sit on the trailer in a centered position as it has to be balanced on the trailer. Also make sure to pull it up completely until the bow reaches the bow stop and attach the safety chain!

After you move the jet ski onto the trailer, attach and the safety chain before you start to pull it out of the water.

Depending on your vehicle, pulling out a jet ski from the water may be tricky. Don’t underestimate the jet ski’s weight, as it can weigh as much as 1,000-1,500 pounds with the trailer, which means that they can cause problems especially on steep and slippery ramps.

Although even sedans can tow or even launch jet skis, the best vehicles for this purpose are still AWD trucks. It’s because RWD cars are prone to spinning out due to poor traction, while FWD cars can’t put enough weight on the front.

Moreover, contrary to popular belief, it’s not recommended that you launch and retrieve jet skis with ATVs, especially on steep ramps!

Even if you have a truck, you have to be careful as even larger trucks can get in trouble on a slippery boat ramp!

4. Duties After Retrieving a Jet Ski

After you’ve pulled your jet ski out of the water, you should drive to the parking area slowly. Before you hit the road there are some important steps to take to stay safe and legal.

Remove the drain plugs: First remove the drain plugs and check the water, generally it’s normal if only a cup of water flows out from the drain holes. But if there is a large amount of water in the bilge, it’s a clue that something is wrong and your jet ski has to be inspected to avoid further problems!

Remove the gear: Remove all of your gear from the jet ski and move them to the car.

Secure the jet ski: Before you hit the road it’s very important that you secure the jet ski onto the trailer with straps.

How do You Attach a Jet Ski to a Trailer? To properly attach a jet ski to a trailer you have to always use three straps. Secure the rear side of the jet ski with two straps to the trailer, and it’s also wise to use a third strap to secure the bow. Straps can go wrong, so some extra security never hurts.

Attach the trailer lights: Don’t forget to attach the trailer lights to stay legal on the street!

Check the trailer: It’s always recommended to check the trailer carefully. Make sure that the jet ski is centered on the bunks and the load is distributed properly on the trailer.

Do you need a cover? If you aren’t towing your jet ski over a long distance you can consider towing it without a cover. On a longer trip you can even tow the jet ski with the cover on, but only if you protect the jet ski’s paint from the cover, as it may scratch it on the road.

After-ride care: Every jet ski needs a thoughtful after-ride check before it is stored in the garage. You can even consider doing this maintenance near the ramp, but the majority of owners prefer to do it at home, combined with a thorough cleaning.

Once you’ve got everything done, you can head home!

How to Load a Jet Ski by Yourself?

If you’ve ridden alone, it means you probably have to retrieve your jet ski by yourself. It might seem like a difficult task the first time, but don’t worry. With some practice you will be able to easily load your jet ski onto the trailer. Here are some tips for the process:

To load a jet ski by yourself, tie your jet ski to the dock and back up the trailer into the water. Once it’s in position, best practice is to carefully drive the jet ski directly onto the trailer. Then, jump off the jet ski and winch it up by hand.

The most common question is, “Where can you secure your jet ski if there is no dock at the ramp?”

In this case you have to move your jet ski to the side first. Then try to find a secure object and tie your jet ski to it, or you can anchor it near the shore to keep it in place. Another solution is to beach it and leave it on the sand as close as possible.

Finally, it always depends on the ramp and its surroundings, so this may require a little improvisation on the spot!

How to Avoid Scratches from Loading a Jet Ski

When it comes to loading a jet ski onto the trailer, one of the biggest concerns is probably hull damage and scratches, and with good reason.

It’s commonplace that fails while retrieving a jet ski can cause scratches, so you may want to know how to avoid unnecessarily damaging the bottom.

Adjust the bunks: If the bunks on your trailer are not properly adjusted, they won’t support the hull properly. Make sure that your jet ski sits on the trailer perfectly or ask for supervision from your dealership.

Check the bunks: If you can see scratches on your jet ski’s hull, you have to carefully check the bunks. Are they damaged? Inspect the carpet and replace it if needed.

Clean the bunks: Even if the bunks are in perfect condition there may be small objects on the carpet that can damage the paint. These can be small gravels if the parking lot is covered with gravel, small pieces of wood, or other debris from the water. That’s why it’s important that you check your trailer carefully before you retrieve your jet ski!

Make it slippery: Don’t forget to submerge the bunks completely. If it’s not possible due to the steepness of the ramp, make them wet before you load your jet ski onto the trailer. NEVER slide your jet ski on dry bunks to avoid damage! You can also make the bunks more slippery with silicone spray.

Consider rollers: If you launch and retrieve your jet ski in shallow water, it can be a pain (or even impossible!) to winch it on the carpeted bunks. This is when the trailers with rollers come in handy. These trailers feature special rollers instead of regular carpet bunks, which makes it super easy to load and unload the jet ski, even in shallow water.

Conclusion – How to Recover a Jet Ski

You can recover a jet ski like a breeze if you follow these 10 simple steps:

  • Tie the jet ski to the dock
  • Check and prepare the trailer
  • Back up the trailer until the bunks are submerged
  • Put the car in park and use the emergency brake
  • Pull the jet ski by hand or drive it onto the trailer
  • Attach the winch strap to the bow eye
  • Winch the jet ski by hand until the bow reaches the bow stop
  • Make sure that the jet ski is centered on the trailer
  • Secure the safety chain
  • Pull the jet ski out of the water carefully

As you can see, just like launching, retrieving a jet ski is not so difficult. If you are a beginner, it’s recommended that you get some practice before you try to load your jet ski on the busy weekends!

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Related Articles:
How To Trailer a Jet Ski Safely and Legally? [Video]
How to Back Up a Jet Ski Trailer [Video Guide]
How to Launch A Jet Ski Like A Pro [Video Guide]
Jet Ski After-Ride Care: The Most Important Steps To Take [Video]

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