Jet ski supercharger is one of the key units in the most powerful models, and it generates many debates among PWC enthusiasts.
Many of them argue that the best models are the supercharged PWCs, while others say that there are many cons to buying these crafts, and it makes more sense to buy a watercraft 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.
We at JetDrift, have collected the most important facts and pros and cons of PWC superchargers, in order to make the buying process easier for you. You will also find many useful buying tips in this article.
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:
A supercharger is a part of the 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 watercrafts above 200 HP arrive with this extra unit. If you are an experienced PWC 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 about the PWC 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 watercrafts arrived with two stroke, naturally aspirated engines.
This was the industry standard till 2002. In this year, Honda released the world’s first watercrafts 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 PWCs.
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:
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.
When it comes to jet ski supercharger rebuild intervals, the rule of thumb is that
every supercharger must be rebuilt
after every 100 hours or 2 years,
which ever comes first!
There are 3 main reasons why 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:
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.
So in summary, these models need more attention and a much bigger budget overall!
Buying a supercharged jet ski
When it comes to buying a watercraft, the first and most important thing to note is that supercharged models are not recommended for beginners. If you are a first-time buyer, a Recreational model 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 jet skis 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!
(You can find our full used jet ski buyers guide here)
Many experts say that the rule of thumb for purchasing a second-hand jet ski is to try to avoid the (especially aged) 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 make your final decision, however, 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.
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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