Jet Ski Supercharger: Do You Need or Not? [Video]
Jet ski supercharger is one of the key units in the most powerful models, and it generates many debates among jet ski enthusiasts.
Many of them argue that the best models are the supercharged jet skis, while others say that there are many cons to buying these crafts, and it makes more sense to buy a ski without a supercharger.
There are many misunderstandings and lack of knowledge about these engines which is what prevents this debate from settling, especially among beginners. If you are a first-time buyer, you may want to learn more about jet ski supercharger, as well as try to find out whether you should buy a model with a supercharger or without it.
You may also like to compare the different types of watercrafts’ top speed and horsepower numbers head to head.
We at JetDrift, have collected the most important facts and pros and cons of jet ski superchargers, in order to make the buying process easier for you.
Without further ado, let’s check out what supercharger means exactly and how it works!
What is a jet ski supercharger?
When it comes to supercharged jet ski engines, there is a great deal of false information spreading in the PWC community.
It is clear, however, that this is not an easy topic and let’s face it, many owners and beginners are not interested in the actual technical details. They just simply want a powerful jet ski, and would like to leave the technical details to the mechanics and service shops.
But as these supercharger units heavily affect the watercraft’s owning costs and reliability as well, it’s wise to be aware of the basics as an owner. If you are not a technical person and you don’t want to dive deep into the details, we have attempted to summarize the supercharger unit in a simple way for you:
What is a jet ski supercharger? A supercharger is a part of the jet ski’s engine, which means a ton of extra power, higher top speed and much better acceleration. On the other hand, it means a higher price tag, more maintenance costs, a higher chance of breakdowns and higher fuel consumption.
You can’t find a supercharger in every model’s engine, just the most powerful jet skis above 230 HP arrive with this extra unit. If you are an experienced jet ski owner, you are probably aware of this.
For those of you who are interested in the technical details, we’ve tried to put together a deeper review of the jet ski supercharger.
Naturally Aspirated Jet Ski Engines
When it comes to jet ski engines, there are two main types of them. The “Naturally Aspirated”, better known as Normally Aspirated (Na) engines do not have a supercharger unit in them. These types of engines rely on suction to pull air into the cylinders.
Naturally aspirated engines operate below the atmospheric pressure (1 Bar). Since the engines cannot operate above the 1 Bar pressure, the power output is limited. This is because of the volumetric efficiency that cannot exceed its full capacity of 100%.
But why is every jet ski engine not naturally aspirated? Why don’t manufacturers design watercraft engines with a larger cubic capacity?
In order to attain a level of power that is equal to that of a forced-induction engine, it is important that the cubic capacity of the engine be increased. However, this process makes the engine much heavier which in turn decreases the power-to-weight ratio.
Turbocharged and Supercharged Jet Ski Engines
In the past, all jet skis arrived with two-stroke, naturally aspirated engines.
This was the industry standard till 2002. In this year, Honda released the world’s first PWCs with turbocharged, 4-stroke engines. Following this, other manufacturers started to offer their models with similar engines, and nowadays all of the main manufacturers offer supercharged jet skis.
As the watercraft weights and dimensions also started becoming larger these days, manufacturers started looking for other solutions. Answers to questions like: how can they pull more horsepower from smaller and lighter engines were being sought.
The sole answer to this question, however, was the supercharger. The Supercharged (Sc) engines rely on air pressure to fill the cylinders. This means the supercharger is an extra air compressor unit in your engine.
It’s good to know that it contains an impeller, which spins at speeds up to 50.000 RPM (revolutions per minute).
Because of its compact nature, a supercharger is a far more efficient way to increase power output with regards to the space and the weight. It is a good alternative to increasing the displacement of the engine!
You can check how this unit works in this great video:
Recently, you can find naturally-aspirated jet ski engines in the 60-180 HP range, while the supercharged engines produce around 230-310 HP.
Supercharger vs. Turbocharger
It’s also good to know that supercharger is not a new invention; the car industry has been using superchargers as well as turbochargers for decades.
