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Regular jet ski maintenance is vital to ensure that it runs well, however many PWC owners neglect this and suffer the consequences.
If your jet ski is not maintained well or it’s done improperly, it will diminish in value, become less reliable, suffer malfunctions and perhaps even break downs!
It’s a huge hassle if you can’t get your jet ski started at the boat ramp, however that’s not the only risk when you ignore your pre-ride checklist and regular maintenance. You’re also risking an explosion!
Because of this, we at JetDrift have compiled a list of all the necessary tasks, so that you have a detailed jet ski maintenance checklist:
Jet Ski Maintenance Checklist
If you’re being a responsible owner, you will always take care of the regular services and repairs on your jet ski and determine the costs ahead of time! If you maintain your jet ski properly, there will be far fewer malfunctions, which means fewer headaches and a lot more fun when you take it out!
But you need to know what the most important steps are that must be taken to properly maintain your PWC so that it’s in good working condition at all times.
It typically comes down to 5 separate categories of maintenance, as follows:
- Pre-ride check: You need to carefully check your PWC before each ride.
- After-ride care: After every ride you need to go through a series of steps.
- Regular tasks: These are regular steps that must be taken during the season.
- Annual jet ski maintenance: These services must be done once a year after the season.
- Winterization: As freezing temperatures approach, winterization is necessary.
You can perform many of the tasks listed above yourself, but some will need to be taken care of by professionals (if you have no experience in servicing). This is why it’s important to know what needs to be done, which tasks you can do yourself and how to do them properly!
Learn About Your PWC
Read Your Entire Owner’s Manual
Knowing your PWC inside and out will help you to properly perform all jet ski maintenance. A good place to start would be to read your owner’s manual cover to cover.
Beginners should be referring to their manual constantly if they want to play it safe. Current manuals include details on every part of your jet ski so you can learn how everything works. Do not try making any repairs yourself unless you know what you’re doing. Doing it wrong could cause severe damage.
Having a solid understanding of how your jet ski works and how to properly maintain it means you’ll be safer, have more fun and incur fewer repair bills!
Jet Ski Pre-Ride Checklist
Unfortunately, the pre-ride checklist is often ignored by riders, which is why we’re addressing this checklist first.
The reason the pre-ride checklist is so important is because it ensures that your PWC is in good working order before launching. Ignore this and your craft could break down or even explode!
This checklist is not the same for every model, so refer to your owner’s manual for exact steps. But generally speaking, this 10-point checklist provides you with a good place to start:
The first thing you need to do is pull out the seat and smell the engine compartment for gas vapors. This is very important, as the main cause of jet ski explosions is the presence of gas vapors around the engine. One spark from the battery cables, a defective starter motor or faulty electrical system could then blow up the whole jet ski. You also need to check the gas tank and lines for possible leak!
Check to see if your battery is charged. Before putting it in the water, your jet ski should start right up. Try starting it in your garage, but if you haven’t done that, try to start it in the staging area near the boat ramp. It ruins your day when you tow your jet ski to the water only to have it not start. You can safely start and keep it running for up to 15 seconds without any water running through the engine in case of most models. Check the gauges to make sure there is no error code!
Make sure your gas tank is full. It’s best to make a habit of refueling on your way over to the water. This ensures that you have a full tank of fresh fuel. Buy the type of fuel stated in your owner’s manual.
Check the drain plugs! Before backing your trailer up to the water, double-check your drain plugs to make absolutely sure they are plugged into your jet ski.
Before launching, remember to unplug the trailer and remove the tow straps.
Check that your safety kit has the proper supplies and equipment according to local laws and codes. These typically include an anchor, fire extinguisher, horn or whistle (the list may vary from state to state!). Also, you need to have life jackets for everyone riding and they must have it on before getting into the water.
Do you have your safety lanyard? It’s best to make a habit of securing it to your life jacket. The last thing you want is to tow your jet ski for an hour, get ready to launch it only to find that you don’t have your safety lanyard!
