7 Reasons Why a Ride Plate is Necessary on a Jet Ski [Video]
The ride plate on a jet ski has many roles, the most important of which are the following:
- Protects the pump
- Provides a surface on which the jet ski can ride
- It helps the impeller to suck water
- Increases top speed
- It affects the ski’s riding characteristics
- Avoids porpoising
- It’s part of the cooling system (on Sea-Doos with closed-loop cooling)
If you want to learn more about this key part, this post is for you.
We at JetDrift have compiled all you need to know about the ride plate under one roof!
What Does a Ride Plate do on a Jet Ski?
1. Protects the Pump and the Jet Nozzle
If you take a closer look at the bottom of a jet ski, you can see a metal grate with a large metal plate behind it. This plate is the “ride plate,” designed to cover and protect the pump and improve the machine’s handling.
But why is the pump located outside of the hull and needs this protection?
Simply put, the pump needs a constant flow of water to propel the jet ski, so it has to be placed outside of the hull. But to keep the body of the craft more compact, the manufacturers don’t mount the pump assembly onto the rear of the hull.
Instead, the hull of a jet ski features a recessed (concave) area on the rear side of the bottom. This area is designed to accommodate the entire pump assembly. In this way, the pump can sit outside the hull while it still “fits” into the shape.
To protect the pump, each jet ski is equipped with a ride plate, which is actually a metal shield covering this recessed area.
If debris or a rock accidentally hits the bottom of the ski, this plate is likely to protect the pump and the jet nozzle from damage.
2. Provides a Surface on Which the Jet Ski Can Ride
However, the ride plate is not a simple cover plate. As the name suggests, the jet ski actually rides on this plate at higher speeds!
When a jet ski reaches its planing speed, its hull rises and runs on top of the water. This is why this effect is called planing; the hull is virtually flying while only a small portion of it contacts the water.
But the recessed area on the bottom of the hull would drastically ruin its hydrodynamic integrity.
This is where the ride plate comes into play. It not only protects the pump but also seals the hole to “restore” the hull and create a compact shape.
3. Helps the Impeller to Suck water
Another key role of the ride plate is to assists the pump to draw in water.
The pump needs a permanent and controlled flow of water to propel the machine. To do this, the ride plate seals the pump area and forces the water to flow through the intake grate.
This results in a steady stream from the intake grate through the pump towards the jet nozzle. Therefore, the ride plate ensures a better hydrodynamic environment, which results in better performance.
What’s more, it can also prevent cavitation, which can damage the surface of the impeller.
4. Ensures Higher Top Speeds
The ride plate also helps to get the most out of the pump, contributing to achieving higher speeds.
There are a countless number of different ride plates on the market; some are designed for higher top speeds, while others offer a better grip in the corners.
5. Affects the Ski’s Riding Characteristics
Since the jet ski virtually rides on the ride plate, it also plays a huge role in the handling of the machine. It not only increase stability but also provides a better grip, which ensures controlled and tight turns.
The size and shape of the plate and the intake grate greatly affect the handling characteristics of the jet ski when it’s riding on plane.
Since replacing the ride plate is relatively easy, one of the easiest and most common performance modifications on jet skis is installing an aftermarket ride plate. The ride plate works together with the intake grate, so in most cases, it makes sense to replace both for best results.
6. Avoids Porpoising
The ride plate can also reduce or even completely eliminate porpoising (when the ski is surging instead of running smoothly).
Unfortunately, certain jet skis are more prone to porpoise due to their design. Installing a proper aftermarket ride plate can usually help eliminate this problem.
As a rule of thumb, longer extended ride plates are designed to reduce porpoising and increase stability.
7. It’s Part of the Cooling System
It’s a lesser-known fact that the ride plate on Sea-Doos has another important role, as on these machines it works as a heat exchanger.
Unlike the competitor PWCs, Sea-Doos utilize a closed-loop cooling system, meaning that the engine isn’t cooled with raw water.