When it comes to engines, many beginner riders (and some PWC owners as well) often confuse these terms. This confusion also presents itself among car enthusiasts. For example, Honda offered PWCs with turbocharged engines from 2002 to 2009 while the newest perfornace models arrive with superchargers. Some tuners still prefer turbochargers as turbocharger kits are available for some current PWC models.
It is important to note that both of these units are used for the same purpose; there are only differences in the way they work. If you are interested in this topic, don’t miss this detailed video about the supercharger vs. turbocharger debate:
Jet ski supercharges heat up air very significantly as they perform the task of compressing it. This can cause a major difference between the air surrounding the engine and the compressed air. (from around 80 degree Fahrenheit to as high as 350 degree Fahrenheit)
Because of this great difference, there is a need for an additional unit that is used to cool down the compressed air before it is forced into the cylinders. This is where an intercooler comes in.
An intercooler is a device that reduces the temperature of the compressed air before it enters the cylinders of the supercharged engines. It has a function similar to that of a radiator.
Air is cooled off using fins, bars, louvers, and plates that are fixed inside the intercooler. Because of the loss of heat, the air becomes much more dense than it was previously which increases your engine’s power output. More horsepower and torque are generated consequently.
If you are interested in intercoolers, here is a great video again on this topic:
Jet ski Supercharger Rebuilds
As you can see, superchargers are a really special, high performance part of the engine that delivers more horsepower.
Because of their extreme performance supercharged engines have a higher chance of malfunction. However, there are a few tips and tricks you can follow to reduce the risk of malfunction with proper maintenance and services.
As a rule of thumb, the superchargers are considered “maintenance-free” on Yamaha WaveRunners and Kawasaki Jet Skis.
But if you have a Sea-Doo, you have to pay attention to the supercharger, as it has to be inspected or even rebuilt periodically. This is because if a Sea-Doo supercharger fails, it can spray metal debris into the engine, which may result in a complete engine rebuild!
Finally, the required maintenance depends on the year of manufacture and the engine hours. You can learn more about the required Sea-Doo supercharger rebuild intervals here.
There are 3 main reasons why a Sea-Doo superchargers need a regular rebuild:
To prevent bearing failure. As mentioned above, the impeller in the supercharger spins at speeds of up to 50,000 RPM. This puts a great deal of pressure on the bearings that run the risk of failing. Rebuilding a supercharger after a certain time is necessary in order to prevent bearing failure.
Prevent washer failure. The clutch in the supercharger induces a huge amount of friction and heat to the washer which also run the risk of failure. If you don’t pay attention, the end result may be a serious malfunction.
Restore Lost Performance. In order to make sure that your supercharger works at its best at all times, it is important to have it rebuilt every once in a while. When it gets worn out, the clutch slips, which robs your engine of performance.
The wear and tear of your supercharger strongly depends on how you drive your jet ski.
Performance riding and rough water conditions mean more wear, whereas if you are a recreation PWC rider and ride on smooth water, there is much lower wear on this unit. Regardless of the way of use, it’s essential to have the rebuild process done in the recommended intervals. This is because it is simply not worth the risk of having to rebuild your entire engine completely from scratch!
What many people don’t realize is that a simply bearing or clutch failure can cause irreparable damage to your engine. If a bearing or clutch falls apart during a ride, it is equivalent to dropping a bunch of metal screws into your engine. Imagine the extent of damage! (or just watch it in this video:)
Therefore, it is best recommended to pay proper attention to the needs of your engine in order to save yourself the trouble and the money of getting a new engine altogether.
Even in your owner’s manual recommends a 150, 200 or more hours service interval, it’s always wise to go rebuild a supercharger after every 100 hours. Experts say that the chances of a supercharger malfunctioning increase radically after 100 engine hours, so it’s simply not worth the risk to gamble with this service interval.
Because of this high risk factor, some owners rebuild their superchargers every year, independently of the engine hours! So if you are looking for a watercraft with supercharged engines, you should consider this need for regular maintenance before you purchase one!