Last but not least, make sure to bring some sunscreen, snacks, bottled water, towels, sunglasses and/or goggles and have the necessary apparel (shoes, gloves, wetsuit) on.
Jet Ski After-Ride Care
After every ride you should make it a habit of thoroughly cleaning your jet ski before storing it. If you don’t have time to do a thorough cleaning after your ride, at least hose it down because it may have been exposed to corrosive salt water!
Put your jet ski in a shady area and take out as much gear as you can so that you can easily access all areas. Open the storage areas, glove box and hood. Pull out the seats and put them on a foam mat so the upholstery doesn’t get damaged. Pull out the drain plugs so that the hull fully drains. (Just remember to put them back!)
Remove all bungs that may be in the glove box or storage areas. This is so water does not seep back up into those spots. Any water that does seep in will drain out to the hull, which the bilge system will quickly disperse.
Flush Out the Systems
Whether you rode in salt or fresh water, your jet ski should be completely flushed out after every ride. Flushing gets rid of algae, salt, sand, weeds and etc. from the cooling system as well as the pump and prevents corrosion and other damage.
This can only be done when the jet ski is level. Refer to your owner’s manual for an explanation on how to flush. It should also tell you whether your intercooler could be on a separate line.
The most recent models of jet skis have a hose connector to make interior cleaning easy. All you have to do is make sure the hose is turned off before attaching it to the connector! Then start your engine before turning the hose on. You can keep it on for about 1-2 minutes depending on the model.
TIP: Water taps are often quite far from where your jet ski is while working on it, so get a fitting so you can control the water flow right at the jet ski. This can save a lot of time and trouble.
After you turn the hose off, let your jet ski run for a few seconds, and twist the throttle a few times to drain the water out of the exhaust. Refer to your owner’s manual for the maximum revolutions while your jet ski is out of the water, without any cooling to the driveshaft and the pump.
NEVER perform this task at the ramp before you flush everything out, as this would conserve the salt right into your jet ski’s internal parts!
Jet Ski Maintenance: The Routine Tasks
Your jet ski needs to be regularly inspected to ensure that it remains in good working order. According to experts, this should be done after every ride! If this is impossible, you need to do an inspection as often as possible during the season.
For a proper inspection, follow these steps:
Check the oil by pulling out the dipstick. Wipe it clean and then re-dip it. The oil level should be within the manufacturer’s specs as stated in your owner’s manual. If the oil appears milky it’s time to have your jet ski serviced. Milkiness means water has seeped in and this could cause severe damage.
If you are low on oil, check to see if the oil is leaking and inspect the motor as well. If nothing is leaking or damaged, refill with the specified oil to the right level. If you cannot figure out why your jet ski is losing oil, call your service agent.
If your jet ski has a closed-loop cooling system, check your coolant level as well.
Inspect the back pump for any prop damage or liner wearing.
Check to see if you’re due for a routine service by looking at your engine hours.
Peer into the hull with a flashlight, for disconnected hoses or any loose items. It’s vital that you not start your jet ski’s engine if you can smell fuel because this could indicate a leak, damaged fuel tank or a loose or detached cable.
Look for any parts that may be damaged or show extensive wear because they would need replacing.
The outside of the hull should be inspected for cracks, fissures or damage caused by rocks as these could get worse if not repaired. If you see anything, have a professional take a look as soon as possible. Hull damage can lead to leaks and finally interior components becoming severely damaged.
Examine your trailer’s bearings and tires, look for corrosion, especially around the jockey wheel and hitch area. Also, inspect at the condition of the winch strap.
Make sure that your jet ski’s cover is still in good shape and fits properly.
Cleaning: Although we recommend that you give your jet ski a thorough cleaning after every ride, many owners do not take the time and just give it a quick wash instead. However, you do need to give it a really careful cleaning on occasion so that your jet ski stays in good working order.
These thorough cleanings should include the seats and footwells and go beyond the hull. While you’re at it, you should clean the accessories like wakeboards and tubes, as well as the trailer.
Annual Jet Ski Maintenance Tasks
There are a number of yearly jet ski maintenance tasks that are very important. These go well beyond the tasks listed above and some can be quite costly.