Instead, they utilize a similar cooling system as in cars, circulating a coolant liquid around the engine. On Sea-Doos, the ride plate acts as a heat exchanger, doing the same job as the radiator in cars.
The coolant flows through the plate, which transfers the heat to the external water.
Major Types of Ride Plates
There are many different ride plate designs out there, but the most well-known ones are probably as follows:
- Regular ride plates
- Short/medium/long/and extended ride plates
- Traction vent or D-cut ride plates
- Concave ride plates
- Finned ride plates
- Winged ride plates
We can distinguish short, medium, long, and extra-long or extended ride plates based on their length. Each of these designs offers different handling characteristics and riding experiences.
For instance, concave ride plates work well during hard turns, while extended ride plates can increase stability and keep the bow from lifting. This means they can effectively eliminate porpoising and increase rear grip as well.
In contrast, shorter ride plates allow you more control over the machine during freestyle tricks.
Traction vent plates, also known as D-cut ride plates, also do a great job in the corners as they act as a brake before the turns. Also, they perform better on waves.
You can also find special ride plates in the marketplace that feature fins or even wings.
Finned ride plates like Ocean Pro Finned ride plates offer smoother and tighter turning as the fins “bite” into the water, just like surfboard fins.
Winged ride plates are often overlooked, but they dramatically increase surf freeride performance and make flat-water aerial tricks easier.
Regarding materials, ride plates are typically made of aluminum, but you can also find fiberglass and carbon fiber models on the market.
The main advantage of the carbon and fiberglass ride plates is that they are usually lighter and easier to modify than their metal counterparts.
Do you Need an Aftermarket Ride Plate?
While stock ride plates do a good job in most conditions, they are a little “jack of all trades master of none.”
To get the most out of their skis, performance-minded riders typically upgrade the ride plates. In fact, this is one of the easiest and most common performance modifications on a jet ski!
The typical reasons for this modification are as follows:
- Eliminate porpoising
- Achieve higher top speeds
- Increase turning ability
- Change the characteristic of the craft
- Reduce the amount of bouncing on choppy water
Keep in mind that there’s no ride plate that performs well under all circumstances.
Selecting the proper one is not an easy task, as it depends on many factors like typical water conditions, the design of your ski’s hull, weight, and your riding style.
Therefore, if you’re considering investing in an aftermarket ride plate, best practice is to ask for an expert opinion before you make your purchase.
It also makes sense to replace the intake grate and the ride plate at the same time as these units work together.
How Much is a Jet Ski Ride Plate?
Depending on their size, design, and material, the prices of ride plates wide vary. As a rule of thumb, a good quality PWC ride plate costs about $150-$500. If you are considering replacing the intake grate, be prepared to pay an additional $100-$500!
The cheapest ride plates are typically made of aluminum, while the high-end models are made of lightweight carbon fiber.
How to Replace Ride Plate on a Jet Ski
Replacing the ride plate on a jet ski is not rocket science. If you want to change this part by yourself, you can do it in eight simple steps:
- Make sure that you can access the ride plate (it doesn’t sit on the bunks)
- Unscrew the bolts on the stock plate
- Remove the stock plate
- Clean the area completely of dirt and debris
- Use silicon on the edges of the new ride plate to seal it to the hull
- Apply some Loctite on each bolt
- Bolt on the new ride plate
- On the first ride, make sure that water doesn’t leak near the holes
If you want to learn more, here’s a great tutorial on how to replace the ride plate on a jet ski:
Conclusion – What Does a Ride Plate do on a Jet Ski?
Each jet ski is equipped with a ride plate mounted onto its bottom behind the intake grate. This plate is basically the cover that protects the pump and helps maintain the proper water supply. As the name suggests, the jet ski “rides” on this plate after it reaches its planning speed.
The size and the geometry of the ride plate greatly affect the riding characteristics of a jet ski.
Some ride plates are designed for reaching higher speeds, while others do a good job in the corners or on choppy water.
You can also find special winged ride plates in the marketplace specifically engineered for tricks and surfing.
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