DIY supercharger rebuilds
So far it is pretty clear that every supercharger needs regular maintenance. But how can you best manage this in the most cost-effective way possible?
One way to do is by yourself. But unless you are an experienced mechanic it’s not recommended to start “tinkering” with the unit. It is important to understand that this is not like a battery replacement; you will need special tools and accessories that will help you complete the job.
Despite the risk factor, if you still decide to go ahead and take the responsibility on your own shoulders, the OEM rebuild kits are there to help you. Aftermarket kits are also available at much cheaper rates but they almost always come with several problems so it is wise to steer clear of them!
Here is a detailed and very informative guide on how to rebuild a supercharger. It’s definitely worth a look:
The other way to rebuild your supercharger is to get it done by a service shop. The classic way is to tow your jet ski to them and pick it up when they are finished with the work. This means that you will have to pay two visits to the shop and the cost of the procedure itself could be much higher.
There is also another, alternative way to get your supercharger rebuilt. This is through professional service providers that do not require you to tow your jet ski to them. These include PWC Muscle, or GreenHulk PWC Performance.
You might be wondering if these provide their services at your home. That is not the case!
If you choose this service, you have to remove your supercharger at home by yourself, and send it to these service providers via post. They perform a full rebuild on it and send it back to you the same way.
Removing the supercharger is not really hard; you can manage it based on this guide:
It would be correct to say that this is a really convenient and cost effective way to rebuild your supercharger!
Pros and Cons of jet ski supercharger
We can say there is only – though really noticeable – advantage:
a supercharged PWC
Goes Like Hell!
(much better acceleration)
As you can expect, there are some pretty important cons to the unit as well. These include:
Price tag: Supercharged watercrafts are the most expensive models in the market. (In contrast, here are the cheapest jet skis available.)
Sizes: The supercharged models arrive with the biggest hulls and weights which means more difficulties while towing, launching or storing your craft. It also means a less playful riding experience compared to a Recreational or Rec-Lite watercraft.
Gas consumption: Do you think 25 gallons per hour is an impossible fuel consumption number for a watercraft? You are wrong! A supercharged model has the capacity to even burn this quantity!
Maintenance: As you can see, strictly regular and professional maintenance is needed if you have a supercharged model.
Owning costs: Supercharged jet skis have the highest owning costs (gas, service, insurance etc.) among all watercrafts.
Can You Supercharge a Jet Ski?
Yes, you can supercharge a jet ski, but be aware that it’s an enormous task which ultimately isn’t worth the effort. If you’re looking for a supercharged jet ski, the best practice is to purchase a stock supercharged model. You can discover and compare the latest supercharged jet skis here!
How Much Does it Cost to Rebuild a Jet Ski Supercharger?
It costs around $500 to rebuild a jet ski supercharger by a professional service shop. If you rebuild the supercharger by yourself, be prepared to pay around $300-$350 for the rebuild kit. Be aware that you will need some special tools as well as mechanical skills to rebuild a supercharger!
How often do you have to rebuild a jet ski supercharger?
The supercharger rebuild intervals vary by the model. Most Sea-Doo superchargers have to be rebuilt after every 100 hours or 2 years, whichever comes first. On the other hand, there are no scheduled supercharger rebuild intervals for the Kawasaki and Yamaha superchargers.
FAQs About the Jet Ski Supercharger
What is a supercharger on a jet ski?
The jet ski supercharger is an air compressor which forces extra compressed air into the engine. More air allows the engine to consume more fuel, which results in more power and much better acceleration. On the other hand, jet ski superchargers also mean significantly higher fuel consumption, more maintenance, and a greater chance of failure.
Does a supercharger need an intercooler?
Yes, a supercharger needs an intercooler, as superchargers heat up air very significantly as they perform the task of compressing it. This can cause a major temperature difference between the air surrounding the engine and the compressed air. Because of this great difference, there’s an additional part that is used to cool down the compressed air before it’s forced into the cylinders. This is where an intercooler comes in.
Will a supercharger decrease mpg?