These tasks should be performed as part of the yearly service and include winterizing and de-winterizing.
Here’s a list of everything included in the annual service:
PWC models require an annual service (once a year), or to be serviced after 50 hours the engine is on (whichever comes first). Check your owner’s manual for the exact time period.
The average jet ski is ridden 30 hours a year, which means most PWCs get serviced once a year.
The annual service would include a complete inspection, the engine oil being changed as well as the filter (if it’s 4 stroke), spark plugs being replaced, grease added to all the seals and bearing fittings, and the parts being lubricated.
Refer to your owner’s manual as they all include a yearly service guide. If you are mechanically inclined and have the right tools, you may be able to handle all of this yourself in your garage. But if you don’t have experience doing this, or your jet ski is still under warranty, it would be best to have your dealership, or a reputable service shop perform the annual service.
If you want more information on the entire process, please watch this excellent video covering a jet ski’s yearly service, which also includes the winterization process as well:
PWC Supercharger Rebuilds
If you own a supercharged jet ski, you need to know that every supercharger must be rebuilt after 2 years or after 100 hours of use (whichever comes first). So, don’t forget to keep track of your engine hours!
For more information on superchargers and their maintenance needs, we encourage you to read our post on the subject.
Winterizing and De-winterizing Your Jet Ski
If the temperature gets below 0° Celsius (or 32° Fahrenheit) where you live during the winter, you need to winterize your jet ski at the end of summer. Many owners have this done during their annual service.
Here’s what the process involves:
Thoroughly cleaning the jet ski
Draining any remaining water out of the jet ski
Flushing the systems with antifreeze
Lubricating the moving parts
Filling the fuel tank and adding a fuel stabilizer
Removing, charging and storing the battery
Placing the cover over the jet ski and storing it properly and securely
If you want to learn how to properly winterize and de-winterize your jet ski, don’t miss our detailed step-by-step guide on how to do it.
Maintaining Your Jet Ski Trailer & Accessories
Aside from your jet ski, you have to keep your trailer and accessories in good shape as well.
Maintaining your trailer is necessary if you want to avoid having an accident driving to or from the ramp. It’s important that you regularly check it over, but it is recommended that you have it undergo a thorough inspection once a year.
Jet Ski Maintenance Costs
When determining the jet ski maintenance costs, the amounts could be dramatically different depending on your model, its age, what type of maintenance it needs and where you live.
You can expect that the higher performance models will be more expensive to maintain and service. For supercharged models, the costs could soar.
These types of engines burn a lot more gas, and require supercharger rebuilds after each 100 hours of use!
Your location plays a role as well. You can be sure that a dealer in New York will charge a lot more for the exact same service than a small service shop in an area that’s a lot less busy.
It’s best to make a habit of finding out what the costs are before taking your jet ski in to be serviced. Call your dealer and ask them what the estimated rates would be for your jet ski’s regular maintenance, including winterizing.
As you’re now aware, there are a lot of maintenance tasks that must be done to keep your jet ski in good working order. Jet ski maintenance is ongoing, with regular checks and intermittent inspections of certain components, as well as annual servicing that includes winterizing.
But if you take good care of your jet ski, it will continue to be in great condition and safe to use for many years.
It is certainly worth the time, effort and cost, so that your jet ski can be ready to go at a moment’s notice. It’s no fun having to wait in the staging area because your battery is dead or you’re low on gas.
When you ignore or have improper maintenance done on your jet ski, you increase your chances of having an accident, or even worse, an explosion!
But when you maintain your jet ski properly, it keeps its value by not depreciating as fast as it otherwise would. This protects your investment, so it’s definitely worth the expense.
We hope this short list of the most important jet ski maintenance tips is a big help to you!
*Disclaimer: The information contained in this guide is not intended to replace professional recommendations from your dealer or service provider. The required maintenance, including winterizing steps, may vary from model to model. Always refer to your owner’s manual for accurate instructions that specifically pertain to your jet ski brand, model and year.
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