Yes, superchargers decrease mpg significantly, as featuring a supercharger always means higher fuel consumption, especially if you ride at full speed. The top performance jet skis can burn 20-25 gallons of gas each hour at top speed, while non-supercharged models are much more fuel-efficient.
How much horsepower will a supercharger add?
Speaking of jet skis, superchargers can add 60-150 horsepower, depending on the model. The new, non-supercharged jet skis produce around 60-180 horsepower, while the supercharged models offer an amazing 230-310 horsepower.
Can you turn a supercharger on and off?
No, unfortunately, you can’t turn on and off a supercharger on a jet ski. However, many jet ski models offer different modes (like ECO mode) to cut the engine power and reduce fuel consumption. Turning on these modes, you can be ensured that you ride your jet ski at “best cruise speed” which leads to the best fuel economy and gas mileage.
Can a supercharger damage an engine?
Yes, a supercharger can damage the engine but only on Sea-Doo models. Simply put, if the supercharger fails, it can spray metal debris into the engine which can result in catastrophic damage. On the other hand, Yamaha and Kawasaki superchargers don’t cause engine damage, even if they fail.
How does a jet ski supercharger work?
A jet ski supercharger compresses the air before filling the cylinders. It means the supercharged jet ski engine can force much more air into the cylinders compared to non-supercharged engines. The advantage of this is that more fuel can be added to more air, which results in more engine power.
How do you rebuild a jet ski supercharger?
There are three common ways to rebuild a jet ski supercharger. You can have it done by your dealership, or you can remove it and send it to a professional shop. The last solution is to rebuild the supercharger by yourself, which requires some special tools as well as skills.
Should You Buy a Supercharged Jet Ski?
If you’re looking for the highest performance and the best acceleration, the supercharged jet skis are for you. On the other hand, if you’re on a tight budget, it’s not recommended to buy a supercharged jet ski as these models arrive with hefty price tags and much higher maintenance costs. If you’re a beginner, it’s also not wise to purchase a supercharged ski!
If you are a first-time buyer, a Recreational jet ski would be a better choice for you, which comes with lower performance and easier handling.
If you have decided to buy a supercharged jet ski, however, you can choose from new or second-hand models. If you are looking for second-hand models, you have to be very careful.
You will find that there are the most used supercharged Sea-Doos for sale are with around 100 engine hours. This means their supercharger needs a rebuilt immediately. In the worst cases, they might have some issues with the supercharger, or the engine. So be careful!
Many experts say that the rule of thumb for purchasing a second-hand jet ski is to try to avoid supercharged models. There are many good new non-supercharged models in the same price range as used supercharged models.
It is always recommended to make your start more hassle-free and try to avoid used supercharged jet ski models altogether.
There are many rumors in the PWC world that you can’t tow a tube or a wakeboard without a supercharger in your engine. Don’t be afraid, this is purely false information. You can tow with a less powerful, non-supercharged model as well.
The other fear for buyers comes from top speeds; they afraid that the non-supercharged jet skis are not fast enough. Do not pay attention to these rumors as well, especially if you are a beginner. If you like hard numbers, check out our top speed and acceleration chart, where you can compare the numbers from all manufacturers head to head.
If you are still not satisfied and prefer a personal experience against charts, you can try many different models on test drives. Another way to test different models is to rent them. You can find several good rental services nationwide!
Before making your final decision, don’t miss out on our jet ski buying guide and do not forget about the importance of timing.
In conclusion, the supercharger is a special unit in the engine that gives a ton of extra power to your jet ski. On the other side, it needs far more attention, and that means much higher owning costs as well.
New supercharged PWCs arrive with 230-310 HP, while without it you can expect around 60-180 HP performance.
Don’t forget, it’s essential to rebuild your supercharger in the recommended service period to avoid bigger damages. If you are a first-time buyer it’s not wise to start with a supercharged model. If you are an experienced rider and your dream is a supercharged jet ski, try to avoid the used models.
If you purchase a new model, do your research before you make the final decisions in order to find the best model for you!
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